To me, enlightenment is just a fancy way of saying you’ve figured shit out.
I won’t claim to have figured everything in life out (which is impossible), but I’ve learned a few things along the way. I turned 39 this month and I’m in a much better place mentally than I was ten or even five years ago. I’ve learned how to avoid some major distractions and I’ve learned some techniques for calming my mind and sparking creativity.
Since this is taking away writing time, I’ll get right to it. Remember, these are my opinions and your experiences and opinions may differ.
1. KILL FACEBOOK
Seriously, this has done wonders for me. I wasn’t even a heavy user, but giving it up has given me back not only time, but my sanity. All those people, rambling about all kinds of shit, almost none of it relevant to me or my writing. Sure, set up a fan page. Check it once a week. Respond to comments where appropriate. Engage your fans via the fan page. But reading page after page of meaningless status updates and political/religious rant-posts is counter-productive. Not only does it rob you of your time, it also upsets your brain and blocks the creative process.
Kill Facebook, take back your time, and write your books. Make your art.
2. STOP FRANTICALLY CHECKING SALES
Sales will come. Or they won’t. Checking them won’t change that. A couple times a week isn’t too bad. Once a week, even better. Once a month is probably best. Sales are a distraction from your story, a reason to fret over the smallest things you can’t really control. If you’re tweaking pricing or blurbs you probably don’t want to change those more than once a month anyway. Tweak it then leave it alone for a month. Get back to writing in the meantime.
3. STOP READING YOUR REVIEWS
Seriously stop this. Believe me, I know it’s hard to resist, but they don’t help. Use beta readers to vet your work before you publish. These are people whose opinions you trust; they’ll tell you when they like your story and, more importantly, when they don’t. Take their feedback into consideration and then write the best book you can FOR YOURSELF.
Reader reviews don’t give you anything tangible on which to act. Often the reviews are conflicting, which is even worse because it’s confusing and you don’t know how to “fix” it so everyone likes it. Truth is, you can’t make everyone like it, so stop trying. For example I received a review saying my book was “confusing” while another review claimed it was “easy to follow”. In another review someone said the book was “hopeless” while another reviewer liked that the book had “an underlying theme of hope”. WTF??? THIS DOES ME NO GOOD AS A WRITER. I can’t act on anything in these reviews. They’re just a distraction, taking me away from writing.
Stop reading your reviews. Write your book, vet it with your TRUSTED beta readers and then unleash it upon the world. At most the average star rating might be useful (and even that’s debatable). Stop worrying about what every little John Q. Public thinks about it.
4. SEVER YOUR TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS
Get away from those people who are driving you mad. If you can’t get away from them, figure out how to tune them out. Hell, a lot of them are probably on Facebook, so following tip #1 will fix that. If they’re not making you happy, then you’re not in the frame of mind to write your book. Get those people off your radar and focus on your art. Are you better off dealing with their bullshit, or writing your book? Ask yourself that question.
5. SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
We all do things that require a portion of our time. I used to tinker with computers a lot, building servers, taking computers apart, installing and configuring operating systems, all that kind of stuff. I don’t do any of that now. Why? Because I don’t have time. My wife and my kids and my close friends are my “good” distractions, so I spend my time on them. That other stuff? Well, it’s not more rewarding than writing. By getting rid of these other complexities and time vampires in my life I have more time to write.
6. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH CREATIVITY
While writing, I often listen to music that inspires me to be creative. I prefer movies that make me think and make me want to be a better storyteller. I like artwork that’s different, unique, even odd, stuff that I don’t see every day. You never know what kind of art is going to inspire your next killer idea. Immersing yourself in it makes it more likely to happen.
7. SUBSCRIBE TO BLOGS WITH HELPFUL CONTENT
Instead of Facebook, try subscribing to blogs. There are many writers out there with lots of good advice on the craft and the business. Anecdotes, opinions, philosophies…all these things can be helpful on your path to “enlightenment”. Stay away from the haters and the jealous types; they’re no help at all. Look for writers who want to share their experiences in order to bring others up, not the writers who want to get ahead by pushing others down. Artists shouldn’t be competing with each other. Our only competition is with ourselves. Anybody who doesn’t get that isn’t worth your time.
So there you have it, my advice on getting yourself on the path to enlightenment. Or, as I like to call it, one step closer to figuring shit out. I think if you can do some of these things that your life will be a little better and you’ll probably be more productive. If nothing else I hope this sparks some thought and serves as a springboard on developing your own thoughts and opinions around what can make you a better writer (and maybe even a happier person).
I wish you happy writing and happy living.