If you want a quick checklist to complete for your best writing session EVA (using brain hacks) you can download one here and get access to my library of goodies.
If you want to read another part in the series choose one here:
Being a writer takes guts, a lot of motivation and a lot of hard work and hard work is well, hard. But there are ways to make it easier and that’s what this series is going to be about. I don’t know if you’ve heard of ‘brain-hacking’ but it’s where you take different ideas and different things and use them to make whatever you’re doing, ‘better’. In this case, writing obviously, because this is a writing tips website haha.
We’re going to look at
- How to motivate yourself
- How to have the energy to write
- How to write better prose that flows
You know sometimes you write and the prose is amazing and you’re like.
“O.M.G. I wrote that! How did I do that?”
Let’s look at how you did that. Let’s look at what circumstances lead to that.
Some of the greatest writers in the world had emotional issues. I mean, you only need to look through a few quotes on Goodreads to realize there are some seriously unstable writers out there. I think it’s a part of their appeal. The thought of Hemingway drinking his brains out and spouting cynical writing advice, as he sits at his desk by candle-light, has a romance that pulls writers in.
What do they say about starving artists? Suffer for your art.
It’s something you hear again and again.
But is it true? Is depression, anger, sadness, really the best emotion to feel when you’re writing your great literary masterpiece?
Eh, actually yes and no. Brain hacks are a lot more complex.
This emotional issue could be at the route of why some writers find writing beautiful prose easier than writing good structural stories. Or writing stories easier than editing them. They require different skill sets, different mind-sets.
Cracking this mind-set is so crucial if you want to succeed at both.
Something light and happy to start with; positive emotions. Happiness, excitement, joy, emotions that the sane aspire to feel. The exact opposite of how we see the greats. This isn’t heavy, deep thoughts and words, written over a tumbler of whiskey and a lifetime of pain and regret. This is just happiness, positivity, ready to take on the world, stuff.
The great thing about these positive emotions are your ability to make snap decisions when you feel this way; your creativity increases and you easily see new insights. You are more open to ideas, flexible, and think things through in an open state.
This is an amazing place to be for plotting a story. Think about it. When you plot you need to think about every eventuality, you need to question, you need to open yourself up to the possibility of this new idea. Positive emotions prime you for that.
If you’re having trouble with your plotting I have a workbook to spark inspirations. You can grab that on my resource page by signing up here…
I push excitement as the cure all for writers block and completing drafts, for a reason. IF
- You’re willing to put in the work
- You’re willing to be open to new ideas
- You are a creative at heart
Well I have news for you, you’re not moving forward because you’re just not excited about this idea. You don’t want it enough.
If you look at something and groan, and feel heavy, and weighted down by an idea, guess what? You trudge through it like you’re walking through mud holding a crocodile over your head.
It ain’t gonna be fun.
You may even walk headfirst into a few walls along the way.
You know the best bit about using excitement to your advantage? Excitement isn’t an emotion you feel out of nowhere, in fact:
Excitement is Controllable
- The first step is to understand you really, really want this… get a little determined.
- Think about how it will feel when you have it.
- Find what in that scene/piece is so awesome you can’t wait for somebody to read it.
- Daydream the heck out of your ideal scene, life, and book and understand you’re going to write it. You’re going to be the one to write this awesome book.
Now you’re excited, and excitement motivates. It gets you pumping, moving, and whizzing through tasks like nothing else.
I’m telling you—if you want to smash something—get excited about it.
Did you know anxiety and excitement are actually the same thing? Just affected by the way we think?
When you change anxiety into excitement, it’s a process called anxiety reappraisal. Anxiety is when you fear something may happen, excitement is when you’re looking forward to what may happen. Same things, different thoughts.
The trick is to take your anxiety and switch up those thoughts. Instead of, ‘OMG I’m going to fail this book, everyone’s going to hate it,” think “I am so excited to see how this book turns out, it’s going to be so fun to write, I can’t wait to see what happens in scene X on paper.”
Anxiety gives us the ability to be alert and have a good reaction time AKA fast thoughts. Changing it to excitement will fuel your project in a positive and fun way.
Oh anger, one of my most hated emotions. If there is an emotion I could remove and never feel again
This. Would. Be. It.
But anger does one thing, it changes our mindset so we are more likely to approach a problem and try to fix it. One thing you could try if you wanted to write a scene perfectly is to get a little irritated by the fact you haven’t done it yet.
Why haven’t you? How is this piece defeating you! How dare it!
Anger is the opposite of excitement. It gets us motivated to move, and fix, but in a logical and direct sort of way. It’s not necessarily bad for writing, but I wouldn’t call it an inspirational tool either. This might work best for any non-fiction you’re just finding you can’t complete.
Sadness and Depression
This is the answer we’re all waiting for right? Was Hemingway or Sylvia Plath great artists because of their depression, or where they great artists who had depression?
For all those that suffer with depression, I’ve been there and it is deeply horrific. In its true grasp there is no such thing as motivation and putting words to a page would basically be impossible because depression is a physical disorder. Your brain slows to a halt, and like a virus dark thoughts take hold and attack you, you suffer with dysania.
I get that believe me. Here I’ll just talk about the edge of depression, where you’re still getting things done but feel a deep sense of loss.
As a creative person, Hemingway and Sylvia would have done something you probably do (because you’re a creative too). Over-Think. They would have taken all of their life experiences and over-analysed, finding links in all the little things…
What do you think that made them good at?
Connecting plot, deriving personalities that made sense, symbolism, and writing that flowed.
They probably over-thought their work, I mean that’s obvious from Hemingway who often spouted exact formulas on writing, instead of seeing it as a primal thing.
Depression or sadness also slows down our decision making skills, and leads to slow deliberate thoughts. Not spontaneity. This would give us the ability to find the right words, the right metaphors, unbiased reactions and more gut and instinctual decisions that reach into the very soul of other people.
Depression and sadness may be your secret weapon as you write your next manuscript, not a hindrance. If you suffer from depression you actually have an edge over those who don’t (that’s crazy to think about, huh?).
Writers from twitter weigh in:
As a recap if you want to try these brain hacks at home:
- Plot and edit in positive & excited frames of mind.
- Attack things from a place of self confidence, and happiness.
- Turn your fears into excitement.
- And take advantage of sadness to write.
- Ruminate often.
Emotions are powerful things, and just one more tool in your writers toolbox.
What state of mind do you do your best writing in? Let’s help other writers be at their best!
If you would like a copy of the quick checklist that shows exactly what to listen to and do to get your best writing session ever, you can download it here.
If you want to read another part in the series choose one here: