Write It Sideways

3 Ways to Simplify Your Writing Life

This post is written by regular contributor Lydia Sharp.

Not one of us navigating this thing called authorhood can say that we aren’t stressed. Some of this stress is unavoidable, beyond our control. But some of this stress can be reduced with a few changes to our daily routine.

Here are three things that can help you simplify your writing life:

1. Embrace the power of ‘NO’.

Saying ‘no’ to something or someone is usually harder than saying ‘yes’. You don’t want to let someone down by not helping. You don’t want to miss out on a rare opportunity. You think you aren’t doing enough in one area or another, so you pile it on without readjusting the other areas in your life.

But what you may not realize is that by saying ‘yes’ to something, you are by default saying ‘no’ to something else. Conversely, when you say ‘no’ to something, it allows you to say ‘yes’ to something more important. You may already be saying ‘no’ to things without realizing it, just by taking on endeavors that can be delegated or rejected completely.

What you choose to say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ to is highly dependent on your personal circumstances and your personal career goals. Here is just one example of an area you can evaluate and easily readjust to simplify your daily routine, by asking yourself:

How much time per day do I spend on social media? What is the return on that investment of my time? ROI can be something beneficial to your career (i.e. increasing your professional contacts, gaining exposure) or something beneficial to your mental well-being (i.e. connecting with friends, entertainment), not necessarily translated into money. Where and when can I say ‘no’ to social media in order to increase my time to do other things daily, such as writing, or caring for my home and family?

Whenever you say ‘yes’ to something, you say ‘no’ to something else. What have you said ‘yes’ to that doesn’t deserve so much of your time, your focus, your energy? What have you been inadvertently saying ‘no’ to that deserves a ‘yes’?

2. Learn to delegate.

I will be the first to admit I have control issues, and I think this is true of a lot of people who have the drive needed to be successful in any given career. I had always lived by the mantra, “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.”

This mantra can be useful, but it becomes problematic when you try to do everything yourself. You can’t do it all. It’s okay to delegate. It’s okay if someone else does things for you and they don’t do it exactly how you would do it. It’s even okay if they screw things up from time to time, especially if they’re new to the task. They will get better over time, just as leaving things in their care will get easier for you over time.

Ask yourself, “Is this task something that only I can do?” Anything answered with a ‘no’ is an opportunity for you to delegate.

Example: Writing your book is one-hundred percent NOT something you can delegate. But doing laundry—anyone can learn how to do laundry. I’ve been washing my own clothes since I was seven years old because my mother had four kids, a full-time job plus regular overtime, and she knew how to delegate. I still do the laundry for my family now, but my husband takes on the task of grocery shopping, because it is time-consuming and I can’t piggyback it with another task. I can write in between loads of laundry. Grocery shopping can only be grocery shopping until it’s done.

Delegating is an effective way to balance your workload and simplify your daily routine, allowing you to concentrate on the things that only you can do for the success of your career.

3. Stick close to your people.

The longer you are in the field of publishing, the more people you will find that have the same views as you do regarding any number of things, or perhaps they are in a similar life situation as you are. These are your people. They understand you and you understand them. Once you find your people, stick close to them. Check in with them from time to time, to exchange mutual encouragement. Follow them on social media. Be one another’s cheerleaders. This is necessary for your mental well-being as well as theirs.

Sticking close to the right people allows you to recognize and cut loose the wrong people. The wrong people for you are not necessarily bad people. They are just wrong for you, for whatever reason. Maybe they talk about things that stress you out, or they unknowingly trigger bad experiences of your past. It could just be that they constantly tweet about how hard something is for them, whether it be writing or family or finances, and you don’t need someone else’s clutter in your life—you have enough of your own! Cutting them loose will aid your daily routine because a good mindset allows you to be more productive.

Not everyone you meet is going to be ‘your people’, and that’s okay. You don’t need a lot of people, you just need the right people. Is there anyone in your circle who brings you down rather than lifts you up? Let them go. When you cut loose your connections with the wrong people (for you), your connections with the right people (for you) become stronger.

Those are my top three ways to simplify your writing life so that you can be more positive and productive on a daily basis. What other ways of simplifying have you found to be effective?