One of the tools in my mental health defense kit, right up next to my Future-Worth-Fighting-For affirmation candle, is something I like to call my low-mood list. This is a list of things that have helped me boost my mood in the past. The idea being that when I’m in a depressive state, I can refer to this list and give myself a mental boost. That list contains items like “Text/Call your sister,” and “Do a workout.”
As a writer, you might have a lot of cause to feel low. Rejection. Bad reviews. Low sales. Being creative is really hard, man. But I’ve become a big believer in the sheer power of changing your mindset.
This list is equipped with writing-flavored mood boosters. For the moments you feel low, try something on this list! If it doesn’t help, try something else. If nothing helps, I still have advice for you.
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Create an Upbeat Playlist for Your Project
One of the most beautiful sources of inspiration is a little upbeat music. Creating a playlist for a project is part of the creative process for me, and when I visit the songs and music pieces that make me think about my project, I can often find inspiration on where to go next in the story.
Create a Vision Board for Your Project
This is one I actually hadn’t tried out before I started this blog post, but I see other writers on Twitter and Instagram make these all the time. Similar to the Project Playlist, this is an exercise that helps you think about the visuals of your project and what kind of feel you want your story to have.
Try a Fun Writing Exercise
Dive into your craft and stretch your creative muscles with a fun writing exercise.
Some of my favorite exercises come from What If by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. Here are some examples:
- Write a story using only words that contain one syllable.
- Write about the items in your character’s bathroom cabinet.
- Write a story using a found line of poetry.
- Write a first sentence that begins your story in the middle of the action.
- Write a story where a character’s imagination is overtaken by an obsession.
One of these What If exercises directly led to my awarding-winning short story GET AWAY FROM THE WATER. You might be surprised where an exercise can lead you too.
Take a Writing Break
Sometimes, you just need to unplug. If you’re in a negative rut and having a hard time escaping, then it might be time to step away from the keyboard for a little bit.
Take a walk. Watch a movie. Read a book. Put writing on the shelf for a moment and let yourself be present in whatever you’re exploring in the world beyond your imagination.
Revisit Your Sources of Inspiration
As writers we are often inspired by the work of others who wrote before us. If you have a significant source of inspiration: a favorite author, favorite image, favorite film or TV show, or any other source, then revisit that place where you felt inspired and allow it to inspire you again. Sometimes when you’re thinking about the kinds of stories you want to tell, it can lift your spirit thinking about how your story could one day produce the same spirit of inspiration in others.
Make a Small Writing Goal (And Crush That Goal!)
Lack of progress got you down? Make a small goal. It can be something as simple as telling yourself to just write for 5 minutes or just write 100 words.
Then give yourself the dopamine hit of making it happen. Even better, sometimes all it takes to get really moving is just a little bit of forward momentum. That five minutes could turn into fifty-five minutes, and those first 100 words could easily become 1,000.
Organize or Design Your Writing Space
If you have an office space where you do most of your writing, then it might give you a quick mood boost to spend some time getting that space in order.
Back when I had a desk space in my apartment, I took great delight in decorating and daydreaming about making my space as magical as possible. It brings me great joy to put up pictures of loved ones and cover available space with happy knick-knacks and other goodies.
If you have a space already, spend some time tidying it up or organizing it so that it feels inviting and inspiring.
Read Back Over Something You’re Proud You Wrote
Sometimes, you can read back over something you wrote and feel a burst of awe. Did you really write that? That’s pretty darn good, if you do say so yourself.
When I’m feeling low and not as proud of my writing as I’d like to be, I revisit projects that I’m really happy with like GET AWAY FROM THE WATER, CREEPER, and even my old Sims 3 story. (Dare I link this? Eh, sure.) I feel a little glow of happiness knowing that I was the one who brought those words into being.
Celebrate Your Writing Victories
Count no victory too small. When I’m feeling low, I like to remind myself of the things that I have accomplished in the writing world.
I’ve had two short stories published by eleven40seven, and one of them won an award. I won third place in SciCom’s Science Meets Fiction Contest. My why-not pitch to Mythrill got The Control published on their platform. I finished NaNoWriMo after an 11-challenge losing streak in 2022. I’ve cut out and saved fun comments from my writing critique group.
Did you make a certain word count? Hear a bit of praise from a beta reader? Make a sale? File it away in your victory box and remind yourself of it when you feel low.
When Nothing Helps- I Still Have Advice
I’ve had days where I’ve tried everything on my low-mood list and absolutely nothing seemed to make any kind of impact. If that’s happening for you, don’t give in to despair just yet. Some of my emergency mood-boosters include intense exercise and a sharp temperature change (usually in the form of a cold shower or dunking my face in ice water). You can also aim to distract yourself with a fun video or a call to a good, caring friend. The idea is to interrupt the negative thought patterns long enough to start thinking truth again.
No matter what, remember that whatever low you’re feeling can pass. It hurts to think optimistically sometimes, but it really can make a difference if you let it.
I hope this low-mood list designed just for writers has helped lift your spirits for the afternoon. Keep writing and keep dreaming big!
Read my serial sci-fi story The Control only on Mythrill!
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Until next time, my glorious herd! Imagine, dream, and believe.
🦄 ❤️AllytheUnicorn❤️ 🦄