The Connection Factor
Several years ago, I received a call from my alarm company. The alarm had been triggered at our home, and the police were on their way. Since our home had been broken into previously, I was on red alert.
Once there, it was clear there were no signs of forced entry. So what set the alarm off?
Apparently, one of our cats had pulled a wire loose from a contact on the window, sending a signal to the central station that there was a problem.
That happens in the writer’s life too. When writers disengage from life and have little contact with the outside world, trouble could be on the horizon.
Disconnected writers often produce disconnected writing. The idea that the best writers retreat from life to a solitary place where they shape their prose for the rest of us isn’t accurate. In fact, the opposite is true. Staying connected to life makes writing clearer, stronger, and deeper.
It’s easier said than done. Often, we are managing multiple projects with looming deadlines. It’s easy to justify disengaging for a brief period so we can “get it all done.”
But that’s a mistake. Here are some tips for staying connected no matter what is going on.
First, keep your routine. When a writing project is looming, don’t put everything else on the back burner if you can help it. Spend time with family and friends. Take time out to do something you love, browse a bookstore, go to the beach or a park, or visit a local coffee shop. When you come back to the page, you’ll find you have a different perspective.
Second, read something totally different than what you're writing about. Why? It stimulates the mind and provides a mental break.
For example, if you read mostly business books, why not try fiction? In fact, reading a novel is a good practice for any copywriter. It helps you think more creatively and learn the proper structure for telling a story. As copywriters, isn't that what we do on a regular basis?
Third, never stop learning. Read books, take classes, participate in webinars, and attend seminars when you can. This will keep your creative well from running dry.
You should come away from each event with numerous ideas that, when applied, will grow your income and your business. Take every opportunity to learn from those who are considered the masters in our business.
Fourth, develop a balanced support network, which will help you get connected and stay that way. It will also keep you grounded and maintain a sense of perspective.
What does this support network consist of? First, mentors. We need them because they are further along in the journey than we are. They are able to offer sound advice and careful guidance.
The second ingredient in a support network is a cheerleader. We need these folks to believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves. They help us keep going when we feel like giving up.
There's a crucial third element in this support network. Be willing to be a mentor to someone else. Teachers will often tell you that they learn just as much from teaching their material as their students.
That's because there's a principle at work: you don't really know a subject until you are prepared to teach it. Finding another person that you can invest in will not only sharpen your skills, but it also provides you with an opportunity to give back.
Fifth, do something physical. Go the gym, take a walk, ride your bike, or participate in your favorite sport. The physical exertion releases endorphins and alters your mental state.
There are times that I sit and stare at the computer screen trying to find “just the right word.” It seems it’s only after I get up from the desk, take a break, and do something different that the fog clears and the writing flows again.
Finally, donate your time to a worthy cause. This will also help you get outside yourself and focus on what's really important in life. Donating time in a homeless shelter, food bank, or hospice unit will give you a new perspective.
You'll meet new people and hear about their successes and their failures, their struggles and their pain. The mental and emotional break allows you to come back to your writing with a different mindset and possibly a new approach.
Staying connected to life helps us to connect in our writing. It reminds us that we aren’t just scripting our words for a reader but rather for a person with a real life.
“Living” with them gives us insight into what motivates them and what they fear, what’s important to them, and how they make decisions. And that’s critical knowledge that will help us shape our message to them when we sit down to write.
The Professional Writers’ Alliance
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