Writers need tools to help them in their work, just as a carpenter needs tools.
Not all of the tools writers need are physical, just like not all of the carpenter’s tools are physical. If that were the case, anyone could pick up some wood and make a bench, with no experience required.
Here are 6 mental tools that every writer should have. Some of these tools do have physical manifestations, but I will be focusing on the mental effects they have.
Ideas are tricky things.
They’re as easy to forget as they are easy to think of, so the most important advice I could give you about ideas, is to write down all of the ideas that come to your mind.
Keep a notebook and pen by your bedside for those nighttime thoughts, and make sure you have a charged phone or a pen and some paper with you whenever you go out.
Even if you think you’ll be able to remember your writing ideas, write them down. Trust me, I speak from experience when I say that ideas are easy to forget.
It’s also important to write down the ideas that you don’t think you’ll end up using. With a few modifications, most writing ideas could match up with your chosen genre or writing style.
It’s also possible that your ideas could help out writers who are stuck in writer’s block.
Inspiration can be very elusive, coming and going as it pleases.
In many ways, inspiration and motivation go hand in hand, feeding off of each other. The lack of either or both can play a big role in writer’s block, and so both are equally as important.
Like ideas, one of the most important things is to save your inspirations in places you can find them again.
If you have an empty notebook, you could always try making an inspiration journal, where you write down or draw:
- Song lyrics
- Movie titles
- Book covers
- Whatever else inspires you
If you prefer a digital way of keeping things close to you, try a Pinterest board, or make a folder on your computer.
This one is really important. You can have an amazing idea and all the inspiration in the world, which many people do, but if you don’t have any motivation, nothing is going to happen with your brilliant ideas.
The thing is, what motivates me might ruin your motivation. What motivates you might ruin my motivation.
Everyone is different, and so there is generally no wrong or right way to gain motivation.
Deadlines are what motivate me, and I often can’t put my best work into something until I know there’s a deadline. That’s why I love NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) so much, because it gives me a deadline and a solid goal.
If a deadline isn’t provided, I usually impose deadlines on my writing, to give myself extra motivation.
However I know that a lot of people just can’t work with deadlines, especially self-imposed ones.
There is something that I find kills my motivation: Talking about my ideas.
At first it may seem counter-intuitive. Isn’t talking about your ideas a great way to gain feedback, come up with more ideas, and get support? Yes, it is.
My motivation as a writer is to get my ideas ‘out there’, preferably in the form of writing. When I talk about my ideas, they’re out there. They may not be in writing, but a part of me feels as if it’s close enough. That’s why it kills my motivation.
Support is arguably a necessity, no matter what one is doing.
If that’s writing, we need support from friends, family, other writers, and/or online groups. Even if it’s only one person giving it to us, it is needed and they are needed.
Be it some kind words, a strong cup of coffee, or telling us we should rest after pushing ourselves too hard, support often comes in small packages that are delivered regularly. Because of that, it tends to get taken for granted.
If you find yourself needing support, I suggest going to your friends or family. If you can’t get support from them, see if there are any local writing groups, or check online communities.
During your writing process, and at the end of it, make sure to show your gratitude to those who have supported you. They’ll be more likely to support you in the future, and will be happy to do so.
Here are some nice ways you can show your gratitude to someone who’s supported you:
- Write them a poem
- Make them a thank you card
- Take them out for a cup of coffee
- Tell them how much their support means to you
5. A place to write
Yes, this is very physical. However the location you write in can, and will, affect you mentally.
There are a few things I consider necessary for an amazing writing space:
- Not a lot of distractions
- Food and beverages nearby
- Easy to return to
- Comfortable to work at
Personally I find that the corner of my ‘office’ (it’s really just a desk in the corner of my room) gives me the things that I need for a good writing space.
There aren’t a lot of distractions, as pretty much everything on my desk is work related. The only distractions I have are my cats, who tend to stay quiet throughout the day.
Food and beverages are nearby, since I can just walk to the kitchen when I need to refuel.
Most importantly, it’s easy to start working in my little office space.
I have an old office chair that is the perfect size for me, and typing feels very natural because of my desk’s height. This makes it comfortable for me to work there, so it’s a spot that I return to, time and time again.
Experiment with different writing spaces to find out what works for you. It’s also okay to have more than one writing space, if you find that that helps you work better.
6. A place to explore
More specifically, a place to explore your thoughts and ideas, to visualize characters and to plan out scenes, before you write them down.
A place where you can just let your mind wander and not have to feel stressed out or guilty about it.
A place where plot twists are planned, and conclusions are made. Alliances are formed, and enemies battle…
A good place for exploring will have you feeling relaxed.
It’s hard to let your mind wander when you’re feeling stressed or tense. We tend to think of more ideas when we’re at ease, which is why so many people get ideas in the shower or just as they’re about to fall asleep.
Make sure that the place where you explore includes a notebook and pen nearby, as you’ll want to write down your ideas.
Which mental tools do you use?
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I blog about creative writing every Wednesday, so check back soon for some new content!