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By Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D.

Our writing culture’s language reflects the pervasive acceleration, turbulence, sickness, and burnout in today’s writing environments: deadlines, sick days, rise and grind, workload, side hustle (“hustle” is defined as “force someone to move hurriedly,”) driven, to-do list, shortcomings.

The words we use reflect how we treat ourselves during a writing workday. Wordsmiths break the cycle by developing the habit of flipping a thought and reversing the way we use words related to work. When you flip the narrow, oppressive words in your head, it frees you up to understand how you can reset the imbalance in your life. Consider the following list to illustrate what a healthy, balanced writing life with both gas and brakes might look like:

  • Create a to-be list—watch a sunset or a bird nesting—alongside your to-do list.
  • Make your list of tallcomings—your positive writing qualities—equal to or longer than your shortcomings.
  • Have lifelines—pauses to smell the roses—on the way to writing deadlines.
  • Take health days in addition to sick days.
  • Rise and shine instead of rise and grind.
  • Put on your wide-angle lens of writing adventures when your zoom lens focuses on writing problems.
  • Place as much emphasis on how much you’ve accomplished on your manuscript as you do how much you still have to do.
  • Tell yourself, “Don’t just do something, sit there.”
  • Get outdoors in nature for green time after prolonged periods of screen time.
  • Find writing projects you can control instead of ruminating over those you can’t control.
  • Stack cans instead of cannots.
  • Let yourself be drawn with passion instead of driven by pressure.

When you become aware of the language you use to describe your writing, it can make a difference in your creativity and productivity. Think of negative self-talk you can flip and develop muscle memory to make it second nature. This tool can help you see that your stress needle is tilted in a negative direction and when you flip it, you break the stress code to cultivate a happier and more productive writing life.


Dawn Ius
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