Sometimes the right book finds you at the right time of your life. It’s happened before with How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets by Dana K. White. Something as simple as “just do the dishes” has broken through a funk that has been crippling for me.
Write Smart, Write Happy: How to Become a More Productive, Resilient, and Successful by Cheryl St. John has had a similar effect on my writing. I finished reading it early in 2019, and it has already led to a much more productive 2019. I’m not writing every day, but I am at least writing numerous times per week.
St. John really encouraged me to examine my writing strategy, which had grown nonexistent, and reexamine the lofty goals I had created for myself — aka the goals I was never meeting. It really brought home how unreasonable I was being and how unfocused my efforts have been. But perhaps the most important takeaway was that I needed to forgive myself for each missed deadline and goal. Forgive and move forward. And by move forward, St. John recommends a hard look at goals and not setting the bar so high that you are destined to fail, perpetuating a cycle where you are never good enough.
While a craft book, St. John focuses more on the lifestyle of writers. You will not find writing prompts. It is more an examination of the process, time management, and even being a professional should you attend conferences. She also tackles writer jealousy, which is only human to feel but should never be acted on. It is important to acknowledge another writer’s hard work and not hold their success against them.
It is best to have a notebook when reading Write Smart, Write Happy as St. John provides a lot of homework in each chapter. I’ll admit that I only mentally did the homework as the bulk of my reading occurred during my lunch breaks while I was sitting in my SUV. Part of me wishes I would have used a small notebook; however, I still think I came away from the process with the core takeaways.
My only complaint about Write Smart, Write Happy is that it can get very repetitive, which could be a turnoff for some people. She can also fall on the side of tough love, another possible turnoff, especially if taken as a personal attack. Personally, I needed that tough love to push forward with my work.
If you feel like you are spinning your wheels and getting nowhere, give Write Smart, Write Happy a shot. It isn’t a magical cure for writer’s block, but it will better help you examine your writing strategies with a critical eye.
As I noted above, 2019 has been the most productive year for my writing in a long time. I’m roaring toward the publication of Heritage Lost and have put together a short story prequel for it. I have almost gotten halfway through my historical fiction novel. I still have goals that I want to achieve before 2019’s end, and thanks to St. John, I’m trying to be realistic on what I can achieve with my time. The cycle of failure ends now.