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Writing for the Soul: 5 (Less Conventional) Tips

I’ve just published my second book in the Storm Siren trilogy (thank you, HarperCollins) – and I’ll be honest with you. There are days I absolutely love what I do (like SERIOUSLY adore it)…but there are also days (or even weeks) I don’t ever want to see my computer screen again.

Like walk away. No thank you. I have nothing more to say on paper.

I think the thing we all know about writing, whether published in any form yet or not, is that it’s HARD. And not just in the “where do I go from here” sense of the craft, but – at least for me – in the expectations placed upon it.

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Column by Mary Weber, a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over
make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives.
In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80s hairband songs to her three
muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine.
They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon,
and the ocean. Her first YA fantasy novel, STORM SIREN, was praised by
Kirkus, Library Journal Teen, and others. The sequel,
SIREN'S FURY (June 2015) is out now. Mary gets nerdy on Facebook
and Twitter. Come say hi.

Expectations I put on myself (“If I can just get this word count in today!” or “If I alter my query will that agent say yes?”). As well as expectations from others – because let’s face it, there are future readers I don’t want to disappoint who will be paying money and precious time into the story, and oh man that is something we all want to honor.

As if we don’t feel our self-imposed pressure enough, those expectations sometimes unfortunately do lead to disappointment. Perhaps it’s over a certain plot point, or maybe it’s a reader saying “the book wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped,” or maybe it’s disappointment in yourself because you just got your 35th form rejection letter in the mail.

If you’re anything like me, those are the things that make me want to snap my laptop shut and go hide my soul in bed alongside a bowl of Cheetos and Die Hard movies.

Which I do. Semi-frequently.

But afterward?

Afterward I pull said soul from the Cheetos-covered comforter and invest in a different sort of writing exercise. One that has less to do with craft and expectations and computer screens, and more to do with nurturing the space in me that fell in love with story in the first place.

Thus, here are my five “Writing for the Soul” tips:

1. Just Breathe

Research shows the health benefits of spending even a few minutes deep breathing. It reduces stress and anxiety, and enables us to think clearer. As well, I find the time of pausing allows me to mentally take a step back and see the moment for what it is – simply a precious part of my bigger life story.

(Writing a synopsis for your novel? Here are 5 tips.)

2. Walk Away

LITERALLY. Grab a chai and take a walk to the park, along the beach, or any place that stirs your soul with its beauty. Not only will doing so raise your endorphin (happy chemicals) levels, it stimulates the eyes and mind to see things through a fresh lens.

3. Create Differently

Pick up your camera, your paintbrush, your dance shoes, or that guitar that you’ve always wanted to learn to play – and EXPERIMENT. This is one of my most powerful refreshers when my soul feels weary – finding a different medium in which to create. And exploring it like nobody’s business.

4. Analyze Your Journey

Rather than working on your book or query or article or proposal, take an hour to reflect upon your own personal life story. The one you’re living. Where have you come from? What challenges have you faced? What victories have you seen? Because in the same way a book must have highs and lows and failures and successes to be a fascinating story – so does YOUR story. And it isn’t over yet.

(What types of novel beginnings get an agent or editor to keep reading?)

5. Live a Better Story Than You’re Writing

We’ve all heard that saying, “Write what you know.” Agree with it or not, I think it’s worth exploring the idea that if we don’t know what a good story looks and feels like, it might be a tad harder to write a decent one for others. Not that our personal lives have to mimic our books (dear heavens please no), but what does it feel like to be ON a journey? To feast with friends, to celebrate their successes, to fall apart because that challenge was just too hard? Or to dance around a bonfire, to laugh with your kids, and to listen as a friend shares their heartbreak…

Those are the aspects that make any book come alive – that take it from a narrative to something that feels REAL.

When looking at it that way, maybe we should embrace our own adventures more, and cheer like heck for ourselves. Because, just like the Velveteen Rabbit, we are loved and living a more authentically real story than anyone can write.

And THAT is a beautiful adventure.


Open up the laptop and put THAT energy and emotion into your writing. And let your stories breathe alive from a soul level.


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