Are you looking for ways to achieve better work/life balance? A "prescription" to combat writer's block?
If so, today's interview will inform, inspire and enrich you.
Please join me in welcoming Colleen Story to Pen & Prosper.
Thank you for joining us today, Colleen. Can you tell my readers a little about who you are and your creative background?
I’m a full-time freelance writer specializing in health and wellness, a novelist, a non-fiction writer, and a motivational/workshop speaker. I started my writing career as an associate copywriter for a wellness company, and within three years, was promoted to senior editor. At that point, I left the corporate world and went out on my own, and I’ve been freelancing every since.
When I’m not working on my client projects, I’m writing books, blogging, and speaking at writing events, so I stay super busy. I also play the French horn, though, which provides a nice bit of counterbalance to my writing efforts. I was actually a musician long before I was a writer, so it’s my first love, and I’m grateful to be a part of the local symphony and other groups where I can continue to enjoy making music with other talented folks.
Writing and wellness is such an interesting intersection. How did this blog theme come about?
It was after I got my first traditional publishing contract that I got into blogging. I realized (later than I should have) that I needed to boost my online presence to try to attract readers. I had been a freelance writer for years before that, so I did have a website, but it was a static tool that stored my portfolio and other information for potential clients. It rarely changed.
As it came time for the book to come out, I knew I needed to do more, so I created a blog and set up and Twitter and LinkedIn account. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did blog regularly, and that experience taught me how to set up a blog and maintain it.
A couple years later, I signed with an indie publisher I really admired for my second novel, and I knew I needed to step it up. My blog wasn’t getting the readership I hoped for, so I went back to the drawing board to come up with what I hoped would be something better. Since I had worked as a health and fitness writer for over 15 years by then, I decided to combine my knowledge in that realm with my passion for creativity and writing. I started Writing and Wellness in 2014, and it took off.
It turns out that in that one step, I found something unique that really worked for me. Writing and Wellness has opened all sorts of doors in my career. Because of its success, I’ve received requests to speak at a number of writing conferences, and have branched out into non-fiction writing. Soon, I’ll be offering online courses as well. Best of all, I love what I do. I realize now that the key to increasing visibility for yourself as an author is using your own strengths and passions to carve out a niche that reflects who you are and what you have to offer others.
I’ve had such good luck with this that I’m working on a new book that I hope will help other writers do the same. It’s called Writer, Get Noticed! Watch for it in the spring of 2019!
Do you write everyday? Any unusual rituals?
After 20 years as a professional writer, I’ve gained a discipline that keeps me going no matter what. Because I make a living as a freelance writer, I have to write every day or I can’t pay the mortgage. So it’s sort of a matter of just getting busy!
With my non-fiction work, I turn on the computer and start on whatever project is scheduled for that day, no rituals involved. I do have a ritual of sorts that I use with my fiction work, though. I have to get into the dream world for fiction—dive deep into the imagination—so I usually fix a nice cup of hot tea and spend about the first five minutes reading out loud from books by master writers that I admire. It inspires me and gets me into the mood to write fiction. I also think it helps me continually improve my own writing.
What are some of the most common ailments and afflictions that impact today’s writers?
I write about a lot of things that writers struggle with, but if I had to choose just a few common ones, I’d list the following three:
2. Self-doubt: I write about both physical and emotional wellness, and this by far is the most common emotional struggle writers have. I’ve interviewed over 200 writers and nearly every one of them spoke about struggling with self-doubt. It’s amazing how destructive the emotion can be to a writer or any creative individual—it can stop you in your tracks if you let it. I regularly speak on this topic, and love helping writers to feel more confident about what they’re doing. I have several recommendations, but again, to give you a quick tip, start by understanding that self-doubt is not the truth, it’s a habit. All you have to do is break the habit.
3. Eyestrain: Researchers are discovering more every day about how our computers, tablets, and phones are affecting our eyes, and it’s not good news. You may have heard about “computer vision syndrome,” which is a collection of symptoms that come from staring at a screen all day. Mostly it causes dry eyes, eyestrain, and blurry vision, but it can also lead to headaches. Newer research suggests the blue light emanating from these devices could actually harm the cells in the eyes over time, perhaps even causing vision loss later in life. I have more information on this on Writing and Wellness—probably the biggest suggestion I’d make right now is to take regular breaks, and to strongly consider getting an blue-light filter for your screens. They’re available in all sizes (for tablets and phones, too).
Any “prescription” for the cure of Writer’s Block?
In my experience, writer’s block occurs when I’m not taking enough time to “listen.” (Speaking about fiction, here.) When I start trying to orchestrate the plot and characters in my mind, I can get stuck easily, particularly if I’m too caught up in other concerns such as whether the story is any “good” or whether it will do well on the market.
It’s when I forget about everything else and return to the essence of the story—what made me want to tell it in the first place—and take the time to allow it to come forward as it will that I break through. Sometimes it takes longer than I’d like, but it takes the time it takes.
When I’m working in non-fiction, such as when I have a project from a client that just sounds extremely boring and I’m struggling to get going on it, I’ll work to find some angle or something unique that will pique my interest. Once I find it, it’s easy to move forward.
What would you recommend to writers seeking to achieve greater life balance?
It is very easy as a writer to get so involved in all the facets of the business—writing, editing, marketing—that you neglect other important things in your life. I’ve noticed that one of the first things to go is self-care. That’s unfortunate, because if you run yourself into the ground, you can’t accomplish what you want to accomplish no matter how much you want to. If you have a writing business that supports you, the results are even more serious, because if you’re hurt, ill, or too wrung out to work, you can’t pay the bills.
Since I’ve been a professional in the health industry for over 20 years, I know very well the real consequences of not exercising, eating an unhealthy diet, or allowing the stress to build up too much. But as a writer, I know that if I neglect my own self-care, I’m going to pay for it somehow, because I’ve experienced it.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about Writing and Wellness. I want to help other writers realize how important this stuff is. You have to take care of yourself first if you want to keep writing the rest of your life. A health problem can slow you down faster than anything else, so I encourage writers to put self-care first.
Exercise every day no matter what, even if it’s only a 30-minute walk after lunch or dinner. Watch what you eat. Practice daily stress relief—do something every day that helps you relax. Spend quality time with your friends and family. Yes, sometimes you have to let something go in your writing life to fit these things in, but it’s well worth it.
Anything you’d like to add here?
Thanks for having me on your blog, Jennifer!
Read more about self-doubt, perfectionism, writer’s guilt, and more, and discover how you can improve productivity and time management in Colleen’s book, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue. Get your free chapters here!
Thoughts, readers? Questions here?
How has being a writer impacted your health, if at all?
BIOColleen M. Story
Inspires writers to overcome modern-day challenges and find creative fulfillment. Her latest release,
Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, is full of practical, personalized solutions to help readers escape the tyranny of the to-do list and nurture the genius within. Her literary novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews' INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner and a New Apple Solo Medalist winner, among others.
With over 20 years in the creative industry, Colleen frequently serves as a workshop leader and motivational speaker, where she helps attendees remove mental and emotional blocks and tap into their unique creative powers. For more information, please see Writing and Wellness and her author website, or follow her on Twitter.
Image credit: Horns, Pen Pixabay.com