3 Simple Rules in Writing and Life

Welcome back to Life List Club Friday! I’m thrilled to host the hilarious Jenny Hansen visiting from her blog More Cowbell. She has some great advice for getting through parenting, a writing career and your daily life a lot happier.

When you’ve enjoyed Jenny’s post, please hop over to Pam Hawley’s Hawleyville, where I’ve got something really important to share with you.

Take it away, Jenny! 

Happy Life List Friday! I’m sooo excited to be here at “Marcia’s place” today. It’s so sexy and classy over here, it made me stand up straighter and stick my chest out this morning before I answered comments. I even changed out of my jammies for y’all.

If you haven’t been over to see me at More Cowbell, I hope you’ll come take a peek. Like Marcia, we like to get our belly laugh on and have a great time.

When I’m not writing or teaching computer classes, I spend my time raising Baby Girl who is streaming toward her Terrible Two’s at a rapid clip. My husband and I looked at each other the other day, after a particularly trying moment of babyhood, and agreed that we needed better rules.

naughty toddler

Courtesy of lizl.wordpress.com

The exact words we used were, “She’s gonna wipe the floor with us if we don’t define some easy-to-remember rules and get them in place EARLY.” We each ran off and scribbled our ideas and compared them.

His list continued on well past Toddler-hood and contained gems like, “No dating until she’s of legal age.” My list was a little more practical and got his vote because it was “short and easy to generalize.”

In my experience, kids can only keep track of a few rules when adrenaline and mischief get mixed together. With that in mind, I revised until I’d whittled my list down to three things. And my husband is right, they’re easy to generalize.

The second thing my hubby said when he looked at my little list was: this would transfer great to all your writing pals. So here I am, at Marcia’s sassy blog, sharing my 3 Simple Rules For Writing and Life.

Enjoy! Be prepared…I’ll ask you to share some of your “rules” in the comments. J

Rule #1:  Be Safe

Hundreds of thousands of writers have thrown themselves into the chaotic pool of NaNoWriMo, myself included. As we push our lives aside, writing like demons and mainlining caffeine, it’s really easy to forget to take care of our bodies and our minds.

Taking walks, getting sleep, and drinking enough water are all important parts of keeping a writer healthy and yes, safe. I’m guilty of forgetting to take care of myself so I put this rule first to help me remember its importance.

The best post I’ve ever seen on the subject titled Tips for Being a Healthy Writer was written by Kristen Lamb and it’s definitely worth a read.

Rule #2:  Respect Yourself and Others

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the solitary confinement of your manuscript and forget about all the people who help you make it happen. Your co-workers who pull their weight, your family, your friends…all these people contribute to your dream. And don’t forget your writing posse, which often consists of your critique group or members of your writing chapter. All these people are an integral part of your success.

Note: If you aren’t sure how to build a writing team, click here.

A writer under deadline is often a snarly jagged beast (or at least we feel that way inside). Even though it’s hard, remember to take a breath each day and consciously relax.  Don’t forget to treat your support team with care.

It’s easy to rage when you want them to hurry through the draft they promised to read, or babysit on your writing day or cook dinner that night. But life happens and you need to chill. The best post I’ve found on this was written by our own Marcia Richards during the last Life List Club blog hop, called Change Your Mind.

Rule #3:  Do Your Best

I had the best mom in the world. Truly. If I do half as good a job as she did, my daughter will be blessed. My mom had a way of listening with her heart even while she drew a strict line in the sand.

bad report card

Courtesy of ehow.com

Case in point:

As a kid, there were some subjects I sucked at no matter how hard I tried. The way she kept me from jumping off a cliff when a big nasty “C” marked up my report card was to ask me, “Did you do your best?” If the answer was an honest “Yes!” her response was always, “Your best is good enough for me.”

Why am I talking about old report cards in a writing post? Don’t we all try to do our best?

Yes and no. Most writers continue to do their best if they feel assured that their best is pretty dang good. But what about the sucky days? I read a post earlier this week by a wonderful mystery writer, K.B. Owen, that really resonated with me. Here’s what she said about those days of “sucky writing”:

Consider it time well spent: you are merely flushing the suck-y-ness out of your writing system. Ever prime a well-water pump? Are you going to drink what comes out first? Heck no – it’s brown and yucky. But you can’t get the clear, drinkable stuff until you’ve flushed out the yuck. (Click here for the full post.)

There are so many writers that stop writing because they compare their developing prose to the writing of experienced novelists. I listened to the sage advice of a New York Times bestselling author last month who said:

The only way to give up your dream of being a published author is to stop writing. The reality is that only one manuscript in a thousand is picked up by the publishing houses and less than 50% of those authors will sell another book.

So what? Getting published isn’t magic. It’s about showing up and doing the work.

No matter what you do, don’t give up. It’s all about the willingness to sit down and do the work and to reach out to help other writing friends along the way.

In other words, it’s all about doing your best. Though your best might be different from day to day, you still have to bring it to the page.

What life rules do you live by, both as a writer and a parent? What would you tell the “young you” if you could go back and give them some “sage writing advice?”

Jenny HansenAbout Jenny Hansen

Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after the newly walking Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing. When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at jhansenwrites and at her group blog, Writers In The Storm.

Thanks, Jenny!

You know I love hearing from you! Please chime in and give Jenny some comment luv! Then come visit me over at Hawleyville!


41 thoughts on “3 Simple Rules in Writing and Life

  1. Pingback: Great bloggers are writing FAB stuff – check it out! – Natalie Hartford

  2. Love love your rules! You are right, simple and to the point makes them easy to digest and remember and they apply to all facets of life.
    I think my greatest and guiding rule is to live my life according to my own rules. I find we all get wrapped up (myself included) in what other people think, want, need etc….and life is short…we are only here once…and putting our own needs for our personal journey towards happiness has to be priority number 1. Whether it’s parenting, writing, your job choice etc…it’s gotta be about what you want for your life. It’s hard. I often struggle but I keep at it.
    Live large and hard! Let no one define you!

  3. Great post Jenny. You and Marcia make a fab team. I couldn’t agree more with your three simple rules. It’s important to keep things short and sweet … especially when you get into “zoomer” territory (that’s boomers with zest!). No way I’ll ever remember more than three!

  4. Jenny, thanks so much for today! You did an amazing job on this post and I was proud to host you today…and look at all the kudos you got from your fans and friends! Great day!

  5. Wonderful post. Here are my rules:
    Family above all else.
    Live with arms wide open
    Be prepared ( study craft, look for good teachers) for “luck” to find you in your writing career
    Love Amy’s pat the dog…. I had to borrow that one. LOL
    Find your own path… You are unique, do not let anyone else tell you HOW your path should look
    Take care of your body
    Never stop learning
    Make lists. LOL!

  6. My rules in no particular order:

    Pet the cat & dog–they won’t always be there
    Love deeply–ditto above
    Be the best YOU possible
    Take a chance–grab for the brass ring

    Love your post, Jenny.

  7. Awesome advice Jenny, both for writers and parenting. I kid and tell my own honey “have fun, be safe” but I mean it. Explore, try new things, but be safe and make smart decisions.

  8. Grabbing for my water bottle and self-promising to move my laptop to the treadmill tomorrow. I actually took myself to the library downtown today so i would be forced to put on real clothes and have a different background while I work! Oy! Thanks for the kick in the butt!

  9. Super fabulous rules! Great to see you over here at Marcia’s and you really didn’t have to change out of your jammies, as long as you have on sexy shoes. I think that’s one of Marica’s rules, not sure.

    I always tell my kids that their job is to take risks, make mistakes, and get messy. Of course, if you can learn from your mistakes and clean up the mess, that always helps. They seem to forget that part, but hey, they’re great kids. Then again, I might be biased.

    Enjoy Baby Girl – it’s been a looooooong, time since I had a toddler, but it was so much fun. Mine didn’t really have tantrums until she was a teenager. Then it wasn’t so much fun. ; )

    • You know, I had a counselor tell me: you either get it when they’re toddlers or teenagers…which one would you pick? (We’re hoping she starts tantrum-ing her face off NOW!)

      Thanks for the advice – I like the take risks and make a mess. I guess the follow up to that means they have to clean up the mess. I can tell you’re a good mommy, Tameri!

      • Aww, thanks! Some days I think so, and other days my daughter tells me not so much. It’s a crap shoot. So far, my son seems to be keeping to the mellow side and he still likes me. ; )

        The other part of that whole take risks thing – when they actually do – you as the parent have to try not to freak out too much! Especially when they post things on FB like, ‘Got hit by a car today. yaaaaaay’. Seriously, she did that. Gave me a freaking heart attack. It’s so hard to let go…

    • You’re right, Tameri…sexy shoes can make even Jenny’s jammies look good in public!
      Oy! my daughter was so good til her 16th yr…it wasn’t pretty. And the 16 yo attitude kind of ran into 18 and then she was the college’s problem. She’s great now that she’s 29!

  10. Pingback: Deadlines: Are They the Death of You? — Life List Club post by J.A. Bennett | Jenny Hansen's Blog

  11. Great post. Especially about the healthy writer and not giving up. So hard to pull up stakes and move about, drink water, etc. Have a great NaNoWriMo experience. I did it in 2009, and am now polishing it for submission to a NY agent.

    • Hey Marion, you’re back from the underground! YAY! I ahve to use a timer to get my butt OUT of the chair to move around. No problem with water though. I have at least 3 bottles of water on my desk at all times and I made a rule to drink 1 an hour…no excuses!
      I love having Jenny here, too! Thanks.

  12. Great advice Jenny – it kind of reminds me of the “all I needed to know I learned in kindergarten” saying. The simple life skills and ways of being good parents try to instill in us as young’uns really do apply throughout our lives regardless of our goals and ambitions. Best wishes on NaNo – I so admire those of you who are doing it : )!

  13. Marcia, thanks for hosting Jenny. What a wonderful post, Jenny! And thanks so much for the sweet shout-out!

    Good luck with Baby Girl – I remember those days, lol. Our rules got more specific as each boy joined our tribe: “Don’t teach your brother how to get around the baby gate,” and “The back of his overalls is NOT a luggage handle,” and “No Beanie Babies on the ceiling fan!” Things like that. 🙂

    Hope NaNo is going well!

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