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Three Lessons from Writer’s Life BY Skye McDonald

Writer’s Life. It’s a phrase that elicits smirks among the writing community. It’s a hashtag. A code. It’s “this thing of ours.”

If you’re just beginning your writing journey, Writer’s Life might be unfamiliar. I’m just doing this for fun, you think. It’s just an idea for a story. Not a big deal. Writer’s Life isn’t really the mania they joke about.

It’s real. It. Is. Real.

And it sneaks up on you. At least, it did me. One evening, I was a person messing around on her laptop. Before I knew it, Writer’s Life had wrapped its arms around me.

Strong, muscular arms. Powerful arms in cuffed sleeves. The kind of arms it’s impossible not to swoon in. (Romance fans know what I’m talking about.)

Before I knew it, I was immersed in the world of the Anti-Belles, my contemporary romance series. Book after book unfolded in my head. Interwoven story lines, character motivation, and subplots all captivated my creative mind. Sometimes, it was hard to do anything else. I wanted to write all the time because it brought me so much freaking joy. When friends began to read my books and loved them, the rush was even more potent. Within a few years, I had cranked out nine novel drafts with ideas for more.

I recently contributed a chapter to an anthology about Writer’s Life. My entry was entitled, “Writer’s Life Ruined My Life.” This is definitely hyperbole, but it’s safe to say that becoming a romance author impacted me in profound ways. Writing brought me new connections. It also made me rethink how I was living. Ultimately, I changed everything that I had built as my steady, successful life. I got a divorce. I learned the rhythm of my own heart. I ached, cried, and picked myself up. I changed careers. I moved. I fell in love again. I lost a perfect dog and gained another perfect one. I lost friends. I made friends. And, I kept writing.

I don’t mean to suggest that by sitting down with a blank Word Doc that your life is headed for upheaval!

These changes didn’t happen because I had an idea for a book about office rivals who fell in love. They happened because writing opened up a part of me that I hadn’t accessed before. From there, I made conscious choices and conscious changes.

The rush of falling in love with writing is real. No matter your ultimate goal, when you begin to craft a story, the world you build in your mind becomes rich--and distracting. So, as you embrace your own writing journey, here are three lessons to bear in mind.

Lesson #1: Embrace the mania, but keep living your life.

If you’re not obsessed with your story, no one else will be. It’s okay that you’re caught up in the details. That your characters are talking to you in your head. (Totally normal, and no, you aren’t the only one!) That you’re excited to write and want to do little else. That you low-key have your WIP (work in progress) open on your work computer.

You’re creating a world. Love that fact!

But at the same time, it’s critical to keep living. Go to the gym. Go out for hikes or whatever outdoor activity you enjoy. Go out with friends. Go to bars, events, meetups, parties, shopping--whatever. Make time to spend with loved ones. Do not neglect those bonds for the sake of your book.

While this advice is good for you globally, it also has a self-serving (novel-serving?) motive: inspo is everywhere! When you spend time consciously in the real world, not just in your story’s world, you will absorb small details, overhear conversations and jokes, and even note people’s physical attributes that can enrich your writing further.

Cases in point: there is a line in my first book about “girls who drink whiskey” that I stole word-for-word from a failed pickup line someone tried on me. I wrote a whole story about a tennis player after going to the U.S. Open. And, the dog in my upcoming co-authored release was modeled directly after my hairdresser’s rescue pup.

Enjoy the whirlwind of creativity. But don’t neglect your own character growth!

Lesson #2: Be prepared to discover new parts of yourself.

Writing can open your mind. You think you’re writing a book about a woman who’s down on her luck and a billionaire who owns a hedge fund--about people not at all like you. These are just the characters you made up, right?

Not exactly.

Be prepared for the fact that all your characters contain a little bit of you. Perhaps even prepare to go back after you’ve finished writing and be stunned at just how much you were writing your own self and didn’t even realize it.

Inventing characters and situations gives the psyche a doorway. It creates a safety net of exploration for your wants, frustrations, and wounds. There is nothing wrong with that! But if you’re aware of it, you can take a healthy approach to working with what comes up--possibly even with the help of a professional.

Also be open to the new connections you make. Try joining an author group, online and/or in person. These people will know you as a writer. That can be a very different side of yourself than you normally show people. Who knows what might come from it? Maybe you make an international group of besties. Maybe you become the guest speaker for a high school English class who’s read and annotated your first chapter. Whatever connections form, enjoy sharing Writer’s Life within the community. It’s inspiring and enlightening.

Be ready to meet parts of yourself that you haven’t yet. Don’t be afraid of those parts. But do gently honor them.

Lesson #3: Stay hydrated

Writing takes time. Hours can slip away while you hammer out chapter after chapter. Before you know it, your Apple Watch has given up screaming at you to close your stand goal, and your butt is glued to the chair.

As a certified personal trainer, I urge you to avoid this pattern. Acknowledge that tap on your wrist and move around for at least one minute every hour. Don’t skip the gym on writing days. And, for heaven’s sake, stretch!

But most of all, stay hydrated. I always keep a glass of water by my side when writing. Sometimes, I keep two glasses, one with coffee or whiskey, depending on the time of day. Whatever your writing rituals are, make sure hydration is part of it.

Hydration isn’t just H2O, however. When I say staying hydrated is a lesson from Writer’s Life, I mean to drink it all in. Drink in the fact that you are doing something most people only talk about. How many people say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book…”? You’re doing it. You’re making time for a passion. No matter where that leads, you are doing this thing. Soak that in. Be proud of yourself.

Drink in the life you live that inspired this story. Even if, as I mentioned above, the book you’re writing seems to have nothing to do with your regular life. There is something in your world, your experience, that pushed you to create a new world and populate it with original characters. How cool is that?

And, finally, absolutely chug the fun of writing! I know no one who writes out of burden. Professional authors and dabbling writers alike all gain massive joy from creation. It’s fun to “kill your darlings.” It’s fun to make characters fall in love, learn lessons, and make mistakes. Enjoy with the process and drink that in, too!

But seriously. Don’t forget that glass of water.


About the author:

Skye McDonald writes contemporary romance novels that will make you laugh, cry, and swoon. Skye’s Anti-Belle Series features Nashville GRITS (Girls Raised In the South) learning to love themselves before they can claim their happily ever after. Spoiler: they always do! Skye also co-authors the Unlikely Pairings novels with Sarah Smith. Writing as Sarah Skye, this duo took a friendship and shared love of romance and turned it into a

bestselling series. Skye also publishes the “A Bit Much” newsletter on Substack.

When not publishing novels, Skye is a wellness coach, assisting women in becoming the heroes of their own lives via fitness, habit changes, and self-love. Skye lives in Montclair, NJ. In her free time, she hikes with her dog, leads a women’s networking group, runs Spartan races, travels, Scuba dives, and is learning to ski. Someday she’ll take a break and chill out, preferably on a beach. But not yet. There’s so much life to live first.


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