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How to HALT the Crazy and Be a Productive Writer Again

Carol Tice

Beach-road-end-with-tree-sunsetDo you sometimes feel like life just won’t let you write?

The kids are screaming. You’re juggling responsibilities with job, family, maybe even caring for parents or other relatives.

You find yourself not eating regular meals and getting way too little sleep.

The weeks start slipping by without much writing getting done.

One thing I’ve learned is that you’ve got to take care of yourself to be at your creative best. Put your own oxygen mask on first, then help your child, as the airlines say.

I recently learned a formula for checking in with yourself to see if you’re running into trouble.

If you’re having trouble being productive as a writer, ask yourself:

Am I too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?

If so, it’s time to HALT what you’re doing and institute some better habits. We writers have to take care of ourselves or productivity just plummets.

Here are my thoughts on calling a HALT and improving my habits to inspire better writing:


I hardly know a writer who hasn’t worked through lunchtime because they were in the middle of an article draft. I know I’m always vowing to stop for lunch around 11:45, and too often at 1:15 there I still am with a hunger-headache about ready to pass out, thinking, “I’ll stop as soon as I finish this draft.”

It’s so hard to find a stopping point when you’re in the flow of writing.

But in fact productivity starts going downhill once the stomach starts to rumble. I’m trying to be better about stopping to at least grab a healthy snack and a glass of water to stay hydrated while I finish up.


This one definitely happens at my house. I can come home to find the house a disaster area and people shouting and fighting. Sometimes I want to just go to a hotel!

Or I’ve just been hair-pulling on a draft all day and not getting anywhere, and I’m just mad at myself for not being able to get it done.

To shake it off, I often walk about 10 minutes from my house, down to a small, gravelled, public beach access. Below a set of rickety wooden stairs is a tiny, rocky beach with one big washed-up log you can sit on.

And there I sit. It’s a spot of enduring beauty, in all weather and times of year, with views of the mountains and the forest on several nearby shores, across the channel and farther down my own island.

That’s actually a shot of a rare, clear sunset at my little beach getaway, up at the top of this post.

I find it peaceful in a drizzling rain, or with drifting clouds, with calm water or choppy, with ferries chugging by, with wheeling seabirds flocking together, or not another soul around.

It’s impossible to stay mad here.

My breathing deepens and I relax in every fiber of my body. This is what life is about. Experiencing this beautiful world. It’s worth a break to experience that serenity.

I always return refreshed and eager to get back to my writing. Even a bit of exercise and some fresh air do wonders.


This emotion creeps up on me sometimes, especially since my best friend died just over a year ago. Writing can be a lonely life.

If you feel isolated and alone, it can start to drag you down. Find local writers and connect, or just take a girlfriend out for coffee. Work in a coworking space or a coffeeshop for a day. Take a Skype call with a new connections. Go to a karaoke night. Whatever helps.

Connect with people and make sure you feel supported so you can keep on truckin’.


This one is a killer. Do you know people used to sleep for 10 hours or more a night before they invented electricity? Now, many of us are squeaking by on six hours or less, and we’re perpetually exhausted.

I’m making big efforts to go to sleep earlier, and I try to catch a short nap if I hit a slump in mid-afternoon.

After all, being able to eat when we’re hungry and sleep when we’re tired is one of the great advantages of being a freelancer. So do it to take care of yourself, and just as a matter of principle — a reminder of the freedom this freelance life affords us.

How do you HALT and regroup? Leave a comment and tell us how you get back on track.