Mantras/Rules to Write By


October 16, 2017

Developing a set of personal writing rules proved an effective cure for a serious case of “creative constipation” I experienced in 2014. Creative constipation is my drama queen vernacular for persistent writer’s block.

My “Mantras/Rules to Write By” played a key role in remedying the ailment.

The result? Since 2015, I have written 8 nonfiction children’s books; 4 are published, 4 release next year. I’m presently writing another, also debuting next year. Moreover, I updated/co-authored a six-book series on economic topics.

Talk about an effective cure!

Here’s what happened…

For most of 2014, I struggled with writer’s block. Throughout the year, I tried different methods of jumpstarting my creativity, with varying degrees of success. Needing inspiration, I traveled from Maryland to Houston in September for a half-day writing workshop and luncheon hosted by Essence bestselling author Norma Jarrett.

My investment: the minimal cost for the event; airfare (financed in part by an airline credit); hotel (one night’s stay to assure timely arrival at the event); roundtrip shuttle bus service; and other meals.

Some friends and family said what you may be thinking. That’s a long way to go to beat writer’s block. Surely other events could have offered what you needed.


But I’ll never know.

I do know: The intimate luncheon inspired my faith, boosted my courage, and cleared the brain fog that kept my creativity captive. Slowly, I began writing – nothing for publication, but I wrote.

When November rolled around I decided to participate in NaNonFiWriMo, the nonfiction version of NaNoWriMo, a yearly challenge to write a novel in one month. Honestly, my efforts were an epic fail. I barely wrote a page.


I did develop a set of mantras/writing rules that provided a strong foundation for my writing. I dubbed them “Mantras/Rules to Write By.” The rules’ guiding principle is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV).  (This verse proved essential in 2015 while I wrote Elizabeth Blackwell: Doctor and Advocate for Women in Medicine. Another post will discuss how that book re-shaped my writing. )

Fast forward six months from the event: In May 2015, I received an email from an editor inquiring whether I’d like to update A Student’s Guide to Toni Morrison, my first children’s book.

That email changed my writing life.

I said yes, and wrote LitCrit: Reading and Interpreting Works of Toni Morrison, which was published in January 2016.

That year, I also wrote two nonfiction biographies – the one on Dr. Blackwell, and a collection of biographies of slave resistance heroes. Those book twins released in August 2016.

In 2016, I wrote one book, which released earlier this year.

This year? I have written four additional nonfiction children’s books, all debuting in 2018. I’m presently writing a fifth, which also releases next year.

I share all that to say: It’s been an amazing journey!

But, trust me, without my mantras/rules to write by, I doubt I would have had the desire, focus, stamina, or creativity to complete those books. Here are those 13 rules.



1. Put God First

  • After God, only 1 person has priority – ME.
  • After me, only 1 person has priority – JOSIAH [my son]

2.  Invite God into the entire process

3. Social media is a reward – available AFTER writing

4. Write now/WATCH/READ later

  • TV Is…words written by other people
  • A Book is…words written by someone else

5. Focus…distractions are just that…distractions

6. Write more, worry less (i.e., edit later)

7. Choose WHEN to socialize

8. Free time what’s that? Free time = writing time

9. Brainstorming = writing

10. Take a break

11. Reward diligence…write more

12. Any excuse is a bad excuse

13. You’ve done it before you can do it again


Number 13 is a reminder to write and not be intimated by process as I’ve successfully written various works for publication.

This original list hangs prominently in my home office. As I brainstorm, research, write, and revise it keeps me focused. When I fall captive to daydreaming or procrastination, the list reminds me to re-focus and write.

Some may be worthy of implementing – or you may want to develop your own. Either way, if you create and FOLLOW them, you’ll experience writing success – eventually.


Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Connect with her on Facebook.


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