How to Use a Writing Life Wheel

While there’s merit to the “sit your butt down in the chair and WRITE!” sentiment, I’m a firm believer in crafting a life that’s supportive of your creativity. How to go about that, though, especially when it feels like virtually everything needs work ... there’s the rub.

I’m somewhat of an organization and productivity geek, especially when it helps me live an even more creative life, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to hack through the brambles and clear the path for myself and the writers I work with. One day, I stumbled on an oft-used tool of life coaches, a life wheel. The more I researched, the more it felt like this could be a valuable tool for writers, so I set about adapting it and putting my own spin on it, until at long last the Writing Life Wheel emerged.

A circle divided into eight wedges, with five sections in each wedge. Each wedge represents a category of a writer's life: current project, organization, support network, writing space, schedule and routine, writing toolbox, goals and roadmaps, and health and well-being.

A Writing Life Wheel is a visual representation of the parts of your life that connect to your writing - like your support network and your goals - and how satisfied you are in each, on a scale of 1 to 5.

One of the most important things is to fill out a Writing Life Wheel honestly. If you fill it out according to where you wish you were or where you think you might be in a few weeks, rather than where you are right now, you won’t gain the valuable insights that you would otherwise. Authenticity and, yes, some vulnerability is key.

If you’re a people pleaser, used to downplaying your struggles, or tend to be overly harsh on yourself, filling out the wheel is going to require kindness, understanding, and bravery on your part. Have courage, creative soul! No one has to see this wheel unless you want them to, so be as honest as you can. If you feel like you’re kicking butt in some areas, own it! Those areas shore up the foundation of your writing life and will help you fly. If you feel like some areas are covered in giant seagull splots, it doesn’t make you a failure or an uncommitted writer. It’s a hint of where to spend some time and mend some fences.

How does this help?

A filled-out Writing Life Wheel offers clues about what’s holding you back and what is or could be propelling you forward. You can then go on to use this newfound wisdom to create a plan for bringing your life back into (relative) balance and sail the calmest creative seas possible. The further I get in my own creative journey, the more I’ve realized how important it is to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses and develop an understanding that things are often in flux.

To give you an example of how the Writing Life Wheel works, let’s look at a portion of my own.

My personal satisfaction level with my support network at the moment is a 5 out of 5. Between my mum, my fellow, the lovely guests who've attended the Tea Party Chronicles, and the connections I’ve made through social media, I feel incredibly lucky and supported and wouldn’t change a thing. A little down the road, if I’m looking for a few more beta readers for my current work-in-progress, that might change to 4 out of 5 until I’ve made the right connections. For now, though, a definite 5!

My schedule and routine, on the other hand, is currently more like 2 out of 5. Some shifts have occurred in my life that necessitate a rethinking of my writing schedule and I haven’t quite made it happen, so I’m not writing as often as I’d like. I am getting a good session in every few days, though, so this merits a rating of 2 in my mind, and it’s obvious where there’s room to improve.

Herein lies the magic of the Writing Life Wheel: by having each section set out clearly, I can draw connections and figure out how to mend the weak points by drawing on the power of the strong ones.

In this case, that could mean drawing on my support network to help me get back into a steady routine and schedule for my writing, maybe by:

  • doing word sprints together
  • having writing chats on a regular basis
  • sharing my plans and reporting back on how they went
  • seeking reassurances that, yes, this is doable; yes, I've done it before; and yes, I can do it again (because we all need those reassurances from time to time)

See what I mean? It’s much easier to create a life that supports your writing when things work in concert rather than acting as disparate entities.

How do you fill out a Writing Life Wheel?

The idea is to rate different areas of your writing life, as it stands now, on a scale from 1 (least satisfying) to 5 (most satisfying), and then use highlighters, crayons, coloured pencils, or your implement of choice to fill in the appropriate number of sections in the wheel.

To figure out how to rate an area, consider it with a few questions in mind:

  1. Does thinking about this area make me feel excited, content, or antsy?
  2. Does thinking about this area make me feel confident or lost?
  3. Is this area straightforward or confusing to me?
  4. Is this an area I find myself wanting to improve or seeking help with?
  5. How would this area need to look and/or feel for me to be completely satisfied with it?

Do your best not to pad your wheel with higher ratings to make it look better or downgrade ratings by being too hard on yourself. Trust your instincts. Your wheel will shift and change over time, always with room for improvement and celebration!

These ratings must be based on your personal level of satisfaction with each of these areas. It doesn't matter, for example, if the rest of your household thinks your writing area is a mess. If it gets you excited to sit down and write, then your writing space is easily worthy of a 4 or 5 rating, no matter what anyone else thinks.

(Make sure to read to the end of this post for a blank copy of your very own Writing Life Wheel!)

What happens now?

There are all sorts of things you can do with a completed Writing Life Wheel, but these are a few of my favourites:

  • For each area, look at (1) how you rated it, (2) what’s working, and (3) what could be tweaked, what you’d like to try, what you could improve on, or what’s missing
  • Write down what surprised you as you filled in the wheel, if anything
  • Reflect on which area you’re most excited to work on and/or which area makes you break out in a cold sweat
  • If there’s someone with a great deal of insight and knowledge into your writing life, show them your completed wheel and see if they notice anything you’ve missed
  • Have a trusted writing friend complete their own wheel, and then have an open-minded, kind-hearted discussion on what comes up for each of you
  • Complete the wheel anew every six months to (1) look for patterns in what changes and what doesn’t, (2) figure out if anything feels stale, and (3) celebrate whatever progress you’ve made

Are you ready to fill out your Writing Life Wheel?

If you want to give this a try (and I hope you do!) click here to download a copy of your very own Writing Life Wheel.

Today, I'll leave you with a gentle nudge: once you've downloaded the wheel, print it out (or draw it out, if you don't have a printer) and fill it in as soon as possible! It's best not to overthink it but to dive right in. I've even included some sample questions for each section of the wheel to guide you along.

Have a wheely good time, and happy writing!