Odds are, if you’ve been anywhere on a lifestyle-oriented website recently — or just visited Pinterest or Instagram — you’ve heard of hygge.
No, that’s not just a random collection of letters caused by your cat walking across the keyboard. Hygge (roughly pronounced “HOO-gah”) is a Danish concept that more or less equates to a feeling of being cozy, comfortable, safe, and whole.
Basically, hygge is the state that every writer wants to be in when they settle down to work: comfy, relaxed, and ready to hit perfect flow.
For obvious reasons, hygge is massively popular; it was even short-listed as a candidate for the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2016 word of the year. The Danes are consistently ranked as some of the happiest people on earth, despite the often cold and dark climate, so there must be something to their attitude towards life.
There are dozens of websites and books that tell you how to achieve hygge in your own life, usually revolving around wearing big fluffy socks and drinking a lot of tea. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a pretty awesome state to be in, but as a writer, you can do a little bit better.
Here’s some tips and tricks to apply the concept of hygge to your writing practice to help you get cozy, work better, and achieve flow.
Take a Step Back
Take a moment to look at the space where you write. Is it jammed with papers and bills and reminders? Has your other work or your daily life crept into your writing area?
If so, take a few minutes to banish all that to somewhere more appropriate, or at least file it away in a drawer so that it’s not staring at you when you’re trying to write.
Hygge is very much about simplicity. A lot of us can’t work in completely spartan environments, but it’s also hard to focus when reminders of your to-do list are staring you in the face. Get some folders or a portable file box and stash all the stuff that doesn’t immediately pertain to your writing. File your research notes. Clear some space physically to help you be more comfortable and relaxed while you work.
Build a Hyggekrog
Yep, it’s another alphabet soup word that you don’t know how to pronounce: hyggekrog! This translates more or less as “comfortable corner,” and it’s a great little retreat from the world.
You can set up your writing space as a hyggekrog, or you can carve out some space that you use just for reading, meditating, and getting into the right frame of mind to write. Figure out your personal needs and then work with them — there’s no wrong approach here!
To really create a hygge atmosphere, load your comfy corner with thick, cozy blankets, a few candles, and a good place to set a cup of tea or hot chocolate.
Now that you’ve got that cozy corner set up, go grab a book and read in it! Hygge is all about taking time to take care of yourself, and that includes losing yourself in a great book.
You might be thinking, “But I’m trying to be a writer, not a reader!” Well, the best writers are voracious readers. It’s how we learn more about technique and style, and it’s how we figure out what works and gain new ideas to add to our toolbox.
Perhaps most importantly, immersing yourself in a world someone else has created can be an amazing reminder of why you decided to be a writer in the first place. And that sense of calm confidence, of knowing that you’re on the right path, is very hygge indeed.
Focus on Simplicity
Scandinavians in general are known for taking a very sleek, streamlined, simple approach to all aspects of life (just look at IKEA furniture and Nordic interior design!). Placing value on interactions and relationships instead of things and focusing on simplicity may be one of the reasons they’re so happy — stuff doesn’t make us happy, experiences do.
That focus on simplicity can translate into your writing. Instead of focusing on word count today, try concentrating on simplicity: how can you make your point in fewer words? What adverbs can you eliminate? Can you be more direct or straightforward and still be engaging?
Stop for a moment and focus on your mindset. What are you thinking about? Are you planning what’s for dinner? Are you thinking about the next marketing idea you want to try?
Hit pause on all those thoughts and bring your mind back to the present. Focus on the feeling of your chair underneath you, the texture of the keys as you’re typing, the scent of the air (do you have those very hygge scented candles burning?). Take a few minutes to just bring yourself back to this moment.
Now, start writing again. Pick up and focus on the exact feeling you’re trying to create, building the sense of mindful immersion in your scene that you just felt when concentrating on being fully present.
If you find your mind wandering again, stop and center yourself again. Before you know it, you’ll find a state of mindful flow, where you tune out the distractions of the rest of the world and are completely immersed in your writing, comes more and more easily.
Deep, rhythmic breathing can also help you live more in the present moment and feel more comfortable and relaxed. If you’re having trouble getting into that state of flow, take five very deep breaths from deep in your belly. Concentrate on the feeling of the air going in for three counts, staying in your lungs for three counts, and then rushing out over five counts.
There! Bet you’re feeling more centered and happily hygge already.
Embrace the Positive
Hygge isn’t just about simplicity, cozy corners, mindfulness, and chunky knit sweaters. It’s also about embracing the positive aspects of every day.
Yeah, it sounds like a cheesy self-help line, but there’s something good to be found in every situation. If you’re stressed about impending deadlines, bad reviews, sluggish sales, or difficult edits, try to flip your approach to these issues.
Yes, you have a ton on your plate. Yes, writing is a difficult profession. Yes, it’s stressful to try to fit writing into your life while also maintaining a balance with everything else you do.
You get to put words on the page every day. Even bad reviews mean that people are reading your work. You’re doing something most people only dream of by actually working on a book. Edits are stressful, but the final polished manuscript will really be worth the struggle of revisions. Deadlines feel awesome when you hit them.
If you really, really can’t find anything positive in your current writing situation, find something else positive to focus on. Even if it’s just those fluffy socks. They’re not hygge for nothing.
Spending time with people you care about is a key tenet of hygge. That might seem to run a little counter to the idea of writing more, but remember — you have to take care of yourself and your relationships to be a well-rounded person, and you have to be a well-rounded person to be a good writer.
But prioritizing people also has direct implications for your writing. It can be really easy to fall into the trap of focusing on your plot, moving along situation after situation without ever developing the characters you’ve created. Truly engaging stories, though, involve some sort of internal journey, too — characters change and develop as they go through the steps of your plot.
Even hardcore science fiction novels are improved by prioritizing people; there’s always a balance to be struck between the world you’re building, the situations you’re exploring, and the people who are doing the exploring. Nonfiction, too, can benefit from a focus on the human aspect: make your point relatable and focus on how your insights can and have helped people and you’ll create a much more powerful book.
Hygge isn’t just about wrapping yourself up in fuzzy blankets while munching popcorn and sipping rich hot cocoa. It’s a state of mind that embraces simplicity, focus, relationships, and a sense of calm.
All the core aspects of hygge can help you develop a relaxed, focused mindset that make it easier to focus on your writing and to write better.
Go slip on a pair of fuzzy socks and give it a try!
Hygge’s principles of cozy comfort can translate well into increased focus and flow, helping you be a better writer.
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For more on mindfulness and improving your writing process, read on: