My Writing Process-Part 1: Brainstorming

My Writing Process: Part 1--BrainstormingLast month I sent out a survey to my newsletter subscribers (you can sign up in the sidebar or at the end of this post) asking what types of posts they’d like to see more of. A lot of people asked for more process posts and for more about my own writing process. So with that in mind, I’m kicking off a series that’s going to be all about my writing process! First up, brainstorming!

There are some writers out there who, when asked about their favorite part of the writing process, say something to the extent of “whatever part I’m not doing.” I am not one of those writers. While I genuinely enjoy each stage of the process for different reasons, the earlier in the process my book is, the happier I am. So, brainstorming is unquestionably my favorite.

I think this is partly because I’m more of a big picture person, so the less I have to sift through the details and explain the science or reason behind some small-but-essential plot point, the better. And partly because I love writing because I love the characters and their MOMENTS. At this stage, all I have are the characters and their moments and no problems. I don’t have to worry about why a part of the plot can’t happen or doesn’t make sense. The story isn’t developed enough to be difficult yet, which makes it so much fun!!

When I start brainstorming, I do a lot of freewriting in both a notebook or on my whiteboard wall (more about my wall here). Here’s how I break down my brainstorming:

The Idea

The idea for book starts with a spark (perhaps you know the feeling?) that usually comes after watching a tv show or movie with a concept that intrigues me. I got the idea for Crossing the Line when I was watching The Avengers. Once I realized that main character Black Widow wasn’t always one of the good guys, I became fascinated with what the transition from bad to good must have looked like and I needed to explore that more. The idea for a book I’m finishing up came after watching a Netflix series (but I’ll share more about that down the line). Nearly all of my ideas have come to me after watching something.

Typically I let the idea cook in my brain for a month or two. From time to time, I may jot down some notes, but letting the story develop a little on its own has always been good for me. I can’t tell you why, but if I try to write things down too soon, I find I run out of steam quickly. I tend to have a very loose idea of my main character, the immediate supporting characters, the world, and the story before I put anything on paper.

Then, when I feel like I need to write it down, I take my brainstorming to paper and start freewriting. This is the most scattered and undeveloped my story will ever be. Usually, by this point, all of my thinking has given me a handful of key moments for my characters to experience. I write those moments down. They’re messy, out of order, and I go off on tangents, but it’s awesome because it’s too soon for any of those things to be a problem.

The Characters

Once I have all of these rough ideas out of the way, it’s time to dig into the characters. I write commercial fiction, which means my books are more plot-driven. However, I’ve always liked to think that it’s my job to write an engaging plot so my characters have the opportunity to grow and overcome. So the plot may drive my story, but I write my plot for my characters first and foremost. I’ll do a dedicated freewrite for each of my main characters that focuses on these three big character questions. I’ll typically spend 2-3 notebook pages per character on the first question, 1-2 pages on the second, and 3-5 (or more, if I need it) on the last.

All three questions are important to the character, but to me, the last one is the most important for the book. I’ll do a complete freewrite on the entire arc for each major character as I see it at this stage. This freewrite typically focuses on key moments in the character’s story. There will be massive holes, but again, those things don’t matter right now. By the end, I have a big picture understanding of who my character is as a person and what their journey will be in the book. Sometimes these arcs change later. Sometimes they don’t.

The World

World building is probably one of my biggest weakness, especially at this stage. This is most likely because out of everything, it needs the most details ASAP to function. But at this point, I try not to go too crazy. I figure out the bare minimum I need to understand about my world for my characters to live in it. Typically, these essential locations and systems have shown themselves to me in that early idea freewrite. I’ll also develop any relevant history to the world.

For example, with my spy series, I knew I needed two spy agencies (the good guys and the bad guys). My character was staying with the good guys, so she needed a place to sleep, train, learn, and work. So I developed those place and some minor characters to go with them, which was enough to get my story off the ground. I also came up with the history of the agency on its own, and with my enemy agency. I approach the world building in all of my books very similar to this, though each story has slightly different needs.

The Main Plot

Once I have the characters and the world down, I start to freewrite the main plot. This stage of brainstorming often starts on my whiteboard wall to get some rough connections and ideas down, then when I’m out of room, I’ll transition back to my notebook. Typically in the idea freewrite, I’ve figured out what the main plot is and how the book ends. The character freewrites help me understand what I need out of the plot to serve my characters and the world gives me the vehicle to make it happen. This is where I bring it all together.

I do a freewrite of what the complete book would be at this stage. It’s essentially one big long summary that can run anywhere from 10-15 pages. It often leads me to uncover aspects of the story I hadn’t thought of and I go off on tangents to explore those ideas as I need to. Again, there’s still a lot of the story missing here, but it’s the first time it has any kind of book-like shape.

The Subplots and Weaknesses

I like to have a handful of subplots running through my books. Some of them I know from the start, but others surface in the main plot freewrite. At this point, I have a good idea of what those plots are, so I do a free write of each one independently. This helps me see how big the subplot it, how it connects to the main plot, and how it serves my characters. I tend to have anywhere from three to five subplots at this stage and each freewrite is around 3-5 pages long.

I do my best to only figure out what I need to know. That way I don’t get too locked into minor details while the book is so young. The main plot and subplot freewrites often expose some big holes and problems I overlooked earlier. If they’re problems I need to solve so I can write my story, I solve them now before I move on to the next step.

I hope this helps you build your own brainstorming process!

Check out part two of this series where I talk all about how I outline!  And if you want to see more about why I love freewriting so much and how it helps, check out this post.

Now it’s your turn: What approach do you take to brainstorming? Are you a freewriter like me or do you have another favorite approach? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Have a Happy Writing Life

How to Be a Happy WriterBooks are often labors of love. We work on them never knowing if they’ll see the light of day. Ultimately, it’s up to us to make those books happen. We have to make time for them and we have to take on the responsibility of completing them. And in the end, no matter how hard we work and how much time we put in, there’s no way to know if what you’ve written is good enough to be shared, published, or otherwise appreciated by readers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy writing life.

Writing a book can be a lot of pressure, and it can suck you dry just as much as it can invigorate you.

But here’s the thing to remember: this writing life is YOURS. You decide how much pressure you put on yourself and you can decide to shift yourself and your perspective in such a way that you’re happy with the writing life you’re living, no matter where you are in your writing journey. You can decide to build a happy writing life no matter where you are on the journey.

Here are ten decisions you can make to make a happy writing life for yourself:

1) You can decide your writing matters

The rest of the world may tell you your writing doesn’t matter unless it’s published or unless you win some contest. You can decide you don’t need someone else’s validation. You can decide your work matters simply because you’ve written it.

2) You can decide what success is

Again, it’s easy to think of “success” as being published or winning awards. And sure, that’s one version of success. But the problem with those definitions is that they are out of your hands. You are, effectively, letting other people decide when you’ve succeeded. That’s setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, you can decide to define success as not giving up, which is really the only thing you can control. You can decide that every day you show up, and every day you work on what’s within your control, you’re succeeding. Maybe it’s not the dream (yet) but it can sustain you.

3) You can set your timeline (and maybe consider not setting a timeline)

You are the one who sets your writing life timeline. You decide at what age or how far off you’d like to be published by. Which means you don’t actually have to set a timeline! Similar to the point above, if you build a timeline you’re putting an awful lot of weight on other people’s actions. Those are actions you can’t control. Setting a timeline around them can be demoralizing if things don’t go the way you plan. Instead, make a manageable timeline for the work you’re going to do on your own stories, not the things you want to happen as a result. Focus on that instead. And if things get off track, don’t sweat it! The benefit of creating your own timeline is that you can adjust it as you need to. It’s only a source of stress and pressure if you decide it is.

4) You can decide that your progress matters

It’s easy to get caught up in not being “finished” and it’s easy to get caught up in the work you have in front of you. But you can decide the work you’ve done so far is worth celebrating, and you can decide the progress you’ve made matters more than the work you still have to do. The Mayo Clinic actually has an article on the importance so focusing on progress over perfection.

5) You can decide the journey is more important

In real life, I’m really not one for “traveling.” I hate the journey and I’m all about the destination. But when it comes to writing I’m the opposite. You can decide the journey and the experience you have writing your book matters more than the end result. You can decide that the act of creating means more than the act of sharing, and decide that sharing (and publishing) is a lovely perk.

6) You can decide the intangible benefits of writing matter more than the tangible ones

I don’t know about you, but I write because of how I feel when I do it. I was prepared to write for the rest of my life whether I ever got published or not. I realized fairly early on that writing made me a happier and more fulfilled person, whether anyone else liked what I was writing or not. Because how I feel and what writing does for me is so much more important than a tangible benefit I can point to.

7) You can decide to commit to your writing

You can decide to make writing a priority at any point. No one else will do it for you. You can decide to get up a half hour earlier or spend your lunch break on your computer instead of with your co-workers. You can make as much or as little time for writing as you want. For more on this, check out this post!

8) You can decide to make time for non-writing activities (guilt free!)

You don’t have to chain yourself to your desk to call yourself a writer. You can (and should) spend time with family, friends, or even your tv screen without feeling like you should be writing. Granted, you can’t blow off writing for this kind of stuff all the time, but balance is important. You need it to have experiences and emotions to write about.

9) You can decide to write for you

You can decide that telling yourself a story your love is more important than telling a story every reader may love. And you can decide to trust that if you love what you’re writing, readers like you will love it too.

10) You can decide your best is enough

You can decide that the work you’ve done is good enough, regardless of what anyone else says. And you can decide that the work you’re doing now is good enough to help you grow, whether it gets you where you want to be right now or not. For more on this, check out the post linked above!

I hope this helps you have a happy writing life!

Now it’s your turn: What helps you make a happy writing life? Tell me about it in the comments!

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Why Typing Second Drafts from Scratch is Helpful

why typing your second drafts from scratch is helpfulI’ve taken A LOT of writing classes in my life and I’ve only had two bad ones. Yet, I got one very valuable lesson out of each of those less-than-awesome classes. One of those classes introduced me to the idea of typing my second drafts completely from scratch.

I’ll admit, I was super skeptical of this approach. Typing a first draft always felt like a lot of work. The prospect of starting with another blank page was in no way appealing. But I happened to be struggling with a second draft at the time and figured it couldn’t hurt to try. So I did. And let me tell you, it totally opened up my entire drafting/revision process.

Here are five ways starting my second drafts from scratch has helped me (and how it may help you too):

1) It’s like drafting with a safety net

Just because I write my second drafts from scratch doesn’t mean I trash the first draft. In fact, I actually print my first draft out and keep it next to me the entire time. I refer to it, and if there are scenes or chapters I want to include I retype them (and often write them better).

When you write a first draft, you have nothing. Maybe an outline, if you’re an outliner, but that’s it. But if you type your second draft from scratch, you can write with the reckless abandon of a first draft while having scenes and chapters as a safety net to add and modify as needed.

2) My first drafts are really messy

I have always been a fast and messy drafter. My first drafts are complete and total disasters! I often say my first draft is a lot more about learning what my story isn’t than what my story is. In a lot of ways, my second drafts feel like a second crack at the first draft (if that makes any sense). This process tends to go a lot quicker on a blank page without the old stuff in the way. Beyond that, even if I am keeping a scene or chapter from my first draft, I’m able to clean it up a lot as I retype it.

4) It helps me identify scenes, chapters, and storylines that need to go

Because my first drafts are so messy, there’s a lot that isn’t working, and there’s a lot that I need to let go of. But sometimes, identifying those things can be hard. Before I started this approach, I wasted a lot of time trying to fix boring or out of place scenes. I thought if I revised them correctly, they wouldn’t be boring or out of place. This, however, isn’t always true. Sometimes a scene is boring because it doesn’t belong. Personally, I often get really excited about what I’m writing–even if I know there are things I have to fix. I LOVE experiencing my story with my characters. When I started retyping my second drafts I found there were some scenes that I dreaded having to experience again because they just weren’t all that interesting. This became a very obvious early sign that a scene doesn’t belong and isn’t worth my time. Now, if I get to a scene that I’m not excited to retype and re-experience, it gets tossed or significantly modified.

3) It’s easier to let go of what isn’t working

Sometimes, I was aware that a scene wasn’t worth fixing, but letting it go was hard. In fact, I used to STRUGGLE to fix scenes and chapters that I knew really needed to be trashed because the idea of deleting them was just that painful. (Perhaps you know the feeling?) But when I type my second drafts from scratch, it’s so much easier to let that stuff go because it means I don’t have to retype it! Rewriting and adding a new scene or chapter becomes a refreshing change of pace. And I don’t have to touch the delete button once!

5) It’s a little like packing a suitcase

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I pack for a big trip, it takes me two tries to get everything in my suitcase. The first try usually gives me a better sense of just how much space everything will take up and how it fits together. Then the second try, I have a better understanding of what will fit, what won’t, and the best way to position it all so the important stuff makes it. It also forces me to take a hard look at what I’m bringing and leave the stuff I can live without. I’ve often thought of my first and second drafts like this.

My first drafts give me time with my characters, plot, and world. It also exposes the characters and plot points I don’t actually need, and helps me understand how the ones I do can fit together a little better. Retyping my second draft is a lot like emptying my suitcase and giving myself a clean slate so everything can fit a little better.

I hope this helps you see why typing second drafts from scratch might be helpful!

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever tried retyping your second drafts? Or does it seem way too intimidating? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Regroup When Writing Plans Get Derailed

How to Regroup when Your writing Plans Get derailedIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m a big believer in writing plans and writing goals. Writing plans and goals are important. It’s how we can stay motivated and move our projects forward. But sometimes, things don’t always go as planned. If one day gets off track, it might be easy to catch up, but if its a series of days, it can be a lot harder. And I’ve found that the harder it is to catch up, the more intimidating the entire task is, and it gets really easy to want to give up and walk away from it all.

This post is designed to cut off that overwhelming feeling that comes with falling behind on your writing plans and help you get back on track!

1) Take a timeout

Before you do anything, just take a second to breathe. Take a moment to understand what went wrong. If it was simply, “life happened” then don’t put any more thought into it. If, perhaps, you got too ambitious and tried to do too much too fast, make note of that so you don’t make the same mistake again. Also during this timeout, let go of any old plans and expectations. We’re resetting and starting fresh!

2) Assess where you are

Julia Cameron likes to say, “start where you are.” It’s good advice, especially in a situation like this. But first, you have to figure out where exactly you are. Take a moment to take inventory of where you and your project are at. How much of your old plan where you able to accomplish? Where exactly did you stop? This will become your new starting point.

3) Assess what you have left to do

Make a list of the tasks you still have to tackle. With each task, also list actionable steps you need to complete in order to accomplish the task. For example, one task might be “Fix main plot.” Some actionable steps you can do might be, “Identify the current problem, brainstorm a solution, outline scenes to work in the solution, add scenes into book.”

While it’s always helpful to break your problems down into action steps like this, I think it’s even more important after your previous plan falls through. It forces you to really slow down and make sure you’re allowing enough time for each step, which heightens the chance that you won’t be frustrated and disappointed by a plan twice in a row.

4) Prioritize

This step is two-fold. First, prioritize your tasks. The biggest and most important should go first. If you prioritize smaller tasks just because they’re easier and will give you some sense of accomplishment, you’re setting yourself up to waste time. Bigger tasks impact more of your project, which means sometimes the bigger task with either fix a smaller task or alter the course of a smaller task. If you tend to a smaller task first, there’s a chance your bigger task will force you to rewrite and change that smaller task twice.

Second, make a commitment to prioritize your new and improved plan. Sure, sometimes interferences are unavoidable, but sometimes they are. If someone or something is trying to take you away from your writing goals, give yourself a second to assess before you walk away from your story. Ask yourself: “Am I really the only person who can solve this problem? Is the problem truly urgent?” If the answer to these questions is “no” then don’t give up your writing time. Let someone else handle it or take it on after you finished your writing.

5) Make a new plan

Be realistic! If your first plan fell through because you over planned, scale back your daily goals. You’re better off moving a little slower, taking a little longer and actually finishing, than continually getting overwhelmed and falling behind. And if you got derailed because of some new recurring time commitment or lifestyle change, take that into consideration. One trick that helps me stay realistic is to first give an honest assessment of how much time I think I may need for a task, then, if at all possible, I give myself time and a half to complete it. So, if I think I’ll need two days to fix a plot, I plan to give myself three. This gives me a cushion and keeps me from falling behind. At best, it only takes me two days and I can get ahead of schedule.

6) Focus on one task at a time

When you get back to work, stay focused on the task at hand. Try to put aside all the work you still have to do, and all of the people or things that need your attention. When you are working on your book, the only thing that matters is your book. I’ve found that fifteen minutes of total focus is more productive than thirty when my mind is half on something else. This is also something to keep in mind while you’re making your new plan. If the only solid half hour you have to write means you’ll have to multitask, try to find ten or fifteen minutes when you don’t instead. Of course, every writer is different and this may not work for you, but I definitely think it’s worth trying out!

I hope this helps you regroup when your writing plans get derailed!

Now it’s your turn: What do you do when your writing plans get derailed? What tips have you borrowed from others? Tell me about it in the comments!

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How to Use Google Maps to Help Your Setting: Writing Tips

How Google Maps can Help Your SettingWriting a book can be pretty tricky on the best of days, but if you’re writing a book that takes you to a setting you’ve either never been or haven’t been for a while, it can become infinitely harder. As nice as it would be to visit all your settings, that often costs time and money, which you might not be able to sacrifice. That’s where Google Maps comes in! Google Maps can be ridiculously helpful in refining your setting so you don’t feel like you’re going into a location completely blind. Does it replace actually visiting? No. But when that’s just not an option, Google Maps is a solid alternative.

Here are six ways Google Maps can help you and your setting:

1) Visit a place you’ve never been

The world is a big place and your characters may have a need to travel it more vastly than you have. If your characters need to go to a place that you haven’t visited, hop online and take a look around. Most locations have photos and a 3D street view that puts you as much in the location as possible. In fact, Google Maps helped me write my spy books like this. As a spy, my character had to visit locations all around the world–most of which I’d never been. It let me get a feel for the color of the buildings, the building to grass ratio, and other geographic details.

2) Refresh your memory about a place you’ve visited

Sometimes, even if you have visited a location, there might be details about it you forget. Using the same 3D street view tool from the first point, you’ll be able to walk around the location and (if you have an address) revisit specific landmarks. So, if it’s been a long time and you just want to make sure you’re getting the details right, Google Maps can give you a quick refresher.

3) Point to a place your character visits

If you’ve never been to a location, it might be hard to put your character in a specific building or open area and describe it effectively. This is another awesome job for Google Maps! You can use the street view to browse a location and find a building or park or whatever you need for your story. I often won’t use an exact location and call it out in my books, but I will base a location in my books off of what I’ve found on Google Maps.

Keep in mind, if you’re writing fiction, your locations don’t have to be 100% accurate and real, it just has to be believable–even if your book takes place in this modern world. There can be a location that exists in the world of your story, but not in the real world. Google Maps will help you to 1) know the location you have in mind is possible and 2) make sure that location fits into the country/city/town like you want it to.

4) Track your character’s journey

Similarly, you can track your character’s journey to not only visit a location but also to get travel times. If you’ve never been to a country, it can be hard to estimate how long it might take you to get from point A to point B. Google Maps can help give you distances for you to estimate your character’s travel. After all, you wouldn’t want to say your character will make it point B in time for dinner if that’s completely unrealistic.

5) Inspiration for a fictional place you’re creating

If you’re creating a fictional world from scratch, Google Maps can give you some real-world information to pull from. For example, if you know that you’re creating a desert-like world, but have never been to a desert, you can visit a wide variety of real-life desert locations on Google Maps to help create a world that is both unique and believable at the same time.

6) Discover aspects of a location you hadn’t considered

Even if you know the perfect location for your story, there are some questions you might not think to ask unless you take a look around. For example, if you’ve got your character driving a getaway car away from a certain location, you may find that the roads are too narrow for some crazy action-packed stunt you had in mind. If your idea of a ‘road’ is big and wide, it may not have occurred to you that the roads in your story’s location would be way too small to pull off your stunt. Even if you know a lot about your location via research and other sources, there are probably plenty of things to take in just by walking the Google Maps streets.

I hope this helps you use google maps to create an awesome setting!

Now it’s your turn: Have you used Google maps in the past to help your setting? How did it help? Or do you have new ideas about how you can use it in the future? Tell me about it in the comments!

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When Writing Your Novel Feels Overwhelming: 7 Tips

When writing your novel feels overwhelmingWriting a novel can unquestionably be overwhelming at times. It’s a massive undertaking, and there’s a ton of work that goes into writing a book, with no guarantees of a positive outcome. Some things that may cause your project to feel overwhelming include feeling lost in your story, getting behind on your goals, realizing you have so much work ahead of you, realizing your book needs more work than your thought, being told your work isn’t good enough, and so much more.

Here are seven tips to help you when writing feels overwhelming:

1) Take a break

Binge watch your favorite show, read, spend time with family/friends, spend time outside, or do anything that relaxes you and helps you reset. It might be tempting to guilt yourself while you take this break or chastise yourself for “wasting writing time.” But you’re not wasting writing time, you’re recharging. It will only be a true “break” if let yourself off the hook and give yourself permission to enjoy this activity and clear your mind. Coming back to your project with a clean slate may be just what you need to chase to overwhelm away. It’ll give you the opportunity to clear out everything that’s bringing you down, then when you come back to your project, you can reassess and prioritize.

2) Start where you are

This is a key philosophy in Julia Cameron’s book, The Right to Write. Don’t think about your entire project. Don’t even think about all the work you have ahead of you. Start where you are and take one step forward. Then take another. You can write an entire book this way. Overwhelm is more likely to set in when you look at the picture. So don’t look at the big picture until you’ve finished.

3) Make a new plan

If part of your overwhelm came from falling behind on your goals and plans, take a time out and make a new plan. I’m a big believer in making plans, setting goals, and doing your best to stick to them, but sometimes you have to make adjustments. You’re better off creating a new plan/goal that you can reasonably reach than struggling to catch up and getting discouraged. It may feel like you’re regressing or admitting defeat, but you’re not. You’re creating consistency, and that’s what will help you finish your book. You’re better off planning to write 500 words a day every day and hitting that mark than planning on 1,000 and falling behind. For more, check out why you should set reasonable writing goals and how to set reasonable writing goals.

4) Spend less time on social media

One problem with social media is how cultivated it is. People often share the good stuff over the problems they might be having. It can be easy to look at the social media feeds of your friends and acquaintances and think things are great for them. And if you’re struggling with your book, something you’re putting your heart and soul into, seeing everyone succeeding online might add to the overwhelm.

I’ve also found that the more I take in from others, the harder it is to focus on what I want to say and write. Or, as a friend once put it, too much input makes it hard to produce output. Take some time off social media and give yourself the space to think and create. This has helped me so much that I’ve cut back on social media across the board. It’s helped me be more centered, focused, and keeps overwhelm at bay.

5) Notice what’s discouraging you and step away

Sometimes, overwhelming feelings can be triggared by discouraging or negative forces in your life. Whether it’s someone telling you that “you can’t do this” or it’s yourself, looking up “how to get published” and panicking, negativity can make your project feel bigger or harder than it is. This can, in turn, make you overwhelmed. If you need to stop yourself from going to a certain site, most web browsers have a site blocker extension you can add on to help you stay away. If it’s a person, do your best not to talk about writing with this person. And if that person asks you questions, you can say something like, “I don’t like to talk about my projects until they’re finished.” Do whatever you have to in order to protect your writing and creativity.

6) Work on a different project for a bit

This is one of my favorite tricks! Not only does it cure writing overwhelm, but also writer’s block and other plot problems. If you’re anything like me, you write because you love it. Having a low-pressure side project always helps bring me back to why I write and takes my mind off whatever problems I’m having with my main project, including overwhelm. Often when I go back to the project causing me problems, it feels so much more manageable. For more on this, check out this post.

7) Talk to other writers

Every writer I know has felt overwhelmed by their projects at one point or another. Sharing stories and knowing you’re not alone in this can be a powerful way to push through. Not only that, your writer friend may have a tip or trick to help you navigate to a situation. I’m not on facebook, but I hear they have some great writer support groups. If you’re looking for writer friends in real life, consider taking a writing class at a library, community center, or local college. For more on the importance of writerly friendships, check out this post by my writer friend, Julie Eshbaugh.

I hope this helps you when writing feels overwhelming!

Now it’s your turn: What do you do when writing feels overwhelming? Do you have any tips and tricks to share? Tell me about it in the comments!

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5 Reasons Why Your Best Writing is Good Enough

Why Your Best Writing is Good EnoughThis post is inspired by two of my favorite people on the internet: Erin Motz and Courtney Carver. One of the reasons I like them both so much is because they both preach a similar belief that your best is good enough. This philosophy can absolutely apply to writing. Your best writing is good enough!

There are two elements to this philosophy. First, it’s okay to work really hard without running yourself into the ground. It’s okay to give just 100% and not 110%. Second, it’s okay to let yourself off the hook when you work really hard, yet things don’t go how you wanted to. There are a lot of moving parts in the world. There are things that are outside your control. If you can say that you did your best with what was within your control, don’t tell yourself that you should have worked harder. It’s okay to accept where you’re at and know you will learn and grow from there. 

Writers worry all the time that their best work isn’t good enough. They worry it’s not good enough to be published or to even be read. They worry it’s just flat out not good. And I’ll be honest–maybe it’s not good enough for those things–at least not yet. But your best should be good enough for you. Accepting where I’m at has helped me to both grow and to endure the judgment of others.

With that in mind, here are four reasons why accepting this idea will help your writing life:

1) Every time you write you’ll get better

That’s just how writing works. There’s no sense in being angry or frustrated because your work isn’t as good as you want it to be. If it’s your best work, then it’s good enough and you’ll learn from it. Then the next time you write, you’ll get better. It’s a natural progression. As much as it sucks, you can’t skip steps. You become a better writer by writing. If you consistently get frustrated that you’re not a better writer, there is a better chance that you’ll get discouraged and quit. If you can honestly say you’ve given a project the best you had on any given day (and what you have in you may vary) then you should celebrate that! You will only get better with time.

2) You will live a more balanced life

Consistently trying to give more than your best to your writing is a sure fire way to burn out. It’s also a sure fire way to live a lopsided life. If you give more than your best, then it means you’re giving all of the energy you have (plus maybe some you don’t) to your writing. It’s unhealthy, unsustainable, and you miss out on a lot. Family is important. Friends are important. Trying to be better than your best is draining and leaves nothing left for any other area of your life. And I’ve found that when I let my best be enough and have more energy for other things, it actually makes me a better writer. It keeps me fresh, and it allows me to walk away from my work before it becomes all-consuming. This makes it easier for me to keep my work in perspective and solve problems.

3) It takes the pressure off and frees your mind

There’s a pressure that comes with always having to be better. It’s a pressure that can seep into your productivity and make it hard to move forward. You question every idea you have. It can become debilitating and make finishing a chapter nearly impossible. When you let yourself accept that your best is good enough, it takes away some of that pressure. You no longer have to push yourself beyond your limits. You give yourself permission to do your best and be okay with whatever comes out. It takes away the expectations. And when you do that, you unlock something in your creative brain that can help bring your story to life in a way you never considered–at least, that’s been my experience.

4) It makes it easier to take criticism in stride

Every writer gets some form of criticism. Accepting that your best is good enough is one way to keep criticism from tearing you down. I have found that when I can acknowledge that I did the very best I possibly could on a book, it makes rejection easier. Because I am happy with what I did and I know it was not possible for me to do any better. Maybe the rejectors and critics have a point. Maybe they don’t. Either way, I know I’ve given a book everything I’ve got. I can’t ask any more of myself. And I know that the first point of this post will come into play and next time I will do better. For more on managing criticism, check out this post.

5) It’s all you can do

At the end of the day, your best is what you have. No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to be better than your best. It’s one thing to challenge yourself. That’s how you grow. It’s another thing to expect more of yourself than you are physically and/or mentally capable of. That’s how you run yourself into the ground. Excepting your best isn’t a cop out and it’s not slacking off. It’s taking care of yourself and putting yourself in the best situation to succeed. It’s helping you to build a healthy and sustainable writing life. Give yourself that gift. Your writing will thank you.

I hope that helps you see why your best writing is good enough!

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever put too much pressure on yourself to be better than your best? What’s helped you combat that impulse? Tell me about it in the comments!

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