4 Great Tips to Balance Writing and Social Media

How to Balance Writing and Social MediaA couple of weeks ago, I did a post on Why Writers Should Spend Time Offline. That post spoke more generally to the importance of unplugging, but this post focuses more on day-to-day writing/social media balance.  There’s also a little bit of a story behind my motivation for both of these posts.

Regardless of where you are in your writing journey, there’s a lot of emphasis on building an author platform these days. You may have even heard that it’s never too soon to start. That’s something I would agree with. Followers will absolutely help you out when it comes to selling or promoting a book, so the sooner you start building your account, the better off you are. But, if you’re not careful, it can be really easy to let that social media eat up a lot of your writing time and energy. This is something I know all too well.

A few months ago, I realized I was spending way too much time online. Checking my phone and social media accounts had become a compulsion. I also found it was getting in the way of my writing and my life. I knew I needed to do something to right the ship. It turned out that when I focused solely on managing my time on social media, my overall internet time cut down across the board. I didn’t want to ditch social media entirely–there’s a lot I like about it–but I did want it to take less time and be less of a distraction. If you find yourself spending more time on social media than you’d like, here are four tips that really helped me cut back without disappearing entirely.

1) Only check in at specific times each day

This was one of my first techniques. I had gotten into the habit of jumping on Twitter and scrolling anytime I had a free minute. Then I’d inevitably find myself following a thread of tweets, doing more research on something I’ve read, or contemplating a response to a mention. I also found myself mindlessly and taking “quick breaks” from writing or work just to see what was happening. So one of the first things I did was limit the time I went on social media. I picked three times a day–once in the morning, afternoon, and night to check-in online. Each check-in was no longer than fifteen minutes long.

2) Limit the devices you’re logged into

Of course, limiting your social media check-ins is a good plan, but it can take some serious self-control. After all, you’re breaking a habit here. I caught myself mindlessly opening Twitter on my browser on several occasions. What helped was to limit the places I was logged into. I work on my computer a lot, so being logged into the social media on there made it way too easy to get distracted and sucked back in. So for me, my phone made the most sense. Now when I use social media, it’s almost exclusively from my phone.

And if you’re thinking, “Well, Meghan, that sounds great, but what’s to keep me from constantly checking my phone?” Here’s tip 2a). Before I started cutting back, I checked social media on my phone so much that I often burned through my battery by the end of each day–sometimes sooner. Perhaps you’ve been there? To keep my phone time and social media time-limited, I found it really helpful to play a game with myself to see how long I could make my battery last. For whatever reason, that really helped me stay off my phone and cut down on social media time in the process. I went from charging my phone at least once a day to only every three days.

3) Only log on when you’re posting something

After a few weeks, I had gotten pretty good at my three times a day check-ins and I was ready to take it to the next level. I decided I would definitely check-in once a day to see what’s going on (like I said, I do like social media), but aside from that, I only log on when I have something to post. This was when the habit really broke for me. Now from time to time, I actually forget my once a day check-in.

4) Make your posts purposeful

When it came to posting, I found I spent way too much time thinking of and writing posts. I posted more frequently then than I do now, but I was also sporadic. Some weeks I’d post three times a day and then nothing for a stretch. Once I decided I wanted my accounts to have more of a theme (which is writing), it got a lot easier to post on a fairly regular schedule. That’s not to say that I don’t share other stuff. I do–but I try to focus my regular content on my theme. This has given me a focus and has made it easier to come up with posts.

I also try to plan and write a lot of these theme posts ahead of time, which means I don’t have to constantly remember to write and post. Later app has made doing this on Instagram really easy. Once you have a (free) account you can log in on your computer, type your Instagram posts out, save them, and schedule notifications to be sent to your phone so you don’t forget to post. I used to tap out my really long #WritingWednesday posts in the app, one letter at a time. I love writing those posts, but it took forever! And sometimes my post would be too long and Instagram wouldn’t post it the caption which would make me very sad!

Finding this app has made me so much more efficient and saved me a lot of time. I don’t post nearly as much as I did in the past, but I’m much more consistent, which has helped be maintain a good balance.

I hope this gives you a good idea of how you can balance writing and social media!

Now it’s your turn: Have you had trouble balancing social media and writing? What’s something that’s helped you? What’s something you’ve struggled with? Let me know in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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4 Great Reasons Writers Should Spend Time Offline

Why Writers should spend time offlineThe internet has seriously changed the writing game and most of it is for the better. I can’t even imagine trying to write a book without Google (actually, I can and researching is painful). It’s also been an awesome way connect with other writers (like all of you!). But I think we all know it has it’s downsides too. Unplugging and making a point to spend time offline and away from your phone isn’t a new idea. In fact, this article from Good Housekeeping talks about the positive effects time offline can have on your health, relationships, and creativity!

Let’s take a look at four reasons time offline it’s particularly important for writers.

1) Too much input interferes with output

A friend said this to me once and she’s right. All that input from social media/news/everything else makes it harder to figure out what YOU think about an experience, situation, or the world in general, which means it’s hard to generate creative output that’s uniquely your own. Two massive elements to writing are your voice and your perspective. That’s the basis of every art form. The world keeps changing and you keep growing. Which means how you think about the world is going to consistently evolve. It’s hard to constantly develop and write your own thoughts if you spend most of your time taking in other people’s ideas. When you spend time offline, you’re giving yourself the time and space to develop your own thinking.

2) Get away from distraction/time suck

Let’s face it. The internet can be a wealth of information. It can also be a massive distraction. You jump online to look up that ONE thing and four hours later you’ve watched more pointless YouTube videos than you care to admit and spent too long scrolling Twitter. Obviously, I speak from experience. Sometimes mindless internet browsing can lead you to some cool places, but if you’re losing writing time, it’s a problem. Maybe you can’t log off for too long (for one reason or another) but if you find that you’re losing a ridiculous amount of production time to the internet, a weekend offline can really help. Focus solely on your project, read a book, or do any other offline activity. It feels like checking our phones and the internet has become a default setting for a lot of us. When you spend time offline and away from technology, it can go a long way in breaking that habit, which can make it easier to keep from getting distracted.

3) Refuel your creativity

If you’re not online, there are so many other things you could be doing to refuel your creativity. Read, catch a movie or TV show (without checking your phone or paying attention to two screens at once), spend time outside, visit with family/friends, or do whatever offline activity that helps stimulate your creativity. Really take in those experiences. These are the things we write about. And if you find yourself early to an event, don’t pull out your phone to kill time. Look around and make it a point to notice something. Think about what makes the fighting siblings in the corner so relatable or why the “lonely” person at the table by herself looks anything but lonely. When you unplug like this, you start to pay more attention to the world and to your own thoughts. All of that can be a serious boost to your creativity.

4) Get away from demands

It’s hard to focus on your work when people keep asking you for things–even if those ‘things’ are just a response. In the real world, we can close a door to keep these requests out. But the internet and technology have made us all more accessible. In most cases, this is good. It’s nice that we don’t have to wait a week for a letter to reach its destination, be read, and receive a response. But the downside is, there is always a door open for people to reach us. If you keep checking your phone or the internet and seeing texts/emails/social media post that requires an answer or attention, it makes it really difficult to get some work done. In the past, I would constantly find myself putting my work aside to tend to these messages. Unplugging, silencing my phone, and walking away from online messages for a period of time (sometimes just a few hours, sometimes for an entire week) has been really great for my productivity and general sanity. I completely recommend it.

Final thoughts

I’ve found it really helpful to take regular breaks from social media–even if I don’t break from the world entirely I like to shoot for at least one day a week, and a few times a year I’ll take an entire week away. When I come back from my breaks I notice I’m more balanced and more focused on my work. If you give it a try, let me know if you notice any difference!

I hope this inspires you to try to spend time offline!

Now it’s your turn: Do you unplug? If you do, what’s your strategy? If you don’t, what’s makes it hard for you to do? Let me know in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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How to Redefine Failure in Your Writing Life

Redefining failureFailure and the fear of failure are always hot topics of conversation. This is true for writers too.

‘Failure’ has several dictionary definitions. According to Merriam-Webster, one of those definitions is a “lack of success.”

Truthfully, I think the dictionary is wrong. I don’t believe a lack of success constitutes a failure–especially when it comes to writing.

But before we can talk about what failure is, we need to talk about what failure isn’t:

1) Failure is not rejection.

You will get rejected. It does not mean you are a bad writer or your book is bad! It means that you haven’t found the best people for you and your book yet. Or it could mean that you’re not quite ready yet. Either way “yet “is the operative word. If you keep submitting, you will find someone who is right for you, and if you keep writing you will get better.

Furthermore, if you wrote a book that you love, that you had fun writing, and that you’re proud of, then you have already found a level of success. This can be said about every step forward. If you have a book that’s complete enough to query: success! If you write a query letter that gets you requests: success! Even if those requests don’t get you an agent, it’s a success to have made it that far. This is true all the way up the ladder. It’s like unlocking a level in a video game; just because you haven’t beaten the game yet, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate overcoming a challenging level. It’s an accomplishment and no one can take that away from you.

With that said, it’s okay (and normal!) to be disappointed by rejection, but you shouldn’t decide that means you’re a failure.

2) Failure is not dislike/disapproval.

Writing is subjective. Not everyone is going to like what you write. I’m sure this is something you’ve heard before. But I want to talk specifically about disapproval from “people who know what they’re talking about.”

These people could be teachers, editors, agents, librarians, or any writing ‘expert’ or ‘insider.’ When we seek or get feedback from these people, it’s ridiculously tempting to add extra emphasis to what they tell us. After all, they supposedly know what they’re talking about. In most cases, this is probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re right if they say your work is no good. It also doesn’t mean you are wasting your time or setting yourself up for failure if you keep going.

Every book is not for every reader. Everybody has different tastes. If you’ve written a fantasy and your expert reader doesn’t like fantasy, then they’re not your best source for feedback–no matter how impressive their resume is. It takes a very special skill set to be able to read a book with elements you don’t like and see its strengths. Not everyone can do it. Listen to feedback from readers who like the kind of book you’re trying to write and can tell you how to make your book better. Trust them. Keep moving forward.

3) Failure is not changing your mind.

Maybe you’ve never written a book before and halfway into your first draft you realize you are enjoying absolutely nothing about the experience. You’re not a failure if you decide not finishing that book. You learned what you don’t like and you’re smart for not forcing yourself into something you don’t enjoy.

You shouldn’t feel locked into a goal that you’re no longer enjoying simply because you don’t want to be a failure. When you set that goal, you had different expectations. And you possibly didn’t know yourself as well when you started working toward your old goal. If you waste time on that type of goal, it means you’re missing out on working towards something that would actually make you happy. Learning what you don’t want brings you a step closer to what you do want, which puts your on the path to success. Anything that gets you closer to success can’t possibly be considered failing.

So, what is failure?

Giving up.

Really. That’s it.

Think about it–how many times do you hear writers/actors/musicians tell their success stories and share how close they came to walking away from all of it? They were one decision away from failing to meet their goals, but instead, they kept going. Now they have a success story to tell.

The key to not failing is to keep learning and to keep trying. Keep showing up. Just because something hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean that it won’t. The only way success becomes impossible is when you take yourself out of the running. This isn’t just true for writing. It’s true in every aspect of life.

If you haven’t given up yet, you haven’t failed. In fact, you’re in the process of succeeding.

That’s all for this one!

Now it’s your turn: Where can you find success in your writing life? How have you succeeded so far? Tell me all about it in the comments below. You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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How to Set Achievable Writing Goals: 7 Writing Tips

I get a lot of questions about how to manage writing time. That question has an involved answer, but I think it starts with learning to set manageable writing goals.

When I first started writing, I was a serious binge writer. I would write 150 pages in ten days and then nothing for months at a time. My writing was unreliable and I didn’t like it. So in an effort to be more consistent, I started to create daily, weekly, and monthly writing goals.

Here are some things I did (and some things I’ve learned to do) to create manageable writing goals that help me make it to “The End”.

1) Prioritize consistency and progress

This should really be your overarching goal. When I first started goal setting, I set my goals too high and found them hard to meet. I was focused on how quickly I could finish my book instead of how much I could reasonably get done.

With that in mind, I would recommend putting your focus on building a habit and moving your project forward and nothing more. If you keep moving forward, you will finish your project! This will also help turn writing into a lifestyle.

I will also say that it’s better to write a little bit on a regular basis than a lot every so often. What a “regular basis” means is entirely up to you, but I would recommend at least one day a week if you’re just starting out. Once that becomes a habit, you can add another day per week as you see fit.

2) Break your goals into manageable steps

If you focus on your Big Writing Goal, the project might feel overwhelming. So, start with your big goal, and then break it down into as many steps as possible. Let’s say you decide you want to write a book in a year. Then start to break that goal down. What do you need to have accomplished by the end of each month to help you reach that goal? What about by the end of each week? And the end of each day?

Once you have your goal broken down, your day-to-day focus should be on meeting your daily goal only. Trust that if you do this, you will eventually reach your Big Writing Goal.

Side note: This doesn’t mean you have to plan your entire year in one shot. I tend to know what I want to accomplish by the end of the year, and at the end of each month, but I take my weeks one month at a time and my days one week at a time. If that makes sense.

3) Be realistic with your time

It’s easy to get ambitious and set some high goals right out of the gate–at least, it was for me. Challenging yourself is fantastic, but if you don’t have the time set aside to meet these goals, you’re setting yourself up for a struggle from the start. Before you put any expectations on yourself, take a minute to look at the time you currently have available and/or how you can rearrange your schedule to gain some writing time.

If you can only get 15 minutes on your lunch break that fine! You can make that work! But if you decide you want to write 1,000 words a day and you only have those 15 minutes to do it, there’s a good chance you’re going to find yourself frustrated really quickly. Be realistic with yourself about the time you’re planning to put into writing and try to set goals that can fit within that time frame.

4) Start small

It’s okay to start with really small goals. This is key if setting and meeting goals is either new to you or has been a problem in the past. Maybe 100-500 words a day? Or 1-5 pages a day? Or, if you’re brainstorming, plan one chapter a day–whatever small manageable goal feels right to you.

Setting goals this small may almost seem pointless but I promise it’s not! It helps you build a habit. If you meet your goal on days 1, 2, and 3, you’re more likely to use that momentum to show up for day 4, right? It puts you in a position to succeed. It puts you just a little bit closer to a finished project. That’s something to celebrate. And once you get into the habit of writing on a regular basis, you may find that you get faster, and can add to your goals. Or you might find your success has you motivated to carve out more writing time.

Basically, you can always find ways to increase your goals later if you want to, but first, it’s important to know what it feels like to meet your goals on a regular basis. That’s how books/stories/movies/plays get written.

5) Adapt if you keep falling short or ending up with extra time

Don’t be afraid to change your goals if they aren’t working for you! I think some writers get discouraged when they don’t meet the goals they set for themselves and give up. But they shouldn’t! And you shouldn’t either! If you find that you are continually failing to meet your goals, change your goals! Make them a little (or a lot) smaller. Once you know what’s “too much,” you’ll have a better idea of what might be just right for you.

On the other hand, you may have undershot your goals if you find yourself with extra time on your hands. I think it’s okay if finish early from time to time–everyone deserves to clock out early on occasion–but if you find yourself with roughly the same amount of time leftover on a fairly regular basis, you may want to think about upping your goal.

Every writer is different, so don’t set your goals based on a friend’s progress or success. Base them on your own.

6) Try adding stretch goals

If you’re like me and you consistently find yourself overestimating your goals, you might want to come up with two sets of goals for each day/week/month. First, a set of easily attainable goals–goals that you should have no trouble accomplishing. Then add some stretch goals. These are goals that would make you really happy if you met them, but you know it’s okay if you don’t. Then you can use any stretch goals you don’t meet as a starting point for your next day/week/month.

Personally, I find this approach to be the best of both worlds. It keeps me on track and realistic, while still challenging me to get done as much as possible.

7) Cut yourself a break if things don’t go as planned

Maybe a chapter needed more attention than you thought, or maybe your kid was sick one day and stayed home from school. Sometimes life, or writing itself, interferes with our goals. Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, set new goals for tomorrow and keep moving forward until you reach THE END. After all, that’s the whole reason we set these goals in the first place.

I hope this helps you set killer writing goals!

For more goal setting tips, check out this article from Fast Company.

Now it’s your turn: Do you set writing goals? How do you manage them? If you don’t set goals, are your thinking of starting? Let me know in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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Writing Tools: BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott

There are tons of craft books on the shelves for writers. They can be a great investment–many are written by accomplished authors and writing teachers, and they’re cheaper than a writing course (free if you get them from the library). But with so many books to choose from, how do you know which are best for you?

To help, I’ll be periodically reviewing some of the craft books I’ve come across. I’m going to do my best to give you a good idea of what to expect from a book before you buy it. I’ll be breaking my reviews down into four sections: what this book is, what this book isn’t, how it can help you, and if I recommend it. That way you won’t just hear about if I like a book, you’ll also know how it can help you.

First up, the much-loved classic, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

(Side note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something using the product links on this page, I may get a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you and helps keep this site running. Thank you!)

What Bird by Bird is:

This is a book full of writerly wisdom and camaraderie. It’s broken into four sections with a series of related essays in each section that explore what it means to grow up and live as a writer.

The subtitle of the book reads, “Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” and it’s one of my favorite things about reading this book. Lamott mixes writing lessons with life lessons that are both hilarious and relatable.  She also preaches some very important writing philosophies that I adore. Her chapter on Shitty First Drafts is one of her more famous philosophies (odds are if you’ve only heard one thing about this book, it’s Shitty First Drafts), but there are so many more. She talks about the dangers of perfectionism, gives tips on developing the right mind frame, and gives tons of advice on where to look for help.

Lamott also spends a fair amount of time acknowledging and discussing the struggles of writing, which I think is a great comfort for any writer who is under the impression that they’re alone in this. This book offers support and guidance and is written from a place of honesty.

What Bird by Bird isn’t:

This book isn’t a guide to getting published. It doesn’t give career promises or guarantees. This book doesn’t have prompts or exercises. (Lamott does share some exercises she finds helpful, but at no point did I get the impression that they were the main purpose of this book.) It also isn’t a super technical craft book. As in, it doesn’t spend big chapters dedicated to breaking down character, plot, or point-of-view. Those topics are covered, but Lamott’s approach is more gentle and big-picture, as opposed to up-close and nitty-gritty.

How Bird by Bird can help you:

This book can help you if you’ve EVER struggled with any part of writing. The copyright on this book is from 1994 but it’s still seriously relevant! Lamott has tips on finding the right people to read your work, what to expect if you sign up for workshops and conferences, the importance of listening to your characters, managing perfectionism, improving each draft, and how to handle when you just can’t get your book to work. She also gives many reasons to write beyond publication and dispells a fair amount of publication myths.

It can also help you a lot if you feel like you’re alone in this whole writing endeavor. I know, I touched on this earlier, but I think it’s worth mentioning again. Personally, I’ve always been pretty lucky. I’ve always had people around me that either get writing and/or creativity. Yet, there were still sections of this book that had me think, wow, it’s not just me! I can only imagine the power this book may have if you’re someone who doesn’t have people who understand what it means to create.

Do I recommend Bird by Bird?

This book is a classic for a reason. I recommend it if you’re looking for something that expresses solidarity in writing struggles, while still be encouraging. It’s the perfect book for any writer who’s looking for someone who understands what it means to live a writing life.

I also think this would be a really good first “craft book”. Anne Lamott talks about writing and the writing life in a way that is accessible and easy to follow. I will say, I think parts of this book focused slightly more on the unfavorable aspects of the writing life than I usually care to, but those moments were rooted in an honesty of a writing experience that I think is relatable to many.

I hope this gave you a good idea of what to expect from Bird by Bird.

Now it’s your turn: Have you read Bird by Bird? If you have, did it help you? If you haven’t, do you want to? Tell me in the comments! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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7 Effective Writing Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

7 Tips to Beat Writers BlockOne thing I get asked the most for is how to beat writer’s block. Unfortunately, it tends to have a complicated answer (at least it does one it comes from me). I think the best approach to overcoming writer’s block is going to depend a lot on your style, writing process, and the type of block you have. What I’d suggest if you have absolutely no idea what comes next in your story is going to be different than if you do know what comes next but can’t figure out how to get there.

But either way, writer’s block is essentially a mental block, so I put together my top seven tips to give your brain a break and find your way back to your work in progress. Try them individually, or mix and match to find the formula that works best to reignite your story!

Here are seven tips for overcoming writer’s block:

1) Take a break

I think a lot of writer’s block related problems stem from being too close to your work. Time away can give you some distance and perspective.

I  recommend watching TV, reading a book, spending time with friends and family, or do whatever you need to do to take your mind off your story. These activities not only give your mind something else to focus on, they may also give you some unexpected inspiration.

2) Go outside

One trick to overcoming writer’s block is to take a walk, spend the day in a park, or just take an hour to sit outside without your phone/computer/device. Studies have shown nature can help your mentality. This article from UC Berkeley speaks specifically to how nature can help with creativity in point #3. It even explains the science behind it, if that’s your kind of thing. The bottom line is that nature can help your brain recover from mental fatigue and a handful of other problems that tend to play a role in writer’s block.

3) Take the pressure off and free write

I suggest doing this with pen and paper–especially if you’re typing the book you’re writing. There’s something organic about writing by hand that seems to stimulate creativity–at least it does for me. Look at where you are in your story then try taking ten to fifteen minutes to imagine a different direction your project could go in and write about it. Then when that time is up, think of another new direction. Nothing is off limits and the more outlandish the better. If a direction seems so absurd to the point that you’re sure you absolutely won’t use it, write it down anyway! If it crosses your mind you should take the time to explore it. Even if the absurdity doesn’t make it into your book, you never know it might unlock in your mind.

Do this for as long as you need, but I would suggest at least an hour. When you’re finished, see if there are any ideas you like, or if there are a few you might want to combine.

4) Talk it out

If you know a fellow writer, critique partner, or friend who gets your work, give them a call and tell them where you’re at. This has helped me in overcoming writer’s block repeatedly. I can’t tell you how many times one of my crit partners or my sister has solved my problems by either asking a question I hadn’t thought of or throwing out a “what if X happens?” type of question. I often spend more time explaining why I’m stuck than they spend fixing my issue. The power of a fresh perspective is real!

But! You have to be careful with this one! Make sure you’re talking to people who get your writing and get what you’re trying to do. You might have a friend who is a GREAT writer, but if they don’t get you and your stories they may end up making your problems worse. You need someone who will get you writing again and not feed into your block.

5) Give yourself permission to be incomplete and imperfect

In fact, give yourself permission to be downright terrible. One cause of writer’s block is often a need to get the story right. Sometimes it can be debilitating if you aren’t 100% sure what you’re writing is the right thing to write, or if you’re afraid you’re not conveying exactly what you’re trying to convey. This is your internal editor holding you back. It can be tough, but I recommend doing everything you can to push forward.

Tell yourself that it’s okay if what you’re writing is bad. It’s okay if what you’re writing is half developed. It’s okay if you skip scenes or chapters entirely. I’ve found that sometimes, you may also have to finish your story before you fully realize how to make the connection you’re looking for. If it helps, I have a critique partner who is famous for sending us pages with

If it helps, I also have a critique partner who is famous for sending pages with [insert exciting action scene here]. Sometimes, you just have to get from A to B. So do whatever you have to to keep writing. “Good” can come later. “Written” has to come first.

6) Work on another project for a little while

This is something that helps me A LOT. So much so that I almost always have two projects going at the same time. I’ve found that walking away from project #1 and putting my full focus on project #2 is one of the best ways to clear my brain of whatever issues were weighing project #1 down. Ninety percent of the time when I go back to my first project, I have a fresh perspective and a clearer head, and the problems practically resolve themselves.

I’ve operated this way since I was in grad school, but I’d never known anyone else to work this way until 2012 when I found this article detailing how Joss Whedon took a break from editing The Avengers to film Much Adu About Nothing. He calls it a creative shift. If you want to know more about how creative shifts can be beneficial, check out this post!

7) Take a look at your writing process

If writer’s block is a recurring problem or a serious obstruction for you on a regular basis, then you might want to take a look at your process. It’s possible your problem is in your approach, not your work in progress.

I used to get seriously blocked–to the point that I wouldn’t write for months. But that really doesn’t happen to me anymore. I learned that I don’t do well when I have to think about the story and write the story at the same time. If I didn’t know what should happen next, I’d get stuck and stop writing. So now I plan everything before I write so I always know what happens next. It’s not a flawless system, but it’s enough to keep me going.  If you notice a pattern or frequency in your blocks, take the time to understand the deeper process issue. Once you do, you can work to modify your process and avoid putting yourself in that situation. Overcoming writer’s block gets so much easier when you remove the blocks before they even happen!

I hope one of these strategies (or some combination of them) guides you to overcoming writer’s block!

Now it’s your turn: Have you struggled with overcoming writer’s block? What helped you beat it? I want to hear about it in the comments! Or if you’re still struggling, share that too! You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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5 Awesome Writing Tips for Writing Your First Book

Five Tips for WRiting Your first bookThe idea of writing your first book can be seriously intimidating. Maybe even intimidating enough to make you stop before you start. In my experience, a lot of that overwhelm comes from focusing on too much at once–especially for the first draft of your first novel. The reality is, there’s A LOT you shouldn’t be focused on at this stage. To help you get away from some of those sources of intimidation, I put together my top five things you don’t need to worry about.

So with that in mind, here are five things NOT to do:

1) Don’t focus on the end result 

The big picture concept of A Finished Novel (and all of the work it would take to make that happen) can be one of the more intimidating hurdles to get passed. The whole idea gets so much more manageable if you keep your focus on what you can reasonably accomplish within a single day. If you can write 100 words, do that. If you can write 500, go for it. Be reasonable and focus on today’s task only. It may not seem like much now, but every word you write gets you a step closer to completing your book.

2) Don’t focus on how long writing your first novel will take

There’s a quote by Earl Nightingale that I love: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

I think this is particularly true with writing a book. It’s a massive undertaking and it will most definitely take time. It might very well take years. But seriously, so what? So what if it does take years? If this is something you want to do, why does it matter how long it will take?

Even if you only write for fifteen minutes a day on your lunch break and it takes you two years to finish a draft, you’ll have a finished draft in two years! Those two years are going to pass whether you’re writing your book or not. If writing a book is something you’ve always wanted to do, not writing isn’t going to get you closer to that goal. Writing for fifteen minutes a day will. And if you start today, you’ll be one day closer to the finish line.

3) Don’t try to make your first book perfect

I get it. Staring at the blinking cursor when you have a story to tell can be daunting. You want to make sure you’re picking the right words and saying exactly what you mean.  But those expectations are enough to hold you back when you’re writing your first novel. I challenge you to give yourself permission to be imperfect and just start writing. Put your characters on the page and let them run. Have fun with your story. Your only concern at this point should be to put words on the page. They don’t have to be the “right” words. You can find those later. (For more on this, I’ve got a whole post on Why Writers Should Embrace Imperfection in Writing.)

And while you’re at it, don’t feel like a chapter has to be perfect for you to move on. Your only goal of a first draft is to finish it. Don’t let yourself fixate too much on what you’ve already written. Once you finish a chapter move on to the next. If you don’t like a chapter or section, make note of it somewhere, but don’t try to fix it now. That’s a revision problem, not a drafting problem.

4) Don’t think of your readers

Another super intimidating element of writing is the idea of someone actually reading what you write. Your readers should certainly be considered and there will be time for them down the road. But now is not that time. Now is the time to be selfish. Think about yourself. Don’t write to be read, write to be happy. Write to tell yourself a story you want to experience. Odds are, if it’s a story you want to experience, there will be readers out there who like the same things you do and who will love to read it. But don’t worry about them now. Worry about yourself. Write for you. Write to be happy.

5) Don’t put pressure on your first book

It can be hard to get started if you’ve decided you need to write the next Harry Potter or Girl on the Train. You may start writing, read over what you’ve written, decide it’s not either of those stories, then delete it all and try again another day (or not).

Not only does that make it difficult to write, but it’s also squashing your voice. I would argue that the highest compliment isn’t to have your work compared to anyone else but to create work that others are compared to. In order to make that happen, you first have to let your voice exist on the page. So allow yourself to write with no pressure or expectations.  Write the story your heart is begging you to tell. It doesn’t have to be anything while you’re writing it. It just has to get written.

Bonus tip: Repeat regularly and build a habit.

Books get written when writers show up at their computers or notebooks on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter how bite-sized your daily goals are or how limited your time frame is. It’s all progress, and progress adds up. So start writing your book today. The sooner you type those first words, the sooner you’ll reach THE END.

I hope this gets you writing!

Now it’s your turn: Got a tip that helps you start writing? Tell me all about it in the comments below. You can also let me know what you’d like to see covered more in the future.

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Why I Write and Why I’m Blogging

Why I write Towards the end of my ninth grade year, in the spring of 2004, I decided I was going to write a book and get it published.

Not only that, I was going to write an entire series. I have always been a series girl. I spent most of middle school reading Harry Potter on a loop and Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed my world. Now I was going to write my own fantasy.

I had written a lot in the past, but it had always been for fun. I never planned anything I wrote all that much, but this was different. I wasn’t just writing a story anymore, I was writing a book–the first in a series. Planning seemed like a good idea. After all, that’s how J.K. Rowling had worked. I got a whiteboard for my room and started planning my series.  I planned for a year. By spring of my sophomore year, it was starting to come together. I had characters. I had a plot. I was close to being ready to write. I just had one more big plot arc to figure out. It was the plot that would run through the entire series. That year, I spent the first night of spring break in my room, brainstorming on my whiteboard.

I was at it for hours. I completely lost track of time. When I finished it was well after midnight. I remember looking at the board when I was finished and knowing this was it. This was my thing. This was my new way of life. It was exhilarating in a way that was addictive.

That feeling is why I write. If you found this blog, you know probably know what I’m talking about. That’s the feeling I’m always chasing. It’s what made me want to start writing, and it’s why I still write today.

So, that’s why I write, but why am I blogging?

I’ve been writing seriously for thirteen years now and one thing I’ve noticed is how easy it is for writers to get caught up in the doubt and rejection and fear and all the other negative aspects of writing. And I get it. I can be absolutely gutting. But I think when we put too much focus on the negative side, it makes it harder to celebrate and strive for the positives.

I was given a gift. I found writing when I was too young to realize that I was supposed to care if I was good or if someone else would like it. All I knew was I liked how it made me feel. That’s all I really cared about–the story and how writing it made me feel.

I think that because I started in such a pure and positive place, it was a lot easier to stay focused and build a life around those positives. I’m not going to say that a rejection or judgment has never gotten to me, but those moments have been few and far between. And when they have popped up, they didn’t weigh me down.

I’ve realized that a major reason for this was that the entire time, what I cared most about was learning to tell my stories better. Every new tool I could add to my writing toolbox excited me. I learned to take feedback, but also keep my circle limited to those who saw what I was trying to do and could help me make my stories stronger. Every new direction or idea I explored gave me that feeling–the same one that captivated me when I was in tenth grade.

And because of that, I realized halfway through my journey that I will always be writing, and I will always be trying to get better–whether I ever got published or not. It simply makes me a happier and more complete person. It’s how I want to live my life.

This realization changed everything. Ironically, it took understanding I didn’t need to be published for me to know with absolute certainty that I would be someday. Because I knew if I was going to keep writing and keep learning, I would keep getting better. And if I was going to keep getting better, then I might as well keep trying to get published because why not? And if I kept trying, I had to believe at some point it would happen. Even if I had to wait until I was sixty, it would happen.

Because of that mentality, rejection and negativity couldn’t touch me. I never wrote for anyone else’s approval. I wrote first and foremost to be happy and fulfilled. No form of rejection could ever take that feeling away from me.

I realize this won’t resonate with everyone, but if there’s a chance it can help another writer be more optimistic and undeterred then this is something I want to share. This philosophy has meant everything to me. It not only helped me reach my goals, but it also put me a good mental space to truly enjoy the process. The writers who don’t reach their goals are the ones who give up. I’d like to help you keep from giving up–and have a ton of fun along the way.

So please, take a look around! I hope I can help you.

Happy Writing!

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