Go Ahead — Tell Me All the Reasons You “Can’t” Do This

They’re obstacles, not barriers.

You’ve already thought of at least one. I know it.

You’ve already come up with a reason why this “thing” you’re trying to do won’t work.

More specifically, you’re ready to scroll down and tell me why YOU can’t do it.

But before you do — before you tell me all the reasons why you can’t launch that blog or write that book or apply for that job — I want you to do something first.

List out all the reasons why you can’t. Every single one. One right after the other.

Is your list a long one? Are your reasons rational to you? Are they legitimate excuses?

They very well may be. But let me ask you this: for every reason why you can’t, are there any reasons why you can?

Is your “can” list bigger than your “can’t”? Do your can reasons make more logical sense than your can’ts? Are your “can” reasons easier to explain than your “can’t” excuses?

Take a second to think about that.

You might find that your can’ts are a lot smaller, and a lot more malleable, than you thought.

“I can’t start a blog because I don’t know what to write about” becomes “I’ll start a blog, write about what interests and inspires me, and go from there.”

“I can’t write a book because I can’t focus on one project for that long” becomes “I’ll try writing a book a chapter at a time, even if it isn’t perfect — even if it takes five years.”

“I can’t get a writing job because I don’t have any formal experience” becomes “I can put together a portfolio of writing samples to start with, and talk to people who have the kinds of jobs I want to see if they have suggestions.”

Every excuse you can come up with has a counterpoint. Every single one. There is a solution, a workaround, to every single roadblock you could possibly encounter along your journey to becoming whatever kind of writer you want to be.

You just have to voice the problem. You have to acknowledge it’s holding you back. But you also have to be honest with yourself and admit you have the power to break free from it. You might think you don’t. But I promise, no matter what it is … you do.

So go ahead. I mean it. Share your excuses. Tell me what you’re struggling with. Some of you have already been doing this over the past week, and it’s extremely helpful — it helps me get a better sense of how to help you. Over two years in, I’m still figuring out who this blog’s audience is, why you come here, why you feel helped or encouraged (or don’t) and what you’re hoping to find when you start exploring the (very disorganized I’M SORRY I’M SORRY) content I’ve created here.

Whatever’s stopping you from reaching your full potential as a writer — it’s not a roadblock. Not really. It’s more like part of an obstacle course. Whether you’re meant to navigate your way around it or crash your way through it, you CAN get to the other side. You CAN create better things. I know you can. And I’m going to stand (sit?) by you until you’re where you want to be. Wherever that is.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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How to Start a New Project When [You Think] You Don’t Have Time

It’s a lot easier than you think.

You and I (I’m assuming) are a lot alike. (Because let’s be real, you wouldn’t put up with me day after day if you didn’t at least somewhat relate.) I, like you, have ideas. I, like you, really, really want to turn those ideas into tangible Things of Awesomeness.

I, like you, am really good at coming up with reasons why Now Is Not a Good Time.

Because it isn’t. Not for a new writing project. Not for me.

And yet — it’s there. That relentless tug of an idea you know you can’t let go. I’m sure you know it well. It’s irresistible. Even though, logically, I know I couldn’t possibly drop everything and go after this call, at the same time, I don’t want to wait. And I truly believe there are moments in life when inspiration should not be ignored. It’s hard to explain how you know. You just know, in your gut. You just … feel it.

So here’s the dilemma you might recognize (yes, it even happens to people like me): having an idea, knowing you want to do something with it, but not knowing how you’re going to pencil it in (yet).

For me, right now, this is an idea I know I want to make a priority, sooner rather than later. So I’m at an awkward, exhausting, and frustrating stage of development in which I need to figure out how to move forward without knocking all the other important elements of my life out of line.

So today I took a step forward. I posted something in a blogging Facebook group, welcoming image ideas too help inspire a logo. (What for, I’m afraid I cannot say — because I’m not ready for it to be that real yet.)

It’s a very small thing, in the grand scheme of a writing project’s life.

But it was still a thing — an important thing. A baby step.

When you know you don’t have time — because it happens, and sometimes, it’s a legitimate excuse — the best thing you can do is find very tiny stepping stones that will slowly take you in the direction you want to go. They don’t have to be big things. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Because until you can clear a space in your schedule for something new, you can’t dedicate effort to anything more than the smallest step. You have obligations. Contracts. Promises to keep. This new project doesn’t exist yet — the idea isn’t going anywhere, and really, neither are you. Not yet.

Something seemingly insignificant quickly becomes a huge milestone, when you try creating a timeline for yourself. Today was the first time I’ve technically admitted, in writing, publicly, that something new is on the horizon. That’s big. It means (sigh, fine) it’s actually happening. And that both terrifies and excites me. I’m one (very tiny) step closer to achieving a huge goal.

There may not be time to do all the designing and planning (and writing!) you want to do right now. But there IS time for something small. It still counts. And it just might finally push you over that mountain of hesitation that’s been keeping you away from the action stage of your idea for so long.

One small thing. One tiny step. That’s how something new begins.

(I’m not going to tell you what it is. No. I will not. Sssshhhh.)


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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Why I Didn’t Quit Freelancing When I Got Hired to Write Full-Time

Is it possible to do both?

Deciding to write professionally has its benefits. One of them is freedom — you typically have a lot of say in what you write about and, sometimes, who you write for.

When I started writing full-time, I planned on phasing out my freelance clients over the first few months as I adjusted to my new work environment. But I found that going to work during the day and freelancing nights and weekends was not only completely manageable for me, but beneficial as well.

Not everyone can or should try to juggle a full-time job, a blog, and multiple freelance gigs. Maybe you’re considering giving it a shot. Or maybe you’re thinking about either switching from freelancing to full employment, or leaving your company to freelance.

Let me ask you this: could you do both?

Trying to decide whether to switch from writing for an organization full-time to freelancing for multiple clients — or the other way around — is tough. There are pros and cons to both. Which is why, if you’re up for the task, it’s possible to do both. Not easy — but possible.

Here are some benefits I’ve found in my own experience — and a few things to watch out for before you commit to taking on a lot of extra work.

There’s no such thing as boredom

On both sides, in writing, there’s a lot of repetition. Long-term clients get used to you doing the same things over and over again, and rarely ask you (especially in the short-term) to switch things up or take on extra responsibilities. Writing on behalf of a company, you also fall into a routine — and if you want to write, but need a little more excitement from week to week, you might benefit from a full-time job with a few freelance projects on the side.

I get “bored” easily — as much as I love routine, doing the exact same thing every day for months on end can get tiring. Maybe you don’t need more than a few things to keep you occupied and satisfied — and if that’s the case, you might be fine just sticking with one job or a collection of varying obligations. I prefer a variety of styles, topics, and subjects within a niche — but it’s totally OK if you don’t.

Diversifying your income adds a much-needed layer of security

As a writer, it’s never a good idea to maintain only one source of steady income. Because the way the professional publishing world works, anything could happen. Consistent work becomes inconsistent, or non-existent, in a matter of hours. Sites shut down abruptly. Decisions are made without your input, and suddenly, you lose an income stream. You have to be prepared for anything.

That’s one thing I love about having options. Though my full-time job is obviously my priority — and my largest income source, especially if you include benefits — it’s nice to know I’m not just relying on that paycheck. Besides, it also means I can do good work and actually enjoy it more, because I’m not subconsciously worrying about the reward. Don’t get me wrong — the reward is much appreciated. But it becomes more of an automation, something I know I’m going to have, and lets me focus on the work itself.

Important things to consider

  • If you’re writing full-time for a company, YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE they don’t have a policy that restricts their employees’ involvement with other publications. Some organizations require that you work exclusively for them while you are employed. ALSO BE AWARE OF COMPETING ORGANIZATIONS. Some publications also provide a list of competitors you CANNOT write for during and for a designated period of time after you work with them.
  • Don’t do this if you’re not good at compartmentalizing. Time-management is absolutely essential if you’re going to juggle paid work between different clients, or between your employer and other publications. If you’re easily distracted, if you can’t manage multiple projects at once — honestly, if you can’t go to work in the morning, write for eight hours, come home, and write for at least two or three more hours — you don’t have to. It’s probably best you don’t.
  • Also don’t do this just for the money. If you switch to full-time freelancing, or full-time writing for an organization, and you love your work, it’s OK to accept your single paycheck as-is and consider an extra project or two once or twice a month to keep you busy. But it’s going to get extremely frustrating if you hold on to the extra projects solely for the financial reward. Especially when it comes to freelancing, the work you do doesn’t always pay out as much as it should. It’s a nice extra to have, but if you honestly don’t NEED it, and that’s your only motivation, it might be time to let go.

This is not for everyone. Don’t feel like you’re a failure or lazy because you can only work on a few things at a time! I know I’m not the best example of proper work-life balance, and I really hope my suggestions are beneficial to those of you trying to decide if you want to do more things, and not discouraging to those who don’t feel they can handle it. EVERYONE is different, handles their work differently, and exhibits different levels of discipline. You have to do what you have to do.

Above all, never sacrifice quality for quantity. If you’re dividing your time between too many clients, and your work is suffering, downsize. Trust me, doing amazing work, just less of it, is much more beneficial in the long-term than doing so-so work for a dozen different people. Putting all the effort you can into your work shows that you value who you work for, and the work itself. Always, always put quality first. Quantity comes with time.

So, get out there. Do the amount of work that makes sense for you — and do it well. I’m rooting for you!


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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How to Think Deeper About Everything You Read

Are you an active or passive reader?

I have a confession to make.

I am a passive reader.

Sometimes I read a book, really enjoy the book, put it on my shelf, and don’t think about it again.

I don’t like that I do this. It’s something I’m trying to work on. Because I love books, I love words, and I want part of my reading experience to involve thinking deeper — thinking critically — about the things I’m learning from books.

If you’re feeling the same way — I really hope I’m not the only one — I want to share a few tricks I’ve started using to become a more active reader. They might help you, too.

Write about it

It feels like everyone is writing book reviews and starting book review blogs. Don’t listen to the “advice” that you shouldn’t do that because everyone else is, though. Forcing yourself to follow up a good read with a review not only refines your writing skills, but makes you pay attention to what you feel are the most important elements of whatever you’re reading — and important skill set for an aspiring writer.

You don’t have to write full book reviews to practice this. I’ve started (infrequently) doing micro-reviews on my Instagram. I much prefer writing two- or three-sentence blurbs about my experience as a reader, from the perspective of a fellow writer. It’s not much, but it does force me to reflect on what I’ve just read. That might be a fun way for you to start experimenting with more critical reading outlets.

Take snapshots — literally

Some people annotate. Some people dog-ear pages (!!!). You can highlight, sticky tab, bookmark any page in a book you want. But sometimes, I want to take a (literal) snapshot of a passage quickly, so I don’t have to stop reading for long, so I can store it in a place I won’t lose it and return to it later.

All you heathens with ereaders can pretty much do this automatically — it’s built into the software. If you need to hold and cherish a physical book like the rest of us, all you have to do is take a photo with your phone. Call me old-fashioned, but I know exactly where to find the quote I saved from Bill Nye’s new book this morning. Three finger taps on my phone, and I’m there.

(In case you weren’t sure, I love physical book hoarders and ereader junkies equally. You’re all lovely.)

Discuss it

I know, I know, you’re having English class flashbacks. But admit it — those [required] discussions were vital to your understanding of literature, whether you enjoyed them or not. Sometimes sharing your thoughts about a book — and hearing others share theirs — changes your perspective relating to a specific theme, character, or string of events. As a writer, meeting with others to discuss published books is just as valuable as meeting with other writers and discussing your unpublished work as a group.

Don’t want to venture out into the world and physically interact with other human beings? This is why the internet exists (well, sort of). Join a virtual book club! You can find them all over the place. Or you could start your own. I can guarantee you aren’t the only one who likes to read a specific genre and wants to discuss books with others on the web.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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Don’t Know What You’re Doing? I Didn’t, Either.

You’re not alone. You’re not totally clueless.

When I mention I launched my writing career with an unpaid internship — as a college student — many people assume I snagged the opportunity because I knew what I was doing.

Here’s a little secret: I didn’t have a clue.

I’d been blogging on and off for a few years, and I’d written some news articles for my college newspaper. But I didn’t have much journalism-style writing experience. I applied for a health writing internship because a nutrition professor suggested I get “unique experience” to add to my CV for post-undergrad applications.

Immediately upon starting my training, I knew two things: one, that I was in the right place … and two, that I had nowhere near the level of experience as the journalism students I was writing beside.

I had never written for or even submitted to a magazine before. I was unfamiliar with the style. But I knew the content — and the audience. So even though I felt eons behind every other writer on my team, as I sat down to write my first article, I knew I had to do my best — and hoped it would be good enough.

It was, of course. Good enough — not great. But the staff who selected me for the internship weren’t just picking people at random. They knew I had writing experience (any experience sufficed). They saw that I was not just interested, but passionate about developing my writing skills. They trained me on all their procedures — and then sent me off to write something on my own almost immediately.

That’s exactly what I needed. Because even though I doubted myself — even though I felt lost and out of place — I had no choice but to suck it up and do it anyway.

Nothing you write is ever as bad as you think. Never forget that.

If you’re about to dive deep into a new writing opportunity, and you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, the best solution is to dive in anyway. Ask questions along the way, make mistakes, let yourself be challenged — but push through it. The best way to learn to write out of your comfort zone is to DO IT — even if it’s terrifying.

I lasted nearly four years with that publication — and wrote hundreds of articles under my own name — right up until it closed down in 2016. My willingness to learn — and my refusal to back down from new things — is one of many reasons why I managed to build so many successful editorial relationships (and a few friendships!) in such a short amount of time.

My work there is the main reason why I’m a staff writer working for media company now.

Feeling lost and awkward and afraid is totally normal. You’re not always going to know how to do everything — no matter how experienced you might be. Editors, employers — they’re not looking for writers who know it all. They’re looking for writers who crave new challenges, who hunger to learn and grow and support their teammates — and the publication as a whole.

If you can prove you’re up for anything — you’re chances of success in any writing endeavor quadruple. Probably.

Go for it. Dive in. Messing up is how you learn. In time, you’ll grow. You might even thrive.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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What Would You Do With Infinite Time?

What would you do with free hours?

Have you ever looked at your to-do list and wish there were 25 hours in a day instead of 24?

Or, better yet — that your time to do All The Things could be infinite?

I caught myself breathing this wish today — not for the first time in the past few years — as I woke up (late) and wished I’d obeyed my alarm (why can’t it be more persuasive? I need a dog.).

I just want … more time. Just a little more time.

But you probably already know what I’m going to say, if you’re a regular here.

Infinite time, in the life of a writer, would be the death of creativity (and productivity).

Because as much as you might wish you had more time … what would you really do with it?

You could say you’re going to finish writing that book, take on more clients — do all the things you always say you don’t have enough time for.

But I can pretty much guarantee you wouldn’t use extra time wisely. And I can also guess that would turn you into a pretty lousy writer.

If we had unlimited time to do everything we wanted, we would never learn discipline. We would never teach ourselves how to meet deadlines, how to stay organized, how to get things done so we could call them complete and move on to other things.

We wouldn’t be productive. Because we wouldn’t have to be.

If it weren’t for deadlines, you’d start writing a lot of things — but never finish.

You’d jot down a lot of ideas, but never actually write anything?

Because you’d say, “Why now? I have all the time in the world.”

I don’t think, when we say we want more time, we’re talking about more time to do more work.

I think what we actually want is more time to ourselves. More time to be off, to relax, to just be.

What would you do with infinite time? Honestly? You’d probably do more fun things. Because that would make work-life balance just way too easy.

Maybe this should tell you (ahem, us) something about the way you structure your work.

Maybe you want more free time because you’re not giving yourself enough free time.

So here’s your challenge (I’ll do it too):

Count up the number of hours you’re working in a week (this counts work, freelancing, blogging, other passion projects that might seem fun but are still technically work). Also count up the amount of hours you’re spending doing “nothing.”

Are you giving yourself enough free time to balance out your work time?

You might just find you already have infinite time. You’re just using too much of it doing things that stress out and exhaust you.

I need to work on this.

You need to work on this.

Let’s start making more time for rest. Work still comes first. But it doesn’t have to come always.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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How a Structured Writing Environment Makes You More Creative

How important is adaptability to a writer’s creativity?

I thought I’d stick with freelance writing full-time. That was my plan, when I set my 2017 writing and career goals. Then I accidentally got hired to write full-time somehow (impostor syndrome, is that you?) and realized I had a lot more to learn about writing than I thought.

In my mind, creativity required as much freedom as possible. I needed to be able to work when or where I wanted, with weekly deadlines and not much direction.

I look at creativity a little differently now.

In the beginning of this new branch of my budding career, part of me secretly wondered if I was making the wrong choice. Because working for a media company meant stricter, more frequent deadlines; more restrictions on what I was allowed to write about; a tighter pitching process, more self-editing, and having to follow a very specific set of guidelines for every single thing I wrote.

A small part of me thought, “Will this take away my freedom? Will it make me less creative?”

What they don’t tell you about working full-time as a writer online is that things change constantly. Every week we have to adapt to new strategies, test new ways of structuring our articles and headlines, do what we do best with a slightly altered — and usually more effective — set of guidelines. At first, this threw me off. I got worried. Because, after all, a strict number of pages per article, a weekly and monthly production quota, coming up with the perfect pitches — that was going to stifle my creativity. Right?

Quite the opposite, actually. Thankfully.

Because sitting in front of a computer, with no direction as to where you need to go with a piece, it’s very easy to fall back into your go-to way of doing things. You launch into autopilot, you write without really thinking about it. While that works sometimes, it won’t always. Readers get bored. They want to see something new, something worth clicking through.

Sitting at your computer with a checklist, you know where you need to start and where you need to end up. But everything that happens in-between, you have to actively think about. How can you make your subheadings less mundane? How can you present a fact or statistic in a way that’s hard to forget? How can you take something that starts out as a boring, skeletal frame of a piece of writing, and turn it into something worth reading? That takes creativity. It forces you to do something different than what you’ve done before, every single time.

I don’t like linking to things I’ve written outside this blog. But I’ll make an exception here, for the sake of showing vs. telling (see what I did there?). If you’re interested in seeing an example of what I’m getting at, look at this article. It’s meant to be informative, and it is. But it tells a story at the same time. It took a lot of brain power to figure out how to make it work. It took all the creative energy I had to structure it in more than just a formulaic listicle — and it was a worthwhile (still challenging) experience.

You have to be creative to stand out. Which might seem obvious … but autopilot isn’t always detectable.

Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way. Maybe I just thrive on structure and checklists. This definitely isn’t the right environment for everyone. But if you’re really looking for a challenge, something that lets you write but keeps you on your toes and pushes you past your perceived limits, this kind of structured environment will force you to think outside the box while sitting cross-legged inside one. Adhering to a formula, to make your product unique, you have to be able to create something that stands out. Even, from the outside looking in, that seems impossible.

How do you find writing environments like this? Write a lot. Create an online portfolio, freelance, make good connections. Someone I worked with during a magazine internship sent me a link to a job posting I never would have applied for otherwise — which is how I landed my first full-time writing job. The more experience you have, the more marketable you are — as long as you’re willing to build a versatile skill set and adapt to change, that is.

If you’re looking for freelance writing jobs, read this first.

Always remember that creativity isn’t always about doing what you want, the way you want. It’s about doing something different within a set of boundaries. If you can accept that, if you can learn to thrive with that mindset, it’s not going to take you long to start climbing the success ladder. I mean, it’s still a pretty big ladder, don’t get me wrong. You’re just going to be able to figure out how to climb it faster than a lot of other writers in your niche.

What do you think? Is adaptability essential for creativity? How do you blend structure with creative freedom? Do you, have you ever, or do you ever plan on working in an environment with more structure? How does it compare to writing your own blog, or novel, or working with freelance clients, all on your own time? Do you have a preference? Sorry. That was a lot of questions. (:


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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Is Your Impostor Syndrome Holding You Back?

Impostor syndrome. I have it. I’ve learned to live with it. But it’s taken me a long time to accomplish what I have, professionally, because sometimes I still let myself believe I’m not even good enough to try.

I’ve turned down at least a handful of opportunities as a health expert because I legitimately didn’t think I was the kind of person that publication was looking for. So in July 2017, when a popular health website approached me asking for help fact-checking nutrition content, I almost said no.

Almost.

The first time someone referred to me as an “authority,” I had to read over that line five times. Three years out of undergrad, six months out of grad school, I still felt the same way I did when I first started writing about health — inexperienced, unqualified, and undeserving of anything other than an unpaid writing internship.

But I agreed to do the work anyway. I figured if they didn’t like my comments, they’d pay me once and never offer me more work. Something weird happened, though. They trusted me. They took my opinions and suggestions seriously. They thanked (and paid) me for my work.

And then they asked me to do it again.

Because, though my brain tried to tell me otherwise, someone who has been writing about nutrition for five years — and has degrees in a subject, and is trained in interpreting science jargon — is actually kind of qualified to do these kinds of things.

Impostor syndrome will trick you into thinking you don’t even deserve the kind of experience you need to advance your career. If you aren’t careful, it will stunt your professional growth. It will manipulate you into climbing inside a box, closing and sealing the box, and never daring to venture outside of it ever again.

The deeper you dream — and the harder you work — the more impostor syndrome will try to hold you in place. Because it doesn’t want to let you believe you can do big things. Like write a best-selling book, or host an award-winning blog, or write for a well-known magazine.

So how do you deal? How do you “overcome” this?

Well … you don’t. Impostor syndrome has no cure. You can’t just wake up one morning and decide you’re going to embrace your expertise and rule the world. It will probably always feel like you’re pretending or living a lie. But you aren’t. And deep, deep down, logically, you know that.

There is a voice inside your head saying you aren’t worthy of praise, or recognition, or even pride. If you hear that voice when you sit down at your laptop to write something new, write through it. Write over it. You cannot delete it, but you shouldn’t let it leave you frozen in time.

Don’t let this stop you from doing what you’re good at or what you love. Because that voice in your head telling you that you don’t deserve praise for working hard? It’s wrong. When someone comes to you asking for help, it’s likely because they trust you and believe you have something worthwhile to offer. If they didn’t believe that, they wouldn’t ask. They’d find someone more qualified.

If you’re sitting here right now, and you don’t believe you can write this, edit this, draw this, film this, take this idea and turn it into something magnificent — do it anyway. You might fail. It happens. But there’s no guarantee of success if you don’t try. Do what you know you’re good at, and do it well. Because whether you believe it or not, you can and will do good work. People want you to do it. Don’t stop. Don’t give up.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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The Secret to Writing Success Is That There Isn’t One

Sssshhhh, it’s a secret.

How does one succeed in this business-hobby-craft called writing?

That’s a great question. I wish I had one simple answer for you.

I could tell you that writing is all about who you know, that the connections you make on every step of your journey matter and you’re probably not using them to your full advantage.

I could tell you that succeeding as a writer is a cocktail of more skills than you ever knew you needed — because the more skilled you are digitally, the more marketable you are professionally.

I could tell you that passion won’t make you money, but it will get you to the people and places that give you dollars in exchange for words neatly arranged on web pages.

I could even tell you that writing success isn’t possible without failure — that the more willing you are to fall flat on your face in the presence of People More Successful Than You, the more likely you are to someday figure out what works, and run with it.

The reality is, not one of these things define a clear path to writing success.

Not quite.

All of them do. And so, so many more.

When it comes down to it, all writers basically want the exact same things: validation, compensation, and a sense that they’re fulfilling their One True Calling. We all want to feel valued and respected as creators. We want someone to pay us for our effort. And we want the self-actualization that’s supposed to come with fulfilling a life-long dream of Making Words Happen for a living.

So many of us spend hours, maybe even days searching for and putting into practice All The Right Things. Sometimes I worry that writers are too obsessed with doing everything as recommended to realize that figuring out how to succeed isn’t just trial and error — it’s also unique to every individual. I could go on for pages and pages about how I created my own success, but does that really help you build your own — at least step-by-step?

I want writers everywhere to understand that building a career is a process. There is no map, you don’t even know where you’re supposed to end up most of the time. You wander aimlessly, your hands hurt from typing, you feel like giving up every other day, and there’s no one telling you where you need to go next. You decide that for yourself. There are dozens of things to consider along the way — but at the end of the day, you — YOU — create your own path.

Thank you, dear readers, for asking so many amazing, specific questions. I will continue to answer them to the best of my knowledge. In fact, ask more. There is no such thing as a dumb question. It helps me get to know you, and what you’re struggling with, and where you are in your ‘journey,’ and where you want to go. I’ve been writing my whole life. I’m still figuring out how to Do Things. But I’ve made a lot of progress in the past three years. I want to share as much of what I’ve learned with you as I can, if you’ll let me.

The secret to writing success … is that there are many well-known strategies that have worked differently for many different writers. I wish I had the time and space to go over all of them here. I’m sure the things I have to keep in my head for now will end up in a book someday. Until then, a me some qs. Where are you? What’s making you want to chuck your laptop out the window? What isn’t working for you? What do you hope to find on this blog, that you haven’t found yet? Let’s continue this roller coaster of a journey together, shall we?


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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How to Crush Self-Doubt and Do All the Things That Scare You

BUT IT’S SCARY.

Every week, I sit in front of a bunch of people and pitch article ideas. They’re either accepted, modified, or rejected — right there in real time. It doesn’t matter how much I prepare — no matter how much self-doubt I’m dealing with, I have to do my job.

Five, six years ago, I’m not sure I would have been able to do what I do now. I didn’t have the confidence. I didn’t believe I was good enough, so I only tried as hard as I thought was necessary. It was barely good enough then. It would not be enough now.

I’m not the only writer who has ever dealt with self-doubt. It keeps many writers from achieving their goals — whether it’s because they don’t think they’re good enough or because they don’t know who or how to ask for feedback, or something else entirely. Overcoming your doubt, and doing what scares you anyway, is a major hurdle — but everything changes once you clear it.

So how do you overcome doubt?

You do everything that scares you. On purpose. Over and over again, until you stop talking yourself out of doing things you need/want to do.

Not all at once. You don’t go from singing in the shower to auditioning for a Broadway musical in a day. Little by little. You take lessons, you explore different genres, you gain confidence by taking bigger and bigger steps until you’re ready to do the impossible.

I used to be afraid to show people what I wrote. I don’t know why — no one’s going to look at an 11-year-old’s short story and say it’s garbage to her face (hopefully). I started by showing my English teachers, who I trusted to give me legitimate feedback — because that’s what they did for a living. Then I started letting my friends into my secret world. (My family eventually followed, though honestly, it’s still weird when people who love me unconditionally compliment my work. Do they really like it? Who knows.)

Now pretty much the whole world can read what I publish if they really want to. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve learned to let criticism, good or bad, just wash over me. I email people I don’t know all the time telling them my ideas. It no longer scares me. They’ll either respond affirmatively or they won’t. It’s all a matter of business — it’s not personal.

You just have to keep doing the things that make you uncomfortable, until you’re so comfortable you could do them in your sleep.

Does this sometimes lead to overconfidence — which might make you think/say/do a dumb thing every once n awhile? Yeah, sure. But you’re not human if you’re perfect all the time. I would rather make a mistake and fall hard doing it than never have had the confidence to even try. Scars mean you’re not afraid to Do Things until it pays off. Embrace them. No matter how cringe-worthy.

“Just do it” may not sound like very helpful advice, but you may be over-complicating it. Literally just do it. You’re going to have more regrets never trying than you ever will trying and seeing things not work out the way you planned. Trust me.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.

Join now.