Tips to Help You Concentrate While Writing

Having trouble concentrating? Try these tips.

Are you an easily distracted writer? I could make this post very short and sweet and tell you to get off the internet and just write already, but that doesn’t always solve your problem. I’ve greatly improved my ability to concentrate over the past few months, which has made me much more productive and satisfied with my work. Here are a few strategies that might help you focus and get more writing done.

Write in intervals

You’re going to get distracted — sometimes, there’s no way to avoid it. If you’re having trouble getting into a flow state, it might be better to use your inability to focus to your advantage. Try writing for 30 minutes straight without looking away from your screen. Set a timer so you don’t have to keep glancing at the time. Once 30 minutes hits, one of two things will happen. You’ll either stop writing and allow yourself to be distracted for 10 minutes or so, or you’ll keep writing, your temptation to do something else having disappeared.

Write what’s most interesting to you right now

I never write fiction in chronological order. If I have to step away from writing in the middle of a scene, it’s almost impossible for me to go back to it later with the same enthusiasm straightaway. If there’s a string of dialogue or an important plot point at the front of my mind, I write it, no matter where it appears in the story. Some days, you just have to write what you want, and skip over what you’re not in the mood for. You’ll concentrate much better when you’re fully invested in a scene or topic.

Pick a place and stay there

I’m all for a healthy change of scenery from one writing session to the next, but I can’t start writing in one place, pack up and move somewhere else, and continue on as if nothing’s changed. If that sounds a lot like you, make sure you’ve blocked out a block of writing time that doesn’t require getting up and moving somewhere else. I find it’s much easier to completely immerse myself in what I’m writing if I have the luxury of forgetting where I am and what time it is.

Designate your writing time as writing time only

If I really need to focus on writing something in the next few hours, and I’m able to, I completely eliminate all distractions from my immediate surroundings. I block certain websites I know I’ll be tempted to check, I put my phone upside down on my desk, I have a giant glass of water (and maybe a snack) within reach, I close my door, and I write. I don’t answer messages or emails (unless I’m working and someone pings me on Slack) — I completely isolate myself from the world for a designated chunk of time. And I live with three other people and a very needy cat. If I can do it, you can, too. If you have to, get up earlier or stay up later than everyone else to get that alone time you need.

Choose background noise, or silence

There are two kinds of writers: those who depend on background noise to concentrate, and those who will shave off your eyebrows while you’re sleeping if you so much as sneeze in their presence mid-creative burst. Figure out which one of these you are (I’m the latter) and make sure you’re in the right environment while you’re writing. Sometimes, light background noise like rain can help even those who hate interruptions. Everyone’s different. If you can’t stand noise but need to write in public, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. My Beats are a lifesaver.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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22 Ways to Impress a First-Time Blog Reader With Any Post

Be yourself.

1. Tell them something they don’t know.

2. Tell them something they DO know — make it relatable.

3. Help them solve a problem.

4. Help them help someone else.

5. Help them answer a question.

6. Tell them they’re doing something wrong — and how to correct it.

7. Show them a better way to accomplish a task.

8. Explain why a common way of thinking/doing is ineffective.

9. Bust a myth.

10. Motivate them to try something new.

11. Make them feel cared for/understood.

12. Make them laugh.

13. Make them feel happy/sad/angry/inspired.

14. Challenge their thoughts/beliefs.

15. Give them a question to respond to.

16. Offer a new perspective on a popular/trending topic.

17. Politely flaunt your expertise — show them they can trust you.

18. Let your guard down — be human.

19. Offer them something they’ll want to keep coming back to.

20. Be yourself — people are drawn to genuine souls.

21. Be skeptical — you don’t know everything for sure.

22. Do everything with your reader in mind — make them feel like they belong here.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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How to Impress an Editor in 4 Simple Steps

Write to impress.

Emailing an editor for the first time can be intimidating. But by the time you’re responding to a job application or call for submissions, you should already know exactly what every editor you’re writing to is looking for. Here’s how to impress them in just one email.

Step 1: State your experience or expertise

“I have been writing for five years” says absolutely nothing about any experience you might have that’s relevant to the editor you’re writing to. However, you’re totally allowed to name-drop publications that have published your work. An editor needs to know your portfolio is even worth looking into, so make this clear within the first few sentences of a cover letter or email.

Step 2: Prove you know the publication

You should never submit to a publication you’ve never read, so before you submit anything to an editor, let them know you’re (literally) on the same page. In your email, mention you’re interested in writing specific kinds of content covered by that publication — which means you’re going to have to spend an hour or so browsing the archives before you even start drafting an email.

Step 3: Make it all about them

This is not about you or how awesome you are — that comes later. Initial contact with an editor is all about how you can serve them, NOT the other way around. Your skills, your experience — it’s not to make yourself sound good. It’s to help an editor know whether or not your skills and experience fit the content needs of their publication. If they’re looking for a writer who has experience writing for a news organization, and you have that, focus on why your experience in particular is going to benefit them.

Step 4: Include relevant writing samples

“Relevant” is the key word here. Don’t submit something about fashion if you’re writing to the editor of a health magazine. An editor needs to see that you can write on the correct subject matter. If you write about a variety of subjects, split your online portfolio into sections and submit a link to only the relevant section.

Every editor is looking for a writer who fits a very specific checklist of criteria. And they’re not shy about what they’re looking for! If you fit that criteria in terms of experience and background knowledge, go for it. If you don’t … don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back. We’re not joking around when we ask you to read a job description or set of guidelines carefully. It’s nothing personal. Really.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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Before You Start a Blog, Ask Yourself One Question

It’s not all about you.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably considering a new blog. Whether you’re already a blogger or you want to start for the first time, deciding whether or not you should begin comes with a lot of doubt and uncertainty.

You probably have a lot of questions. There’s one that I believe is more important than all the rest.

Before you start a blog, I want you to ask yourself this one question:

Are you doing this to benefit someone else?

Because while there’s nothing wrong with blogging for personal gain — we all do it to some extent, let’s be honest — you can’t just start a blog and expect to benefit from it if you don’t care about your audience.

“But I don’t have an audience — nobody reads my blog.” As I like to say, you never know who’s on the other side of that screen. Someone you don’t know is reading what you’re writing, whether your stats tell you so or not.

I’m all for starting a personal blog if you need a space to dump your writing or you have too much to say and not enough outlets to say them in. But if you’re starting a blog to make money, get your name out there, become famous, whatever — you’d better make your audience your first priority. If you don’t, you’re not going to reach your goals. Not in the way you’re hoping to.

My blog began as a home base for all my random thoughts about writing. I never looked at my stats, I didn’t care who might be reading it. I knew that having a blog as a writer, even back in 2009, was important — even if I didn’t know how, or which strategies were going to make it worth my time.

But it didn’t take long for my posts to focus in on something I wasn’t even sure I had: readers. I realized very quickly that people outside of my small circle of family and friends didn’t care about my algebra homework or my cat or my biochemistry tests. What they cared about was the small pieces of writing advice I gave, especially as I grew and developed as a writer myself.

It’s not that people don’t care about you. But they care about themselves a lot more. Yes, you’re going to have personal goals for growing your blog. But don’t neglect the most important part of blogging: the people you’re doing it for. The readers seeking advice or information or entertainment or help — whatever your blog has to offer hundreds of strangers. THEY ARE YOUR PRIORITY. They are your life now. If you’re not blogging for their benefit, you probably shouldn’t have a blog at all.

So is posting your short stories and poetry on your blog OK? Yes! You’re probably trying to introduce more eyes to your work, sure, but you’re also trying to give people something to read. That counts.

What about talking about your own experiences, to motivate or inspire someone to do something? Absolutely. The only reason I ever talk about myself is to give you an example of what to (or not to) do in writing.

Everything I post here, I post for you. My blog doesn’t get thousands of daily readers, it’s a tiny collection of pages on a very big web of blogs and sites and things much more popular than me. But my blog never stops growing, and that’s because I put my audience first. I take the time to respond to you and answer your questions. I do my best to think of things you might be struggling with and offer suggestions for helping you overcome them. I want you to be better. That’s all I ever try to do. I’ll self promote here and there, but even my Patreon exists only to help you. It’s all about you.

If you have an audience in mind, if you want to help people in any way you can, blogging is definitely for you. Writing is not all about you. Remember that.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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Can We Stop Using etc.?

Can you not?

As an editor, I have more writing-related pet peeves than most normal people probably do. Don’t start multiple sentences in a row with the same word; please refrain from writing he/she instead of they. Probably the one that has been bothering me the most lately is the use of etc.

Etc. — etcetera — essentially just means, “blah, blah, blah.” And I HATE THAT.

It’s completely unnecessary in both formal and informal writing, especially in essays and articles. Using it isn’t “wrong’ necessarily, but to me, it just sounds lazy — if you can’t come up with another example for something, don’t use one.

I see people use etc. unnecessarily most often when they’re trying to stick to a rule of three — giving three examples or descriptive words to bring a sense of clarity and added understanding to their work.

People who like to create things — writers, painters, etc. — can do so with the help of online resources.

There are a variety of tools a writer can use, including writing courses, word processing programs, etc.

It’s an OK structure to try following, but I personally suggest avoiding etc. as much as possible. Especially if you’re trying to condense your writing to make it clearer and more concise.

People who like to create things, such as writers and painters, can do so with the help of online resources.

There are a variety of tools a writer can use, including writing courses and word processing programs.

When I’m editing, I delete any usage of etc. and just cut a list off before where the etc. was. It just reads cleaner, and I don’t stop paying attention to what I’m reading in order to think about what etc. could entail as far as unnamed examples.

This is, of course, just a major pet peeve of mine. Other writers might tell you that you can use etc. all you want as long as the examples you provide before it are connected. I just prefer a much steadier sentence and paragraph flow without it. How about you?


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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Annoying Plot Cliches You Need to Delete ASAP

We’re all guilty of these … but still.

Every once in awhile, I’ll read a bad book. Usually it’s a book I’ve picked up from a garage sale or inherited from a friend (pro tip: find friends who don’t hoard books — they’ll learn to give theirs to you for free). Most, if not all, of these books contain plot cliches that make me want to quit reading.

Some popular books have plot tropes, too — no story is perfect. But I feel it’s part of my responsibility, as a person who is slightly obsessed with trying to write as close to a perfect book as possible, to try to steer you away from easily avoidable writing mistakes.

Here are some of my favorite — and the most annoying — plot cliches. Get rid of them. Run away from them. Don’t let them fool you into thinking they’re necessary. They aren’t.

The alarming opener

For some reason, it’s tempting to open every story with the main character waking up to the sound of their alarm clock. How this started and why it’s forever burned into our creative consciouses, I don’t know. But I know I’ve done it, and if I’ve done it, at least a dozen of you out there are also guilty. STOP IT. I know it’s the easiest way to launch exposition, but it’s been done too many times to still be considered effective. You can come up with a better opening line than BEEP BEEP BEEPBEEPBEEEEEEP.

The romanic collision

People don’t run into each other in passing that often. And realistically, no one is carrying around an armful of books or so many groceries that dropping what they’re carrying is that catastrophic. AND it’s not very likely the second half of the colliding duo is going to be kind enough to bend down to help the first pick up everything they’ve dropped. People don’t make eye contact kneeling on a sidewalk or school hallway and have an instant romantic connection. It’s lazy writing. I’m not going to hold my head up high and say I’ve never used this cliche, but if it’s in your story, get rid of it. Unless, of course, your whole story is a cliche-driven satire. Then go for it.

The dream sequence

Are dreams in real life ever significant? Rarely. So why do we depend so much on dreams to move our plots forward? In some stories, it makes some sense. But in most, it now comes off as a lazy way to fill in the gaps of a story, and we need to retire it as a literary device (if it ever was one). I know there are people out there as obsessed with dreams as many characters in stories appear to be, but there are much more effective ways to motivate a character to do something than sending them on a journey to discover what their dream means. Also, if the dream has little to no significance at all, you’re just filling space. Don’t do that.

What’s the worst combination of these cliches, you ask? Waking up from a confusing dream to the sound of an alarm clock, only to realize you’re going to be late — and of course, in your haste to get to wherever you’re supposed to be, you run straight into a person who just happens to be attractive to you for some reason.

UGH.

(Can you think of any more? I’d love to read them!)


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

I Work From Home — Here’s How I Stay Focused and Write … A Lot

Being too easily distracted is just an excuse.

Do you want to know what the most challenging part of my job is?

It’s not coming up with ideas. Or setting deadlines. Or working 10 to 12-hour days during the week.

It’s staying focused.

I get up. I’m tired. I write a lot. Coffee. I write some more. Food. More writing. More coffee.

I write over 5,000 words a day across my many responsibilities as a person creating stuff on the internet. That’s not a complaint — to be completely honest, it’s an accomplishment that took years of hard work and training to achieve. I know writing seems like an easy job to many people, but it’s not. Writers don’t make a lot of money. We have to overcompensate to afford the necessities. You know, like books.

Want to know the best part of my job? I never have to leave my room.

How do I do this? How do I consistently write for my employer, write for my clients, post on this blog, Do All The Things when I’m basically working unsupervised at a tiny desk two feet from my bed?

Great question! I’m glad you asked.

I make daily to-do lists.

Before I go to sleep, I write down in my planner everything I need to get done tomorrow. Sometimes, if I need an extra layer of “do this or else,” I’ll create a virtual list of tasks in Asana (it’s an app built for teams, but I am my own team, so THERE). I do this nightly because I prefer to wake up and start getting stuff done right away. That’s right — sometimes productivity happens even before the coffee’s done. Unless it’s a Friday, of course. Sometimes I let myself sleep in a little later on Fridays. (!)

Some people hate making lists; for some, it just doesn’t work. If a planner doesn’t work and a task manager like Asana doesn’t keep you on track, then making lists just isn’t part of your workflow process. That’s fine. It’s what works for me — it took some trial and error to figure that out — and so that’s what I do. Crossing things off makes me feel good. It will never stop bringing me joy.

I use Cold Turkey.

It’s a desktop app. The free version lets you “block” a selected list of websites for a certain amount of time (during my work day, eight hours). While I’m at work, I can’t check Facebook, get lost in a BuzzFeed vortex, or reply to tweets. It turns out I’m not as addicted to any of these things as I thought: if I really wanted them that badly, I’d just turn the app off.

You’d be surprised how easy it is to avoid distractions when they’re not available. What I love most about this app is that it doesn’t block everything. You can still Google search, you can still check email — it doesn’t block you completely from the internet as a whole unless you tell it to.

My phone doesn’t have very many apps.

I’ve even recently removed email from my phone. I used to be one of those people who was “proud” to say she checked her email every hour, all day long. I can’t, and don’t want to, do that to myself anymore. First of all, email is a grossly ineffective form of communication since most people don’t know how to use it productively. Also, I’m not cool enough to get a lot of emails. 80 percent of the emails I get are from lists, Barnes & Noble, or spam.

I don’t have Facebook, YouTube, or gaming apps on my iPhone at all. I haven’t gotten rid of my WordPress or Twitter apps simply because, to be honest, I need those occasional bursts of satisfaction every time one of you likes a post (my Millennialism is showing … ). But even those things distract me way more often than they should. I love notifications, but I try to minimize them as much as possible.

I don’t like being late.

I get anxious when a deadline approaches. I try to get things done early when I can — bust mostly, I just try to stay on track from day to day. I do not sleep well when there is something that needs to be done that I haven’t gotten around to yet. Yes, I have been late before — I’m not perfect. But it is not an experience that I enjoy, nor have I ever had a reasonable excuse for it.

Above all, I treat my work as if I am a paid professional — because, I guess, I technically am. People are depending on me to get things done. Often times, someone is waiting on me to finish something so they can send it off to someone else. Being late, in my opinion, is unacceptable, and I have a very hard time understanding why there are people who don’t seem to agree. A deadline is a deadline for a reason. It’s disrespectful not to keep a promise.

I love what I do.

I don’t know exactly how I got to this point, but I happen to do a job that I look forward to arriving at and don’t look forward to leaving. It happened unexpectedly and it was the best miracle I could have asked for at 24. Yes, sometimes I get distracted. Sometimes I have a rough day. It happens to all of us. But I genuinely love my job. I WANT to work. I WANT to be productive. I WANT to feel fulfilled.

I know that kind of thing does not come very easily to very many people, so “find a job you love” would not be the best advice to give here. Instead, I’ll tell you this: do what you like. It might be part of your job, it might just be a hobby. Regardless, there has to be a part of your life you love more than you’ve ever loved anything in this world. That is what is going to keep you going, especially when nothing else will.

If you are “blocked,” it is almost always because you’re letting distractions interrupt you. Or you’ve been focusing too long and you need a break. TAKE BREAKS. Switch between tasks every once in awhile, but don’t stop working until you’re done. If that’s too hard, you’re either trying to do too much or you’re not doing the right kind of work for you. Writing is hard. If you’re up for the challenge, make it happen.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Do You Know How to Write Good Emails? Your Success Might Depend On It.

Email etiquette is essential as an aspiring writer.

I hate email.

Let me say it again, louder: I. HATE. EMAIL.

I actually don’t hate sending emails. I’m an introvert, I have anxiety — email is my favorite way to conduct business!

What I hate is trying to work with or alongside people who don’t know how to utilize email correctly.

The majority of people — even professionals, or those aspiring to be — have forgotten how to properly send messages. I can understand if a friend’s email to me about something random is full of typos. But if you’re trying to sell yourself as a professional (or aspiring) writer, and you can’t write an email, you’re not leaving any good first impressions.

I’m convinced a writer’s success is largely dependent upon their ability to communicate effectively through email.

As an editor — and, I suppose, even as a writer trying to communicate with freelance clients — the people that are most difficult to work with are those who have zero email etiquette skills (or who simply don’t check their email at least once a day).

This goes beyond those who send one-sentence emails from there iPhones without punctuation. Some people don’t know how to get to the point. Others don’t proofread. (You can’t click “edit” on an email you’ve already sent — this is not Facebook.) If I get another email from someone who clearly hasn’t read the instructions I’ve given for sending an email to me (e.g., submitting an application to write for me), I’m going to start throwing things.

In case you were wondering, this is how not to email an editor.

Too many writers send emails that are “I-centric,” and in this industry, that just doesn’t work. To be completely honest, if I’m reading an email from you for the first time, I don’t care about you — why should I? I don’t know you. Yet the point of your email is not to tell me how great you are. It’s to show me, an editor, why our email should matter to me and my publication.

Writing an email is supposed to accomplish something. It’s supposed to explain exactly how you expect the receiver to respond. If there’s no call to action (even a simple “let me know you’ve received this” or “does that make sense?”), you just wasted my time.

(Side note – spam emails are a great example of everything never to do in an email ever.)

There are also people who don’t see the value of email as a replacement for those five minute meetings that “could have been covered in an email.” It recently took me a week to schedule what I thought was an important meeting with a client (the scheduling conflicts were their issue, not mine). After all that back-and-forth, the meeting only ended up lasting about four minutes. Essentially, I was told to “keep doing what I was doing.” They could have just said that in an email. It would have saved me plenty of time.

As a writer, you have to master the basics. Entrepreneur has a helpful list of basic email etiquette tips to follow when submitting an article or for any professional communications in general.

Think of every email as a cover letter or even a query letter to an agent, if that’s your thing. First impressions are everything. If I’m responding to a freelance job listing, my first email or message to that contact IS my cover letter. I’m not just going to say “Hi I want this job please hire me.” Dear God. I hope people don’t actually do that.

The first writing sample a potential editor, client, or boss ever sees from you is most likely your first email to them. Make it count.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

I Found My Voice By Blogging to an Audience of Two

Maybe being invisible isn’t such a bad thing after all.

In high school, I started a blog — as many before me already had. I’m not sure what finally made me decide to do it or what I expected to gain from it (if anything). But one thing I do know is, I had an absolute blast writing about my life.

It’s not that I loved talking about myself. Cringe — I still hate it.

What I loved was finally having a place to put all the thoughts, observations, and ideas I couldn’t fit into the margins of my algebra notes.

My blog became a place where I could start experimenting with words. I’m sure some of my friends knew about what I was posting — those two or three original readers had to come from somewhere. But to me, my blog was a medium for telling the world how I felt about, well, everything.

I’m not completely certain — I don’t have the means of looking further into my data at the moment — but from what I can remember, it took until about my fourth or fifth year of blogging to hit 25 followers.

For the first year, at least, I’m pretty sure I had exactly two.

I spent all that time writing to no more than two or three people. And I just kept writing.

Why did I do that, if people weren’t really reading or following me?

Because I recognized that something was happening.

The more I blogged, the more comfortable I became writing in my own voice.

This is probably one of the most important concepts I do my best to get across to my readers today: in the early stages of writing, your willingness to stay consistent and improve is essential. It’s more important than gaining hundreds of readers. It’s more important than getting thousands of comments.

It’s more important than getting noticed at all.

You will always be writing for an audience. When I didn’t have one, I wrote to who I ideally imagined would read a blog like mine (maybe other teenage introverts who liked to write — I really don’t recall). But I didn’t care that my audience was small. I cared that I was writing in a tone and style that reflected who I was — and the voice I wanted to carry as a writer.

If it weren’t for those early years of blogging, I’m not sure how the rest of my writing “career” would have turned out. Only when I gave myself a place to “go nuts” without a fear of being judged did I begin to find that voice every writer always fears they’ll never find.

If I ever get around to starting another blog, I want to write a dozen or so posts and leave them sitting there until I’m ready to launch. I want to find the exact tone and style and manner of communicating with my audience before I meet them. Because that’s how I ended up starting my first blog, in a way. I was invisible. The reality is, even if I started another blog today, it wouldn’t take long for someone to find it. That’s just what happens when you spend years developing a personal brand. You’re no longer invisible.

This is no longer my personal blog. I’m proud of what Novelty Revisions has become, and I don’t regret changing my blogging approach. But every once in awhile, a post will go up on my Tumblr page or Medium profile — some serious, some absolutely ridiculous. Something I feel I need to publish that doesn’t fit into Novelty’s brand.

I don’t do this because I expect people to read these posts. In fact, most don’t. I do it because sometimes, I still need to practice writing well while keeping things casual. I think everyone needs to refine this skill — even if you’ve already found and continue to strengthen your voice. Sometimes, I write for fun. I expect no payoff, financially or otherwise. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this — and neither should you.

Embrace your invisibility. This is your time to figure out who you are, what you want to say, how you want to say it. Stop worrying so much about how many people are or aren’t watching you. Work your way up to creating an amazing stream of written content so that when people do find you, they’ll be glad they did.

You may only be writing to two people. But that’s how you’ll find your voice. And you’ll have zero regrets.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Can’t Get Into a Flow State? Here’s Why.

NOTHING’S WORKING. SEND HELP.

You know what I hate? Trying to write, but not being able to focus.

It happens to all of us. The way to overcome it is to figure out what’s stopping you from getting your work done before you give up — or deciding what you’re going to do to snap your brain into focus mode.

There are a number of reasons why you’re not writing as productively as you’d like to be. Here’s everything you can try to fix your creative block.

It’s not the right time

Sometimes, productivity is time-dependent. I know I’m most productive very early in the morning and between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m. — so that’s when I try to tackle my most important tasks outside of my full-time job. If you’re trying to write, and it’s just not happening, you might be trying to write outside your ideal productivity window. Try writing at different times of the day for a week or so to figure out your most productive time of day.

You’re in the wrong place

Can’t write more than a sentence without checking Facebook? A change of scenery might do the trick. (Also, stop checking Facebook.) If your office isn’t doing it for you, move to a different room. Or go to a coffee shop. Don’t want to sit in your chair anymore? Move to the floor. Sometimes your brain just needs to reset, and moving around can help trigger it.

You haven’t set an end goal

I find I have the hardest time “getting into it” when I don’t know what I’m getting into. Am I about to do a few hours’ worth of research? Am I writing one article before I can call it quits for the day? Two? Three? Don’t start writing aimlessly. “I’ll write until I’m tired” is not a good way to start off. Try to write 500 words, 10 pages, or three chapters. No goal is too small — just pick something and go for it.

You don’t have an incentive

Last night, I did not want to get my work done. However, I told myself that if I finished by 11:00, I could watch an episode of Parks & Rec. I finished by eleven, and went straight to Netflix. That urge to skip the work and go right to the reward was strong, but my willpower was stronger. I knew I would not have enjoyed the reward without having done the work. It might work the same way for you. Just do it. There’s something fun waiting at the finish line — as long as you keep your promise to yourself.

You need a vacation

Burnout is a real thing. For some, it’s occasional, and hard to recognize. For others, it’s more of a chronic condition — a familiar set of symptoms with seemingly no way out. If you’re trying desperately to get some writing done, and you just can’t, exhaustion might be to blame. If you need a break, take one. If you can’t right now, schedule one. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your assignments without quite as much struggle — even if your break only lasts one night.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.