Why You Shouldn’t ‘Go All In’ When Starting a New Writing Project

Does this go against the advice you’ve come to expect? Good.

Advertisements

The excitement you feel when you’re first starting to work on a new book, blog, or series of articles is addicting. But if you’re the kind of person who starts things but abandons them within a few months of hard work, not all hope is lost.

Here’s an unpopular slice of advice: When you’re starting a new writing project, put the least amount of effort into it as possible for the first month or so.

Seriously.

I know, I know. This goes against everything every productivity guru and writing expert has told you about rising, grinding, and keeping your head down until you make something good.

Yes, you need to be consistent — especially in the beginning.

True, you need to build a backlog of content, get a significant start on the rising action of your story, give prospective readers something to grab onto.

But even though it might seem like the best blogs, books, and similar projects spring up overnight and immediately gain traction, that’s not actually how things work.

For all you know, that blogger that just started posting last month spent the six previous ones scheduling out enough content to kickstart her site without anyone knowing.

She got excited about a new idea. But she also took her time to plan ahead and wrote posts slowly, one at a time, so she didn’t burn through her excitement until there was nothing left to keep her moving forward.

The main downside to diving headfirst into something new and hyper-producing content right away is that if you go too hard too fast, you’re going to burn out.

And I don’t just mean you’re going to end your days feeling tired, allow yourself a good night’s sleep, and pick back up right where you left off yesterday.

I mean you’re going to hit a wall. You’re going to have a really hard time getting back up. And once the excitement wears off and exhaustion kicks in, you’re much more likely to not even bother jumping back in.

Take it from someone who is prone to starting new things before thinking through how much work it’s actually going to take to not only get them off the ground, but also keep them in the air for an extended period of time.

Don’t write 20 blog posts in one week only to realize the only reason you wanted to start a blog was to get comments and likes on your posts.

Don’t write 50,000 words in one month before deciding the story isn’t worth finishing.

You’re excited. You want to capitalize on that motivation while it’s bright and hot and propelling you forward. But don’t spend all of it at once. Content creation, regardless of the type, should be a slow burn. Use your motivation to plan, to strategize, to ease in slowly.

If it’s something that truly matters to you — if it’s really meant to be — you’ll stick with it long after the initial appeal has worn off.

Pace yourself. Don’t start sprinting before you’ve even crossed the starting line. I know you’re impatient. But one of the greatest lessons a writer can learn is that not everything has to happen right now. Some of the best ideas unfold when you let them do so slowly over time.


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 10-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 us on Patreon.

It’s Not Your Publishing Credits or Your Follower Count That Makes You a Writer — It’s This.

It’s OK to not feel OK.

We’ve all had those days — the ones where we clock out of our day jobs, greet our fur babies, sit down on the couch for five minutes … and then it’s 9 PM and oops we didn’t write again oh well maybe tomorrow!

And repeat.

But there are also days we do try to write. And it doesn’t always go well. Sometimes the words just aren’t coming out right. Or you got another rejection email and you don’t want to even look at your computer screen anymore. Or the 40-hour workweek is exhausting you so intensely that even your small writing accomplishments don’t feel worth celebrating.

Sometimes … you just don’t feel like a writer.

And then you start questioning whether or not what you’re doing actually matters.

You haven’t published a best-seller. You’re tweeting into the void and no one’s responding. You barely even blog anymore. Should you even bother?

Maybe you’re just not looking at the correct definition of “writer.”

Chances are, if you’re chipping away at a book, trying to write blog posts, or even just sketching out ideas as they come, you’re actually doing just fine.

What makes you a “real” writer isn’t how many things you’ve published, how much money you’ve made, how many people follow you or even how long you’ve been doing it.

What makes you a writer is the simple fact that every day, you wake up not only believing that your work matters, but also that you’re trying as hard as you can to make your big dreams a reality.

This doesn’t mean you have to physically write something every day. It doesn’t mean you have to send 1,000 emails a week to editors or agents. It doesn’t mean that if you feel like you’re struggling, you’re not doing your best.

Writing is hard. I will never try to sugar-coat that. I will never try to crush someone’s dreams by saying “becoming” a writer takes years of practice, hard work, and exhaustion. Because I don’t know of any writer who doesn’t feel the weight of The Grind.

Everyone is trying to get better at some aspect of their craft. And everyone is struggling with something that has nothing to do with their writing projects, and has to figure out how to write and deal with that at the same time.

If you’re writing 50 words a day, and that’s it, you’re still a writer.

If you’re taking some time off of writing to deal with life, but you’re still thinking about all the stories you could tell, you’re still a writer.

If you hate your day job and can only stand to write a few days a week, you’re still a writer.

If you’ve been trying to finish the same book for five years, writing one page at a time, you’re still a writer.

What makes someone a writer is that they are writing. Maybe no one will ever see that first draft. Maybe a magazine will never pick up your essay. Maybe you’ve collected so many rejections you’ve forgotten what it’s like to receive praise. It doesn’t matter. Your best is your best, and that has to be good enough. It’s better than not trying at all.

It might not always feel like you’re doing fine. But if you keep going, keep writing, keep trying, it’s all going to work out. You have to believe that. We all do.

Here's some extra encouragement for you today.

When Writing Reminds You You're Not Very Good at This (Yet)

When It Feels Like No One Else Is Proud of You

Do This the Next Time You Feel Like Leaving the Writing Life Behind

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 10-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 us on Patreon.

My First “Real” Job Had (Almost) Nothing to Do With Writing

Everyone has to start somewhere.

I was so excited to have a job lined up after graduation.

Most of my family and friends assumed I’d gotten some kind of writing job, though. No one really understood why I was choosing to commute an hour into the city and back every day to sit at a desk and enter information into databases for eight hours straight.

But it really wasn’t a choice. When you’re desperate and in debt, you take any job you can get.

I was a little frustrated that I wasn’t getting to do the kind of work I’d been training for years to do. But as you can probably imagine, I needed the funds, I needed some kind of work experience, and I hadn’t been writing in the “real world” long enough to get any freelancing clients.

So in a way, I settled for something temporary and not totally related to my preferred career path. But I wasn’t the first or only writer who has ever done this.

Unfortunately, so many aspiring writers think just because they’ve been writing on their own for a long time, they’ll have no problems settling into their “dream jobs.”

That’s not how it works.

I’m not saying you’ll never get to where you want to be. But it probably won’t happen right away.

It didn’t for me. I was a “data entry specialist.” There were numbers involved.

But it was a job that didn’t force me to take work home.

Which meant I could spend my entire commute — and my evenings and weekends — working on my own writing projects and building up my freelancing portfolio.

And that meant that when that job ended, I wasn’t totally lost. I had things to fall back on. Almost like I’d been building something up in the background intended for later use.

I don’t use many skills from that job now. But those paychecks helped me pay for a large chunk of graduate school. And my graduate degree is the reason I earned my first full-time writing job — a job that, YES, actually involved writing!

It’s a process. Not everyone gets a good job as a writer straight out of college, or straight out of little experience. If you go into it knowing that, you’ll face a lot less disappointment and frustration. Some people have day jobs that don’t utilize their passions, but nights and weekends are all theirs. There’s nothing wrong with that. Especially if you find you don’t have any other choice.

Don’t get discouraged if your dream job isn’t achievable quite yet. You’ll get there. Having a full-time job while figuring out exactly what I wanted to do with my passion for writing ended up being one of the best accidental decisions I ever made. Actually, I highly recommend it.


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 10-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 us on Patreon.

Are You Setting Up Your Writing Routine All Wrong? | #WRITERTWEETS

A “sit-down” routine doesn’t have to be complicated.


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 10-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 us on Patreon.

How I Took Back Control of My Writing Time After Completely Losing It

Regain control. Write like the beast you already know you are.

I hadn’t touched my novel in almost four months.

Every blog post I wrote took twice as long as it should have. I dragged myself through them day after day, because I always wished I were doing something else.

I looked at my writing goals every day, getting more frustrated each time. Because I hadn’t accomplished any of them yet. It was almost March, and, in the grand scheme of things, I’d barely written anything since December.

But I’d read plenty of books, watched more than enough TV, and had told myself “I’ll get back on track by the end of the month” three times too many.

I knew I’d lost control of my writing time. I knew it wasn’t anyone else’s fault but mine.

And I knew I had to fix it, before it was too late.

These are the strategies that helped me regain control without giving up the things I loved. This is how I got back to writing, without making it a punishment.

If you’ve ever been here — out of control and wondering how to get it back — here’s my advice for you.

Disclosing distractions, facing roadblocks

When it comes to writing, distractions are the things that pull you away from writing no matter how inspired and/or motivated you are to get your work done. I might sit down at my desk 100% committed to finishing my article within the hour, but I get a text from someone I haven’t talked with in awhile, and suddenly that deadline goes right out the window.

I consider roadblocks to be a little different when talking creativity. They’re the things that “block” you from even sitting down to write in the first place, or prevent you from wanting to write at all. When I’m trying to outline a pitch email to a prospective client, but I get anxious about the possibility of getting rejected (it happens), I might put it off for days. Weeks, even.

Whether you’re distracted or blocked, identify and pin down the things keeping you from writing. Self-doubt is one of the most common writing roadblocks creatives face but don’t know how to conquer. The solution that works best for me? Compartmentalizing and creating, one small step at a time.

Saying ‘yes’ to ‘less’

This comes in two forms: saying ‘yes’ to fewer distractions, and committing to fewer things at once.

Too many writers make the mistake of, for example, saying “no more Netflix” when they realize they’re spending too much time watching Netflix. (Not that I know what that’s like or anything.) “Less” is a much better strategy than “none.” I can do with fewer hours of streaming if it means gaining five or more hours of writing time per week. But you don’t want to suck all the fun out of your life. Balance, not extremes.

And here’s the reality you might not want to hear: it’s OK to say yes to fewer projects. Some people just aren’t equipped to work on five different things at once. If you’re trying to do too much, stop yourself before burnout hits you. Because it will, and it will hurt. It’s not something you ever want to have to give up writing to recover from.

Focusing on one thing at a time

My brain has two settings: hyper-focus and non-focus. I’m either so deep into my work that I lose track of my surroundings, or I can’t pay attention to a single thing for more than a few minutes. Over the past few years, I’ve personally found that it’s much easier for me to write when I’m only focused on writing the most pressing thing (e.g., this blog post, which should have been written almost a week ago).

This does not mean that I’m not simultaneously working on multiple projects at once. Ideally, a writer should always have more than one income stream — you never know what might happen tomorrow. But, when I’m at work for eight hours, for example, I focus only on what I’m working on at work. I don’t think about my blog, or about any other project. Work time is work time. Blog time is blog time.

If you’re having a hard time focusing, set a priority and get to work. When you have multiple things that need doing ASAP, take a deep breath and tackle them one at a time. Don’t put them off as long as possible, no matter how tempting. It’s not going to go away just because you keep pushing it aside.

You’re in control. Or you will be, again, soon.


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 10-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 us on Patreon.

3 Things I Learned Writing for a Media Company Full-Time

A skilled writer never stops learning.

One of my main goals in keeping this blog is that I never imply to any reader that I have all the answers or know everything there is to know about writing.

I have always believed, and always will, that skilled writers never stop learning. So when I started my first full-time writing job, I showed up on my first day knowing I still had a lot to learn. And I was right.

I’ve learned plenty of important things that anyone can apply to their own writing endeavors. Whether you consider yourself a rising professional in the field or you just like to write for fun, some of these lessons might help you approach your work with a more realistic — but still optimistic — outlook.

1. Half the job is all about experimentation

There is no formula that guarantees something you write will always get the clicks or shares you think it deserves. Life would be a lot less stressful if there were. But the truth is, sometimes, you have to start throwing ideas against the wall at random to figure out what gets results and what doesn’t. And even then, often what you think will work will not — and the other way around.

If you want to succeed in writing, you have to dare to experiment. You can’t worry about failing or about being judged. You just have to let whatever”s going to happen, happen.

2. Sometimes you have to wait for things to take off (if they ever do)

Instant gratification does not exist in the writing world. Waiting is an essential part of the job. You wait for people to email you back. You wait for scheduled projects to be released. You publish something with more excitement than you know what to do with — and almost always, if it’s received well, you also have to wait to find that out.

It’s slow, and it’s hard to have patience when you feel like you’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t have a clear solution. But you have to learn to live with that.

3. As long as you’re writing to the best of your ability, you’re doing fine

There is only so much you can actually control when it comes to your content. You can write it, edit it, format it, and present it in a way that’s appealing and persuasive. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s about it. You can’t force people to click, to subscribe, to care. Sometimes that makes it seem like you’re putting a lot of hard work into things no one will ever read. That’s just part of the deal.

There is also only so much feedback other people can give you. They don’t have all the answers, either. This is why they call it “the grind.” You keep working until it pays off, no matter what.


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 10-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 us on Patreon.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a New Writing Project

Be honest: can you REALLY do this?

When new ideas hit, it’s tempting to jump in without considering whether or not that’s the best move to make. As a writer, you probably have a lot going on at once. Starting new projects is the easy part, compared to the follow-through.

How can you ensure you’re not going to bail on this three months from now? Start by asking yourself these questions to help you decide if you’re making the right choice for you right now.

1. Do you have time?

Time. You know, that thing we can never seem to have quite enough of. In all honesty, most of us are a lot worse at managing our time than we should be, and even though it’s not really shameful to admit it, what we really can’t afford to do is give ourselves more to do than we can handle, time-wise.

Be honest with yourself. Do you have the time required to put even a few extra hours into a new project every week — or a little bit every day? Can you set aside time blocked off specifically for writing this one thing? If you can’t, it’s OK to hit the pause button until you’re willing/able to make it happen.

2. Are you genuinely interested, or just bored?

You might not have thought of this, but some people’s brains have a tendency to bounce around from one thing to another a little too quickly. For me, boredom creeps in when I’m writing too much on the same topic, or in the same medium — and that’s when new ideas ever-so-conveniently start knocking.

The problem is, if you’re tempted out of boredom, and not legitimate interest, you won’t be able to stick with this new project very long before you get bored again and move on to something else. Maybe that’s your workflow “style,” but it might not be the most productive way to handle your work life all the time.

3. Do you have a long-term plan in place — or at least in the works?

Starting anything without an action plan is, usually, not a great idea. Yes, sometimes the best you can do is dive in and allow yourself to be a little bit spontaneous. But if it’s really a project you’re interested in pursuing in the long-term, your chances of sticking with it aren’t great if you don’t have a clear direction of where you want to take it.

At least do what you can to figure out when you’re going to sit down to work on it throughout the week, if it’s feasible. You don’t have to plan in too much detail — but you have to have something.

4. What are you REALLY hoping to accomplish?

Maybe you just have a fun idea and want to enjoy writing something random for a little while, no strings attached. Or maybe you have a much more tangible end goal in mind. Neither way is “right” or “wrong.” But it’s important to know what you’re really hoping to get out of this new thing before you commit to it.

Remember, goals — the only real way to make sure something gets done — help you establish not just where you’re going, but why. Your “why” is one of the most important drivers of theoretical success. When you’re struggling, it might be the only internal motivation you have.

5. Are you willing to give something up to make it happen?

When you make a commitment to work on something new, usually, something else has to take a trip down to the bottom of your priority list for awhile. Maybe it’s Netflix, maybe it’s reading, maybe it’s sleeping in on Saturday mornings.

You don’t have to make yourself miserable or stop doing the things that relax and recharge you. But some adjustments probably do need to be made to your schedule. Are you willing to make a few small changes so you have more time/energy for a little extra creative exercise?

If you want to dive right in, go ahead. As long as you’re confident you’re doing the best thing for you as a creator, chances are, you’re already on a good track.


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 10-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 us on Patreon.

I Just Pitched An Article for the First Time In Forever and I Wasn’t Even Nervous … Nope, Not At all. NOPE.

Nope, that wasn’t terrifying at all.

I figured this sort of thing would be easy by now.

Pitching my skills as a writer, I mean.

I’ve been doing it for years. You do build up a small bit of resistance to the unpleasant possibility that your efforts could get shot down — or completely ignored. It’s a little less scary than it used to be. You learn to expect rejection.

But that definitely doesn’t mean it gets easier. Or that you’re ever completely immune to the anxiety surrounding the uncertainty of the matter.

For the first time in a long time — probably since I sent a thank-you email following the final interview before being offered my current full-time writing job — I put my game face on.

A probable writing opportunity bounced into my Twitter feed and proceeded to stare me down until I could no longer ignore it. I knew I had to at least reach out. Knowing I had nothing to lose, knowing the answer very well could have been “no thanks,” I figured, “How hard can it be?”

I sat on my hands for days. DAYS. Trying to decide the best method of contact. Email? Twitter? That questionable contact form on the website that you never know whether or not to trust? All of the above? None of it?

Then the doubt rolled in, as it always does.

What if they think I’m too forward? Too desperate?

What if they say no, and I get disappointed and sad?

What if they don’t say anything at all, and I’m just left here wondering what I might have done wrong this time around?

See? I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve succeeded and failed as an initiator in these conversations on too many occasions to count. And even I still get nervous. Even I still get scared that, somehow, I’m going to humiliate myself in front of someone I really want to impress.

But here’s the thing. There are two directions this crossroad can take you. You can give in to this fear, never take a chance, and let the “what if” questions cloud your conscience for the rest of your life …

Or you can take a deep breath, say “oh well” to all the possibilities, and hit send.

In this case, I chose to hit send. My hands shook when I did it. I got that feeling you get in your gut that you might have just done something dumb, even if it also sort of felt like the right thing.

The reality is, people on the receiving end of your queries about writing aren’t judging you the way you think. It’s very likely they’ve been in your same position before, and understand that just because they get messages just like yours all the time doesn’t mean you’re silly for trying.

I tell you this as a former magazine editor whose job it was to review article submissions and writing internship sample pieces. Everyone wants the same thing: to get their work published. They’re all trying. Whether your efforts work out in your favor or not … it’s really nothing personal.

So what happened after I submitted my pitch? I’ll let you decide the ending of this story for yourself. Maybe they loved it. Maybe I got rejected. That’s not the point. The point is, yes, this is one of the hardest parts of the writing process. But we all have to do it. And those of us who sidestep our doubts and fears and give it a swing really do fare better in the end, eventually.

Do it. Pitch it. The only way to guarantee failure is to never do anything at all.

Are you trying to pitch to a magazine editor? Here are the steps you should take.

Did your pitch get rejected (again)? Here’s what you should do next.


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 10-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 us on Patreon.

Tips for Writers Dealing With “News Fatigue”

Self-care matters.


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 10-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 us on Patreon.

7 Steps to Take After Your Writing Gets Rejected


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 10-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 us on Patreon.