Are You Being Helpful?

Are your words actually helping someone else?

The most meaningful comments I receive on my blog are those that let me know how helpful my words are to different people.

Technically, those comments about how helpful I am being (yay!) are very helpful in return.

I come into contact with many bloggers who constantly struggle to continue creating content. Not because they don’t have ideas or don’t want to, but because they don’t know whether or not what they’re doing serves their audiences.

They worry that a lack of comments, or a stagnant readership, means they’re doing something wrong. But they don’t know how to figure out what that is.

I have a feeling that if I were to visit every blog with a writer worried about the loyalty of their audience, I would find a few key things in common with them. One of them being that the content on those websites may be well-written, and interesting, and insightful.

But it isn’t helpful.

It doesn’t provide the reader with a motivation to read, or keep reading, or come back later for more.

I frequently notice that any blog post I write that has a generic headline performs terribly. Notice how I’ve titled this blog post using a question and the word “you.” That signals (or should) to you, the reader, that you’re going to get a question answered — and it’s going to serve you in some way.

Sometimes it’s not someone’s blog, but their attempts at outreach, that hurt them. It’s a common practice in the blogging world to comment on others’ blogs. Yet I see way too many comments that simply repeat what the blogger has already said, or comment with a short few words like “great post” and then a link to their website.

That’s not helpful.

A comment — one that motivates someone to click and subscribe — should add on to what’s already been said. It should attempt to add to or branch off of a conversation. It should never be self-serving, because that’s unhelpful to everyone else — including you.

Before you publish — before you comment — ask yourself: is this helpful? How am I helping someone else, in posting this? What are they going to get out of it?

There are many different purposes for blogging. Maybe you’re entertaining or teaching or offering advice. But whatever you’re doing, it has to help. That’s what people want. Readers are selfish — not because they’re bad people, but because that’s the definition of what it means to be a human. You want to know how to make your life better somehow. That’s why you read. That’s probably why you’re reading this blog post right now.

Was this helpful? I’m assuming so, at least a little bit. That’s why I’m publishing it. Because I care about you, and I want all the time you spend writing to feel worthwhile to you — and to the people you’re writing for.

See how that works? :)

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 Forget About Your Story’s Setting

Location matters.

In school we were taught setting matters.

Where your story takes place ends up its own character. Sort of.

Yet it’s so easy to focus on our characters and the tragic things we’re putting them through and forget to give enough attention to the where.

Take a second to think about the most significant moment in your life.

It could be the event that brought you the most joy, the most pain, the most redemption. Anything.

Notice how you don’t just remember the thing that happened. You also remember where it happened.

The room where it happened — you never forget that.

Because that location is part of your life’s story. The same way every location in your book’s plot should also be as memorable as the characters who interact within it.

If you can take a scene in your story, transplant it into a completely different setting, and nothing changes about the significance of that scene, your story’s setting needs work.

Some might argue that location isn’t always a significant plot point. I suppose I can’t necessarily argue with that. But if you really want your readers to feel like they’re right there with your characters, you’re going to have to make your story’s environment pretty important. And as important as “realism” might be, this is still a story. Things are allowed to have seemingly obnoxious significance if you want them to.

If you want your main character to break up with her boyfriend over the phone in her bedroom instead of the kitchen, because she is a private, closed-off person, and you need that location to represent her growing isolation from the outside world, DO THAT.

Where your story’s scenes take place matters. Your characters will remember the significance of the locations events in their stories take place. So should your reader. You can’t forget to take the time to paint a clear picture of that setting for your readers to settle into as your story progresses. Otherwise, there’s an unwanted element of disconnect your readers WILL feel from your prose — even if you don’t.

This is really something I want to work on improving in my writing during NaNo this year. I thought maybe you needed a quick reminder, too.

Happy writing!

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 2 Types of Accountability (and How to Figure Out Which One You Need Most)

Accountability can make or break your writing career.

Accountability is an essential part of the writing process. Accomplishing anything as a writer requires goals, and we all need some kind of motivator to reach our goals. There are hundreds if not thousands of Facebook groups out there for the sole purpose of holding members accountable for what they say they’re going to do — write a book or start a blog or finally apply for that dream job.

But if accountability is so important, why is it that some writers need accountability buddies and buzzing reminders on their phones to accomplish writing-related goals, while others can write entire novels in complete isolation without anyone encouraging them along the way?

It’s because there’s more than one type of accountability. And while all writers rely on both in some way to accomplish tasks and achieve their ambitions, some rely more heavily on one type than the other. And knowing which type stimulates your productivity most can help you get more writing done each week without having to struggle quite so much to do so.

Here are the two types of accountability, and how to make each one work for you.

Internal accountability

What is it? 

Internal accountability refers to your independence when it comes to reaching your writing goals.

If you’re mostly internally motivated, you’re probably able to set and achieve your own goals without much prompting from other people. You might find inspiration in the things you watch, read, or listen to, but you need very little nudging to drive you to complete something. There seems to be an internal force that keeps you moving forward — when you want to do something, you make it happen. Your family and friends probably don’t even know about half the things you’re working on, because you don’t feel the need to tell others what you’re up to — not until you’re done, at least!

 How to get it:

The tricky part about internal motivation is that external factors still probably trigger your inspiration and motivation. Once something has prompted you to write, you can pretty much come up with a plan and get it done on your own. But social time, as well as consuming lit and media that inspires you, become extremely important when you’re itching to create. You might need an app to keep track of your tasks, and a “Great job, keep up the good work!” never hurts. But if writing groups aren’t your thing, that’s OK — they just don’t work for you, and it’s better to focus on what does.

External accountability

What is it?

Sometimes called “social” accountability, external accountability refers to your reliance on outside factors — people, places, even things — to hold you accountable and successfully reach your goals.

If you’re mostly externally motivated, you probably talk about your tasks and ambitions a lot — either on social media or in person with family and friends. You need that occasional nudge or reminder to keep working on something, because without it, it’s hard for you to get much writing done. You rely on people to check in with you — for example, you’re most likely to complete a task quickly when your boss gives you a deadline and asks about your progress more frequently. All your followers know what you’re up to — announcing your progress is what keeps you on track.

How to get it:

You probably need some kind of task management app that will remind you about things you need to get done. You’re likely most motivated by going out and doing “things,” so make social entertainment time a regular segment in your weekly schedule. If you can’t find a single person to be your accountability partner, it’s OK to use social media and “real life” friends to share your progress, even if no one’s quite dedicated enough to bother you with “You’d better be writing right now” texts.

Neither of these forms of accountability are “right” or “wrong,” better or worse than the other. Just because you lack the ability to hold yourself accountable for things doesn’t mean you’re lazy or broken. It just means you need more external stimulation to inspire and motivate you than someone who relies almost completely on themselves to make sure they get things done.

Whichever ratio of internal vs. external accountability you need, embrace that. If you need other people to hold you to your promises, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s fine, too. Just don’t get discouraged if your social circles don’t always seem interested in hearing about what you’re working on. Remember, it’s hard to get excited about something that technically doesn’t exist yet! Be patient. When you have a tangible “product,” you’ll be able to find an audience to receive that.

For now, just keep writing. The fact that you’re doing that at all is a miracle within itself! Don’t talk yourself out of doing what you love. It’s worth your 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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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How to Start Writing While You’re Busy Doing Everything Else

How do you start a new project when life is already too cluttered?

So you want to start a new thing.

I’m no stranger to this desire. I’ve started a lot of things in the past five years or so. Many of them, I haven’t finished. But many of them, I’m still chipping away at — and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I hadn’t learned how to start, despite all the other distractions and responsibilities standing in my way.

Here’s my best advice for you, aspiring starter.

Start slow

Starting a new writing project doesn’t imply you have to dive headfirst into a new thing, submerge your entire existence, and forget about everything else until you burn through all your creative energy in a matter of days. That’s just how too many writers interpret “starting.”

When I start something new, I take things extremely slow. And it works. I conserve that initial excitement and creative insight so it lasts longer. Instead of burning through my motivation, I release it in smaller segments. It’s not as fun, and definitely doesn’t satisfy the overwhelming need for instant gratification too many new writers are hungry for. But it’s much more effective in the long-term. It gives you time to shift around your priorities and figure out how to make it work.

Make (schedule out) time

“I don’t have time for x” isn’t usually a valid excuse. Sometimes it’s legitimate — but usually it’s just your way of letting yourself off the hook without suffering crippling guilt. But that’s where you run into the issue of never actually getting anything done — ever.

The key to making time for anything — especially new things — is to block out specific time in your schedule to work on it. It’s like tricking your mind into deciding it’s time to get down to business, even if you’re overly distracted by other things. I know not everyone can easily create and stick to a pre-determined schedule, but at least try.

Be honest: Is busyness more important than your new idea?

Do you want to be busier, or more productive? Do you really care about your new project, or are you just trying to pile on more “stuff”? Sometimes you just have to accept that starting something new means saying farewell to something old. If you’re too busy to do it now, is your heart really in it? Are you willing to sacrifice part of your personal non-work time in order to make it work?

These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself. You need to be honest. Because the more projects you add to your plate, the less time — and effort — you’re going to be able to dedicate to each of those things.

You’ve heard this all before. But chances are, you clicked on this post because you really needed to hear it again. You’re welcome.

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 You Haven’t Been Able to Make More Time for Writing — and How to Fix That

You’re looking at time all wrong.

Do you feel pressed for time?

Do you find yourself pushing your work back an hour, two days, three weeks — because there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to make it happen?

There’s a reason you haven’t been able to make time for writing lately — even though that’s the one thing you wish you could be doing right now.

You’re just not thinking about time the right way.

You have enough of it. You’re just ignoring the not-so-secret power you have to manipulate it to fit your specific needs.

The problem is that we’re too preoccupied with the desire to create more time, which obviously isn’t possible. We should, instead, focus on manipulating the time we have to create more open space for writing and other personal projects.

And how do we do that? By doing some things less. Which many of us (possibly you included) aren’t willing to do, because social media and Netflix and other “time-wasters” are just part of our culture.

There’s nothing wrong with social media and Netflix and the like. That stuff is awesome.

Here’s the other problem, though: we take the advice to do these things less to mean we can’t do them at all, when the advice literally means to not do them so much. I see the exact same issue, and give the exact same advice, when discussing nutrition and health. It’s not that people have to give up their favorite foods to be healthier — they just have to learn not to eat so much of everything they love.

You can scroll through Twitter and keep up with the latest Netflix series, spend time with family and friends, make dinner, go shopping, sleep, and still have time left over to write.

But instead of spending 10 minutes on Twitter every time you check it, spend two. Instead of binging an entire season of Lost, watch one episode. Block out two hours to spend with a loved one instead of an entire day.

As much as you want to enjoy everything in excess, it’s just not possible every single day of the week. Especially not if you want to stay productive, creative, and fulfilled in both your work and outside of it.

Writing, for many of us, is a strange mix of work and play. Sometimes that makes it hard to decide whether or not sitting down to write is considered work or leisure time.

But either way, if you want to “make time” to write, you have to realize that there are going to be days you have to sacrifice some things in order to make writing a priority. You can’t give yourself more hours in a day, but you can make the active choice to spend the time you do have on the things that are, right now, the most important.

And when writing isn’t your only priority — adulting is hard, man — you don’t have to spend hours upon hours every day on writing. Like everything else, it’s OK — and sometimes necessary — to do a little bit of writing, and then move on to other things.

You’re not too busy to write.

Maybe the problem is that you’re just too stubborn to scale back the time you spend doing certain things in order to allow yourself more time for writing.

Yeah, I went there. But only because I’m in the same boat. We’re all in this together. This is a balancing act, and we’re still learning how to stay upright with both feet flat on the ground.

It’s going to take some time. But we’ll figure it out.

Let’s try that thing I said I was going to do like a month ago and never did — spend a day or two, maybe even a week, keeping track of how much time you spend “wasting time.”

Are there some things you could do less, to make writing fit better into your day?

I can pretty much guarantee there are. But it might really help to be able to visualize it.

Do you already know off the top of your head what you spend too much time doing, when you should be writing? Acknowledge that. Right here, right now. I’m waiting. (:

(I’ll start — if YouTube weren’t a thing, despite the fact that there are dozens of ways to stream video online, I’d be a lottttt more productive from week to week.)

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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When Writing Feels Like Work — and Like Play

How do you know when it’s time to work — and when it’s time to relax?

For some writers, crafting stories is a hobby. Even if there’s a small desire to turn writing into work someday, in the present moment, they’re just doing it for fun.

Other writers classify everything they write as work. Even blog posts, personal essays, and spur-of-the-moment flash fiction or poetry cuts into their work time.

This often makes “writing time” much more confusing than it needs to be. When writing is your work, but you also enjoy it, how do you get into the right mindset to accomplish your goals?

Let’s say you walk into whatever room houses your desk and computer, with your morning coffee or tea or whatever your drink of choice, and you sit down, ready to write.

How do you know whether you’re sitting down to relax, or work?

In some instances, this is easy. If your job involves writing articles, and you’re sitting down to write an article, you know you’re about to do work.

But what if writing isn’t your job? What if you’re working on a novel on your own time — something you hope to publish eventually, but you’re not getting paid for your time right now?

Is that work? Or is creating this fictional world still considered a hobby?

Or … is it both?

Can you write and relax at the same time? Is that a thing? It depends on what you’re writing. When I’m slowly (very slowly) chipping away at my novel, I’m in a working mindset. It does not relax me. However, when I’m journaling, or jotting down song lyrics I’ll probably never use, I feel less stressed.

You might be able to separate your writing time between “fun” writing and “not fun” writing, if that’s how you need to break things up to stay productive. But it’s important, when you look at your “fun” writing, to acknowledge what you’re getting out of it, even if it relaxes you. When I journal, for example, I consider that productive, because it gives me a chance to gather my thoughts, work through my anxieties, and plan out (or reflect on) my day.

It’s also important to remember that whether you’re writing for pleasure or not, this process uses up massive amounts of creative energy. Even writing for fun can leave you feeling drained, especially if you’re really bad at taking breaks. Don’t force yourself to write all day “for work” and then spend all night writing “for fun.” It’s OK to do other creative things to give your brain a little bit of a rest.

Even when you’re working, writing can be an enjoyable experience. Learning to shift your mindset between “I’m just messing around” and “I have a goal I need to accomplish before my butt leaves this chair” takes a lot of practice. Especially when you really do like what you’re working on, but need to take it seriously at the same time.

Still, the best way to approach creative projects is to keep everything balanced. When you block out time for work, spend that time working. When you block out time for play, spend that time playing. Maybe for you it’s a matter of spending an hour making actual progress in your story, and the last 30 minutes going back, rereading older chapters, and experimenting with new techniques and styles. It doesn’t always have to be just one or the other.

Maybe your “fun” writing involves writing only for yourself, and your “work” involves writing for your audience. Again — there is room for both.

Above all, take your work seriously — but not too seriously. Be flexible. Set goals, but don’t lock yourself in a room and wallow in misery when you have an unproductive day. As long as you leave your work/play space feeling fulfilled, you’re good. If you don’t genuinely enjoy any aspect of what you’re writing, that’s how you know something is off-balance — and needs restructuring.

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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You Don’t Have to Write Full Time Right Away — And Maybe You Shouldn’t

You don’t have to dive headfirst into writing when you aren’t ready.

Many writers sit down at their laptops and think, “I’m going to be a writer.”

A portion of those writers actually go on to write things. Many of them write things well. Some of those writers “make it.” Whatever your definition of “making it” as a writer means.

The reason many writers who put in the work required to “make it” (I call these active writers) isn’t because they don’t try hard enough or because they aren’t good enough at writing.

(There are some who miss out on success because of reasons like these, but these aren’t the only reasons.)

Actually, many active writers don’t succeed because they try too hard.

There is nothing wrong with the grind, the hustle, whatever you call your relentless pursuit of this passion-you-pray-will-become-a-job called writing. It’s hard work, after all, that kept me writing when I literally could not get hired to do anything else. (Dark times, my friends. Very dark times.)

But there is such thing as taking your drive to write full-time too far. Because the reality is, many active aspiring writers don’t know what they’re getting themselves into until they’ve committed to too many projects without any reasonable way out.

I’ve only been a full-time writer for about a year. Before that, I interned for a magazine, started building this blog, freelanced, and tried to figure out if I really wanted writing to be my full-time job/career at all.

I honestly don’t think I could have handled writing full-time before then. I had writing experience, don’t get me wrong. But I was bad at time management. I got caught up in writing a lot of things I didn’t want to write, but did it because I was trying to pay my way through grad school. I had such a rough time starting out as a freelance writer that it almost made me want to quit writing. (And that wasn’t the first time I’d ever considered quitting, either.)

The only reason I can handle writing full time now is that I’ve spent YEARS building up the discipline and resilience to Make Writing Happen even when I’m bored, overwhelmed, exhausted, or just having one of those days where you’d rather stare at a wall for two hours than force your hands onto a keyboard.

Many writers aren’t ready for this. Excited to grasp every new opportunity that comes their way, they tend to forget that part of being a writer is … oh …. right. Writing.

A lot.

All the time.

Many writers sit down at their laptops and think, “I’m going to write. I’m not going to do anything else. I was born to write, and that’s what I’m going to do. That’s ALL I’m going to do.”

I used to think that, too. But you can’t just jump headfirst into something you aren’t ready for and grind until there’s nothing left of you. You have to ease your way in. I was 16 when I started blogging about my life as a writer. That evolved into so much more as I learned and matured. I used to think I had to publish a book as soon as possible or I’d fail.

But by the time I got halfway through college, I was tired. Over it. I didn’t even enjoy writing anymore, because for years, that’s all I thought I could do.

Then I took a step back. I stopped trying so hard to succeed. I blogged when I felt like it, about what I felt like blogging about. I started only taking on writing opportunities that aligned with my career goals. Only then did I figure out what it was going to take to work my way up to writing full time.

And even then, it still took years to get there. Here.

Don’t get me wrong — here is amazing. Every day, I get to wake up and feel like my words actually mean something to at least one person reading them.

I don’t think it would be worth it if it hadn’t taken so long. It’s the experiences I’ve had a long the way, not the job and success I have now, that matter most.

You need to be prepared. You need to try many different kinds of writing, and work with or for many different people. You need to figure out what your interests are and find people who share those interests. It’s OK to start slow. In fact, in my experience, it’s the best way to do it.

You don’t have to write full time to be a successful writer. You can have a day job. An unrelated business. Friends. A family.

You can work your way up to that, if you want. But don’t do it because it’s what you think people expect you to do. Do it because writing fulfills you in a way nothing else can.

Build your figurative empire. One word at a time. If you feel pressured to do more, first ask yourself if it’s really what you want to do. Writing can be Your Thing, but it doesn’t have to be Your One Thing.

What makes you a writer isn’t that you write until you’re sick of it.

What makes you a writer is that you allow writing to be a central part of your life, without letting it take complete control of your existence.

Love what you write. Love that you are a writer.

If you end up doing it full-time, that’s cool.

If not, that’s cool too.

Be the writer who writes, who follows through, who “makes it” in your own way.

Don’t burn yourself out. Don’t push yourself too hard. Writers are people, too. Be good to yourself. You deserve 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 nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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The Best Piece of Writing Advice I Ever Received

You don’t know which projects are going to succeed, and which ones are going to fail.

Many people assume that because I’ve been writing for a long time, I now do so professionally, and I give advice on my blog, I’m the expert who knows it all.

And with that point of view comes the assumption that I’ve already learned all I need to learn to be a successful writer.

Thankfully, these wrongful assumptions are the reason this blog lives and thrives despite being one of many (MANY) in its niche. It’s when I draw from my own experiences, and the things I’m learning as I slowly build my career, that my readers seem to resonate with my content the most.

Which is why I want to share something important I learned last week. Rather, something a fellow writer shared with me that has completely changed my perspective.

So here’s the deal: we all want everything we write to do well. We know not everything we create will go viral, but we still hope what we publish gets as much attention as possible. As much as you might love writing because creating is just part of who you are, we all write partially because we want people to read and connect with what we have to say. The more people that discover our work, the more we’re filled with a sense of fulfillment every writer dreams of.

But the reality is that most of the writing that gets the kind of attention we strive for starts with a really good idea. And what too many writers tend to forget — or never seem to realize — is that many of the ideas you come up with aren’t “really good.”

So if you want more of what you publish to do well and circulate on the web or around your local chain of bookstores and coffee shops, you have to come up with a lot of ideas to generate enough “really good” ones. And this also means you have to write A LOT. Even if much of what you write never makes it past the self-editing stage of the review process.

What my writing “mentor” reminded me of was this:

“Eighty percent of what you write will never go anywhere.”

Such a simple string of words. But words I didn’t even know I needed to hear.

It’s hard for many writers — especially beginners — to swallow the reality that they’re going to spend a lot of time writing things that won’t succeed. I know it can feel like a waste of time. I know you might feel like it’s hard enough to manage your time as is — why spend more time writing when what you’re creating might not even “make it”?

But you have to be honest with yourself here. Much of the writing you do in your lifetime will be practice. If you only wrote when you knew something was going to do well, or only because you’re depending on a paycheck, you’re never going to learn anything, or get better, or test out new — even crazy — ideas.

The best, most promising writers out there are the ones who write, no matter if what they’re writing has any chance of success.

If your fear of failure stands in the way of getting any writing done … that’s something you really need to work on.

If your lack of confidence is what’s stopping you from pursuing a big idea, you need to remember that creating doesn’t always produce the best product. But something is so much better than nothing.

In your lifetime, you’re going to write a lot of things.

Probably about 20 percent of those things will do well.

So stop worrying about whether or not your ideas are good enough, interesting enough, or worthy of becoming bestsellers or prize-winners. Just write. Because you don’t know which projects are going to be part of that 80 percent, and which ones are going to make it into the much more favorable 20.

I have a feeling some of you really needed that reminder today.

I know I did!

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 Connect With Your Readers

Here’s what you can do.

The writer-reader connection is delicate.

Possibly one of the biggest challenges new writers face is figuring out how to create a bond between themselves and people they may never meet face-to-face.

How do you connect with someone in such a way that they feel you’re speaking only to them?

How do you make a stranger feel like someone, finally, GETS IT?

I have an answer to these questions. And at first, it’s going to seem a little simplistic. But trust me, it’s much deeper than it seems. This is one of those things you tend to forget the longer you write — or don’t really understand when you’re first starting out. So bear with me.

How do you make a connection with your audience they’ll never forget?

Write from your heart.

I know that sounds all sparkly and full of fluff. But I mean it. If you aren’t investing even a small piece of you into your project, your readers will feel disconnected from it. It’s not just about being able to relate to what a writer is saying. The “passion” behind their words also matters. And you can tell, reading, when a writer put less than full effort into their work.

I’m not saying passion is the only thing that makes people want to read your work. You also have to write well, and connect your ideas, and, maybe, stand for something a large group of people can willingly and easily get behind.

But if your heart’s not in it, how can you expect anyone else to care?

I know for a fact this blog wouldn’t have grown so much in the past few years if I didn’t care. If I just kept cranking out blog posts because I wanted the views, it would be obvious. But people find their way here and maybe aren’t always drawn into my blog as a whole, or me as a person on the other side of a screen. They find what they’re looking for here because I am a writer who cares deeply enough about writing — and my fellow writers — to insert myself into every post. Every day. No matter what.

I’ve read blogs written by people who aren’t fully invested. There just seems to be something missing, something between each line of text that’s hard to describe.

It becomes much more obvious when all a writer seems to care about is selling something. If all you care about is making money, and you couldn’t care less about what you and your words actually stand for, I don’t really feel the need to invest actual time or money in your product. And it’s likely others will feel the same way.

Your readers want to be informed, entertained, and mirrored — they want to see themselves in what you’re writing. But they also want to feel like the words they’re reading are coming from someone who not only knows what they’re talking about, but would genuinely sit down with a reader, if the opportunity ever arose, and engage in productive conversation about that topic — simply because they LOVED talk about it THAT MUCH.

That’s what you need to write about. These things that other people will want to learn more about because you’re so deeply invested in talking about it.

I wish I could do a better job of explaining this. Because I know there are going to be things you have to write, even though you don’t want to. And how are you supposed to write those things with purpose if you’d rather be doing literally anything else?

I think that’s where your voice comes in. Part of creativity is learning how to put your own spin on everything you write, even if it’s not your favorite project to tackle. (Think: query letters, PR emails, memos to your department — except, I don’t know, I used to love that part of my former job….).

The more you allow yourself to write about whatever brings out your truly passionate self, the easier it becomes to connect with those who share that passion with you.

No more writing about “what others want to read about.” No more writing “what’s going to get the most clicks.” Just write about what you care about. That’s what I did. And … well, this isn’t the greatest blog that ever lived. But I think it’s safe to say it’s made it past its very early “nobody cares” phase.

Unless there are 600 of you who don’t actually care. No! Don’t tell me that. I’d rather be oblivious, and just go on writing about writing because THAT’S WHAT I LOVE TO DO. (:

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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Create a Virtual Scrapbook to Remind Yourself You Don’t [Always] Suck at Writing

Have fun!

In the ‘business’ of mentoring writers, I come across a lot of people who get discouraged. Often.

I mean, it doesn’t surprise me. Everyone gets discouraged, especially when you’re a writer trying to convince the world your words matter.

Okay, fine. Yes — I GET DISCOURAGED TOO. I don’t think you can be a creative individual — or a human being, for that matter — without doubting yourself every once in awhile.

The ‘fixer’ in me constantly tries to come up with new ways to solve common problems like these. (Hence, uh, this blog.) Discouragement is a problem. It draws a lot of creative, capable writers away from their work. And that’s dumb. You shouldn’t ever feel like your words aren’t worth writing (or reading) simply because your brain doesn’t want you to believe you’re awesome.

How do we combat discouragement? There are the usual solutions — keep trying! Don’t let other people bring you down! Suck it up!

And then there’s the more creative approach.

(And just to warn you — it involves some digging.)

Here’s the problem with all these generic ‘solutions’: they either assume you can rely on someone else to lift you up, or that you’re good at talking yourself off the figurative ledge. These things do not work. In general, other people are unreliable accountability partners (not always), and when you’re feeling disgusting, the last thing you’ll want to do is tell yourself you’re being unreasonable.

So while you’re feeling relatively good about your ability to write good things (these moments do bestow themselves upon you, I’m assuming), I want you to dig through your past writings and find your favorite phrases, lines, or paragraphs.

And I want you to put them all together and create a “you don’t suck at this as much as you think you do” poster, box, folder, document, or collage.

It doesn’t matter what the thing is. It just has to include — in your opinion — the best tiny pieces of writing you’ve ever produced.

When you keep snippets of your best writing — and don’t necessarily look at them often — you give yourself something to turn to when you feel like you’re doing a terrible job.

A snippet could be a few sentences you just loved writing.

It could be something funny, something insightful, something that gives you chills.

It doesn’t matter what the snippets say. As long as you think they’re well-written, and looking at them will make you feel good about your capabilities as a wordsmith, they count.

How you collect and keep these snippets is really up to you. A bunch of sticky notes stuck to your computer monitor? A file folder on your hard drive? You could even create a physical scrapbook, printing out and decorating your favorite small doses of writing to cheer you up when you need it most.

Doing something like this forces you to be proud of your work — an added benefit to actually doing this activity, instead of just reading about it here, reblogging it, and moving on with your life. You’re forced to look at something you’ve written and go, “Huh. Yeah. That’s pretty good. Wow.”

Is this time-consuming? Oh yeah.

Will it be worth it in the long-term? Probably!

Sometimes you have to be the one to encourage you to snap out of your funk and keep writing.

You can do this. Make it fun! (And if you do end up doing it, and remember that I told you to, snap a photo or screenshot and send it to me!)

When I get around to doing this (at the time of writing, I’m about to move, and I can’t do anything extra or I’ll probably die) I’ll share my results with you too.

Save your work. Go back to it. Remember that you aren’t terrible at what you do — at least not all the time.

Just … don’t forget to actually get some new writing in this week, too.

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.