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14 Things to Do When You’re Struggling to Write

THE STRUGGLE.

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1. Watch your favorite movie or a short episode of a T.V. show you like.

2. Make some food. Let your brain think while you cook.

3. Browse an online bookstore. (Don’t do this if you’re prone to purchasing massive quantities of literature when you shouldn’t — not that I know what that’s like or anything.)

4. Check out the NYT Bestseller List. Just because.

5. Hop on the writing prompt train. Write a few really random things that have nothing to do with what you’re actually trying to write.

6. Paint something. Color with crayons. It’s not childish, it’s FUN.

7. Avoid time evaporators like Twitter. You might think they’ll inspire you, but they usually won’t.

8. Move your writing apparatus(es) to a different location.

9. Indulge in your distraction … but for only five minutes. Sometimes satisfying the urge only takes a moment.

10. Spend 15 minutes writing steam-of-consciousness style. See what comes out.

11. Don’t go looking for inspiration. You won’t find what you’re hoping to uncover.

12. Give yourself a designated finish time instead of the usual “I’ll start writing at 8.” (You will never start writing at 8 and you know it.)

13. Get everything else done first, until this thing you have to write is the only thing you have left to do.

14. Get back to 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.


Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.

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What Your Forgotten Writing Goals Say About Your Future

Why didn’t you do that thing?

Looking at my goals for the year, I’ve come to the realization that so far, I have accomplished … well. Not as much as I originally planned to.

That’s not a good feeling.

And yet, it also happens to be one of those moments of growth we often take for granted.

Not crossing something off our lists doesn’t mean we’ve failed. We just didn’t get something done. It’s the reason behind that shortcoming, not the shortcoming itself, that matters.

Look at the one thing you really wanted to do this or last year, but didn’t. Why not?

You can look back at what you haven’t accomplished and ask yourself why you did not reach your goal. Was it because you lost interest? Because something unexpected came up that took precedence over everything else? Or did you struggle to manage your time, prioritize your tasks, and stay motivated to get things done?

Let’s say you wanted to finish writing your book this year. You fully intended to make this happen. But about halfway through the year, you realized you really didn’t want to finish telling that particular story. You decided your time would be much better spent on a different project. As much as you didn’t want to leave your book behind … you knew it had to be done.

That’s not failure. Just because you didn’t finish one thing doesn’t mean you’re incapable. Quite the opposite. You were aware enough of your priorities and future aspirations that you were able to make the conscious decision to set aside something from your past. That’s a good thing.

However, if you haven’t worked on your book simply because you just “haven’t had time,” that’s a sign you need to put more energy into prioritizing all the things you want to do.

But again — just because you’re bad at managing your time doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It just means you need a planner, or a better alarm clock, or a temporary Netflix detox.

Sometimes the goals we set in January aren’t as important to us by November. That’s okay. Our focuses and desires are constantly changing. You will always have a few “big” things you’re working toward, and plenty of small ideas that may or may not make it onto your list of accomplishments for the year. That’s normal. Healthy, even.

Don’t get discouraged if you look up and realize you didn’t do That One Thing … again. There’s a reason why. If that reason was or is out of your control, shrug it off and either transfer it to next year’s goals or just let it go. If it was or is completely in your control, some behavioral adjustments may be in order.

This is all part of growing as a writer. You learn to shake off the things that don’t matter and figure out how to hold on to the things that do.

Whether you’re disappointed or sort of relieved, hang in there. If you really want to finish writing that book, you’ll find a way. You always will.


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.


Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.

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When You Feel Like Your Writing Is Going Nowhere

You’re allowed to suck.

You go to open your document for the fourth day in a row. For the first three days, you were proud of what you were writing. You were excited. It made you feel good.

Today … not so much.

Today it’s all you can do to look back at everything you’ve written the past three days without deleting it all right here, right now.

You hate it. All of it.

So much so that you don’t even want to start over. You just want to forget it ever happened.

It’s imperfect, cringe-worthy, and stupid. And, frankly, so are you.

At least that’s what you start to (wrongfully) believe.

You’re feeling the pressure we are all familiar with — the false need to do something flawlessly the first time, because that’s how “the best of them” do it.

You know this is irrational. Yet it’s hard to shake this belief. To accept, instead, the less flattering reality.

I think we feel pressured to create perfect things because we don’t feel like we have enough time to create imperfect things.

We’re so obsessed with earning success that we forget messing up, doing things bad the first time, being wrong — it’s all part of being human.

We don’t often see writers we admire fail. To us, all their successes seem perfect because we don’t have access to them at points at which they aren’t.

If you’re sitting here feeling like everything you’ve been working on the past weeks, months, even years has been a total waste … don’t be so hard on yourself, I guess. It might seem like having to rewrite something or start over means you wasted valuable space in your life.

What it really means is that you’re learning how to write better and create better things. You’re going to put hundreds if not thousands of hours into your work and produce very few good things in that time, relative to the space you’ve so-called “wasted.”

But those good things will be worth all that time. You can’t see that. You don’t want to look that far ahead because you don’t want to think about how many more hours you have to go before you’ve finally produced something worth reading.

This is a universal struggle. It doesn’t matter your skill or profession, your age, where you’re from. There will be points at which you want to throw everything down and give up because it doesn’t feel like you’ve gotten anything out of all the time you’ve spent, up until now, trying to make something good.

Don’t give up.

I would suggest taking a break, taking some time to reflect on your goals and where you want to go and what you’ve accomplished so far.

But don’t forget to come back.

You haven’t spent all these hours working on your novel or screenplay or memoir or whatever because you like working. You obviously want all this effort to mean something someday.

It never will if you just stop.

Your work is not pointless. Your effort has not been wasted. You are worth so much more than you can see from your current vantage point.

Remember that.

It doesn’t make it less frustrating. But I hope it gives you a small fragment of hope to at least get you through yet another day of invisible, seemingly uneventful work.


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.


Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.

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The First Thing I Ever Published Was a Pointless Blog Post

You have to start somewhere.

It was January 11, 2009.

I don’t remember how much thought or planning went into the decision (if any) to start a blog. I have a feeling it sort of just … happened.

My first blog post, as much as I can remember, was the first thing I ever published. Not long after that, I mailed myself a proof copy of my first NaNoWriMo book (which at the time was SUPER COOL), and had an essay published anonymously in a creative writing magazine.

Before that, I had never published anything. I had spent almost 10 years writing in journals, composing short stories and song lyrics, outlining book ideas. But though I had submitted a few essays here and there, I’d never really thought of online publishing as an option.

I was obviously a little late to the blogging game, and my blog definitely did not take off right away.

But as the first thing online that was mine … it really meant something.

It meant that when people learned I wanted to be a writer, and asked me what I was doing about that, I had someplace to direct them to.

At that point, my blog wasn’t really about anything — I guess from the start it sort of did end up being a blog about my life as a writer. But not many people my age were doing that at the time (now you’re an outlier if you’re 16 and don’t have at least a Tumblr page).

With very little resources or knowledge of how any of this stuff worked, I figured out how to create a starting platform for myself. It was free, I didn’t really know how to promote it properly, and I was kind of nervous about even letting people read it anyway. But it was SOMETHING.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

If you want to write for a living but don’t know where to start, I’m not sure exactly what’s holding you back. You don’t have to be published in a magazine or have a staff writing job or a literary agent to start building your own success. You can literally sit down and start a blog right now.

It can be about whatever you want.

It doesn’t have to be organized or even look good. It just has to BE.

I think you have to be willing to put yourself out there when you’re starting, whether it’s completely professional or not. Agents, employers, whoever you’re trying to impress — they aren’t going to see your blog the day it goes live. You have time to tweak it, to get good content on it, to make it look nice.

So many people never keep up with a well-written blog because they’re trying to get too far ahead of themselves. Convinced that if they’re not perfect on the first try, they’ll never be successful.

I didn’t start a blog thinking it would be something I would stick with for almost nine years (at the time of writing this). I never thought I would get to a point where I was able to publish a post every day that went out to hundreds of people. I never thought anyone would care about my blog enough to support me financially so that I could keep doing it.

I started out knowing I wasn’t good at it. That no one would read it. That it needed work.

But the important thing is that I started.

I didn’t have a book published. I was, in the writing world, a nobody. A non-expert. I jotted down ideas for early blog posts in the margins of my trigonometry notes.

It didn’t matter that no one knew my name. I just knew I had to try.

Just try. Throw an idea out into the world and see what happens. Stop worrying so much about all this small stuff. Everything changes once you start.


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.


Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.

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Use This Trick to Get Inspired to Create

Still don’t know what to write about? Try this.

Whether you realize it or not, you use other people’s creations to inspire you to create. And when you are struggling to come up with an idea you’re motivated enough to turn into something tangible, you often make the mistake of walking away from everything, in an attempt to clear your head.

Maybe when you’re stuck, you should instead try taking a moment to think about what, if anything, you would love to read/watch/listen to right now.

Does it exist? If so, does the thing that already exists cover all the points and move in all the directions you’re hoping it will?

If not … that’s the door to inspiration — and creation — you didn’t know you were looking for.

Pay attention to particular thoughts like these:

I wish there was an article about …

I’d love to read a book about …

Why isn’t there more out there about …

Whatever comes after that ellipses? THAT is what you should write about.

“But there’s already so much out there about that thing!”

Not from you. Not from your brain, your way of thinking — not in your style.

If you ever start thinking about something that interests you, or causes you to question something, or you’re frustrated looking for something on a topic and can’t find it … you should be the one to make that thing you want to know more about.

After all, you can’t write what you know unless you first make the effort to know. One day I wondered what would happen if all however many billion of us on this planet went vegetarian. So I researched the idea and wrote an article about it.

A curious mind makes for a more prolific writer. Inspiration means something different for everyone — triggered for everyone by something unique. Maybe what inspires you most is seeking out the answers to your seemingly random questions … and then telling the world, through something you create, what you have just learned.

We shy away from this because we think “Oh, no one else is going to be interested in this.” Well how do you know? Your job as a creator isn’t to please everyone. It’s to create things that excite and interest you, knowing that there are like-minded people out there somewhere who will relate.

Don’t hold yourself back if you stumble upon something that makes you go, “Wow. That’s cool. I want to write about that.” WRITE ABOUT IT! That’s inspiration, whether it looks like it to you or not. Don’t let it escape you. Recognize it for what it is and let it carry you into something amazing.


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.


Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.

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What’s the Point?

What’s your audience supposed to get out of this?

I want you to think about what you’re currently working on. A book, a short story, an article — whatever it may be. If you’re not currently working on something, think about the last thing you finished. Or the thing you hope to start soon.

Now let me ask you this: what is it about?

I don’t mean the plot. Don’t tell me who your characters/subjects are, who your audience is, why you decided to write your story. Tell me the point.

A book about a high school sophomore who writes letters to her missing sister is intriguing. But it is not the point of the book.

A book about the different ways grief changes a family may not be the most polished sentence (it’s six in the morning, cut me some slack), but it’s something much closer to its point, its message — the thing the author wants you to think about long after the book ends.

The better you know your core message, the more focused your writing will be — and the easier your revisions will seem, if you make it that far.

You should be able to boil down what your story is about into a single sentence. And if you can’t do that yet, then you’re not 100 percent clear on what message you’re trying to convey to your audience. And if you don’t know what you’re talking about, they won’t, either.

Does this mean you should stop writing if you’re not fully confident in your overarching point? Of course not. When it comes to first drafts without time constraints (e.g., NaNoWriMo), get the first draft out first. Worry about whether or not it makes sense later.

I’ve gotten into the habit of outlining a story I’ve already written, after the fact, to see if all the connections that need to be made have been made successfully. It’s what works for me. If everything fits and my story conveys the message I want to, the best way I know how, I’m satisfied.

If it doesn’t, and I have the desire, I enter revisions and set out to “fix” what didn’t work the first time.

However, I also understand the barrier of time constraints. My job requires me to write one to two articles per day each week. If I don’t have my article’s point nailed down before I start writing, there won’t be enough time to fix any parts of it that veer away from that message. And that’s bad.

So sometimes, your message has to come first. Headlines, titles, characters — all that has to come second. And many writers struggle with that. They know they want to incorporate the whole writing letters to MIA sister thing. But they have no idea how to build a much bigger story around that.

I’ve found, in my 12+ years (!) of drafting everything from novels to news briefs to press releases, that the easiest way to pick out the flaws in your writing, relative to your core message, is to write a first draft. Then you have something to look at as you’re doing that evaluation, instead of trying to picture in your head whether or not what you haven’t even written yet is going to work.

Is writing a rough draft that feels disorganized scary? A little bit. But do you know what’s even more stressful? Wanting to write something, but never actually writing anything.

My philosophy: write first, organize later. This is coming from a person who cannot get out of bed on time in the morning unless I’ve planned out by day by the hour the night before. It’s called a rough draft because it’s supposed to be a mess. Embrace that.

So, can you do it? Can you summarize, in one sentence, what your story is about?

If not … don’t worry. Just keep 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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14 Writing Roadblocks You Think You Can’t Beat (But Can)

The struggle is familiar.

1. Coming up with an idea that’s “original” enough.

2. Starting.

3. Finding time to make the words happen.

4. Staying organized when your writing project isn’t.

5. Trying to explain — to yourself — what your story/article/project is actually about.

6. Feeling like you’ve veered too far off your original course to keep going.

7. Feeling bored.

8. Trying to write too many different things at once.

9. Worrying whether what you’re writing is even publishable.

10. Wondering if your readers will “get” your point.

11. Trying to do everything perfectly the first time, because you don’t want to go back to fix it later.

12. Knowing what you want to say, but not being able to think of the best way to word it.

13.  Questioning whether or not your story is important or “timely” enough.

14. Learning that overcoming all these struggles takes time — but that you’ll get there. As long as you keep 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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If You Don’t Know What You Want to Write About, Read This

Sometimes the “selfish” thing turns out to be the best thing.

Writing for an audience is one of the first things you’re taught in grade school. Every essay starts with your purpose for writing and who you’re writing “to.”

Sometimes, this creates the false notion that you’re supposed to seek out a specific audience and write what they want to read about. Even I’ve made this mistake, in trying to start new creative projects. Audience matters … so shouldn’t you give them what they want?

That’s not exactly the right way to go about it. At least, I don’t personally believe so.

Actually, I think the approach that you need to write what everyone wants to read is the worst writing advice you could take to heart.

Yes, you need to write for a specific audience.

Yes, you need to know as much about that audience as possible and cater to their needs, interests, and desires.

But it’s also important to remember that you can’t please an audience who can tell you don’t care about a topic. And if you’re writing about something just because you know it’s popular and people will like it, and you actually couldn’t care less about it, people will see that. And they won’t stick around.

Maybe the better approach is to write about what you want to write about, find the audience that will gravitate toward your content, and establish yourself in that niche.

There is an audience for everything. It might not be a big audience. But I can pretty much guarantee you are not the only one who likes cars, or Star Trek, or birds, or whatever that thing is that you could write about endlessly, day after day, for the rest of your life.

I think everyone has that level of interest in something. And if you’re searching for something to write about, to me, it seems the most natural next step is to take that thing you love and find a way to write about that thing as much as possible.

It’s not that making money as a writer doesn’t matter. Trust me, I know how much it matters. But just because you might have a hard time gaining traction (and cash) at first doesn’t mean you won’t be able to later. And even if you never “make a living” off your Star Wars blog or whatever, let me ask you this: Are you having fun? Do you enjoy what you’re doing? Are you happy, even if this isn’t your day job?

Sometimes, that’s enough. Not all side hustles have to be about making as much money as possible. Often, the first step — if more steps come after — is to just write about something you love, to create a small but mighty community of people who love that thing, too.

Isn’t one of the greatest things about writing that it brings people together — whether they agree or disagree, like the same things or don’t, come from similar backgrounds or vastly different ones?

It’s a good starting point. Don’t forget that building a career as a writer comes with a lot of tiny stepping stones you have to navigate. Don’t worry about what comes next. Even if this only ends up being “practice” for you, that’s still important. You’re figuring out what you like and don’t like; what works and doesn’t work. You’re already one step ahead of many people who just try to get popular without putting their full effort behind something they’re actually passionate about.

You just never know where a seemingly random and weird obsession might take you, if you start writing about it. What do you really have to lose?


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.


Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.

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Stop Trying to Come Up with the Most Original Story Idea Ever

There is no such thing as an original idea.

We have all fallen into the familiar trap of believing our story ideas aren’t good enough.

Too many writers also spend a lot of time wondering if the idea that’s in their head is as original as it could be.

Maybe you’ve somehow convinced yourself that one day, you’re going to be able to write something no one has ever thought of before. And that will make all your dreams come true.

Guess what? In some capacity, if you’re thinking of it, it’s already been done.

The point of storytelling is not to come up with an original idea. It is to take an idea and craft an original story using that idea as a foundation.

If you constantly shoot down your own ideas because they’ve “already been done,” you’re never going to get anything written.

Think of how many Cinderella adaptions there are. Or all fairytale-based pieces of media, for that matter. The original Cinderella story is nothing like that Disney cartoon you grew up watching. They are two completely different versions of the same idea.

The trick is to keep writing. Because the longer you do it, the better you get at figuring out how to build a unique story using pieces of ones you’ve read before.

Give up this desire you have to write “the next big thing” or “the most novel novel ever.” Anything you write will contain traces of stories everyone is already familiar with. That’s not what makes or breaks a story. What makes or breaks a story is the way you write it, and the way you develop the characters, and the story’s purpose and message.

Basing your story off of another person’s idea does not mean you are not creative. If anything, writing another Cinderella story forces you to be more creative, because you have to figure out how you can spin it to give it a new angle.

Of all the things you could obsess over when constructing your next story, this one just isn’t worth it.

Instead, focus on crafting a story that’s relatable, emotional, and exciting. Find that one element of a familiar story arc and figure out how to twist it around to surprise your audience. There are a dozen ways you can take an idea you’re afraid isn’t original enough and make a decent story out of it.

You never know where an idea is going to take you. Don’t let doubt stop you from exploring. The best writers are the ones willing to try anything, whether they end up failing or not.


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.


Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.

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81 Percent of People Want to Write a Book Someday …

A lot of people want to, but don’t.

… and many never will.

In 2002, 81 percent of people surveyed said they felt they wanted to write a book.

That’s right — the majority of people (at least in 2002) wanted to do the exact same thing you’ve likely wanted to do for a long time.

There’s nothing special or original about wanting to author a masterpiece.

However … there’s something very special about actually being able to write one.

Why does everyone want to write a book so badly? Honestly, because publishing a book is easy enough that technically anyone CAN write and distribute their work. And good for them.

But the problem is that actually writing a book — or a blog post or a screenplay or whatever it is you aspire to craft — is not as easy as it seems from the outside.

You do not see the work that goes into your favorite books. You hold in your hands the product of years’ worth of effort. It just doesn’t feel that way.

You hear about that person you knew from high school who self-publishes multiple books a year and wonder why, if she can’t do it, you haven’t yet.

You think about the amount of work it’s going to take to finally turn that rough outline hiding on your hard drive into something publishable. And you give up before you even start, because it all just feels like too much to endure.

No — writing a book is not easy. Writing a good book is nearly impossible without help.

But that does not mean it cannot be done.

Don’t just go into starting a new writing project knowing it will be hard and worrying about your sanity.

Go into it knowing that your first draft is going to be the worst thing you have ever written in your life and set your expectations low.

Too many people stop themselves from writing because their first attempts don’t feel good enough.

Well, welcome to writing — where approximately 90 percent of all first drafts never make it into the final product.

All you have to do is get your story out.

If you write one draft and it’s garbage but you’re satisfied and you never want to look at it again, fine. At least you wrote a book. You accomplished something amazing and you deserve all the praise.

But if you write one draft and hate it but desperately want to make it better … make it better.

Go back and edit. Rewrite. Do it over.

Keep doing it over until you can live with the results. And then go from there.

A lot of people want to write a book.

All you have to do is start. You’re already so much more accomplished than every person who wants to do this but never even tries.

One step at a time.

That’s it.

You can do that.

We all can.


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.


Hey! I’m vlogging my way through NaNoWriMo. Here’s yesterday’s video.

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

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