Yes — Your Writing Dream Can Change

Things change. It’s the way life works.

I don’t remember exactly when I decided I wanted to be a novelist. But I do remember the joy I felt the very first time I finished writing the first draft of a “real” book.

That accomplishment filled me with hope for the future, as well as a kind of confidence I had not felt in a very long time. In that moment, I was sure I really could do anything I set my mind to. I was certain this was something I could do over and over and over again. And so I did.

That sense of fulfillment became something I began chasing. For years after that, I kept writing books — well, first drafts of books, which is still pretty awesome — both because I really couldn’t help it and because I wanted to feel purposeful. I wanted that surge of adrenaline. I wanted to continue believing that becoming a novelist was something I was realistically capable of.

But then the “high” wore off. The thrill dimmed. I kept writing books (or trying to) but I wasn’t feeling the same level of fulfillment as I had been before. In fact, I noticed I wasn’t even really enjoying my writing that much anymore. I started to doubt whether or not I should even keep going — if I even WANTED to keep going.

So for a while, I stopped taking my creative writing seriously. I’d write a little here and there, but mostly only a few months out of the year (because, you know, NaNoWriMo). I didn’t quit. I just … needed time to figure out if publishing a novel was something I still really wanted to do.

That was when I started exploring new creative outlets. Introducing myself to new possibilities. Accepting that just because I’d had a dream before didn’t mean I had to continue pursuing it the rest of my life.

I found new dreams, and started constructing new goals for myself. I never completely abandoned my hopes of someday becoming a novelist — it’s still a far-off goal of mine. But it took stepping back from the biggest dream I’d ever had to realize it wasn’t actually the ONLY dream I had. I had other interests, other ambitions. Some of them were practical. Many of them weren’t.

But it really put me at ease, knowing that I was allowed to shift my focus and change my mind. Sometimes we lock ourselves into plans we’ve since outgrown. We think, “I made a commitment so I can’t change it now.” In many cases this is true. But not when the only commitment you’ve made is the one you’ve made to yourself.

I’m not saying you should just abandon project after project, always searching for “The One.” But if you’re struggling to continue pursuing something you used to be excited about, here’s the cool thing: You don’t HAVE to keep doing it. And that doesn’t even mean you have to abandon it completely. You’re allowed to shift your priorities around, work on your creative writing every now and then and do something else with the rest of your time.

Do be careful about making a big decision like this, though. You should never “give up” on a dream because you’re frustrated or hurt or burned out. It’s possible to step away from things like writing temporarily in order to give yourself some room, and in doing this you very well may discover that you would be much happier if your main focus wasn’t on telling the same types of stories via the same medium as you always have. And that’s very much okay

We’re afraid to change our minds because it feels a lot like failing. You start with a goal and you start working toward that goal, but if you stop pursuing it then technically you’ll never reach it — isn’t that what failure is?

But we forget that not succeeding and failing aren’t really the same thing when it comes to writing. I’m of the belief that the only way to fail as a writer is to not try, and that if you set a goal and don’t achieve it, well, you really just haven’t succeeded yet. Failing implies that you never tried, and that just isn’t true if you spend months or even years working on a story before deciding it’s time to move on.

You tried. You just didn’t achieve the outcome you originally hoped for.

You had a dream. You just decided that dream was no longer the most important part of your life — at least for now.

I know what it feels like to worry you’re running out of time. It is an essential ingredient to the cocktail that is my anxiety. I get it. You don’t want to spend all that time chasing something only to suddenly decide you’d rather not pursue it any longer.

I think you’ll be better off in the long run if you acknowledge that your time in the present will be better spent doing something you are fully invested in.

It’s like the common troupe about the college kid who’s only studying to become a doctor because his parents said he had to. Usually, by the end of the story, he has gone rogue and decided being a drummer in a rock band is his true calling (or whatever).

Your dreams don’t always have to stay the same.

As long as you do commit to something and go after it with all you have, you’re going to be just fine.

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.

Be Proud to Be a Writer

Be proud of all you’ve yet to accomplish and all you’ve already done.

Are you proud to call yourself a writer? Proud of what you’ve done? Proud of what you’re hopefully someday going to do?

It’s OK if you aren’t. This is a very tough road filled with detours and forks and bad decisions (and good ones too!). I’m definitely not proud of some of the things I’ve written in the past. And when I hear about all the sensationalizing and exaggerating and whatever the heck else going on in many branches of media journalism, I’m almost embarrassed to admit I work in entertainment publishing.

But that doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed to admit I spend a significant portion of my time sitting in front of a computer screen making up stories, or that I don’t like talking about my work.

There are days I’m excited about something I’ve published and that excitement deflates a little when no one responds to or even reads it. I’m also in a position where many of my higher-traffic articles result in tweet storms of the troll variety (write just about anything related to Star Wars these days and the trolls will assemble).

I’ve had people tell me writing is a waste of time. I’ve had people tell me that my writing advice is stupid and gives people false hope.

I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, having different opinions and beliefs than me, or engaging in conversation with me. It’s my job as a writer to start conversations through the things I publish.

But there are people out there who will do everything they can to make you feel like you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. And long before that happens, you’ll spend a lot of time sitting alone in front of your laptop staring at your work wondering if anything you ever create will matter to someone other than you.

I’m not going to spend an entire post talking about trolls. They don’t deserve the space. Moving on.

There are many reasons you might feel like you don’t deserve the title of “writer.” For some people, it’s the silence — feeling like they’re screaming (typing in all caps?) into a void and no one is listening. For others, it’s the voices — both internally and externally — telling them they are somehow less than because they play with words for a living and/or in their spare time.

It’s not true, of course. Being a writer doesn’t make you any of the things people might assume — that you can’t or don’t want to get a “real job” (that’s a fun one), that you aren’t doing work that matters, that you’re never going to be “as successful as so-and-so” because “all you do is make stuff up” (also, wow).

You shouldn’t feel ashamed or worthless. You should feel proud.

You should BE proud.

Be proud of all you’ve yet to accomplish and all you’ve already done.

Just started writing a novel for the first time? You’re a writer.

Starting to query agents while touching up your manuscript? You’re a writer.

Have a brand-new blog you’ve just started creating content for? You’re a writer.

Just published your first book? You’re a writer.

Won an award for writing something cool? You’re a writer!

Just because someone didn’t like your work doesn’t mean you’re not a “real” writer. Just because you don’t write every day doesn’t mean you lack the qualifications to refer to yourself as a writer. If no one is reading your work and you feel hopeless, guess what? You. Are still. A writer.

And you deserve that title regardless of your level of success, how long you’ve been doing it, or what other people might feel they have to say about it.

Even more than that, you deserve to OWN it.

I’m very shy about my writing and don’t bring up the fact that I’m a writer unless someone asks. If they are interested, I’m happy to talk about my work with them. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I talk to imaginary people and sentences often begin writing themselves in my head without my consent. I’m proud of my stories. They’re an important part of who I am.

Do I still get discouraged when an article or blog post I’m proud of totally bombs? Of course I do — everyone does! Do I feel slightly frazzled when people aren’t nice? Yes, because I’m human and humans don’t like to be yelled at. The more you do this, the thicker your shell grows. You will never become immune to disapproval or feeling like you’re being ignored or looked over, but you do learn to stop letting it bother you — if you choose to.

How do you learn to be proud of what you do? You just keep on doing it. Sometimes I write things I’m not very confident about, but if they aren’t good things, someone will hopefully tell me that. I’m still proud of myself for writing it even though I was unsure. I still did the work. I took a chance.

Do the same. And be proud of that. Be proud to be YOU! Because no one else 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 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.

Writers: Your Failures Do NOT Define Your Future

Just because you’ve failed doesn’t mean you’ll never succeed.

I have a friend who once made it a goal to receive 100 poetry submission rejections in a single year. This method of “motivation” fascinated me. Because in order to receive that many rejections, she had to write and send out MANY submissions. And in the process — she did end up getting 100 rejections — some of her submissions even got accepted.

She faced a lot of failure as a writer that year. But she’s much stronger, and much more motivated to continue pursuing her goals, because of it.

Through her I learned a very important lesson about failure. As writers, we always look at the possibility of “not succeeding” as a bad thing. But maybe things would be a lot different if, instead of treating it as something bad, we found a way to look forward it. Some kind of motivator to run headfirst straight into it.

No one is immune to failure — neither the fear of it nor its consequences. But you can’t let your worries about what’s already happened, or has yet to occur, stop you from moving forward.

I’ve failed more times as a writer than I can count. I’ve gotten things wrong. I’ve misread instructions. I’ve gotten rejected for reasons no one would ever disclose to me. I’ve jumped headfirst into projects and realized they weren’t sustainable. I’ve made promises and haven’t kept them.

Do these things make me a bad writer? A bad person? Of course not. They make me human. We’re so afraid of looking stupid or incompetent and of being judged for doing something wrong. Usually, it’s because someone from our past felt the need to shame us for making a mistake, and we don’t want to endure that kind of pain again.

I make it a point, as an editor, never to shame a writer for doing something poorly or incorrectly. It’s not my job to discourage or drag down someone who is doing the best they know how. I know how it feels to be treated like you’re stupid for not being perfect and I refuse to be responsible for making another writer go through that.

Some say writers are too fragile, that they take things too personally and don’t know how to handle rejection. I won’t say I disagree with this — I just wouldn’t word it quite like that. I believe some writers aren’t trained to handle rejection because they haven’t had enough experience facing that kind of rejection.

It’s not their fault. But it IS up to them to change their circumstances, usually by writing, writing a little more, and even still a little more until rejection and failure become part of the routine instead of something to dread.

To be clear, failure never stops hurting, and you never really stop being afraid of it. But it does get a little easier to move past it the more you expose yourself to it. It’s not a noticeable change. You don’t completely break down after one mistake or shortcoming and just shrug off the next one like it’s no big deal. Adapting to the aftermath of failure is something that takes effort, patience, and time.

Effort. Patience. Time. All valuable things a writer must take into account when they decide to create something, though many quit before they allow themselves the chance to succeed.

We’re so afraid of failing that we give up before success even becomes an option. That’s sad.

Just because you fail today or tomorrow or two months from now does not mean you have less of a chance of succeeding in the future. In reality, the more you fail, the GREATER your chances of succeeding.

Why? Because every failure has something to teach you, as long as you’re willing to learn from your mistakes and shortcomings and improve next time.

Failure should always mean a brighter future for you. The way I see it, if something doesn’t happen — your poem doesn’t get chosen or an agent doesn’t sell your book to a publisher or your blog doesn’t get any traction — it’s simply because it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t meant to turn out the way you hoped.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to quit. It means it’s time to start building something new — something that could lead to big, amazing things.

Look at failure as something good. Or try to, at least.

Everyone fails. It’s those who keep working hard anyway who eventually succeed.

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.

You’re Going to Make It

It might seem like you’re not going anywhere, but you are.

Writing is a lot harder than many people think. And I don’t mean the process of telling a story — most of us tell stories to our friends, co-workers, and Twitter followers every day. We know how to do that, even though we’re often convinced we don’t.

What most writers struggle with is the process of getting from “I want to be a successful writer” to “I have succeeded as a writer.” There are many action steps that bridge these two points in time, and issues arise when a writer figures out their dream isn’t as easy to achieve — isn’t as easy to begin pursuing, even — as they imagined it would be.

Many successful writers are honest about the fact that it’s a tough business to break into. Agents get dozens of queries, most websites and magazines that accept beginners’ work don’t pay. Everyone and their friend wants to publish a book, and half of them are actively trying at the exact same moment you are.

But not enough of them are talking about the internal struggles aspiring and working writers face. The doubt. The frustration. How mush of our self-worth we invest into our success, and how that affects our ability to bounce back from the dark depths of creative despair.

Here’s more honesty from the heart of someone who’s Been There: You’re going to face plenty of moments during which you are 95 percent convinced you no longer want to be a writer. It’s too hard. It takes too much time. What are your chances of even succeeding anyway? It’s not worth it. Every person who ever told you that you’d never “make it” as a writer was right.

Sometimes you recover from these thought spirals. You snap back into reality, take a deep breath, and keep writing even when it’s an obvious struggle to do so.

Sometimes you don’t, though. Sometimes you’re so sure you’ll never run a successful blog or publish a novel or work full-time as a writer — whatever your goals are, I’m just guessing — that you struggle more and more just to get into a mental state barely suitable for writing.

There are people who just stop trying. They’ll make other excuses, blaming their lack of time, their kids, their schoolwork, their demanding day job. But beneath the surface lies the truth they don’t want to speak aloud: That writing got hard and they gave up.

The good news is that you can always come back from giving up where writing is concerned. That’s because writing is a part of you. You can’t just throw it away or sell it or give it away. It’s not a guitar you finally dragged over to a resale shop after watching it sit in the back of your closet collecting dust for eight years. Creativity is quite literally in your bood, pumping through your veins. To get rid of it would mean, well, destroying a vital part of yourself.

Maybe today you need to hear that all your struggles and worries and fears are normal, and that they’re rites of passage that will allow you to progress through more trials and become the master writer you’ve always wanted to be.

I needed to hear it this morning, so I figured you might too. We’re all the same, you know. Just because I give free writing advice doesn’t mean I’m immune to creative hardship.

All the long nights, the rejections, the temptation to quit — it’s all part of your growth. You learn something new every single time you fail, even if it’s not obvious. You also learn something new every time you seriously consider giving up on your creative dreams: What it takes not to give up.

The reason writing is a challenge isn’t usually the writing itself. It’s getting to a place where you believe writing is possible, and staying there, and returning to it whenever you begin to wander.

The difference between wannabe writers and successful creatives is that writers who “make it” do so because they write through their doubt. They create through their fear. They recognize that worrying about their future success is a part of the journey, and they use that worry to fuel their productivity. They work harder, and smarter, because they don’t want to fail. They don’t give up because they’re afraid of failing.

You’re going to make it.

As long as you keep writing through all the bad feelings, you’re going to be just fine.

Believe it or not, you’re much stronger than you think you are. Your doubt and discouragement want you to believe you aren’t. But they’re wrong. And you can prove they’re wrong by writing.

That’s how powerful creativity is. When you turn it into something amazing and show it off to everyone who said you couldn’t do it — including your past self — it changes everything. It makes you believe in yourself again.

You’re going to make it. Even if no one else believes in you, I still 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 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.

The Real Reason You Stopped Writing After Feeling ‘Bored’

It’s not you … not really.

I’ve been really struggling in my creative writing efforts over the past few years. I’m not ashamed to admit that. After all the time I’ve spent offering advice to writers, you’d think I’d have set a good example and, oh I don’t know, published a book by now or something. In time, friends. In time. Maybe. Hopefully. Or not. Who knows?

It took me far too long to realize the problem wasn’t me — well, not really. Technically, there was nothing wrong with me as a writer. There was a reason I was having trouble finishing every story I started writing, and it had everything to do with boredom.

While I don’t struggle to focus on projects or minimize distractions, I do often find myself hitting a wall. There always seems to come a point while writing a story in which I just stop caring. I’m bored. I just want the story to end, I want to skip to the final page. I don’t want to do it anymore.

Now, at least, I know why … and how to handle it.

Have you ever stopped working on something because you just … got bored and lost interest in your story completely? You’re not alone. It’s safe to guess most writers have quit or project-hopped strictly out of boredom. I’ve done it more than once.

While there’s nothing wrong with deciding to set something aside in favor of a much more promising project — for the right reasons, anyway — quitting because you’re bored is actually highly preventable.

I’m not talking about “fixing” your short attention span or dumping your distractions here. I’m talking about paying attention to the story itself, and being honest with yourself about WHY you’re bored with it.

Sometimes, admittedly, even I focus too much on external factors and neglect what lies within. Paying attention to your writing process and the things helping or hindering you is important, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes down to it, it really is all about the story you’re writing.

And if you’re bored writing it, maybe instead of wondering if there’s something wrong with you or your routine, there’s something wrong with the story.

Something you are fully capable of fixing … because you’re the writer. The master of your own story. You can literally do whatever you want.

If you don’t like where the story is or isn’t going, guess what? You can change it.

Forget about having a set plan in place. Forget about sticking with what you originally decided was the best way to tell the story. In writing, nothing is ever set in stone. The worst thing you can do as a creative is to lock yourself into a box and not allow yourself the freedom to set your story on its own path.

It’s an unwritten rule, in the creative world, that if you’re bored making it, other people will be bored consuming it. Feeling bored while writing an article, for example, probably means you’re not doing enough to make it interesting. Facing boredom while writing a novel might signal you’re playing things too safe.

Experiencing boredom while writing, contrary to what many believe, does not mean your ideas are bad or that you should stop working on that project. In fact, boredom very well may be the best thing that will ever happen to you. It’s your wake-up call. Your story is missing something. And in order to figure out what that is, all you have to do is think about the change or direction that would excite you and make it happen.

In all honesty, some of the stories I’ve tried to write since graduating college have been … boring. At least they have been for me. And if they’re not interesting to me, they’re definitely not going to get a potential reader interested.

So how do I solve this problem? I raise the stakes. I take more risks. I “go there.” I make the story too exciting to ignore — and, once again in full honesty, interesting enough that I actually want to finish it.

It seems like such an obvious fix to a very common problem. But there’s a reason I always say you’ll never get better at writing if you don’t write. As active writers, we are constantly learning, making discoveries, and figuring out how to tell better stories.

I don’t mind that you read this blog and seek writing advice elsewhere. As long as you take what is given to you and actually apply it to your life outside the internet.

If you’re bored, there’s something you can do about that. Don’t just give up out of disinterest. Write the story that you’d want to read. That’s how you know other people will be interested in reading it someday 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 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.

12 Reasons Rejection Hurts So Much

It’s not just you!

1. No one likes to be told no, let’s be honest.

2. Not everyone knows how to give constructive criticism, so sometimes rejection comes off as mean or insensitive.

3. Our books are our babies and nobody messes with our babies.

4. Except the editors who we let rip them apart and put them back together again. They’re fine.

5. But as they’re doing the ripping apart things, we start to feel personally threatened … WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY CHARACTER’S NAME IS STUPID? YOU’RE STUPID!

6. We put way too much of our self-worth into whether or not we succeed.

7. We also just want people to like us.

8. Some of us aren’t taught how to properly handle or respond to rejection. That’s not necessarily our fault.

9. But still, being made to feel like all your hard work wasn’t worth it is neither fun nor easy.

10. We all want to believe we’re good enough to nail this whole writing thing on the first try.

11. We’re constantly given false ideas about what writing and publishing is really like.

12. Rejection is always setting us up for success down the road. We just can’t see that yet.

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.

Most Writers Who Aren’t Succeeding Are Focusing On the Wrong Things

Don’t be fooled by sneaky distractions.

There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you’ve been working as hard as you ever have before but still aren’t getting the results you want.

Sometimes this is simply a normal part of a creator’s journey. We generally spend a lot of time working very hard for little to no reward. Sometimes it eventually pays off, but those years spent hustling alone are long and often feel like they’re never going to end.

But other times, it turns out we aren’t actually working as hard as we think we are.

Let me ask you this: How much time do you currently spend on social media “promoting your personal brand”? How much time do you spend in writing forums, making friends with other writers, and seeking out writing advice from people you trust and/or admire?

Now how much time in any given day do you actually spend writing?

The problem with a lot of writing advice in books and online is that it offers you the whole picture, telling you EVERYTHING you need to do in order to succeed in writing. This can be beneficial. But it can also be extremely distracting and impactful in a not so good way.

Even though being present on social media and connecting with other writers can be beneficial, I see it proving more harmful than helpful for writers who dream of publishing a book but struggle to write one. And “showing up” online isn’t even the only problem.

We’re convinced — thanks to marketing, both from companies and “expert” writers — that we have to have the best writing tools and gadgets. The best software. We have to enroll in the best courses, purchase tickets to all the major writing conventions.

As long as we have the fancy tech and we’re getting our name out there, we’re good. The more we talk about writing and share our ideas — and the better and more professional we look while doing it — the more likely someone is going to notice and pay attention to us. Right?

In some ways, advice like this isn’t necessarily “bad.” But it’s either misguided or it’s reaching the wrong audience. Brand new writers see advertisements and advice about how to impress and query agents before they’ve even started writing a book, and they’re so distracted by the excitement of the next step that they forget there’s still a very important step — many, actually — they haven’t taken yet.

Do you need to know everything there is to know about getting a book published as an author before you make the attempt? Of course. But too many hopeful creatives get ahead of themselves simply because they’re steered in the wrong direction and don’t realize their focus is in the wrong place.

There’s a very simple solution to this problem, of course. If you’re so preoccupied with what happens after you finish writing a book, for example, but haven’t written one yet, you pretty much just have to put everything on hold except, you know … writing the book.

When it comes down to it, the most important thing a writer can do to “compete” for success is to sit down and write. A lot. As often as possible.

While you can’t spend every moment of every day writing — and you really shouldn’t — I can pretty much guarantee most aspiring writers could afford to put a lot more time into actually creating things than they currently are.

Pursuing a writing career probably involves about 90% effort toward actually writing and 10% effort toward things like communicating with other writers online.

Think about it. How much effort are you actually putting toward physically writing — as in, sitting down in front of your computer typing words?

Thinking about writing and talking about writing are great. But there’s a third piece of the pie, and it’s the biggest one, and chances are you’re probably not paying as much attention to it as you should be.

I know finding balance is hard. I’ve been writing seriously and consistently for over 10 years and I still struggle with this, and probably always will. Over time you have to figure out how to fit writing into your life on top of all your other obligations and responsibilities. And even when you have the perfect plan in place, things don’t always work out the way you want them to.

But you have to try. You have to put in the effort even when you aren’t sure what the results might be. Asking questions, experimenting with different strategies and processes, and documenting your progress is an excellent way to help you stay motivated and productive … as long as underneath it all you’re not letting all of this distract you from actively creating.

We don’t even realize that the majority of distractions keeping us from achieving our goals are actually distractions. We THINK they’re helping us inch closer to the finish line, but they’re actually sending us on endless detours, always coming back to the right path but never making it very far forward.

What you focus on right now depends on your goals and where you are in the process. If you’ve written a book and you want to start looking for beta readers, your focus might be on making social connections. If you’re like me and are still in the middle of writing your first draft, making social connections isn’t going to help you finish that draft. You should focus on finishing that draft. (FINISH THAT DRAFT, SELF … FINISH. IT.)

Sorry I can’t give you more specific, individualized guidance to help you figure out what to focus on. If you’re honest with yourself, the answer will hopefully present itself to you. I’m just offering general advice here, because this is a blog and my advice is free and I don’t know you.

It’s OK to tweet about writing. It’s OK to hang out with other writers and gripe about writing struggles and fantasize about where you see yourself in 10 years. BUT YOU STILL HAVE TO WRITE. Writing doesn’t become any less important just because you’re distracted by something else.

So the next time you ask yourself, “Why haven’t I accomplished anything as a writer lately?” Look at how you’ve been spending your time. If you haven’t been writing, well, that seems like a good place to 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 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.

You Don’t Have to Write All of It, All At Once

You can do anything you want. But you can’t do everything all at once.

My biggest struggle as an online creator is and has always been time and project management. It’s not that I don’t know how to set goals, plan ahead, or force myself to get work done even when I’m not “in the mood.” For me, there are just too many goals, too many tasks. Too much work.

I bring all this upon myself, of course. I always have. I like to work. I like having something to do and an endpoint to inch toward. I very rarely allow myself to complain about my long to-do lists because I know they are an active choice. A choice that comes with consequences both good and not so good.

The anxiety doesn’t come from the fact that I have a lot to do in any given day. It surfaces only when I take the time to think about everything I haven’t done yet — a thought spiral someone in their mid-20s really shouldn’t have to endure, but I do, because it’s really just a part of who I am at this point.

I often find myself lying awake thinking about all the projects I keep saying I’m going to start but haven’t, all the goals I want to achieve but might never get around to pursuing. I sometimes feel as though the seconds have become hours which have become days, and it’s all slipping away, and all I’m doing is wasting precious moments.

Over the past few years I’ve gotten a lot better at making time for friends and family and real-world experiences. At the beginning of 2019 I set a goal to travel out of state sometime before the year ended, and in February, I boarded a plane alone for the first time, a passenger to North Carolina and back in less than 36 hours, and I survived. I even enjoyed it.

I’m still struggling with this thing they call work-life balance. We needed to give it a name because at some point we all started competing against each other to see who could become more successful without ever admitting that’s what we were doing and we all forgot work is only a fraction of the important things that make up a human life.

As much as I enjoy work, I have a tendency to go overboard. I get overwhelmed when I realize there simply isn’t enough time in a day to do it all — work and exercise and eating healthy, sleeping, playing with the puppy, blogging, writing a book, slowly chipping away at one creative project here, another there …

While there’s nothing wrong with ambition, there IS something wrong with thinking you are capable of tackling every single goal you have all at once.

When I was in college, I hung around a few people who prided themselves on their ability to “do it all.” These were the students with multiple majors, overfilled course loads, sports contracts, jobs, and enough extracurricular activities to make any resume or CV look beyond impressive.

After trying and failing to be one of those people, I realized it was impossible to give 100 percent effort to everything. These kids, my friends, only had 100 percent to give, and therefore could only give 10 percent effort to each commitment. They overslept, they showed up late, they handed their responsibilities off to other people and still took all the credit.

They might have had wonderful college experiences if they’d only focused on a few things that mattered to them and tried to do those few things very well. Myself included. I have a hard time looking back on those four years because, if I’m being honest, the last three were absolutely miserable.

But that was a choice I made. I had to learn many lessons the hard way during that time. I’m still learning those lessons five years after graduation.

You cannot do everything all at once. It’s not possible. It’s not healthy. It’s not wise. Having a dozen ideas in your head can feel overwhelming and even when you write them down, you can find yourself feeling trapped beneath the weight of obligation, suffocated by the restraints of time.

But the only way you can handle that is to take things one ambition at a time. I know, I know, it’s hard. It’s advice even I have a hard time following. Essentialism was a very difficult book for me to read because it told me all the things I needed to hear but didn’t want to listen to! I encourage you to check it out if you’re like me and can’t help but commit to 500 things in one week.

Your ideas aren’t going to disappear just because you can’t work on them right now. If they’re good ideas, they will wait for you. You have to be patient with yourself, above all else. The brain can only hold so much information at a time, the body can only exert so much energy. If you try to do too much, you WILL burn out.

And then you’ll find yourself right back where you started: Overwhelmed, anxious to get things done, and discouraged with the amount of time you seem to have to do everything you want to do (or lack thereof).

Take a deep breath. Pick the most important things to focus on — probably the job that pays first, and the relationships that will keep you sane and steady, and the hobbies that bring you joy.

Take one step at a time, accomplish one goal at a time. It’s not what you want to do. But it’s what you’ll be glad you did anyway.

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.

Writers: Are You Too Stubborn to Change?

Admit it. And then change it.

A few days ago I decided I was going to attempt an experiment. Having been struggling to wake up on time and take advantage of my status as a “morning person,” I figured it was time to try waking up a little earlier to fix the issues I’d been facing with my routine.

My proposed solution: Waking up at 4:30 a.m. every day for one week.

There is no magic to this strategy and I would not recommend it for everyone. There is nothing about waking up early that guarantees writing success or fixes any of the problems you’re having with productivity or motivation. But I am most productive between the hours of six and noon, and if I’m not up and ready to go by that point, I’m only doing myself a disservice. So for me, it’s a strategy that could work.

You may not be surprised to learn that on the first morning of my “new routine,” I turned off my alarm, rolled over, and proceeded not to get up until five minutes before the dog typically expects a walk.

Day One: Failed. Sort of.

The reason I set weird and probably unnecessary goals or “challenges” for myself isn’t always necessarily to succeed the first time around. Take my personal challenge to write 1 million words in 2019. I probably won’t do it, because lt’s be honest, it’s a lot even for me. But along the way, I’m constantly paying attention to the things preventing me from achieving that goal and coming up with strategies that might help me do better in the future.

It’s the same with this 4:30 wake-up attempt. As I lay there with my phone in my hand struggling to get up, I started thinking about what was stopping me and analyzing the thoughts going through my mind as I sank back down into my memory foam mattress (so soft …).

These thoughts started out innocent enough. It’s cold out there and warm under here. There isn’t going to be coffee ready by the time I get dressed. I just need 15 more minutes and I’ll be ready.

But then I dug a little deeper, and really started to pick out the thoughts all but chaining me to my bed. I didn’t finish the last part of that project last night and I don’t want to have to finish it before work. My to-do list isn’t getting any shorter and it’s my fault. What if I don’t get up and my whole plan is ruined?

Anxieties, fears, doubts — all the things that every human faces when trying to make even the smallest change in their life. I’m not immune to it. In fact, as I fell back asleep, my final thought was: I know something needs to change, but I’m not sure if I can make change happen.

The more I think about it, the more I realize my struggle is — and possibly always has been — the result of stubbornness. I like my routine, does it really need to be different? I don’t feel like working on my novel today, so why should I force myself to? I know I need to be working on this prioritized task on my list, but this other thing is more fun and I’d rather do that instead.

All that despite the fact that clearly the current routine isn’t working, I’m stressed about my to-do list yet refuse to complete anything on the list, and the only way anything is going to change is if I force myself to change whether I “feel like it” or not.

Writing is as much about scheduling and time management as it is about telling a good story. If you want to write more, but realize you aren’t able to “find the time” to write, then something about your routine or your process or even your attitude needs to change. But many aspiring writers talk about making changes in their lives to create a healthier writing environment for themselves yet never put that talk to action.

The question is, why? The answer probably has a lot to do with stubbornness. I’m not the only one stuck in a rut yet flat-out refusing to do anything about it.

How do you fix stubborn? You force the changes you’re not otherwise going to make. Some people, in order to stop giving in to distractions for example, have to quit things cold turkey for an extended period of time to shift their focus onto their creative projects. This sometimes means canceling Netflix, or at least changing their password and trusting a friend to keep it from them. It sometimes means putting the gaming consoles in storage, deleting apps off your phone, putting the alarm across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.

Every problem has a solution. If your stubbornness is keeping you from implementing that solution, your first step is to acknowledge it. Then you can start experimenting and formulating a strategy that works for you personally.

I’m too stubborn to get up early because it’s hard and not fun. But I know doing it is going to significantly improve my life, and so I’m going to keep trying different things until it becomes part of my routine. I may be too stubborn to easily change my habits, but stubbornness can also work to your advantage. I’m too stubborn to quit. So until this works or I find another way to capitalize on my preferences for early-morning productivity, there will probably be a lot of failures. That’s OK. Eventually, I might find success.

Whatever it is that you really don’t want to do, it may be time to figure out what you NEED to do in order to make this thing happen anyway. Forcing change is hard. It’s always going to be hard. But someday you’re going to look back at things and realize how glad you are to have made these changes.

Writing is great, but it doesn’t happen when you refuse to create space to make it happen. For me, this means I’m going to have to wake up an hour earlier. For you it might mean something completely different. Own that, but also start working toward conquering it. You got this. I believe in you.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 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.

Here’s What Happened When I Started Treating Writing Like a Game

Why so serious?

I am a completionist. Checklists are pretty much the only way I harness motivation to get things done. If going above and beyond means I get to check off more boxes, I’m going to do it.

This applies to both my personal and professional life. Gaming is a great example: If I can 100% a mission, I’m going to go back and do it a dozen times until I hit all the achievements. At work, I always have a very specific goal in mind at the start of each day, and as long as I can hit that minimum before 4 p.m., I’m good to go.

It doesn’t always work, of course. I’m human just like the rest of you. There are days I struggle to even write several hundred words between waking up and going to sleep. Sometimes I get sidetracked, falling into YouTube vortexes and Hulu spirals and sometimes, I EVEN READ BOOKS!

But even when I roam off course, I somehow always manage to find my way back on track. And I wouldn’t be able to do that if it weren’t for the “achievements” always hovering in the distance, there to remind me there are things I want to do, and they won’t get done if I don’t put in the work.

At the beginning of 2019, I pledged to write 1 million words between January 1 and December 31. It has proven to be about as challenging as I anticipated.

As much as we’d all love for our writing lives to exist in a bubble — one where time does not exist and interruptions are impossible — we do not live in a creator-centric world. Life will always continue happening around us, and it’s up to us to figure out how to make writing happen despite the disruptions and obstacles we encounter along the way.

At the time of writing this post, I am not on track to meet my goal. That’s discouraging and, if I’m being honest, quite frustrating. I have good weeks, and not so good weeks — weeks when I exceed my goals and weeks I fall far behind my own milestones. I am constantly learning along the way, which was the point of this personal challenge in the first place, but it’s definitely not an easy ride.

The only way I’ve managed to stay afloat four months into the year is by using my completionist mindset as an advantage — treating it as a strength and applying it to every writing session I ease into.

My process involves a spreadsheet, percentages, big and small writing goals. I’ve broken that 1 million word goal down by month, week, and day. For many, it might seem excessive and actually prove to be a distraction. But for me, it has become something like a game. Can I reach 100 percent of my writing goal today? This week? Even better, if I’m having a really good week, can I exceed that goal and get to 102 percent? 105?

I’ve been writing long enough that having these goals neither distracts me or diminishes the quality of my writing. The more you write, the faster you’re able to translate ideas into words, from brain to page, and even though I’m writing a lot, I’m generally doing work I’m proud of. That makes these “achievements” worth completing. I’m not just increasing a set of numbers. I’m also creating stories and settings and characters that matter to me.

As dedicated as I am to my goals, and as seriously as I tend to approach writing in a productivity and professional sense, I spend a lot of time treating writing like a game. Once I get my momentum going, it’s hard to stop, but it’s also extremely difficult for me to get going again once something does slow me down. Knowing this, I’ve created achievements in my writing life that motivate me to stay on course — or as close to that course as possible — even when things get rough.

This spreadsheet — I won’t show it to you yet, maybe once the year’s up — has changed everything for me. In 2018, I really struggled in my personal writing life. I constantly gave in to my excuses, put off my assignments, and kept my goals vague and distant. “I’ll get to it eventually” became my mantra, one that would lead to almost an entire year of never really finishing anything I started or enjoying what I did manage to create.

Now, writing feels a lot like fun to me. The more I write, the better I feel, and the closer I get to reaching my achievements, the more my confidence grows. It’s so important to take the time to figure out the kind of motivation you need to achieve your writing goals. For you, my strategy may not work at all — it might even make things worse. I’m not telling you that you have to do this. But I AM telling you that you have to figure SOMETHING out.

So what motivates you? Is it seeing a progress bar inch closer and closer to the end? A collection of boxes being checked off one by one? Is it being able to update a public audience on your progress, doing your work in front of people so they see your active creative time?

No one knows you better than yourself. You know exactly the kinds of things that are going to help you write your way to achievement. Apply them to your writing time, no matter how strange they might seem. It doesn’t matter how it gets done, after all, as long as it gets done — and as long as you do it well.

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.