Why I Don’t Blog About My Dog: The Problem With Self-Proclaimed ‘Experts’

I’m not a dog expert. Why do so many people think they are?

Advertisements

Three months ago, I welcomed a husky puppy into my home.

Since then, she has — literally — consumed my life. As is to be expected from any puppy, especially an energetic “aggressive chewer” like Izzie.

Before I made the 30-minute drive to pick her up, I did all the online research I could about husky puppies. Not just how to train them, but how to care for them, how to make them feel comfortable, how to love them. I’d never owned a dog before. I was excited, but terrified.

I assumed I was feeling like any new or soon-to-be parent might feel. My “research” really helped calm my nerves and prepare me for the first night, week, and so on. As much as even the best book or website can, anyway.

I’ve learned a lot about how to train, entertain, and care for huskies — and puppies in general — since I found myself holding a three-month-old fuzzball for the first time.

But here’s what I won’t do: Start giving advice to other soon-to-be husky owners in the form of a blog, Instagram page, or some other medium that makes me sound like I’m trying to be an expert.

Why? Because I’m not.

I have owned exactly one dog in the past 26 years. She’s not even past the worst of the “puppy stage” as I’m writing this (“Don’t eat that” is a phrase I now say 50 times a day, and I’m not exaggerating). I’m pretty confident that I’ve done plenty of things wrong in the past 12 weeks. I’ve posted more to Facebook (seeking advice from friends who know more about puppies/dogs than me) than I have in years.

I use what I have learned daily to raise, train, and love my “fur baby.” And I still seem to learn something new every day.

I couldn’t imagine taking what I think I know now and writing a blog post about it, for the sake of teaching others in my situation what to do.

But there are many people who would. Who do.

And it drives me absolutely mad.

As a health science writer, I see this in the diet and fitness “space” more than anywhere else. Someone goes on a three-month weight loss “journey” and all of a sudden they’re promoting their coaching services or nutrition advice to “help people.”

I have no problem with people giving other people advice online. It’s what I do every day. I give aspiring and working writers suggestions for how to make words happen, and they either take my suggestions to heart or they don’t.

But I do this because I’ve been publishing my work online for almost a decade. I didn’t start writing yesterday. My almost 10-year-old blog has gone through so many transformations and upgrades that it’s a miracle I didn’t give up eight, five, even two years ago.

Can I give writing advice that’s reliable and adaptable to every individual because I’m a professional, I’ve been doing it for a long time, and there’s little to no chance I’m going to hurt someone in the process? Yes.

Can I give advice on how to care for/train a husky because I’ve owned one for three months, taught her to sit and shake, and am 2 taps away from giving her her own Instagram account? No.

From the side of an advice-seeker, know who you’re getting your information from. I only visited websites providing information from long-time trainers and breeders and professional organizations I could count on to give me what I needed to keep my puppy safe, healthy, and happy. I refused to visit anyone who just happened to own a husky and blog about it.

I suppose, if someone has owned 100 huskies in their lifetime and they can somehow prove they know what they’re talking about, I’d consider it. But not likely.

And from the side of an advice-giver … you’re not an expert just because you tried something once or have been doing it for three months and it’s working for you. I know people want to feel relevant and like they’re contributing to society somehow, but please stop.

But writers — this does not mean you can’t blog about your life as a writer! That’s how this blog started. For the first four years, I was a high school and early college student with no professional writing experience. I didn’t try to tell people what to do. I just rambled about my life, about my writing struggles, about my hopes and fears and goals. It wasn’t necessarily helpful, but it was a start.

You’re free to blog about anything you want. But don’t prey on those seriously looking for real-world help. Refer them to resources they can actually use, if you aren’t qualified to give the advice yourself (and if you have to question whether or not you are, you probably aren’t).

You might be a writing expert someday. But be careful how you present yourself. Don’t claim to be an expert when you aren’t. People are desperate. They’ll trust anything. Be mindful. Be helpful, but don’t be harmful. Or annoying. Please.

Everyone wants to be an expert. Not everyone is -- yet.

How I Built a Blog About Writing Before I Became a Writer

Can You Call Yourself an Expert?

The Most Important Lesson You Need to Learn Before Giving Advice On Your Blog

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.

14 Writing Struggles You Only Encounter When You’re Tired

Tired brains are terrifying. It’s scary up there.

1 You’re either hyper-focusing on your work or you’re playing Candy Crush. There is no in-between.

2. Everything is a distraction except the thing you’re actually supposed to be writing.

3. You start getting random ideas for things you know aren’t good but you can’t NOT write them down.

4. You’ve spelled the same word wrong five times in two paragraphs.

5. It’s like your first language is no longer your first language. Can you even grammar?

6. You’re either typing 100 words a minute or, like, 10 an hour.

7. You start using WAY TOO MANY adjectives.

8. Your brain says “Write!” but you honestly don’t know what you’re even typing right now.

9. Your usage of “like” and “that” has suddenly tripled.

10. All of a sudden your characters are plotting to commit a crime without warning you?? (?????)

11. You can’t keep your eyes open but somehow you’ve written 200 words. How?

12. Everything you write is hilarious.

13. Or it’s terrible and you start questioning whether or not you should be a writer at all.

14. Eventually, you either give up or call it done. Either way, you’re going to have a lot of proofreading to do tomorrow morning …


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.

This Is the First Step to Making Money As a Writer

It’s an important step, too.

I earned $70 after completing my first job as a freelance writer.

Not knowing any better, I’d agreed to complete a series of articles (yes, I said a SERIES) for a client for literally pennies each.

That was, as I hope you can guess, a mistake. I did a lot of work (and, later, far too many revisions) for basically no money. By the time I’d successfully completed the job, I’d decided never to work with that client again — or anyone who preyed on new freelancers who were desperate enough for work to sign a contract that would pretty much earn them negative income.

But at the time, I was elated. That was the first time someone had actually paid me to write online content.

Up until that point, I’d worked as a student journalist, an intern, and a “contributing writer” (which usually implies, as was the case for me, you don’t get paid in funds). I was 23. I had 2 academic degrees. And I was struggling to turn writing into a job, even after working with my first few clients.

There’s only one thing that got me through that — the initial phase of writing professionally, when you’re nobody, you’re working with people who only want to work with you if you’re willing to agree to the absolute minimum stipend and you’re frustrated and angry all the time.

I kept telling myself, over and over again, that it was OK to write for pennies. Even for free. Because it would not, could not, be like this forever.

The first step to earning income as a writer is understanding that you cannot make a lot of money — or any money at all — in the beginning.

Often times, it’s best to write assuming you’ll never make a comfortable living doing it. It’s not that you can’t or that many people don’t. But a lot of new writers put way too much pressure on themselves to earn a living right away. You don’t need that kind of stress. Getting your stuff out there is hard enough already.

Once I stopped stressing about my weekly income, I started making more money. Ridding myself of that burden allowed me to focus on the most important thing in that moment: Writing good content, building experience, forming relationships with clients, and learning as much as I could about writing as a craft AND as a business.

I’ve mostly left the freelancing world for a much more stable, less draining writing job. But I will never forget those first few months. That first year, even. And even the years before that, when no one would pay me, but I had to keep writing anyway.

You are going to get through it.

It’s not going to be easy.

You’re going to have days when you hate the career path you’ve chosen.

But it does get better. Not everyone is trying to squeeze words out of you for as little money as possible. There are people and businesses and publications out there who really do care about hiring people who can write good stuff consistently for long periods of time.

You will get there.

Writing for free seems like a waste of time. But in the end, it’s actually an investment you won’t regret buying into.

I can help you make it through the early stages of your writing career.

3 Important Things All Writers Need to Learn In Their First Year

You Don't Have to Love Your Day Job

Things You Can (and Can't) Control As a Writer

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.

Everything That Happened When I Stopped Trying to Impress People With My Writing

Everything changed for the better.

1. I started focusing better.

2. I started setting more ambitious writing goals.

3. Writing became something I looked forward to, instead of something I dreaded.

4. So I really, really started to like writing. A lot.

5. I stopped caring so much about whether or not people liked me/my writing. And I started gaining confidence.

6. I got better at writing, because I felt freer and braver knowing others’ opinions didn’t matter.

7.  I started hearing back from more potential clients and employers as a result.

8. And my blog started growing.

9. I wrote more because it made me feel good.

10. I fell in love with the creative art of experimentation — something I’d been terrified of before.

11. I somehow managed to make a career out of my favorite hobby.

12. And even on my worst days, I still love what I do. And that matters more than anything else.


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.

What’s Really Happening When You Think You’re ‘Running Out of Ideas’

I’ve always said Writer’s Block doesn’t exist. It doesn’t. But there’s an explanation for those moments you feel like your brain just isn’t working right.

It’s happened to very single one of us at least a dozen times.

You’re sitting in front of your computer, with all the time and motivation and energy in the world to write. But no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to come up with anything you actually want to work on.

The ideas just won’t come.

The words refuse to come out of hiding.

Have you run out of ideas? Is this the end of the writing life as you know it?

Should you even keep trying?

Suddenly, you don’t feel like writing anymore. Not because you don’t want to, but because the fact that you can’t come up with one simple idea has brought you down to a place you know you’re going to have a hard time crawling out of.

Call it what you want. But it happens. And it’s one of the most common reasons brand-new writers quit before their stories have a chance to be enjoyed.

I’ve always said Writer’s Block doesn’t exist. It doesn’t — as an excuse for not writing when you “don’t feel like it.” But there’s an explanation for those moments you feel like your brain just isn’t working right.

If you haven’t guessed already, you’re not really “running out of ideas” when you feel stuck or blocked. There’s something much simpler — and far less terrifying — going on.

The truth: You’re probably just having “a day.”

Or a week. Or a month. Whatever fits your particular circumstance.

Maybe you’ve been working too hard lately, and you’re just feeling burned out.

Maybe you’re dealing with some personal stuff, and there’s just not enough room for “extras.”

Hey, maybe you’re just trying to decide if this whole writing thing is even YOUR thing. That’s OK.

It’s all OK.

Because life happens, things fall apart, stuff goes wrong, everyone goes through valleys, and coming up with things to write about can’t always be your top priority. It doesn’t have to be. A writer isn’t a writer because they spend every waking moment on their craft.

A writer tries. They do their best. They persist when things get tough and pick themselves back up when they crash.

These things have nothing to do with your abilities as a writer. There might be things hindering your progress or performance, but they don’t mean you’re somehow “failing” or that you’re being lazy. Writing is hard. Sometimes, your brain is just too tired to exert the energy required to come up with new ideas — especially when you’re sitting around begging it to do just that.

You’re not a bad writer because you’re having a bad day. (Week. Month. Year.)

You’re going to get through this. Just when you think you should give up, inspiration is going to strike. And you’re going to write something amazing.

I promise.

Check out these posts if you're a writer who's feeling stuck.

Changing Up Your Writing Routine Could Solve Your Biggest Creative Problem

11 Common Reasons Writers Quit

This Is Why You're Stuck In a Rut

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

It Matters Who You Know

Writing is not a solitary business.

I landed my first writing internship because of a college professor.

I wasn’t looking for an internship. I wasn’t even sure, at that point, what kind of writing I wanted to do for the rest of my life, if any.

But I applied for the position anyway, and thanks to that professor, my life changed forever.

It wasn’t just that I had the skills or motivation to qualify for the position. I did have those things, and they’re the reasons I actually got the internship. But I never would have heard about it if it weren’t for the instructor who forwarded me the email — because she knew I might be interested, based on our conversations about writing and communications.

My first full-time writing job was recommended to me by a former colleague from that internship. And I have my own references partly to thank for earning that job.

I also used to use Upwork to obtain most of my freelancing clients. You’re more likely to be invited to apply for a job — sometimes exclusively — if you have a dozen five-star ratings from current and previous clients on your page.

I could go on. But you get the idea.

The reason I “launched” my writing career at 19 was because of who I knew. Not solely based on my experience or ability to write good things.

Yes, your experiences matter. You cannot (usually) get a writing job if you can’t prove you have never written anything other people have read.

And obviously, you have to know how to write well.

But there’s a reason I keep repeating the idea that writing is not a solitary business. If you don’t network, in one way or another, you’re not going to make it very far. Those who do network will get the jobs you want, the experience you need, and the recognition your writing deserves.

It matters who you know.

But do you know what? It doesn’t matter quite as much how you get to know them. I’ve never been to a writing conference or convention. I’m not part of a critique group or major writers’ organization. I’m not big on traveling or, if I’m being honest, meeting new people in person.

So I got to know my professors while earning my degrees. I made good use of the NaNoWriMo network while I was a participant. I respond to comments on my blog. I got to know my clients. And my colleagues. I utilized my surroundings, and the people in them, to level up my chances of “making it.”

Don’t think you can just sit around writing in a private notebook and expect a miracle to happen. It usually doesn’t. Most success stories I’ve heard involve some kind of circumstance along the lines of “so-and-so introduced Successful Guy to Other Successful Guy and that’s how they got to where they are today.”

The people you know will play major roles in your success story someday. Never forget that.


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 Wake Up at 5 a.m. Every Day to Write — But That Doesn’t Mean You Can’t

Some strategies take a little trial and error before you get them right.

My alarm goes off at 4:25 every morning.

I don’t brag about this. I’m not proud of it. And, most days, I definitely don’t enjoy it.

But I know of plenty of writers and “productivity experts” who do. Some of them even insist that you can’t reach your full potential unless you wake up early and start the day as the sun rises.

It’s the #RISEANDGRIND culture. And it hurts more people than it helps.

So I’m hyper-aware of the fact that, as someone who offers writing advice to the masses, I subscribe to this extreme structure of living.

I have to be careful not to make it sound like setting a stupid-early alarm every morning is the right — worse, the “only” — way to make writing happen six days a week.

Because I don’t want anyone, especially writers newer to their craft, to think they have to start their days at sunrise to become successful creatives.

It’s not realistic. A lot of the time, it’s unhealthy. And it could seriously damage your writing career before it even has a chance to take off.

Why do I wake up before 5 a.m. every day, if it’s such a poor philosophy? Because I found, through trial and error, that it is the best way I can ensure I maintain joy and balance in my life.

I am most productive before noon. Therefore, the earlier I wake up, the more I’m bound to accomplish.

I technically have three jobs — one that pays the bills and two that make me happy. There’s a lot to do in a day — and that doesn’t include exercise, which I need more for mental health reasons than anything else, food, fun, and taking care of my six-month-old husky (basically like having a toddler).

Oh! And this blog! I love doing it, but y’all wear me out. You ask a lot of questions. I love that, too.

I make it work, because I know it works for me.

Still, I recognize that many people don’t want to, or can’t, get up early and write before work, or get all the day’s mundane tasks completed in the first two hours of every day. And it’s something you need to remember, too.

It’s OK if that’s not what works for you.

But it’s also OK if that’s what does.

Writing experts will tell you waking up early for the sake of productivity is stupid. And that not waking up early is a waste of time. There’s a reason you can’t take every piece of every person’s advice to heart.

They know themselves best, but they don’t know you. They don’t know how you operate, when you’re most and least productive, when you’re most and least likely to get writing done on any given day.

Experiment. Figure out what works best for you, and stick with it.

If that means waking up at 5 a.m. or before, well. I’ll see you at sunrise.


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 Pros and Cons of Comparing Yourself to Other Writers

Comparing yourself to others isn’t ALWAYS bad.

I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: Comparing yourself to other writers is usually a terrible idea.

Especially if you’re new to this whole writing thing. It’s tempting to look at my blog, for example, and wonder how quickly you can “catch up.” (Not very — I’m on year 9, y’all.)

BUT.

There are some possible advantages to looking at and even studying other writers’ accomplishments.

Here the benefits and drawbacks of doing this.

Pro: You might learn something

Looking at others’ work can teach you a lot about where you’re excelling and falling short as a writer. It’s sometimes good to pay attention to what others are doing well and poorly.

Con: Just because one writer does something a certain way doesn’t mean you should

There’s nothing wrong with “celebrity” writing advice. People take advice from famous artists all the time — and for good reason. Something they did ended up working out for them, so there has to be some kind of secret to their success that could apply to you.

But you should never take one writer’s advice as law. What works for one person might not work for you — and that’s OK. It’s certainly no reason to give up.

Pro: You might set some new goals

Someone might look at my blog and aspire to grow it as much as I have in the near decade (!) I’ve been keeping it alive. That’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Con: It’s not easy to set realistic goals when looking at others’ accomplishments

Aspiring writers do run into trouble, though, when they look at a blog like mine and assume they can more than triple their follower base in less than two years. That is, generally, not the timeline most bloggers follow. It creates unrealistic expectations — and that’s bad!

Don’t look at someone else’s success and automatically assume you can get there in a short amount of time. Consider all the steps they took to get to where they are. You can only take one of those steps at time, or you’re going to fall down and hurt yourself.

Pro: You might solidify your dream

Looking at other writers and their accomplishments can give you a sense of longing — but specified. “Wow, she wrote a whole book series about that? I want to do that too!”

Con: Having a dream doesn’t mean you’ll never feel discouraged

I think a lot of aspiring writers dive into this whole ordeal thinking just because their dream is to “become a writer,” they’ll somehow have an easier time reaching their goals and full potential. Unfortunately, they’re wrong — and that can cost you your dream.

Every writer with a dream struggles. Everybody gets discouraged and feels like quitting sometimes. Don’t expect this ride to be easy. You can do it — just prepare yourself and take things slow.

Do you constantly try to "be like" other writers? Stop it!

Why Comparing Yourself to Other Writers Doesn't Make Sense

The Only Writer You Have to Compete Against Is Yourself

15 Things That Happen When You Stop Stressing About Writing the Perfect Book

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 Strategies to Help You Deal With the Stressors Blocking You From Writing

Life is stressful. You can write anyway.

1. Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking (usually) doesn’t work.

2. Break big scary tasks into small less scary pieces. Tackle one piece at a time.

3. Prioritize the things that need to get done today. Finish those first.

4. Don’t forget to breathe.

5. Write something that makes you feel good — no “strings” attached.

6. Treat writing as a reward, not an item to check off your list.

7. Speaking of lists … try making shorter ones. Just TRY.

8. Remember that it’s sometimes better not to write than to write poorly. Sometimes.

9. Take a few days off from writing if you have to — but only a few!

10. Or, alternate between writing days and writing “off” days.

11. Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t write. It’s OK to have a bad day.

12. Give yourself a pat on the back for every good writing day. Cherish those moments. Smile.


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.

Always Look for An Excuse to Keep Writing

Don’t stop doing the thing that makes you who you are.

As creatives, we’re very good at coming up with ideas.

Unfortunately, many of us are just as good at coming up with excuses not to do the things we should be doing. Like writing, for example.

It’s much more tempting to come up with a handful of reasons not to write when we’re thinking about giving up the practice for good. You’ve been rejected one too many times. You’re not satisfied with the work you’re doing. People are being mean to you. No one is even reading what you’re writing.

I think it’s time more of us spend our creative energy coming up with reasons to keep writing, instead of excuses that keep us away from it.

So many people don’t realize, for some reason, that you can still write even if it isn’t your job. Even if your blog posts are private. Even if you don’t share your work with anyone.

The purpose of writing isn’t to share your work with the world. That’s a major benefit, of course. But when it comes down to it, writers make words happen because there’s something inside them that hungers for the chance to tell stories. There are some things in life, for some people, only words can fix.

If you’re thinking about quitting, I’d like to ask you not to do it.

Not forever, anyway. There are some instances when you have to put your work to bed for awhile to focus on other things. I’d call that a hiatus, not quitting.

But — is quitting really worth it? Even if writing isn’t your job or your side hustle, does that mean you have to stop altogether?

Always look for a reason to write. Even when you know you won’t make a significant amount of money doing it. Even when you’re tired. Fed up. Uninterested. Convinced it’s the best option for you.

If you truly love writing — if it’s your passion; if it completes you, makes you feel alive in a way nothing else can — you’ll find a reason to keep going. Most of us do.

Write because you have stories to tell.

Write because you need an outlet to express your feelings.

Write for yourself.

Write for an imaginary audience. A family member. A mentor. A friend.

The reason why isn’t as important as making sure you do it. Because if you don’t, chances are you’re going to feel even worse about yourself than I’m guessing you already do. We’re tempted to quit the most intensely when it feels like things just aren’t going our way.

Don’t give in to the temptation. Find a place for writing in your life, and make it count.

Feel like quitting? Maybe these posts will help.

What Happens When You Stop Writing?

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

11 Common Reasons Writers Quit

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.