It’s OK If You Don’t Want to Write For a Living

It’s OK if you just want to explore and have fun.

Every once in a while, I consider going back to writing Just For Fun.

At this point, I’m not sure I’ll ever make a full transition back to writing just for myself or just for the sake of storytelling. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t days, even now, I still feel overwhelmed enough to weigh my options.

While it may seem like every writer’s end goal is to make money — and let’s be honest, if we could all make a living doing it, would any of us really say no thanks? — not everyone wants to write full-time. And the good news is, that is one hundred percent okay.

Writing is a lot of work. Some people are right in thinking they personally wouldn’t enjoy writing as much if they HAD to do it — so for them, the choice to write on the side is the best one. There are others who pursue specific degrees and other educational opportunities with full intent to write for a paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

But here’s the thing: If you’re ever feeling weighed down by writing — if all of a sudden the pressure to perform just becomes too much — you can take a step back. You can give yourself room to breathe. You can redefine the role writing plays in your life. You are in control.

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To Write a Masterpiece, You Must First Make a Mess

Mess it up.

When my brother and I were little, our house used to have more LEGO in it than just about anything else.

I’m fairly certain building with LEGO so young is one of the reasons I became a writer. Creativity needs constant fuel, and when you’re only given instructions to build one model, after you’ve done that, suddenly you have hundreds of parts to choose from and the possibilities pile up before your eyes.

Everyone has different methods for preparing to build a LEGO castle, tower, boat, or whatever your imaginary choice of task might be. We always started by doing the thing our parents hated the most — dumping every single LEGO piece we owned onto the floor in one giant pile.

They never seemed to understand this, for us, was the most effective way of creating skyscrapers out of bricks. You don’t know what you have to work with until it’s all laid out in front of you.

It would be years before I realized this same method can also apply to writing.

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How to Love (Almost) Everything You Write: A Quick Guide

Self-doubt is inevitable. Quitting because of it is unacceptable.

Here’s something you might need to hear today: It is totally normal not to love your own writing.

But that doesn’t mean you have to let drag you down.

We have no worse critics than ourselves. It’s hard to read something that came out of your own brain and not see all its imperfections leaping straight off the page.

And sometimes, what you see isn’t what you WANT to see. Even if you like the story you’re writing or have faith you can transform it into something better, it simply doesn’t look, sound, or feel like something you’ve read from other writers. Chances are, it feels less polished. Less professional. Less … good.

Even the most confident writers sometimes look at their work — even their PUBLISHED work — and think, “Ew. Why did I write that?”

It’s normal to not always love what comes out of your brain. To let a lack of confidence or uncertainty or shame stop you from doing the thing you do love deep down, though, just doesn’t make sense.

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Will You Ever Be the Great Writer You’ve Always Hoped to Be?

Perhaps it is a matter of perspective.

Do you ever look at the work you’ve done recently, shake your head, and think, “Wow — I’m really not that great at writing”?

We all — okay, maybe 99 percent of us — experience moments of self-doubt, of disappointment, of low self-confidence. It’s just the nature of how we think about our uncertain futures, and whether or not the work we’re doing in the present will be worth whatever its outcome might be.

Worrying about doing good work is a sign of dedication. You want to do well, so when you don’t feel you’re doing well, you start to question whether what you’re doing is working or isn’t. This is, in most cases, a good thing.

It becomes less of a good thing when we start to doubt ourselves so much that we stop doing the work we love. Continue reading “Will You Ever Be the Great Writer You’ve Always Hoped to Be?”

The 22 Stages of Writing a Novel, From THIS IS THE BEST IDEA EVER to I HATE EVERYTHING

What a journey this has been.

1. I have a new idea for a book! Do I have time for a new idea for a book? What is time? NEW IDEA!

2. I cannot stop thinking about this new idea. It is consuming me.

3. Maybe … maybe I’ll just open a blank document and write a few paragraphs to get it out of my system. There’s no harm in that, right?

4. I have written 20 pages of a book? I guess I should keep going??

Continue reading “The 22 Stages of Writing a Novel, From THIS IS THE BEST IDEA EVER to I HATE EVERYTHING”

How to Write Stories That Scare You

Some stories are just meant to be written.

I was not prepared to start writing another book. In fact, the idea of abandoning one project for another was so ridiculous that when the idea approached me I actually laughed out loud in an empty room … to myself.

“No,” I said. “Go away. I’m busy.”

I actually spoke these words, as if saying them out loud would convince the idea before me that it truly was not welcome here.

The trick did not work, of course. I am a busyness addict (not proud, just stating a fact). I never claim to be too busy for anything, especially when it comes to writing.

So what was really going on inside my head?

The truth — as much as I can reveal to you at this particular moment in time — was that as the idea began unfolding in my mind, taking up more space, expanding inside me to fill all the empty space reserved for random and passive thoughts, I quickly came to the realization that if I were to give it the level of attention it begged for, I would be heading into something I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle.

What I learned, not long after that, is that fear is strong. But so am I.

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What I Mean When I Say ‘I Don’t Have Time to Write That’

I’m not lazy, I’m not distracted. I’m overwhelmed.

An amazing writing opportunity just waltzed its way into my inbox. I fell in love with it right away.

And then I turned it down.

My heart hurts. I’m literally hot with frustration. I WANTED TO DO THE WRITING THING.

But I couldn’t. Because I do not have time for it.

And no, I don’t mean “I would rather watch Netflix all evening every evening than work on this project with you.”

I mean I ACTUALLY don’t possess the time required to say “yes.”

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Writing Is a Performance, and the Show Must Go On

No matter what, you must find a way forward. Always.

Even if you’d rather go to the dentist every day for the rest of your life than listen to even three minutes of electric violin music, it’s hard to deny that Lindsey Stirling’s rise to stardom is one of the most inspirational modern success stories a creator can draw positive energy from.

I’ll admit, I’m a long-time fan and probably one hundred percent biased here. But you can’t watch Lindsey’s America’s final Got Talent performance, listen to the judges pretty much tell her she doesn’t belong on stage, and look at how far she has come thinking, “Eh. So what?”

I could write an entire series of posts on what writers can learn from her story. But for now I want to talk about Lindsey Stirling as a performer — particularly, why she didn’t quit her national tour after finding out her dad wasn’t going to survive his cancer diagnosis.

There is a time for laying down and feeling your feelings. And then there is a time for packaging those feelings up, strapping them to your back, and continuing on no matter how much you don’t want to.

There’s you, the human. And then there’s you, the performer. And sometimes when you’re performing, you have to leave you, and all your baggage, backstage.

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It’s a Great Idea — But Is It a Great Idea Right NOW?

Probably not.

Guys. I have a new idea.

I know, I know. You’re all pounding your fists and screaming “MEG STOP YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR ANOTHER THING WE ARE CONCERNED.”

First of all calm down. I said I had an IDEA, not that I was starting another project.

But I’m considering starting another project. So there’s that.

Here’s the thing: We can’t stop new ideas from showing up on our doorsteps unannounced. Nor do we want to. Ideas are a lot like friends. When you’re actively trying to get one to talk to you, no one answers your texts, but the second you snuggle into your introvert hole with a drink and a good book, everyone and their cousin suddenly wants to hang out. Cool cool cool.

But there is this thing I like to call “idea management.” It’s like time management, but instead of figuring out how to make the best use of your time, it’s a process to help you decide which of your ideas are worth pursuing when, and which ones need to be put on hold or kept in storage.

I’m not going to call myself an expert in this area because, well, I’m not. I’m over here almost shaking because of how excited I am to [not] start this project even though I know that doing so would be a very, very bad idea. Why? Because I’m doing too many things. You already know this. Such is the life of a writer who wants to share more of her thoughts with the universe.

But there’s at least one thing I do know for absolute certain: I am not the only one who wants to cuddle every single idea close to my heart and love and squeeze it until it becomes a finished product.

Of course it’s easy to get distracted by every new idea that comes your way. So shiny! But the key to not letting everything else in your life fall apart for the sake of this one new thing is to take a deep breath and hold it … keep holding … keep holding …

Yeah I have no idea how to do this sorry DID I SAY YOU COULD BREATHE?!

Continue reading “It’s a Great Idea — But Is It a Great Idea Right NOW?”

Writers, Be Honest: What REALLY Scares You About Self-Promotion?

Be honest.

Do you like promoting your own work? Like REALLY like it?

We all feel a rush of excitement the moment we are able to share even the smallest writing accomplishments with the world. It’s totally normal to want to show off what you’re doing — after all, when you’re proud of your hard work, you certainly deserve the reward of being able to put it out there for other people to see, if you want to.

But even if you do look forward to being able to publicly celebrate your achievements, there might also be a part of you that’s dreading the moment — and if it’s not the promotion itself that has you worried, it’s much more likely anticipating people’s reactions to it that unsettles your stomach.

Not every writer dislikes or is afraid of self-promotion. But it does slow many people down and prevent them from sharing their work with more potential readers.

What is it about promoting your own work that feels intimidating? Is there a right and wrong way to self-promote? And how do you know whether or not you’re putting your work out there without spamming everyone you know?

Continue reading “Writers, Be Honest: What REALLY Scares You About Self-Promotion?”