‘I’ll Just Write On the Plane’ and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Things don’t always go the way we plan.

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I recently took a short weekend trip to visit my significant other. This trip involved two flights, which — as you know if you’ve flown recently — involves a lot of sitting and waiting.

I very much wanted to enjoy a stress-free, work-free Valentine’s Day weekend (wouldn’t you?). But the thought of not writing anything — with some pretty major writing goals hanging over my head — bothered me.

So I made myself a promise: Write at the airport. Write on the plane. That’s a decent amount of time without having to disrupt your mini vacation. You got this.

Yeah, I totally had it. Until I didn’t.

I’m a pretty nervous traveler, especially when making a trip alone. So instead of writing while waiting at my gate on the way there, I sat, anxiously scrolling through Twitter, checking the time every five minutes.

That’s fine, I decided. As long as I wrote while in the air.

Takeoff went smoothly, as the vast majority of them do. And as soon as we were up way too many thousand feet in the air, I grabbed my bag, pulled out my writing materials —

And proceeded to fall into a dead, non-interrupted sleep for the next two and a half hours.

Perfect.

Don’t worry — I enjoyed my weekend and only thought about writing (or the lack thereof) a few times. This was not a writing trip, and I didn’t feel guilty for leaving my fiction in my backpack.

But that return trip, I was going to knock out some serious wordage. I just knew it.

Oh wait, I’m still a nervous flyer. So I guess I’ll spend the next two hours sitting at my gate not writing, again. BUT THE PLANE!

WILL TAKE OFF IN THE MIDDLE OF A RAIN STORM!

ALMOST THREE HOURS OF TERRIFYING TURBULENCE!

WOOHOO!!!!

In summary: She did not write a single word that weekend. But did get back home without crying. Progress.

There are moments we’d give anything to keep our own productivity promises to ourselves, only to realize we’ve set the bar a little too high (again).

Just because we fall short of our own expectations does not mean we’ll repeat the same mistakes next time.

My advice? Plan ahead as much as you can. But don’t make yourself miserable with guilt if you for whatever reason can’t follow through with those plans. Life. Happens.

As writers, all we can do every day of the year is our best. We can try to plan ahead and make words happen. But if that seemingly simple task becomes difficult, or we can’t do it, we can’t just lie down and give up. We have to figure out a way to work around it. To create despite it.

No, I didn’t get any writing done like I planned. Was I a little disappointed in myself? Of course. But now I’m prepared for next time. Now I know that planning to write on a trip like this probably isn’t the best way to go about it. I might need to plan on doing more writing before leaving, or make up for lost time after.

I know that something different needs to happen, all because I “failed.” Failure really is an excellent teacher. Pay attention to its lessons. Do better next time.


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

A Random YouTube Video Accidentally Helped Me Complete the Plot of My Novel

You never know when inspiration might show up.

Everything was good. Until it wasn’t.

I had — as many others before me have — a pretty good idea for a book. I’d even started writing it. There were, however — as there often are — several problems with it even in its early stages of development.

  1. It didn’t have a title.
  2. I hadn’t figured out how to connect the two ongoing storylines in a way that made sense.

One of these issues was minor, the other pretty major. I hope you can guess which was which.

I personally believe people worry way too much about coming up with the “perfect” title before they’ve even finished/started their book. Some of the best book titles I’ve come up with came to me when I was almost finished writing the first draft. But that’s a pet peeve for another post.

As you can probably imagine, not really knowing how to form a coherent plot was a bit of a hurdle. Without giving anything away, I’ll tell you there are two things going on in this book: a husband and wife own an animal sanctuary that loses its funding, and one of them is dying.

I needed both of these things to be happening simultaneously. I didn’t know how to make it work. I’d write one scene, then another, and always felt like an important connection was missing each time I switched back and forth between the two stories.

And, you know … it’s kind of important that books make sense. To make them, like, publishable and all that.

One day, fed up with feeling like I had no idea how I was going to fix this problem (I had a working title that I hated, so I wasn’t too worried about that), I just stopped writing. I saved and closed out my document, I ate lunch, I moped around for a bit, and then I dragged myself back to my desk to write.

Except I ended up on YouTube instead somehow, watching videos, definitely not getting any writing done.

And then it happened.

Again, I’m not going to give away specifics because doing so would give away the plot twist (no, you won’t guess it based on what I’ve told you), and I’m too nice to do that to a potential future reader.

But I ended up stumbling upon a video completely unrelated to my book — or so I thought — that smacked me so hard in the face I had to watch it twice.

It was almost as if the universe had led me to this specific, seemingly random video to say, Hey! This is how you’re supposed to fix this! NOW GET OFF YOUTUBE AND WRITE GOSH DARN IT!

I did. Filled with the fire of unexpected inspiration, in less than an hour, I (sort of) fixed everything.

This video miraculously solved both of my problems simultaneously, despite what little importance the first held compared to the second. I now had a title that gave me chills — those chills you get when an idea just sort of works and everything falls into place around it and it’s better than you ever could have hoped it would be.

I was also able to write a single scene, toward the end of the book, that tied both parallel storylines together and collectively brought every scene before it underneath the thematic umbrella I hadn’t even realized I’d been seeking out for so long.

And all that occurred because I’d been watching YouTube videos instead of working on my book. Funny how creativity works that way sometimes.

They’re not lying when they say inspiration finds you when you’ve stopped looking for it. Or is that what they say about love? Anyway.

I stopped writing, left all my worries and frustrations behind, and did the best I could to relax and stop thinking about work, only to have an idea come crashing down on my head in the middle of a video about art. I certainly wasn’t going to complain, though. To this day, that scene is still my favorite one in that entire book despite the fact that it isn’t finished yet. And may never be. Who knows?

This doesn’t mean that I go straight to YouTube when I’m feeling stuck or discouraged, though. Writing is writing, and I tend to treat it like a job. Of course there will be days I can’t accomplish as much as I originally set out to, but I’m not going to give up at the first sign of trouble. I have work to do.

But still, you never know what you might discover when you stop looking for answers. This is the best part of creativity. Not realizing you’re going to stumble upon an amazing idea until it’s right in your face begging to be claimed.

Everyone gets stuck. Everyone starts to doubt themselves at some point, and wonder if what they’re doing right now will even be worth it in the future.

If you’re ever feeling like that, I’d encourage you to take a step back. Close your laptop, leave the room, and let your mind wander. Often, something as simple as walking into a different room or starting a completely unrelated activity can trigger a new creative possibility.

Ideas can’t really be explained. Most of the time they just appear unannounced and take over your thought space without asking permission. But as inconvenient as it so often is, it’s also magical. One second ago you had no idea where to take your story next, and now your head is so full of story your hands can’t write it all down fast enough.

But it’s the most rewarding when you least expect it. It’s like a gift. You technically did nothing to earn it, but it presented itself to you anyway and it’s yours to manipulate however you please. That is, until the idea decides it knows more than you about everything and you’re no longer in control of anything that happens to your characters, but hey, enjoy the freedom while it lasts.


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.

Does Showing People What You Write Ever Stop Being Scary?

Maybe?

I was probably in middle school (fifth and sixth grade, about 10 and 11 years old) when I started worrying about what other people thought of me. This was completely normal for that really weird era of what they call Growing Up. We were all just wandering around trying to impress each other all day every day. I have no idea why.

Unfortunately, those insecurities bled into my writing life. I wouldn’t write my first “novel” until I got to high school, but way back then I was preoccupied almost to the point of obsession with writing song lyrics and poetry. I was in the very early stages of learning how to tell complex stories from beginning to end, but I preferred to fill notebook after notebook with rhymed lines. Probably about wanting to grow up already, or something very “middle school.”

I rarely, if ever, showed anyone those notebooks. I may have let my two closest friends peek at them from time to time, but I was extremely self-conscious about potential critiques. At some point I wrote a poem for a class project that ended up winning some kind of small-town award, and all I cared about was that no one made me read it out loud to the entire school. I might have actually DIED.

You’re probably not at all surprised to learn I (mostly) got over this refusal to put myself, and my work, out there. I would not call myself a confident 20-something by any means. I don’t “have it all together” and don’t expect to ever achieve that goal, whatever it actually means. But a piece of my writing shows up in people’s news feeds and email inboxes every single day of the year at this point. I’m not hiding my words from anyone. Why bother?

As much as I hate to admit it, age and maturity are definitely factors in this evolution. The older you get (ehhh), in general, the less you care about what other people think, or the less you let their opinions about you define who you are.

I tell you this because there has been a significant progression in my process — from write and hide to show and tell and shout “I WROTE A THING” in all caps whenever I’m uncharacteristically proud of something I’ve recently published. (Self-promotion is fine, but not in excess. Don’t be that person who only posts on social media about their accomplishments. Be a human, not a robot.)

But this does not mean that every writer can at some point learn to publish without fear. Sure, you might absolutely get used to the idea of people reading and judging your work and learn to tolerate it … maybe even embrace it. But I wouldn’t pivot to the other extreme and say you’ll ALWAYS feel good about everything you put out there.

There are some days I dread the moment a new blog post goes live because I’m not sure how people might react to it. There are days I write a few pages of my book and boldly dislike every single one of them. Sometimes I still think about sending out queries to agents and my stomach does this weird flip-flop thing because OH MY GOD THESE PEOPLE GET PAID TO READ STUFF WHAT IF MINE’S TERRIBLE?

It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been writing or how much experience in the field I might have. Sometimes, I’m still nervous and afraid when I shove my work out into the world and hope people look at it. Some people aren’t nice. I’m a human being, and I don’t like feeling bad about myself. No one does.

So how do I continue to publish continuous work anyway, despite all the excuses my brain might come up with to try convincing me I shouldn’t? I just take a deep breath and hit publish. I’m serious. Sometimes I hold my breath, hit that button, and let it out slowly. Because once I’ve done that, it’s out of my hands. It’s not my thing to hold hostage anymore. It’s part of the world now. The world is entitled to do with it whatever it pleases.

That might mean people praise it. Or rip it apart. It might mean no one really looks at it at all, or I lose a bunch of followers because the internet is weird and sometimes one thing you put out there that isn’t offensive in any way, shape, or form just makes people not want to see any of your stuff anymore until the end of time, I guess?

Does this cycle of write-publish-write-publish-write ever stop being terrifying? Some days. Some days I’m so excited about something I’ve written that I completely forget there’s a good possibility some people won’t like it and I can’t wait to read the comments.

Other days I wish I could just keep it all to myself and never have to hear another insensitive criticism ever again.

It’s really up to you to decide if you want the possibility of judgment or ridicule or rejection to control whether or not you send something out into the world. I don’t think that’s a good reason not to publish something when doing so has become so easy in the past few decades compared to the centuries before. But I’m not here to tell you what to do. You can do whatever you want.

Just remember that there are always going to be parts of the writing life and the writing process you don’t like. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t do the job.

Also, the more you do it, the more habitual it becomes. You might still worry from time to time, but it sort of just becomes your reality. You write things, you publish them, and people react (or don’t). Such is life. There will be positive experiences and negative ones. But there won’t be any at all if you sit back and do nothing.

Good luck with everything you’re publishing this week, this month, or this year. It’s a big scary world out there. But you’re braver than you think.


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 You’re Not Getting Any Better at This Whole Writing Thing

What does “better” even mean, anyway?

1. You have no personal definition of what “better” actually means for you.

2. You want an end result without having to do the amount or intensity of work required to get that result.

3. You’re not putting in the “practice” time.

4. You’re spending way too much time worrying about SEO and not enough leveling up your writing quality.

5. You’re focusing on quantity instead of quality.

6. You can’t get any work done because you’re obsessing over not doing it perfectly.

7. You’re not writing consistently. E.g., you write for a week, stop for six months, then wonder why you haven’t accomplished anything.

8. You’re not setting — and therefore not meeting — writing goals.

9. You keep saying, “I’m not good at writing!” but you never stop to think about how you could change that.

10. You’re worried about what to do with your finished product before you’ve even finished (or started) it.

11. You’re making excuses and/or blaming other people/things for your lack of accomplishments.

12. You actually are — it’s just hard to see gradual improvement over time. Hang in there. You’re doing 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.

How to Write Well Quickly: 7 Easy Steps

How to become an expert writer right now!

We live in a world where there never seems to be enough time. We are given ridiculous amounts of tasks to do and aren’t taught proper time management skills. Companies deliberately create distracting ads and other media that draw us away from our work. One minute we’re told to relax and have fun, and the next we’re looked down upon for not working harder.

Which all makes writing particularly difficult. It’s a task that requires deep concentration, uninterrupted blocks of time, and almost complete separation from the present tense. And every single other thing within our reach completely contradicts that lifestyle.

I pay a lot of attention to the questions people ask about writing. It is, in a sense, my job to answer these questions as someone who has been offering writing advice for over a decade.

One question in particular stands out to me: How do I write well, but fast?

We’re obsessed with this false belief that everything that takes time can and should be done more quickly. This applies to both skills and habits. I could get dressed and then head to the bathroom to brush my teeth, or I could save time and do both simultaneously.

I’m going to attempt to answer this question with the least amount of sarcasm as I can bear. Whether you want to develop and/or master the writing skill by next Tuesday or it’s taking you forever to write your novel and you want to know how to finish it next month, don’t worry. I’m here for you.

So how do you learn to write like an expert without putting in the time? How do you do the same amount of writing it takes you two hours to do in just 20 minutes? Here are the seven steps I recommend for anyone who’s just started writing and wants to achieve this feat.

How to write well super fast:

1. You can’t.

2. You can’t.

3. You can’t.

4. You can’t.

5. You can’t.

6. You can’t.

7. You can’t.

At least, not right away. Not right now.

There are two ways to look at this: either you are asking how to become a good writer in general without spending years developing your craft, or writing takes too much time and your lack of patience or focus is driving you to wonder what to do about that.

If you’re wondering how to write more without decreasing the quality of your writing, the answer is still time, dedication, practice, and patience. If you don’t want to put in the time, what’s the point?

You don’t lace up your sneakers without ever having run before and win a marathon.

You don’t pick up a violin having never played one before and perform a song without making a single mistake.

You don’t decide you want to become a bestselling author and write a good book on your first try.

It’s ridiculous to even imagine that a skill like writing can be learned quickly. Most writers develop their voice and style over decades, not days. What makes you so special that you think you’re able to do it any differently?

In all this, I’m not saying that you are incapable of becoming the expert writer you so desire to be or that you can’t get more done faster. I’m saying that if you don’t, early on, develop the patience

I understand that most people don’t feel they have enough time to write, and therefore want to know how to get their writing done faster while making it look like they spent more time on it. My response is that if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort required to produce good writing, you may not fit into the writing life.

Being a writer requires sacrifice. Whether you want to get all your work done so you can go watch TV, spend more time with your family, or earn more money by writing more, you pretty much have nothing to gain from trying to speed through the process of learning to write better or writing poorer quality work faster.

I suppose if you’ve spent over 10 years writing like I have, you might eventually learn to shut out distractions, stop procrastinating, and shamelessly put your thoughts onto paper without worrying about whether they’re good or not. But is googling how to write faster really the best way to spend your time, when you could instead be writing?

Reasons people write slowly:

  • They’re naturally slower writers and there’s nothing wrong with this
  • They don’t know how to or choose not to erase environmental distractions from their writing space
  • Have trouble concentrating and haven’t developed techniques to combat this
  • Want to be a writer but aren’t really interested in the actual writing part
  • Lack the self-confidence to write whatever comes to mind without fear of being judged
  • Would rather be doing other things, which I suppose is their choice.

Please, enlighten me. What’s the rush? Why do you need to write faster? Maybe you’re just overwhelmed and don’t want to give up on writing but don’t feel you can dedicate the necessary time to get it done. Maybe you’re a destructive procrastinator and you want to know how to write 20 articles in less than 24 hours.

In those cases, I say take a step back and re-evaluate your priorities. What are you really trying to accomplish here? Are you even enjoying your writing time? Maybe for you it’s just a job that pays the bills and you’re not trying to have fun. That’s fair. I just don’t want you to sprint headfirst into disappointment thinking this is something that’s easily achieved, because it isn’t.

I guess, good luck with your writing, whatever your goals are. Try not to worry so much about how long it’s taking you to figure things out or write a book or get a job. These things take time, and I think in the long run you’d much rather do good work that took you hours than do sort of okay work that took minutes.

The more years you spend writing, the better you get at getting those ideas out of your head and onto paper. I’m not saying it gets easier. There are just, usually, fewer barriers to entry. You know that when it’s time to write, it’s time to write, and you do it.

Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Just because some writer you follow seems to crank out a book every month doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing. Follow your own path. You do 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.

Read This Right Now If You Have No Idea What You’re Doing

Trust me. You won’t regret it.

All writers have dreams. It’s safe to say many of them — but certainly not all of them — want desperately to publish novels of their own creation. They grew up reading books, and WOW, wouldn’t it be SO COOL to hold a book you wrote in your own hands?

I, like many others, started writing books because of this desire. My ambitions have of course evolved and matured, and most days, I like to say I write because of the impact my words might have on other people.

But there are also those days I’m not sure if I’m even remotely reaching that goal. Like this morning, when halfway through my writing session, I stopped dead, took my hands off the keyboard, and realized that, technically, all the work I’d been doing for months on end could be considered pointless.

I actually sat back in my chair and said out loud, “Why am I even doing this? Does it even matter?!”

Because when I really thought about it, I realized I was spending at least 10 hours per week — if not more — working on a book that statistically has a very small chance of getting published. And even if it does get published, there’s even less probability it will sell well.

Would all that time ever be worth it?

I did quickly come to my senses, fix my posture, and continue writing despite my doubts and moment of uncertainty. The way I looked at it, I could either waste my time telling a story that made me feel good, or I could waste it wondering if I should keep wasting time telling a story that made me feel good.

If I’m going to waste time, I might as well waste it actually DOING something, right?

It’s extremely healthy and beneficial to experience moments like these — moments where you yank yourself out of the present and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. Moments that almost send you into a panic because you realize you don’t know if the project you’re working on right now will even lead to something worthwhile.

Do you ever feel like you have absolutely no clue what you’re even doing?

Good. Welcome to the writing life. Take a seat. Fasten your seatbelt. Hold on tight.

The truth is, no one who finds themselves in this mess knows what’s going on. The experts pretend, the veterans like to think they do, but none of us have a clue if we’re even on the right track.

It’s not a lack of confidence or that we’re not proud of our accomplishments or anything like that. As human beings, we’re often plagued with this desire to do something that matters — and we also habitually worry about silly things like whether or not people will remember us when we’re gone. (As John Green likes to say, everyone gets forgotten eventually. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to avoid the inevitable.)

Basically, it’s completely normal to feel this way. Even grown adults on the verge of retirement don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. The best thing you can do for yourself is everything that has a positive impact on your life and the lives of others. (I say ‘positive impact’ and not ‘makes you feel good’ because, like, drugs make you feel good (SO I’VE HEARD), but you probably shouldn’t do those.)

But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s any less lonely or overwhelming. If you’re technically not going down any set path, is there even any point in moving forward at all?

Of course there is. But the good news is, we’re all stumbling down this unpredictable road at the same time. That means that at any point, if you’re ever feeling unsure, someone else probably is, too. You’re not the only one feeling lost, scared, frustrated, or on the outskirts of an existential crisis, either.

We’re all in this. We all understand. We’re all struggling. But we’re all also doing this for a reason.

Never forget your reason for wanting this. That’s the thing that’s going to carry you through all your doubts. Always keep your eyes on the thing you really want. It doesn’t matter if there’s a chance you’ll never get there. Why? Because you are going to learn and grow so much from this experience, whether it turns out in your favor or not.

That is what it means to be a writer. Accepting the journey no matter how it ends. Believing it could lead you into something amazing.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have it all figured out. What matters is that you’re trying, and doing the best you can, and that you’re not giving up simply because you’re unsure. Some of the best things happen when you take a shot you aren’t sure you can make. You just might make it — and your life just might change for the better because of it.


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

A Company Hired Me to Write for Them Because of a Tweet

Be smart, but also be bold.

About a year ago, I was bored, restless, and casually looking for more excuses to write.

A few months earlier, I had quit freelance writing, tired of the inconsistent work, minimal paychecks, and difficult to work with clients. I already had a full-time writing job. But I wanted something more.

Several weeks earlier, I had subscribed to my first-ever book subscription box. (I was bored, remember?) It was a Star Wars-themed box that sent out monthly books and other cool stuff. I’d visited their website several times and tried very hard to ignore the fact that they had a blog.

I have this habit of wanting to participate in things that interest me. Some people are totally content sitting back and observing, but there’s something in my brain that just says, “Get in there!”

After fighting the urge to reach out to Youtini about their blog — did they need more writers? I was a writer! — one of their tweets popped up in my newsfeed, and all my self-control vanished.

The result was a single tweet that changed my life forever.

I knew several things before sending this tweet directly to the Youtini account:

  1. They were a small company who had only launched several months ago
  2. Their mission and niche aligned with my interests
  3. The writing opportunity, if there was one, would probably be unpaid
  4. Their Twitter account was highly responsive (as many smaller accounts are)
  5. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least take a shot.

I’d never sent a tweet like this before — so obviously offering my services as a writer to a company who had no idea who I was. I had plenty of writing experience, but not much in the realm of Star Wars. I knew that if someone saw the tweet, they were going to ask for a writing sample. I knew my chances of landing a spot on their team — again, if there even was a spot — were very low.

But I sent the tweet anyway, after a few careful rewrites and revisions. Why? Because I had absolutely nothing to lose. The worst case scenario would have been that they completely ignored my post, which I was fully expecting them to do. They could have also said, “Nah, we’re not looking for any writers right now.” That also would have been fine.

Typically, you go into these things expecting no results. That way, you’re rarely disappointed. If your tweet or email or Facebook message doesn’t go anywhere, oh well. At least you tried.

I did not expect even a Twitter response. Which was why I was so surprised when the account did respond, and directed me to a contact form, which resulted in an email, a calendar invite, and eventually, a hire.

Keep in mind the team didn’t just say, “OK you can write for us here’s all our login info and super secret company stuff!” I met with the CEO, I sent over my resume and writing samples, there was still a vetting process. It wasn’t just tweet one day, get hired the next. It never is.

I just happened to have the skills, experience, and interest level that matched their needs perfectly at just the right time. I took a chance, and it worked out. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t still be working with these wonderful Star Wars-loving people today.

One final important note I’ll add is that during the interviewing stage of the job, Corey was very clear about wanting to know exactly WHY I wanted the opportunity. When you’ve gone through enough proposals and interviews as a writer, you typically have a good idea of what this question actually means.

They are not looking for answers like: I want more writing experience! I want to make money! I’m bored! Especially not if you’re going to word it like that. They’re trying to measure whether or not you’re going to be a good fit for the position — not just as a writer, but as a person. A real human being.

I got the job because I’m a decent writer. I also got it because I’m very passionate about the subject matter and am a huge team player. The interview gave me the chance to talk about growing up a Star Wars fan and how much the stories and characters meant to me.

Most people — most people that are worth working with, anyway — don’t just want to hire good writers. They want to hire people who are easy and maybe even enjoyable to work with. That’s why you can’t just have good writing communication skills and expect to go far. You have to be able to exist in the real world and approach other people and teamwork with the same passion you hopefully approach writing.

If you stumble upon something that looks like a potential writing opportunity, go for it. Be smart about this, of course. If it’s a big company or a well-known publication, your chances are pretty slim. If you don’t have much writing experience, you might want to get some before reaching out. And if they don’t respond, it is NOT okay to continue sending them emails and messages. That’s borderline harassment. Don’t do that.

Take a chance. You never know what might happen. If nothing comes of it, that’s fine — keep working hard until something does work out. And if you do happen to at least get on someone’s radar, that’s better than nothing. In publishing, it’s all about who you know.

Just remember to be a decent human both online and off. Be nice, polite, and don’t be afraid to show a little excitement. Be bold and brave, and at least act confident. But not TOO confident. If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Finding a balance between “I’d love this job” and “HIRE ME OR ELSE” isn’t always easy, I suppose. But guess what? The more you practice, the better. And what better way to practice than to reach out directly to a publication here and there — when it’s appropriate?


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.

Surround Yourself With Writers Who ‘Get It’

You’re never alone. Ever.

Some days it feels like I’m the only writer I know, and that’s … terrible.

It’s not true, of course. But still.

I am the only “serious” writer in my family, the only one who writes almost daily and gets paid to do it. It’s very difficult to explain to them why my schedule isn’t ‘normal,’ why I spend so much time thinking and not a lot of time speaking, why I work on weekends, why I need plans to be made in advance.

I also have a lot of friends who try their best to “get me” and simply don’t understand why I’m the way I am. I love these people and wouldn’t trade them for anything. But every time “I need to stay in tonight and get some work done” is met with an “OK” text or an eye roll, I get discouraged. It’s not that I don’t want to hang out with you. I just can’t right this minute …

I even worry about having my own family and figuring out how to balance my creative projects with everything else. This is not a struggle unique to writing by any means, but there was a time when I dreamed of pairing up with a musician or designer or even a fellow writer who understood my nontraditional habits and quirks as well as I understood theirs. Will I be happy with someone who doesn’t reside in a mind similar to my own?

The fact that I worry about how everyone else reacts to my writing lifestyle obviously says a lot about my priorities, I know. I tell you all the time to stop caring about what other people think, and here I am frustrated about being a writer because the people around me don’t understand this. I never said I was perfect, now did I?

But then there are the people I’ve met through my work who DO understand. Something magical happens when a bunch of creative-minded people come together. It’s sort of like magic. We sync, somehow. When one of us is frustrated about something, we all empathize and mirror those frustrations. When one of us publishes something cool or figures out something that kept them stuck, we all remember when these things have happened to us and we’re SO EXCITED for them.

This must be why so many people attend writing conventions, groups, classes, and more. Surrounding yourself with people who “get it” seems to make everything more manageable. Plus, when one of you “can’t hang out” because you need to write, everyone grabs their laptops and you all meet at the library or a coffee shop and work on different things all while gathered in a common space.

My favorite time of year is still November, because the NaNoWriMo forums and Twitter are buzzing with “writer-isms” and questions and stories and prompts. It’s so comforting to hear about what other writers are struggling with, because it makes you feel like you’re not alone. Heck, that’s why I started this blog in the first place. I started telling people what I found most difficult about the writing life, and all the responses were some version of — and still are — “YES! THIS IS TOTALLY ME! YOU GET ME!!!”

I DO get you! Writing is hard but so awesome but also AAAAAHHH!!!!!!!

Writing communities can be distracting and not always the most positive places to be, sure. That’s the case with any group you’re a part of.

But in many ways, they’re also essential for writing survival. Writing can make you feel amazing and excited and ALIVE, but it can also leave you feeling empty and sad and discouraged.

And that’s just the WRITING part of writing. Being a writer also requires so much time and effort and emotional energy. You can’t just sit alone in your office and write all day. You have to form and maintain relationships, take care of yourself, take care of other people (or pets), participate in society. Live and thrive in the real world despite spending half your time in a fictional one.

You need support. Someone or somewhere you can vent to. A place where you can say, “I had a really bad writing experience,” and talk about it. Or a safe place you can say, “I met a huge goal and I can’t believe it!” and there will be people there to congratulate you and lift you up.

Where you find “your people” really depends on where you like or prefer to hang out. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to discover a community of writers you can fit perfectly into. In person. Online. With a few other people. With thousands. As long as it’s a positive place to be, and it’s not taking you away from your actual work, it’s going to help you deal with all the “writing things” that writers really can’t talk about anywhere else.

And I hope this blog is a positive, safe place for you to share your thoughts and connect with each other. I am, and probably always will be, the worst when it comes to responding in a timely manner to comments, but it’s something I’m working on.

Just know I do see your words, I’m listening, and I am always here to help, offer some kind words, or somehow otherwise validate your feelings in the moment.

Writing is tough. But you’re not in this thing alone.

I promise.


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.

Why You Should Give Yourself Permission to Quit

Quitting isn’t always a bad thing, you know.

In 2018, I stopped calling myself a health science writer.

In fact, I quit writing about health and nutrition altogether.

This wasn’t a decision I made in response to a single incident. Over a span of several years, I watched as my joy and excitement for pursuing my dream slowly faded. It finally got to the point where I dreaded having to do it which, to me, was a sign it was time to say goodbye.

But before I finalized that decision, I spent hours making lists and reflecting deeply on my feelings, my passions, and my goals. I realized what I really wanted out of my profession wasn’t something I could obtain if I continued down the path I’d been struggling down.

It was in that moment I told myself, out loud, “It’s OK. You don’t have to do this anymore. You’re the only one forcing yourself to do it, and no one else will care if you stop.”

So I stopped. And now I’m able to spend more time doing work that actually reaches and helps people. You! I’m talking about all of you. My growing hatred for creating content in the health space was starting to bleed into all my other work, and that almost made me hate doing this (blogging about the writing life). That wasn’t cool. Thankfully, my passion for what I do is stronger than ever.

I know it may not always be that way, though. That’s why I “check in” with myself about once a year to make sure that what I am doing is still worth the time, energy, and effort.

About at the end of every calendar year I ask myself, “Do you still want to do this blogging thing?” Almost as if there’s an invisible contract up for renewal and I’m obligated to decide whether or not I want to sign it.

Of course, for the past 10 years the answer has always been “yes.” And I don’t think that’s going to change, at least not in the next few years anyway.

But there is a reason I check in with myself consistently like this. I personally believe it’s healthy to question why we continue to do the things we do. There is absolutely nothing wrong with forming habits. But there is always the chance you will fall into a rut, start feeling stuck and bored, and stop enjoying what you’re doing — and/or stop doing it altogether.

Every now and then, I give myself permission to quit. If one day I think long and hard about it and realize blogging is no longer something I want to do, I will stop doing it. But then there is something additionally motivating and almost thrilling about actively deciding, “Yes, I want to keep doing this, and I’m excited about that. I’m not quitting yet.”

Many times, the reasons writers decide to quit are pretty terrible. “I’m not good at it.” “I’m not making enough money.” “I don’t have time.” All valid reasons, don’t get me wrong. But people still make themselves sick with guilt when they do stop because of these things. They don’t give themselves permission to stop. They do it out of anger or frustration or because of a single, isolated event.

If you decide you want to stop writing because it causes you more pain than joy, then go ahead — quit. But give yourself the freedom to do that. Remind yourself that even if you had your heart set on writing, if it doesn’t end up being the thing that defines your life, that’s not the end of the world.

If you’re going to quit, do it because you know it is the right decision for you. Don’t do it because someone else said you should. Don’t stop writing because it’s taking too long to succeed or you don’t believe it’s possible. You are welcome to quit anytime you want. But think about it. Make a pro-con list. Ask yourself, “Am I making this decision based on a negative emotion, or because doing so will make me happier? If I quit, will I feel more miserable than I already do, or will I feel at peace?”

Sometimes, even when we don’t want to make a choice, making it overwhelms us with a sense of calm and serenity we haven’t felt in a long time. When I quit writing about nutrition on the internet, I was disappointed. BUT, I felt relieved at the same time. The pressure was gone. I gave myself the choice to quit, and when I did, my life significantly improved.

My dream didn’t die. I just put it aside and decided to focus on other, more fulfilling things for a while. If I hadn’t given myself that permission to stop, I might have found myself sad and angry and filled with guilt. This was my dream! I gave up! What is wrong with me?

Instead, I looked at all the reasons it was no longer the best path for me (for the time being), and I was able to justify what turned out to be a pretty good reason to say “no more.”

If you’ve said for a long time you want to write for a living or publish a book or host a popular blog — and maybe you’ve come pretty close to achieving that goal — but you don’t want to pursue that anymore, well, DON’T. But don’t tear yourself apart about it. If it’s making you miserable, what the heck is the point? You deserve to be happy. You don’t HAVE to write. The best writers write because it’s what they WANT to do, even if there are parts of it they’re not all that fond of.

And hey, you never know. You might come back to it one day. It may just be the wrong time, you may not be in the right mindset. You may need to take care of some more pressing matters first.

Or, you might give yourself permission to walk away, think about it for a while, and decide, “Nah, I’m good. This is tough, but I’m not backing down.”

The most important thing here is that the choice is yours and yours alone. No one can or should make it for you. Whether you give up trying to write full-time and keep it as a moonlight hobby or you stop writing altogether, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, a bad person, or a failure. It just means you’re actively making a choice. What’s so wrong about 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.

Why I’m a Writer Who Writes About Writing So Other Writers Can Write Too

Writing, as a writer, is a journey worth writing about.

I spend a lot of time each week creating content for this blog and my YouTube channel (where I talk about all the writing things). As I should — when I decide to do something, I go all in, and the more time I spend on it, the better the quality of whatever I happen to be working on at the time.

This is, however, valuable time I don’t always feel like I have. Let’s say I spend 10 hours per week doing Novelty Revisions work (it’s probably more than that, but whatever). That’s 10 hours I could spend working on my own projects.

Instead, I spend that time writing about writing. Teaching/Helping other people do their own writing instead of working on my own. I think that’s time well spent. Many may disagree.

I’ll never forget the time I heard an author say during a Q&A, “Stop wasting your time writing about writing and actually write something!” She meant well, and probably could have worded it better, but that has stuck with me for a long time. Is it a waste of time to write about your writing journey?

I view this through the lens of my own experience, as many writers do. If I never would have started writing about my life as a writer, this blog wouldn’t be what it is today, I may have never been hired for my first writing “job,” and who knows how things may have ended up then?

True, if it were meant to happen it would have happened another way (probably). But I have my blog to thank for the majority of the opportunities I have earned as a writer. That’s just where I’m coming from.

When it comes down to it, though, there is one big reason I haven’t quit blogging about writing in pursuit of other things. And it’s not money, because all the content on my site is free, I refuse to place ads on any of its pages, and my Patreon page doesn’t have much to offer its members, so no one gives much. That’s fine. I’m fine.

It’s not recognition, because at this point, there are way too many blogs like mine and no one really cares except those who take the time to read it — thanks, if you’re one of those. You rock. You rock regardless, but you get my point.

It’s because I have worked for a long time to develop a very difficult skill. I’m not talking about the writing skill in general: Anyone can learn to write, if they put the time and effort into doing so. I’m talking about the ability to actually sit down with an idea and make it into something worth sharing.

Not everyone knows how to do that. I’m very fortunate to have been able to put in the energy and resources — and that I had the support, in the beginning — to do that. I know I’m lucky. I also know that I worked hard, and I don’t want that effort to go to waste.

So while I’m working on building my writing and storytelling skills so I can fulfill my own dreams of publishing something, I spend a lot of time trying to help other people set and achieve their own writing goals.

That is why I do what I do. Because there are people out there struggling to do what they want to do, and this is the only way I really know how to help.

Do my words make a difference? Maybe, sometimes, for a moment. Some people say that if they’re able to help one person be better they’re satisfied, and I’m happy to dive headfirst into that boat. Some people just need to hear their dreams are worth chasing. Some need to be reminded their words are worth the effort. If no one else is going to give them that, maybe I can.

I’m not the best mentor or coach (yet). I talk about myself too much, I sometimes still forget what it’s like living outside my own world. These are things I’m working on. I don’t think we should ever stop learning, whether we’re in a position that allows us to teach other people or not.

Even still, I am so happy waking up and getting to do what I do every day. I wish I had even more time to dedicate to this thing I’ve worked so hard to build. I’m doing the best I can, and for now, that’s good enough. I hope that when you come here, whether it’s your first time or your thousandth, you find value in at least one of the many words I have written here over the past 10+ years.

I don’t think writing about writing is a waste of time at all. At least not for me. My focus is on other people, to help them grow and fall in love with what they do. It’s nice to be able to vent about my struggles and be honest about what I’m not good at, but it’s not about me. It’s always about you. Every personal story I have to share, every rant, it’s all aimed at helping you.

Thanks for sticking with me. This journey is still just getting started.


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.