Are You TOO Organized? Here’s How to Be More Spontaneous

Give yourself some room to breathe.


Organized writers are some of the most productive creators out there. They also often struggle with their creativity – not because they aren’t creative, but because they’re so locked into a schedule that they never treat creative work like anything other than work.

Sometimes we end up stifling our creativity without even realizing it. Here are a few suggestions for letting loose a little bit – it’s good for you, I promise. I see you hyperventilating over there. Calm yourself.

Schedule “whatever” time

I just started doing this, and it’s amazing what happens when you block out time just for doing whatever you feel like doing. You literally just pull out your planner and pick three days out of the week – I like Monday/Wednesday/Friday for consistency. Choose one hour out of each of those days, preferably the same every time, and label it “whatever” time. The rule is, it’s not Netflix time or reading time or hang out with friends time. This is isolated time set aside specifically for creating whatever you want. You can write, you can take pictures – it doesn’t matter. Once I sketched and colored in a self-portrait. I’m a terrible artist. But it was the most fun hour I’d had that week – and I got to laugh at how bad it was. Everyone needs time to just create freely without having to worry about deadlines or doing something well.

Try not to work on the same thing two days in a row

This won’t apply to everyone or every situation, but I have this philosophy that if we work on the same thing too many days in a row, we’ll lose interest quicker. Let’s say you’re about to start writing a new novel. YOU’RE SO EXCITED!!! All you want to do for the next six months is work on it every day until it’s done. The problem is, about a week in, you’ve made a lot of progress … but you’re already sick of it. You’ve burned through all your anticipation. It’s not fun anymore. I’m not saying you should “starve” your creativity – but the longer you can draw out your motivation to work on that book, the more likely you are to actually follow through and actually finish it. I’d still stick with the three days per week rule.

Take weekends off

Some of you aren’t going to like this one, and I understand why. Especially when you work full-time, you often save weekends for your most productive writing sessions. But after almost a year of freelancing, I can tell you with confidence that working seven days a week – because technically, writing is still a form of work – will kill your energy and your creativity. If you need your weekend writing time, at least spend one day writing and the other taking a break. You need that break. You need to get away from your routine and do something else – something spontaneous. Take at least one if not two days every week to just exist. Your writing life will be much richer and more productive if you set it aside every once in awhile, go out into the world and experience new things.

Some days, you’re going to have to stick to a strict schedule and plan ahead or you’ll never get anything done. You can’t do this 24/7, though. You’re going to struggle so much more if you don’t give yourself some room to breathe. There’s productivity … and then there’s growth. If you want to grow, break away from the norm every now and then. If you have to schedule that time out, fine – but don’t neglect it. Your writing depends on your willingness to go off the grid every once in awhile.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Why a Writer Should Never Feel Comfortable

I don’t think we challenge ourselves enough, as writers. I don’t think we give ourselves enough room to grow.


I don’t think we challenge ourselves enough, as writers. I don’t think we give ourselves enough room to grow. I think we use comfort and happiness interchangeably, when in fact, being happy as a writer is an end goal, while being comfortable as a writer is a quick recipe for making sure you never reach your writing goals, ever.

There’s a big difference between being happy and being comfortable. As a writer, you can work hard, question yourself and have bad days and still be happy with what you’re writing. Comfort is soft and fluffy and never stresses you out, but it will silently suffocate you.

Your creativity needs constant challenging

Some of you are already forming arguments in your head about how writing is supposed to be whatever you want it to be. It’s supposed to be fun and abstract and it’s supposed to make you feel good. Well, of course it is. That doesn’t mean you should never push yourself to write something different, or try something new. Challenging yourself as a writer doesn’t mean you have to go from writing YA fiction to 900-page nonfiction history books. It means, every now and then, you should veer from the norm. You might not even know how much fun and addicting that can be, if you’ve never let yourself go there.

Comfort is that book you keep going back to rewrite because your characters are familiar and easy. Comfort is only writing about topics you’ve studied or written about before. Comfort is writing in the same format and style through the same medium, working with the same people and interacting with the same audience. Challenges, on the other hand, make you think and research and, yes, are a little bit stressful. But that’s the way writing should be. Really.

You don’t know everything

It really doesn’t matter how many degrees you have, how many times you’ve been published, how old you are or where you’ve been. If you try to make the argument that you know everything you need to know, you are not an expert: you are inflexible and unteachable. Unwillingness to open your mind and heart up to new ideas and experiences is probably the aspiring writer’s most prominent tragic flaw. If you close yourself off from those things, you’ve pretty much already decided your own fate. And it’s not a good one.

Each client I work with, possibly unknowingly, teaches me something new about writing or editing. I don’t believe anyone should ever stop trying to learn, no matter how often they do something or how much experience they claim to have. It’s dangerous to waltz around believing you have as much knowledge as you’ll ever need to be successful. Writers who get too comfortable in their tiny bubbles of knowing, they’re not going to last very long. Part of what makes writing good is its ability to challenge not only a reader’s knowledge and beliefs, but the writer’s as well.

Your brain doesn’t know how to handle boredom

Yesterday I avoided doing work for three hours by drawing a picture. It’s one of those straight-to-the-trash creative things I do when I have too much energy and can’t focus on what I need to get done. However, it’s not at all what I would have spent my time doing if I had been bored. When you’re bored, you end up watching Netflix, or eating ice cream, or taking a nap. Many of us, when we’re stressed, turn to creativity to balance out our positive and negative energies.

Your brain doesn’t know what to do when you’re bored, which is why sticking to the easiest writing projects, working with the same people, doing the same thing over and over again for extended periods of time, stifles creativity. Whether we realize it or not, a good number of us would rather be a little stressed than pace around the room afraid we’re going to die of boredom. So even though it seemingly might not make sense to take on more writing projects than necessary, getting too comfortable, not having enough creative stimulation, that’s probably the worst thing you can put yourself through as a writer.

It’s important that we all understand why writing is so hard … and why, therefore, it’s still worth it. Sometimes, you don’t want to challenge yourself. You don’t want to learn something new. You’re tired of being stressed – really, you’re just tired in general. You WANT to be comfortable. I get it. I really do. But that also tells me you don’t want to grow as a writer.

That’s your choice, of course: I’m not here to tell you what you can and cannot do. But the writers who push past that lack of motivation and exhaustion and do what they have to do anyway – they’re the ones who make it. Today is Monday. You want to stay in your pajamas and curl up with your laptop and avoid adulting for just one more day. Your brain needs you to write, though. That’s how you get past that “I really don’t want to leave my comfort zone” feeling.

We’ve all been there. You can get up and go on. Do your work, then come home and have a pajama party. Don’t stick with your same old characters; write ones that really challenge you. Write what you’re afraid people won’t like. Writing isn’t always comfortable. That’s why we call it work. It’s tough and sometimes cringe-worthy. But it’s worth it.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

3 Ways You’re Making Writing Harder for Yourself

Could you be trying TOO hard?


Let’s be honest: writing is hard. But sometimes we take things a little too far, and make it 100 times harder.

If you’re struggling, it might be because you’re making this whole writing thing harder for yourself than it needs to be, and you might not even realize it.

You’re too worried about small details

Something that’s really difficult about writing in general is learning how to look at your piece as a whole and focus on small details at the same time. You know you want to write a feature article, for example. But you’re so focused on describing your subject’s outfit that you become overwhelmed with trimming and organizing your quotes and secondary source material. Or, you’re trying to write a novel, but you get too caught up in an extended metaphor, and your dialogue suffers.

Let the small things go, for now. There’s a time and a place for refining details, but sometimes you need to lay out the big picture before tying everything together. This goes along with the general rule that self-editing while you write is more like self-sabotage. You don’t have to get everything right the first time. You’re going to spell things wrong, and forget a character’s name, you might even get a fact wrong. Fix it later. Build up your foundation first.

You’re trying too hard to write a “good” story

For some reason, writing has the power to turn type Bs into obsessive perfectionists. You might start obsessing over doing things exactly right, or rewriting passages to make them “better.” The problem is, you can become so focused on writing something good that you never end up writing what you sat down to write in the first place.

Don’t worry quite so much about writing something “good.” While there may be plenty of elements that go into crafting a really great story, what’s most important is that you write something. Something you enjoy writing; something you are proud of. Sit down, write it and finish it. You can always go back and improve something that’s already written, but you can’t spend all your time trying to write something better when you don’t have a finished story to improve upon.

You’re too concerned about what’s “trending”

So you really want to finish writing your zombie apocalypse novel. It’s the best thing, in your opinion, you’ve ever written. Getting to work on it is the highlight of your day. But when you tell someone about what you’re working on, they matter-of-factly inform you that zombie apocalypse novels aren’t “the thing” anymore. What’s the point of writing something a publisher is never going to buy, just because the prime time for zombie apocalypse literature has long since come and gone?

The point of writing that thing is that it’s something you want to write – and something you ENJOY writing. Yes, if and when you break into writing as a business, what’s “in” and what’s not will become more important. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop yourself from writing something you want to write, or that you should write something just because you think it will be popular. Sometimes, writing what comes naturally to you is how you produce some of your best writing. It doesn’t always matter if it never gets published. Writing can, and should, still be genuinely enjoyable sometimes.

Don’t make things harder for yourself when they don’t need to be. Relax. Of course there are times to take your writing seriously and to push yourself a little, but don’t trip yourself up just because you’re too focused on things out of your control, or things you don’t need to worry about right now.

Some days, it’s okay to just write what comes to you – good or “bad;” well-written or messy – let that story out. Make room for plenty more ideas and stories to come. Don’t hold yourself back. You can do this.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

How to Identify and Strengthen Weaknesses In Your Writing

What’s your biggest writing weakness?


Writing is a process. Sometimes, as we craft a new story or go back to edit something we have already written, we realize there are parts of our work that seem weak. Incomplete, maybe, or lacking in some seemingly unidentifiable characteristic. These weaknesses are often hard to spot if you don’t know how to look for them. But others will notice them – yet you’re the only one who can strengthen them.

Here are a few steps you can take to identify and begin to strengthen weaknesses in your writing.

Monitor your writing struggles

As with anything, the first step to breaking a habit or changing a behavior is to identify what that habit or behavior is. You can do this by keeping track of your writing struggles. As you write, if you pay attention, you will notice seemingly small things you don’t like about your writing; things that distract you; things you want to change. It’s important to point these things out to yourself. In some cases, pinpointing your own writing flaws is beneficial in the long-term.

Which aspect of the writing process trips you up the most? You’ll know it if you look for it. It’s that thing that stops you even when you’re deep into a flow state. It’s the part of your writing that makes you cringe when you go back to read it later. It might even be the thing that often prevents you from getting any writing done at all. If it helps, write down that thing, or multiple things, that bothers you most about your writing. It will make the next step a little easier to work through.

Pick one writing weakness to improve upon

Writers are notoriously self-critical, which in some ways can help you raise your own bar and reach for higher achievements. This also means that, as you begin to look for weaknesses in your writing style or process, you might end up creating an entire list of characteristics, habits and behaviors you want to change. Really, there’s nothing wrong with this. As long as you don’t try to rush into ‘fixing’ every single one of these things right away.

Focus on just one thing at a time. Trying to work on improving multiple parts of your writing style or process at once can be overwhelming, which makes you more likely to give into the temptation to give up before you’ve made any progress. That might make you feel like you’re not making any progress or you’re advancing too slow, but be patient. It’s better to gradually improve on one weakness at a time than try and fail to be better at everything all at once.

Set goals and take it slow

Setting improvement goals means you are committing to improve upon an aspect of your writing you aren’t satisfied with. If you’ve identified one writing weakness you want to work on, such as incorporating better character development into your stories, you’ll want to make it a formal goal in order to motivate yourself to actually put effort into making that kind of change happen for yourself. If setting writing goals is your weakness, then make it a point to set more writing goals. Don’t just say you want to do something; take action steps. Make it happen.

Again, slow and steady is often the way of the successful writer. If you have ever read or written something that was done in a rush, you already know how negatively that can affect a person’s output. It’s the same idea with strengthening your weaknesses. It’s okay if progress is slow. That doesn’t mean you aren’t making any. It means you’re putting in the time and effort necessary to make a big change and improve your writing in the long-term. That’s a good thing. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

Always remember, regardless of how many ‘weaknesses’ your writing struggles with, that focusing on your strengths is just as important to your success, if not more so. If you’re having a hard time with a part of your writing process and it’s making you feel discouraged, counter that feeling by listing off a few things related to writing you’re really good at.

Stay positive. Keep working hard. The more you write, the better your writing becomes.

What’s your biggest writing weakness? Your biggest strength?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

What to Do When You Don’t Like the Way You Write

Don’t like it? Change it.


No writer is perfect. Yet our writing flaws, whether imagined, exaggerated or real, have a way of causing us to question whether or not we’re really cut out for this whole writing thing. You can probably think of one or two things about your writing that you wish could be different, or better. But how can you go about making those kinds of changes in your writing life?

Here are the steps you can take to ‘fix’ the things about your writing that you aren’t particularly happy with.

First, figure out what it is you don’t ‘like’ about your writing

What is it about your writing that makes you want to curl up into a ball and forget the internet ever existed? Is it structural – your grammar and spelling, the way your sentences fit together? Is it your diction (choice of words) – do you struggle to word things the right way or use too many ‘big’ words where you shouldn’t? Do you just not like the way your writing ‘sounds’?

All of us have at least one perceived flaw in our own writing style. I switch awkwardly between refusing to use contractions and using too many, within the same blog posts, all the time. But being able to identify the things you’re not happy about is the first step to improving upon them – and a really good step, too. Once you know what it is that’s really bugging you about your own writing, you can then take further steps to start to “fix” it.

Set writing improvement goals

Set writing goals? Say what? Don’t pretend I haven’t covered this a hundred times already on this blog. You have to set goals to see improvement (which requires achieving those goals). You might not like the idea of holding yourself to a promise you aren’t confident you can keep. But would you rather challenge yourself by setting yourself up to improve, or continue to loathe a certain aspect of your writing that continuously makes you not want to write anymore?

Setting goals to improve is a little different than setting completion goals. Improvement goals are far less tangible than completion goals. Instead of setting a goal to finish writing your novel by the end of July (a completion goal), you might set out to write more actionable blog posts (an improvement goal). How do you set these kinds of goals? Check back for tomorrow’s post. For now, just know that changing what you don’t like about your writing is going to involve goal-setting. If you’re not good at that, it’s going to take some work. Be prepared.

Try a writing course

Whether or not you might consider signing up for a writing course or workshop really depends on your goals. Some writers work better under conditions that force them to focus on a specific task, such as free writing on a specific prompt. Some writers thrive on feedback, and critiquing others’ work while having theirs looked over is both motivational and genuinely helpful. Some writers just want to do it all on their own without help, and that’s completely their choice – nothing wrong with that at all.

Is it worth paying money to become a better writer? That’s really up to you. I’m putting together a list of free online writing courses for those who want to give more formal writing guidance a try without having to spend. Writing classes are not for everyone. I enjoyed my writing courses in high school and college for what they were, but I’m the kind of writer who under-performs under pressure, so for me, this probably wouldn’t be a worthwhile move. But it very well may be for you, if you’re really struggling and need someone to help you get back on track. Or get onto a track in general, if you have yet to find one.

Be patient and just keep writing

I’ve been writing for a very long time; I still have plenty of room to grow and improve regardless. Everyone does, no matter how long you have been a writer. One of the many reasons I write as often as I do is that the more I write, the better writer I become. I learn to catch myself when I start to get sloppy or too wordy. I know my bad writing habits and get better and better at crushing them every single day. Even in the past six months I’ve seen growth. It can be frustrating when you don’t feel like you’re doing a good job … but you’re never going to do a better job if you just quit trying.

Writing more frequently, consistently, also boosts your self-confidence. The more comfortable you are with your own voice and style, the easier it gets to trust yourself and believe you’re doing a pretty decent job. Many aspiring writers, especially early on, have issues with confidence. Don’t let uncertainty stop you. Let yourself grow into your potential and believe in all you are capable of.

Despite everything, try not to compare your writing with other writers’ work

We all want to feel like we’re good at what we do. Even more so, we want external validation. We want someone else to say to us, “Wow, your writing is super awesome.” Maybe they will, and maybe they won’t. But if they never did, how would that affect the way you view your own writing? Are you unsatisfied with your work internally – understandable – or is your issue more external?

Comparing yourself to other writers, excessively, does more harm than good. In the end, the most important thing when evaluating your own writing is that you focus on how YOU feel about it. Do you really not like the way you write … or are you more concerned with what other people think? Are you more bothered by the feedback you get (or don’t get) than your own perceptions of your work? If you are happy with what you are writing, then you don’t need to worry quite so much about ‘fixing’ the way you do things. It’s OK to want to improve. But don’t try changing your style to appeal to someone else.

If you don’t like a specific thing about your writing, only you can take steps to change that and strengthen your own weaknesses. But if you think your writing is acceptable, and it’s others’ opinions or greater successes that are shaking your confidence, remember that the only way to trasform things that cannot be changed is to change your attitude toward them.

What don’t you like about your own writing? (Think of what you don’t like, not about what other people think/how other people react.) What do you want to try and do to improve?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

6 Things That Will Make You a Happier, Healthier, More Accomplished Writer

Hint: they’re all free, but they’ll still take some work to master.


Is it possible to be a writer, AND be happy, AND be healthy, AND be successful? Actually, yes. You’ve heard a lot of complaining from other writers, I’m sure, about everything wrong with the profession. We’re all human; venting is healthy. There are specific ‘traits,’ let’s call them, that make it possible to do what you like to do, get pretty good at it, get paid to do it and actually enjoy it.

It’s not a fairytale. There are happy, healthy and highly accomplished writers out there, and you could soon be one of them. How? Read on.

Need a hint? You won’t find any of these things in a store or on Amazon. But their value is far greater than anything you could purchase in an attempt to improve your writing life.

1. Motivation

What is it?

It doesn’t mean what you think it means, for starters. Motivation is not some abstract thing you lack when you’re trying to convince yourself to sit down and write something. You know you’ve used it as an excuse to go do something else instead at least once or twice (be honest). Motivation, for the writer, is more like purpose. It’s the writer’s reason for doing what they do. But it runs just a little deeper than that. It ends up being the thing that drives you. Your motivation to write is the only thing that prompts you to wake up in the morning and write something down.

How to get it:

  • List out all the reasons why you feel like you need to write
  • Then list out all the reasons you actually WANT to write
  • Narrow down your focus to just one of those reasons – your reason IS your motivation.

When I was first starting my journey as an aspiring writer, I didn’t really have anyone to turn to or anywhere to go for good writing advice. So I started to blog about writing, sharing writing tips and inspiration, the kinds of things I wished I’d had to read when I was just starting out. That is my motivation for blogging for you every single day.

2. Energy

What is it?

We’re talking mental and physical energy here. A writer cannot create without both kinds of energy stored away. Possibly the writer’s greatest weakness is not being able to figure out how much is too much and how little is too little. You might be the type of person to put your work (e.g., writing) before everything else, but if you do not maintain your own energy levels, well, good luck trying to keep up with the often overwhelming demands of the industry.

How to get it:

  • Take more breaks than you think you need
  • Sleep – go to bed when you’re tired and wake up when you feel rested; this can still be done on a schedule if you take the time to figure one out
  • Work out and eat right – carbs are a writer’s best friend (seriously)
  • Don’t overwork yourself – set limits and don’t write more than you have to.

I have this ongoing problem where I work myself straight into burnout mode, try to recover, get too anxious about not doing enough and dive straight into working too much again. I’m getting better at managing it. Lacking mental and physical energy honestly makes writing virtually impossible. Without adequate energy, the rest of the things on this list become unachievable.

3. Discipline

What is it? 

In terms of writing, discipline involves training yourself to establish, stick to and follow through with goals, schedules and deadlines. The writer, the successful writer, has learned to say yes to productivity and no to priorities that stand in the way of that productivity. To be disciplined means to put great effort into your craft, even if it means the occasional sacrifice.

How to get it:

  • Make writing your main focus for a large part of your day (but not the whole day!)
  • Set specific daily goals and meet them one at a time
  • When you feel low on energy, take a five minute break – then get back in and get it done

Every once in a while I accidentally on purpose procrastinate on a writing project, and end up having to write anywhere between 5,000-10,000 words in one day for just one assignment. Not recommended, and trust me, I’m working on that (GOALS). But I always somehow manage to get it done, because I have trained myself over the years to, honestly, just do it. I have one goal in mind and I chip away at it until that goal is met, no matter what it takes. With time and a lot of practice, you can learn to do the same.

4. Focus

What is it?

Focus means staying on task. You have to start getting out of bad habits like stopping to answer a text message or posting on social media when you’re ‘supposed’ to be writing. Once you stop doing something, your brain can’t just refocus back to that thing right away. Breaking your concentration can completely mess up your productivity for the rest of the day, if you aren’t careful. You have focus on that thing you sat down to do, or it won’t ever get done.

How to get it:

  • Figure out what sidetracks you; block it out
  • Set ‘office hours’ – tell your friends not to bug you between time x and time y
  • If you feel yourself losing focus, it’s okay to move on to a different activity for a little while and come back to that one – we’re not meant to pay attention to only one thing for extended periods of time.

A few months ago I deleted the majority of the apps from my phone. I love apps, but they were becoming distracting enough that they were actually preventing me from getting done what I needed to get done throughout the day. I was able to identify that they were the main culprit in my inability to stay focused and downsize to only the essentials.

5. Resilience

What is it? 

Resilience is the writer’s ability to bear and overcome the struggle and write, despite rejection, distraction, lack of energy, negative feedback and/or failure. Writers, like many other professionals, deal with a lot of not-so-fun stuff. You might spend a few hours or more hard at work on a piece that never gets approved. Early on, freelancers struggle to find decent work at decent rates. Novelists send dozens upon dozens of query letters, the majority of which go unanswered for all eternity (sigh). It’s rough. Resilience is what will get you through it – all of it – and push you toward better, less sucky times.

How to get it:

  • Don’t let other people’s opinions or criticisms knock you off course
  • Stop using distractions as an excuse; block them out no matter the cost
  • Treat failure as a learning experience – it is a cliche, but it is so true it sometimes physically hurts.

I’m stubborn and allergic to failure (ha), which is probably why I ended up writing professionally. It gets tough, sometimes. People don’t always respect writers. My work has gotten ripped apart and trashed. Most of it gets ignored. A ton of it doesn’t even get published under my name (yeah, get used to that, trust me). I just keep going. That’s what you have to do. You have to develop a refusal to stop, and act on that.

6. Balance

What is it?

Writers eventually become experts at balancing their commitments. You can’t just write all day, every day, and expect that pattern to go on for long. Writing, whether it feels like it to you or not, is still work. It exhausts you, if not right away, than eventually. And those who write for a living very rarely just write – they have other commitments and responsibilities, too. Writing itself isn’t boring, but it can be if that’s all you ever do. You have to learn to balance your writing with other work; volunteer opportunities; fun things with people you like and who like you back. And so on.

How to get it:

  • Separate your writing (“work”) time from your “relaxing” time
  • Schedule it out – don’t write when you’re supposed to be chilling out or get caught in a Netflix vortex when you’re supposed to be writing
  • Set limits for yourself so you stay productive without burning out
  • Make writing a priority, but please, take care of yourself, and your relationships

It’s still sometimes hard for me to balance my writing with other sections of my life. I catch myself accidentally going days without talking to a friend I usually talk to on a daily basis because I get too caught up in my writing. You feel like you have to do that, when you’re ‘in the zone,’ but the zone is the zone because it’s not supposed to be a constant thing. You have to step away from it in order for it to continue to have any value to your productivity.

All these things, combined, will give your writing life a little bit of structure and purpose. We all need some of that. Without it, we fall into this confusing cycle of feeling guilty for not writing, but not feeling like writing, trying to write and not doing it well, and so on. If you’re serious about writing, consider focusing on one or several of these traits. There’s more to writing than just writing. It’s a creative process that can get pretty overwhelming if you don’t manage it.

Be happy. Stay healthy. Work toward those goals. Most importantly, write. Have fun. Don’t give up.

Which of the above traits do you struggle with the most? What do you think might be the biggest hurdle would have to jump over? How can I help? :)

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

How to Train to Be a Writing Olympian – Part 2

Train to be a more skilled and disciplined writing champion.


So you want to get better at this whole writing thing, do you? Just like training for a sport, writing takes time, and practice, to refine. There are certain things you have to do in order to get to wherever you want to go, writing-wise.

Here’s the second installment to our two-part mini series. Check out the first part if you haven’t already.

5. Get into a routine

When I’m training for something like a half marathon, there’s a schedule. It tells me, in general, how many miles I need to run on which days in order to be fully prepared to do a full 13.1 miles without dying. I will run anywhere from four to six days per week, gradually increasing my distance as the weeks go on. If I miss a day or two, it throws off everything – my body AND my motivation.

Athletes train. They know that if they start slacking off, their performance is going to suffer. While both under-training and over-training in sports can both lead to physical injury, inconsistencies in our writing schedules can damage us psychologically. I tend to fall into one extreme or the other, writing 8,000 words one day, a few hundred another day … schedules. Unfortunately, we’re responsible for creating our own. Many writers struggle with self-accountability, which is why this step is such a difficult one.

Discipline takes time, it takes repetition and it takes effort. I would suggest starting with one day a week – planning, in advance, which day, what time, where and how much you are going to write. The hard part is actually doing it – I can’t really help you with that. This is why it’s called “training.” You won’t get better unless you stop talking about it and actually do it.

Learn how to write 5,000+ words every day.

6. Keep writing, even when it’s bad

Physical training is a roller coaster. You have amazing days, when you feel invincible and like you could never run out of energy. You also have awful days, when you feel like you could just fall over and die right then and there. You don’t always know how things are going to go before you show up. Doing your best usually works, except when you know you aren’t performing well. Then you just feel miserable.

We all have bad writing days. Bad writing streaks, even. Some weeks I cringe with every single blog post, worried it’s all just fluff and it’s not going to help anyone. I do it anyway. The thing about ‘bad’ writing, for one thing, is that we’re not very good at judging the quality of our own work. Often what we think is our worst piece of writing ever turns out to be, in others’ opinions, one of our best.

For another, with every ‘bad’ thing we write, we learn from it. I can now tell exactly what I’m not doing well as I’m writing something. I might leave and come back to fix it later, or I might just accept defeat and submit or publish it anyway. But you learn. You learn your bad habits and you start catching yourself doing them. The more you write, the more you get used to not falling prey to those bad habits quite as often, or ever again.

What does writing a ‘bad’ story say about you as a writer?

7. Seek out constructive feedback

Every professional athlete has … well, probably a few things in common. One of those things is that they have coaches. They spend plenty of time training on their own early on, but eventually, they have someone there to highlight what they are doing right and point out what they are doing wrong. The athlete still does all the work: the coach simply helps guide them in the right direction.

Some writers have mentors, and you could technically consider an editor a mentor (though in many cases, they’re just there to fix your typos). But especially early on, writing is quite solitary. You’re not always going to have a teacher or a friend there to help you do better. Eventually, that will most likely change. No one is going to come to you, though. Nope. You’re going to have to go to them.

How? By submitting to publications. Applying for freelance writing jobs. Writing circles are great, and I have nothing against them, but I do tend to frown upon seeking feedback from peers in most cases only because that takes away from both your writing time and theirs. It’s a start, but professionals are going to much better serve you. You’re going to have to submit your work to publications, or at least try to. Whether you’re confident about it or not. (I still very rarely am – just do it. You have nothing to lose.)

Find constructive feedback on your writing to learn how you can improve your craft.

8. Stay positive, even in the face of rejection

Writing is hard: there isn’t an experienced writer out there who will argue with that. It isn’t just the writing itself that proves difficult, but the way your writing is received by others. People either ignore you or praise you or harshly criticize you … sometimes they’re nice about it, but it’s still technically criticism. Think, “Your resume is impressive, but …” It’s much easier for people to point out things they don’t like than it is to highlight things they do. So rejection, as a writer, hurts. It hurts bad. But so does falling off a balance beam, probably. You have to learn to live with the pain.

My first few times trying to find freelance work, I dealt with a lot of rejection. People don’t like paying experienced writers: inexperienced ones have it even harder. It’s not easy to pursue a goal, only to feel like everyone is out there waiting for you to fail. But if you’re training to perform better in a sport, and you trip and fall, of course you have two options, right? Get up and try again or give up for good.

There are actually two more options here: get up, try again and complain every second of the way, or get up, keep your chin up, make the most of your mistake and press on without a single negative comment. Insert comment about positive affirmations here. The Final Five may not have had it easy getting to where they are now, but they sure didn’t lie down on the floor and quit, now did they? Everyone deals with rough starts, and winding roads, bruises, what have you. Write through it, gosh darn it. Don’t you dare stop.

There’s a reason why you haven’t quit writing yet; remember that.

Taking your writing more seriously, setting goals, coming up with a plan, getting it done, no matter how tough and scary it is … that’s how you’re going to make it. I believe you can. You have to believe you can, too. But you also need to take it a step further, and act on that belief, to make a successful writing life happen for you.

I really hope you enjoyed this mini series! I have so many more tips related to this topic, I just might have to write another ebook … ;)

As always, feel free to leave a comment if you have anything to add, or have any questions about any of the tips I’ve given in today’s post.

Next week’s newsletter will feature a free 30-day writing schedule to help you get your writing routine in shape – make sure you sign up so you don’t miss it! Emails come only once per week – no spam. You’ll also get a link to my podcast archives (bet you didn’t know that was a thing!) and super secret updates about new things coming to Novelty Revisions.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

How to Train to Be a Writing Olympian – Part 1

If writing were an Olympic sport, we’d have a much better idea of how to train to be the best.

If writing were an Olympic sport, we’d have a much better idea of how to train to be the best … and we’d have a much better way to measure whether or not someone is “good” or just “making progress.” There aren’t that many clear indicators of what makes a writer worthy of whatever the writing equivalent of a gold medal is (Nobel Prize seems like a reach … or maybe not).

Often, what makes a writer appear successful honestly depends on how many copies of a book they sell or how many good reviews that book gets on Amazon … but that’s a rant for another post. In a nutshell, to be the best you can be at anything, you have to train. Consistently, and for an extended period of time.

But that doesn’t make things any easier. I see a lot of confusion in writing groups about what’s “right” and “wrong” or “appropriate.” Honestly? It’s about doing – writing – not about whether or not you’re doing it the way someone else recommends you do it. Training, as a writer, is the part of writing that’s mostly solitary. You need to depend on yourself, and hold yourself accountable, to meet your goals. Here’s how.

1. Explore different genres

What trips a lot of new writers up in the beginning is not really knowing what “practicing writing” means. It’s a term broad enough to intimidate newbies, because “getting better at writing” isn’t a goal most people can figure out how to achieve. The key here is to specify what kind of writing you want to get better at.

My brother has always been an athlete. Growing up, he played baseball, soccer, basketball, volleyball and ran cross country one year (I think). It took him until he got to high school to settle on soccer as his primary focus, and he now plans on playing in college. A lot of kids do this – with hobbies as well as sports. They try a little bit of everything to figure out what they like and what they’re good at. We can do the same thing with writing.

Try writing a screenplay. A poem. A short story. Figure out what you like, what your strengths are. Choose something to focus on. Maybe you just like blogging, and that’s what you want to get better at. Maybe you want to train to be a novelist; an essayist; a screenwriter. Make it easier on yourself. Pick one and run with it.

2. Start with what you have

Fun fact: I learned how to spin flags in college. For no reason other than I was bored and self-conscious about my lack of upper body strength. Problem is, you can’t learn how to spin a flag without a flag. So since my roommate was teaching me, I just borrowed hers until football season ended. By that point, I knew I wanted to keep practicing. So I asked for a flag and weight lifting gloves for Christmas, and once I had them, I could use my own equipment to practice whenever I wanted to.

Writing is similar. You don’t have to – and probably shouldn’t – go out and buy a brand-new laptop, or expensive writing software. What often happens then? You get to excited about your new tech and the idea of using it to start writing your upcoming masterpiece that you spend all your time and energy shopping, purchasing and setting it up that you waste it all. You never actually get to the writing part.

Write first. It doesn’t matter if you have a version of Microsoft Word from 2007 (like me). It doesn’t matter if your laptop is old. Goodness gracious, just sit down and start writing something. Let buying something writing-related be your reward: don’t give yourself the reward before you’ve actually done anything. To this day, opening that flag is still one of my happiest recent Christmas memories. I earned that flag. Practice first, purchase later.

3. Set SMART goals

You’re tired of hearing this. I know: I’m tired of writing about it. But the reason I’m repeating it now (and why everyone else still is) is because it seems to be the one thing new writers cannot seem to grasp. I’m part of a wonderful, supportive writing group on Facebook that encourages everyone to introduce themselves when they are first approved to join. I’ve lost count of how many introductions start with “Hi, my name is Meg, and I want to write a novel someday.” Awesome; I love ambition. But I hope, I really hope, that’s not actually their goal.

Athletes, in my opinion, have it a little easier. They can break down “I want to make it to the Olympics” into smaller goals like, “I want to make it onto this team this season” or “I want to win this tournament” or, in my brother’s case, “I’m working for that MVP and I’m not going to stop working until I get it.” (He will.) But just because they have it easier doesn’t mean it’s impossible for us.

I have a goal to reach a specific number of followers on Novelty Revisions this year – not because I particularly care about views or followers, but because it motivates me to write content every day and continually search for new ways to make it better. I set a goal to finish my novel by July 31. Even though it didn’t happen, I did make a lot of progress, which wasn’t previously happening. Saying you want to be a successful writer or published author just isn’t good enough. I’ve said this at least 50 times already this year and I’m going to keep saying it until it’s drilled too far into your brain to be forgotten.

4. Work – really work

Don’t do what I’ve been doing with my novel all week, which is write a few sentences just to cross it off my list and move on to something else (trust me, I don’t like it either). If you want to level up your writing life, just saying you want to do it isn’t going to get you anywhere. You have to work – really work.

That means a little something different for everyone. Some people need to write almost every day to exercise their creativity and keep their ideas flowing. Other people need to keep themselves on a strict writing schedule, even if it isn’t daily. I typically set word count goals to keep myself on track – 1,000 words on this project, 500 words for this one, etc. It’s like training for a half marathon. If I’d skipped a training day, I wouldn’t have been able to run 13.1 miles back in May. So I didn’t skip. At least with writing, rain can’t get in your way.

I don’t spend nearly as much time in forums and writing groups as I used to – not because I don’t want to be a supportive community member, but because I need to write. Discussing writing topics is great, to a point, but if I have a choice between talking about writing with someone and getting some writing done, you can probably guess which one I’m going to choose. Training to write better requires writing, a lot, all the time.

And much, much more.

Stay tuned for my next set of tips to help you train to be a writing Olympian! If you don’t want to miss the rest of this awesome mini-series, that follow button over to the right is yours for the clicking.

Until tomorrow … get back to writing!

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

What Writing a ‘Bad’ Story Really Says About You

We’ve all written stories we aren’t proud of. *cringe*


How do you define a ‘bad’ story? Something filled with cliches and predictable events? So many plot holes you can’t even finish it? Dialogue so shallow and robotic you can’t even get into the real story at all? Maybe it’s too overdone. Maybe it’s too confusing.

It’s embarrassing … whether you’re the one who wrote it or not. Really! Tell me I’m not the only one who gets red-faced when reading something someone else has written that just isn’t good. I feel bad! I want to fix it. When it’s your own work, you can … but not everyone is willing to try.

The thing is, whether you’re told your story is bad or you figure it out by reading it back to yourself, it’s not a good feeling. No matter how many years you’ve been a writer. Yes, I write bad stories too. Sometimes the ideas you have in your head just don’t translate that well onto paper. It happens.

Sometimes it almost feels like you’ve failed somehow. And that’s often a hard truth to swallow.

So you wrote a ‘bad’ story. What does that say about you, as a writer?

Nothing. Just that you tried.

You were brave enough to write something even knowing other people might not like it.

You were strong enough to overcome your fear of creating something no one would ever read.

You wrote something. There are people out there who would give anything to be able to write a story from start to finish, but for whatever reason, can’t.

You created a thing you thought of yourself. Ideas come from all over. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t great. It doesn’t matter if it’s similar to something that’s already been done. It doesn’t matter if it needs work – all stories can and should be edited to make them better. Maybe there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ story. Maybe we should call them underdeveloped. Rough drafts. Works in progress.

‘Bad’ implies you don’t have potential. And that is absolutely not true. Every writer starts in the exact same place – not knowing their native language well enough to craft a skillfully constructed work of art. But they practice. They learn. They get better. They learn what works and what doesn’t, what makes a story unique and what makes it stand out in a not so good way. The only way to never improve as a writer is to stop writing.

You wrote a story you know could be better. You have three options from here:

  1. Don’t ever write anything again.
  2. Rewrite the story and figure out how to make it better.
  3. Use that story as a reference point and move on to writing something else.

I write stories all the time that aren’t that great. I know that. It doesn’t make me a ‘bad’ writer. It doesn’t make me a time-waster. Every time I come across a bad writing habit, or I find something about that story I really don’t like, I make it a point to write another story that purposely does that one thing better, or I try to ‘undo’ that bad habit as I’m writing that new thing.

I think everyone starts out writing very, very rough drafts. We will always start out writing stories that aren’t that great … but the more often we write stories, the less noticeable those flaws become. We still notice them, and so do professionals like editors, educators and other writers. That’s why writing is such an exhausting process. You don’t just write something once and that’s it. You either write the same story multiple times over until it’s the best it can be, or you take note of both the flaws and triumphs of a story and keep them in mind while writing something else.

Writing a ‘bad’ story, really, just makes you normal. We have all done it, and will continue to do it. What makes you exceptional is the choice to try, and then try again … and again. The writers who make it, they know they aren’t perfect. But they keep writing anyway. Failure does not define how good you are at something. Whether or not you’re willing to get back up and keep going? That does.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

The Best Way to Learn How to Write … Is to Write

I do not remember him teaching me a single thing about how to write. Yet it was in that class that I learned how to be a better writer.


When I took my first creative writing class, I expected it to be like any other English class I had ever taken. Learn some terms, learn some techniques, write a thing for a grade, move on. And then I walked into that class for the first time, and one of the first things my instructor told us to do was open our composition notebooks and write about a specific prompt.

There was no how. There was no list of rules to follow. He just told us to write, and we wrote.

I will be completely honest with you: I took that class three times, three years in a row, and I do not remember him teaching me a single thing about how to write. Yet it was in that class that I learned how to be a better writer.

For me, writing has never been something I learned by taking classes or reading advice from other writers (though I give it now, and am getting better at reading what others have to say as well). Writing, throughout my journey, has been about sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind. I cannot explain how I figured out better ways to write things. Perhaps it is a combination of reading and exploring the world, though the latter I have done very little of compared to the majority of the people I know.

I remember specifically several occasions in which I was writing on my own, stopped in the middle of a paragraph and thought to myself, “No, I don’t want to write that this way, I think it would be better if I started it another way.” Good teachers do not teach you how to do something without letting you try. They force you to do things wrong and then show you ways to do them better. I think, little by little, I picked up on the little things my instructor pointed out to me, and kept writing, and figured out what I was doing right and what I could do better, on my own.

The best advice I have ever given, and may ever give, to new writers is that they need to write. Who cares if it isn’t good? I have notebooks filled with terrible, embarrassing prose that I will never show to anyone. But I have kept them as a symbol to remind me of how far I have come. I never would have stopped writing terribly if I had stopped trying to write better. And the same goes for every single one of you out there. No matter how good of a writer you might be, you can be better. And you will be, as long as you keep writing.

This is not to say taking writing classes is pointless. Actually, my English major made me a much better, more confident writer than my creative writing minor (despite the writing workshops, which were infrequent but amazing – shoutout to the one person I know of from one of those workshops who now has an agent, woo woo!). Every instructor teaches differently and every course has different objectives. I have not completely eliminated the possibility of a master’s in writing someday (though not anytime soon, for many reasons). But as long as you write, even if there is nothing else in addition to that, that is so much better than never writing at all.

Before you seek out advice, if you are in that stage when you want to write but don’t know where to start, write first. Write anything, even if it doesn’t go well. Even if it’s hard. Start with writing. Then figure out how to get better. Trying to seek out advice for something you have never tried, it just has never made sense to me. Try first. Try to improve second. And keep improving, always.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

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