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.

Why Comparing Yourself to Other Writers Doesn’t Make Sense

So you want to write like so and so … but why?


I have a favorite author. John Green is the kind of writer I would love to be. He is clever and cultured and knows his young adult audience so well you sometimes forget he’s almost 40 (sorry, John).

I admire him on a deep, creative level, as I’m sure many writers do. But that’s sort of where it ends. A long time ago, I’m sure I compared myself to other writers all the time. “I wish I could write like …” or, “I can’t believe she has so many fans.” I think we all do that, for a little while. But as a writer, at some point you realize how pointless this is. Trying to stand up and measure yourself against another writer just doesn’t make sense.

Why is comparing yourself to other writers such a waste of time?

Everyone progresses differently along different paths

Let’s say your end goal is to self-publish a science fiction novel. Plenty of writers have come before you and have self-published science fiction novels. They have reached the finish line you eventually want to reach. But the roads they take to get there will likely not be the same as yours. You will have different experiences. You will take less or more time to write the first draft or go through the editing process. There are 100 different ways to reach your finish line. Everyone, including you, will get there a different way.

To think you can know exactly what someone else did to get to where they are, and follow their exact footsteps, doesn’t really make sense. Why would you want to do that? Becoming a writer, in the most generic sense of the idea, is a journey. The experience is almost more significant than the end product. The same way you don’t want your book’s plot to be identical to someone else’s, you don’t want your story – your growth from aspiring writer to professional master of the words – to mirror one that’s already happened. Would I love to be as successful as John Green? Uh, sure. But He followed a very specific path that at one point involved lots of data entry for a publisher. Yeah … no thanks. :)

There is no set way to measure every single person’s success

It’s hard to see writers with more blog followers than you, or more book ratings and reviews than you … or however you tend to measure “success” as a writer. It’s not fun to feel inferior. But back to John Green for a second. He’s sold over 10 million copies of TFIOS. To him, a previously published author with a YouTube channel and a strong young adult following, that’s a metric of success. Now look at me. I’m lucky if I sell one copy of my ebook this year. If I sell one, or five, or 10 – to me, that’s success.

Your success early on honestly has nothing to do (IMO) with how good of a writer you are. Really. TFIOS is a good book, don’t get me wrong. But I’m going to give an unpopular opinion here and say it’s not amazing. If it had been JG’s first book, we don’t know how well it might have sold. Success is different for every single writer in their own individual situations. You have to tailor your level of success to fit the circumstances. So you don’t get thousands of views on your blog daily. I sure don’t. But you likely get more now than when you started. That’s better than nothing. That’s still growth. Count it as a success. Don’t worry about where other people are at. Focus on you.

There are lessons to be learned

Along your journey, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, and do things “wrong,” and you’re going to feel disappointed and discouraged. In some way or another, every writer experiences all this. But everyone gets something different out of it. That’s your journey to make, not someone else’s. Enjoy the steps. Embrace the good times and the bad. Learn what you need to learn from every outcome. You’re only human: you can only focus on so many things at one time. Focus on growing, and learning … at your own pace.

In school, were you ever taught to take your time learning a new way to do math? My teachers finally had to sit me down at some point and tell me to stop worrying about what everyone else already knew and focus on learning it on my own. Just because you’re “behind” or “not as good” at something doesn’t mean you should feel bad about it. That’s easier said than done. I know. But in the beginning, you have to focus on you. And your “beginning” might last years. Mine did. That’s okay. Everyone learns the best way to do certain things in time. It’s not about how fast you get there. It’s about the climb the progression. YOUR progression.

I appreciate other writers’ work. I love to read and I love seeing people grow. I’m a writer, too. I’m aware that there are many, many people out there who are better than me at what I do. More successful, maybe. There are people younger than me who have published novels. Big-name blogs. YouTube channels. Does that mean I’m not good at what I do? No. It means I’m on a different path. That’s how it should be. You have to accept that growing as a writer is slow, and most of the time, you have no idea whether you’re doing the right thing or not. All that matters is what you keep going. Really.

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 to Come Up with Better Ideas and Write More

If you’re someone who wants to broaden your intellectual horizons but you don’t have time to read a lot or money to take extra classes, TED Talks are perfect.


Do you ever feel like you’re running out of ideas? A lot of times you might have a list of ideas you haven’t worked on yet, but we aren’t always motivated to work on specific projects, yet we still want to work on SOMETHING. You can find ways to generate new ideas by doing many different things. Here are a few examples.

Read blogs, essays and nonfiction books

You can gather a lot of ideas and inspiration from reading fiction, but you can learn just as much by reading blogs, essays and nonfiction books. Does that sound a little boring to you? You might not be reading the right things. You don’t have to read about anything you aren’t interested in to learn. There are blogs and essays and books out there on every subject. Read what you like and let it inspire you to write about what really interests you, too.

Reading nonfiction may not be entertaining in the same way fiction is, but it’s a great way to learn and to exercise your brain. There are other options out there, though, if reading isn’t your thing, or you don’t have time to sit down and read a ton every day (but you can work on changing this, if you want).

Listen to TED talks

The whole reason TED Talks exist is to give people the opportunity to speak about their expertise and experiences – and to give listeners opportunities to learn and be inspired by a wide range of ideas and opinions. It’s sort of like reading a bunch of short essays, except there isn’t any reading involved.

If you’re someone who wants to broaden your intellectual horizons but you don’t have time to read a lot or money to take extra classes, TED Talks are perfect. You can watch or listen to them for free, choose any topic you want or a random set, and gather your own new ideas and opinions on your own time. Many of the posts on this site in the past few months have been inspired by TED Talks.

Spend time with people you don’t know

Have you ever disagreed with a friend, but didn’t really actually try to understand their explanation of their opinion because you didn’t want to ‘argue’ with a friend? Having insightful conversations with family and friends can be valuable, but to get the most out of conversations that challenge our opinions and beliefs, it’s also helpful to discuss issues with people we don’t know so well.

Spending time with strangers, or at least people we don’t consider close friends, can change the way we view specific topics. You’re much more likely to challenge someone else, or allow yourself to be challenged, when you’re not so focused on pleasing someone you care about on a more personal level.

Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone, but hopefully they will give you some ideas (heh) of new ways to stimulate your brain and get you thinking more deeply while writing.

Do you have any more suggestions for how to stimulate deeper thinking and better writing? Feel free to leave them in a comment!

Image courtesy of TED.com.

When it Comes to Writing, The Choice Is Yours

So are you going to get some writing done today, or not?


Are you one of those people who absolutely HATES being the one to have to make the final decision? Where are we going to eat? Which movie are we going to see? It’s bad enough when you have to decide for other people. What about when you have to decide for your characters … and yourself?

Life is often just a series of choices, if you think about it. Which is great when you win no matter which option you choose (will it be pizza or tacos?), but not so great when none of the options before you seem appealing.

Writing stories is also usually a succession of choosing one thing or the other. Often subconsciously, but sometimes actively.

When you think about writing and ideas, there are always two choices: sit down and write something, or avoid writing altogether.

You can choose to think an idea over, or sit down and start writing.

Write what you know, or write what you don’t.

Play it safe, or take a risk.

Write something, or nothing at all.

We get upset when we realize we haven’t been writing as much as we’ve wanted to … and then we realize the only thing holding us back from getting all that writing done is all the times we had to choose between writing and doing something else, and chose the latter.

It’s not always that simple, though. Sometimes it is a matter of life or death (figuratively, obviously). Is that character we love and cherish so much going to live, or does he have to die? Are we going to throw in that dark twist, or veer the plot in a different direction? Are we going to write something we know our readers will like, or dare to write something many of them might not?

If you want to take your writing to the next level, you need to start by making the right choices. Choose to wake up a little earlier or stay up a little later to make more time for writing. Choose to use all your YouTube subscriptions as rewards instead of another way to procrastinate. Choose to take a few risks when you tell your stories.

Sure. All that makes writing feel more like work and less like a hobby. And it’s scary. And a lot of the time, you probably aren’t going to want to do it.

Whether you decide to keep your writing journey moving at a slow but steady pace or give it plenty of time to sit still and think over its next steps, that decision will shape not only your stories, but, basically, your whole life.

You can write … or not.

The choice, as always, is yours to make.

What is the hardest choice, related to writing, you have ever had to make? Share your story below.

Image courtesy of Wonderlane/flickr.com.

How to Define Your Own Limits as a Writer


Writing itself is a tough gig. What makes it even more challenging is that, especially in the beginning, you have to find time to write on top of everything else you need to do (work, go to school, socializing).

When you’re not a full-time writer (yet), but you still want to develop and refine your writing skills, it’s a lot to handle. You’ve probably had points in which you were doing everything, and writing, and didn’t realize how fast you were wearing yourself down until you crashed.

Or maybe you’ve never felt that way. Maybe, from your point of view, you can never quite seem to push yourself hard enough.

Whether you’re an over-committer or you’ve never tested how far you can stretch yourself, we’re here today to help you, as a writer, define your limits, so you can figure out how to make the most of your writing time without burning out.


Defining your own limits is really as simple as “you never know until you give it a go.” When you’re stuck in your normal routine, stepping out of it to get a good look at where you are is a necessary first step. You have to be able to define what you think you need to change before you can go about changing it.

Write down what you normally do on a daily basis. How much of that routine is dedicated to writing? If you’re doing a lot, and also writing a lot, look closely at the non-writing-related points. How many of those are necessary? Are you writing when you should be doing something else (like studying), or doing something else when you could be writing (like watching YouTube videos)?

If you have to, decrease your writing time (just a little) to make room for other things. It’s going to do more for you in the long run, trust us. And if you have to give up re-watching Brotherhood 2.0 so you can spend more time writing, take a deep breath. 2007 in video form will still be there when you get back.

Do just a little more than you think you can handle

Regardless of the activity, we often unintentionally do too much without realizing it or don’t realize we could be doing more. When it comes to writing, the hardest part is sitting down and getting started. Sometimes, once we get going, the hard part is training ourselves to stop when we’ve met a daily goal.

If you’re struggling to find writing time today, make it a goal to write just a little bit more than you think you have time for. Don’t go any further—to avoid reaching too far past the upper limit you’re trying to set for yourself—but don’t fall underneath the bar, either. Push just a little harder. Just write 100 more words, and then 100 more, until you feel you’ve earned some leisure time.

Pay attention 

Our bodies give us signals; learning to pay attention to them is how we can train ourselves to know when we’re doing too much and when we can do more. You might start to feel fatigued if you’re on the former end of the spectrum, but if you’re just feeling tired for no reason, you might not be stimulating your brain quite enough.

Listen to those signals. Base the limits you set for yourself on what makes you feel the most capable and comfortable, physically and mentally.

You can do this. You can write and still have time for other shenanigans. You can be productive and successful and still have time to watch Hank’s party blower solo on repeat.

How’s that for a Monday [afternoon] motivation?

Or did we just send you into a dangerous vortex of non-productivity?

Either way, you’re welcome.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

[DISCUSSION] How Can I Help You Write Better?


For the first time EVER, you’re going to get a little background about how Novelty Revisions became Novelty Revisions. Trust me, it’ll all make sense in a minute.

When I was a junior in high school, it seemed like everyone had their own blog. I wanted to be a writer, and didn’t really have an outlet for anyone to read the things I wrote unless I asked specific people (or begged, pretty much, I didn’t know any better then).

So in January 2009, I started a blog on WordPress called … wait for it … Writer’s Blog. OMG SO ORIGINAL GUYSSSS. It was a lot of weird stuff, I mean, I was your typical weird (in a good way?) 16-year-old Nerdfighter. Highlights included Sonic the Hedgehog ramblings and jokes about polygamy. Don’t ask.

Eventually, I’m not quite sure when, Writer’s Blog turned into Heartfelt. I think the point was to convey how I wanted to share words straight from my heart, or something like that. There were a few emotional posts, probably really personal stuff no one should ever post on the Internet. Let’s pretend it never happened.

At some point while I was in college, Heartfelt turned into Tales of a College Novelist. Some of you probably jumped on board at this point, which is when this really started to transform from a personal blog about my life to a content “hub” meant to help writers, I guess, write better. We got a Facebook page. We had a nice, very pink site redesign. I paid for a .com domain. Everything was great.

Except it wasn’t, because by the time I bought my domain, I wasn’t in college anymore, and it didn’t really fit my style anymore. I stuck with it for awhile longer, but toward the beginning of this year, I decided TCN needed to grow up a little. The pink smileys were getting a little old.

So while I was working full-time and wasn’t in graduate school yet, I spent my evenings creating what you now know as Novelty Revisions, which I designed to help writers, quite simply, learn how to put their ideas into words.

“Novelty” is a play on words: “novelty” means original, as in creating original content, but it also has the word “novel” in it, which is why it’s written Novel[ty] in our logo. Novel as in story or novel as in innovative—get it? We want to help you take your ideas and put them down on paper, but we want to help you carry them through the revisions process, too. In case you wondered where Novelty Revisions came from.

Anyway, it took me a little too long to figure out what I wanted this to be. I’ve finally figured it out. Well, mostly. See, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an expert. I get a lot of my ideas for posts from my own experiences as a writer, which is great and all, but I’ve been struggling lately. Not to come up with ideas, but to come up with ideas that will actually help our readers, which is the whole point of doing this in the first place.

Honestly? I don’t always know what you guys need or want to know. I don’t always know what you struggle with or what you’ve already learned. Which is why I started discussion-oriented posts in the first place. I think they’re more personal. I’m doing this for you. You’re the reason I make it a point to post every day. I’m here for you. I mean it!

So it’s the end of September now. I’m going to keep our LET’S GET PUBLISHED series going for a little while longer, and then we’re going to move into prepping for NaNoWriMo—which is going to be interesting, since I’ll be serving as an ML for the first time this year, and I don’t want to neglect all of you just because I have a region of writers to mentor. YIKES. Exciting, but terrifying. I don’t want to just throw content at you for the sake of having something new to post.

Here’s my question for you today: how can I help you write better?

From the idea-organization stage to the revisions stage of writing “stuff”—I want to be able to help you. But I’m not always sure how.

Would a weekly e-newsletter help? Did you know we already have one? You can sign up here!

Would more “how I do it” posts help? I don’t want to make this all about me, but does it help when I explain strategies from my own perspective?

I don’t know! If you have suggestions, comments, concerns, leave a comment. I’m open to feedback. I just feel like I’m not being particularly helpful, and that’s not good for any of us.

This site has come a long way since 2009. I’m proud of that. But for the first five or so years, I didn’t really have an audience in mind. Now I do. I don’t want to forget that.

I’m looking forward to what you have to say. You can be honest. I don’t take constructive criticism personally. I mean, unless you tell me I publish with too many typos. That hurts.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Five Things My Mentors Have Taught Me About Writing


Writing itself is a solo activity. Being a writer is not. We can teach ourselves how to write stories and read books and try to get better, but it’s working with other writers, and finding mentors to guide us, that make us great at what we do.

I’ve had a lot of mentors throughout my journey to becoming a (relatively) accomplished writer, and each of them have taught me something different. Here’s what I’ve learned, and how you can find your own mentors.

 1. There is no such thing as a perfect piece of writing 

Courtesy of one of my literature professors in college, who never gave perfect grads on papers because there’s no such thing as a perfect literary analysis, or, any piece of writing.

We spend way too much of our time trying to write the perfect story, the perfect pitch, the perfect beginning, middle, end. That’s valuable time gone to waste. What’s the challenge of writing something good if all we care about is submitting something without any errors? It’s not possible. Just write; it’s not supposed to be flawless. That’s why it’s called a “draft.”

 2. Less is more

Before I became the managing editor of College Lifestyles magazine, I was our former managing editor’s assistant, and before that, I was just an editor. I turned a 1,000-word article in to her for editing once. I ended up trimming it down to under 600, and if you know me, you know how hard that was.

It’s about quality, not quantity. People don’t want to know you can write a lot. They want to know you can send powerful messages in as few words as possible. As a Wrimo veteran, I’m used to cranking out as many words as possible, but that’s a habit we all need to learn to break when we’re not sprinting.

 3. Stop using so many “thats”

Before I became a CL editor, as you can imagine, I was a writer working underneath my own section editor. That experience was the first time I had ever really written for anyone else, and honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. Especially when it came to filler words, of which “that” seems to be a popular one.

My editor worked with me for six months to teach me not to use “that” unless absolutely necessary. You can write, “A lot of people don’t know that writing is hard,” or you can write, “A lot of people don’t know writing is hard.” If you can take out a word and a sentence still makes sense, leave it out.

 4. Sitting at a computer and typing will not make you a better writer

I was really shy in high school (okay, I still am). All I wanted to do was write. I would have much rather sat alone and written a novel (which I did, many times over) than get up and do things with other people. Then I took a creative writing class, three years in a row, with the same teacher.

He made us do all sorts of things not related to writing (or so it seemed): dancing, juggling, walking around blindfolded, trying to drop eggs from a high point without breaking them. I hated every minute of it, until I didn’t. I noticed changes in my writing, yes, from not writing. We can’t just sit around. We have to get up, do dumb things, laugh. Be with people. Draw from our memories to keep our stories alive.

 5. Treat writing the way you’d treat learning to play a musical instrument

This lesson came from a fiction and poetry professor and my academic advisor, who taught one of only two creative writing classes offered in the curriculum at my alma mater. The idea originally came from someone else, I can’t remember whom he read from, but he branched off and elaborated afterward, and that was what stuck with me.

How do you learn to play the piano? By practicing. You don’t just sit down once a month, press down on the keys and suddenly know how to play like an expert. Everything we write counts as practice, but we can’t call ourselves pianists, or writers, if we don’t put in the time and effort, more than the casual player/writer, to refine our skills and be the absolute best we can be. 

How to find your own writing mentor
  • Connect with writers on social media. Seriously. Everyone is in a different place on their journey, and you never know who you might click with, be able to learn something from, or even teach someone else.
  • Take a writing class. They’re not for everyone, but it’s worth a try.
  • Join a writing group, post in a forum.
  • Read blogs about writing. Hey, you’re already doing it!
  • Reach out to publications. Be willing to have your work critiqued by someone else, even if you’re afraid to. 

I still have a lot to learn as I continue to grow and develop as a writer, and plenty of new people to meet and learn new things from. Some of the lessons I learned on this list, I learned from people I don’t speak to anymore. One, I still do. One, unfortunately, is no longer with us.

But they’re lessons I’ll never forget, lessons I am more than happy to pass along to you, if you need them. If you’re feeling stuck, like you’ll never make it.

Keep writing. Keep learning. It is worth every moment.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.