12 Important Reminders to Read When You’re Not Feeling ‘Good Enough’

It’s OK. You’re going to be OK.

Advertisements

1. There is no rush. This is not a race. It’s not about who “gets there” first.

2. You can learn a lot from those more experienced than you. Don’t get frustrated. Get curious.

3. You will learn something important from every mistake you make. So don’t be afraid of making them.

4. You don’t have to be “the best.” You only have to be “your” best.

5. In every rejection, there is something to be learned, and something you can do better next time.

6. Every writer starts at the bottom and has to work their way up.

7. Every writer also starts with an idea and has to work hard to turn it into a story.

8. All writers progress through their respective journeys in their own way at their own pace. Take your time.

9. Perfectionism doesn’t get a book written.

10. Comparing yourself to other writers is a waste of energy.

11. Working toward your writing goals technically only requires a minimal amount of effort one day at a time.

12. You. Got. This.


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


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

The ‘Sitting Down and Doing It’ Part of Writing

I didn’t want to. But I did.

I’m going to be completely honest with you: The absolute last thing I want to do right now is write a blog post about writing. Especially a realistic yet slightly uplifting one aimed to inspire writers to open their works in progress and get to work pursuing their dreams.

But I’m going to do it anyway. Because that’s what a writing commitment looks like. Showing up. Doing the work. Testing your own limits, and getting better at all of the above each time you do it.

I think a lot of us are afraid to push ourselves too hard, especially when it comes to writing. We take the truths we are told and twist and mold them to fit our own narrative, and sometimes that’s not a good thing.

We hear “don’t write when you’re not into it” and we convince ourselves we can’t write because we’re too tired, too stressed, too overwhelmed, too “out of sync” (whatever that means).

We hear “don’t overwork yourself so much that you burn out” and we convince ourselves we shouldn’t write because what if it drains us? What if it leaves us unable to do the other things we have to do?

What if? Why bother? What’s the point?

I’m not going to go into detail about the things happening in my personal life right now because this isn’t a diary and none of these things are related to writing. But what I will tell you is that technically, I am fully capable of making a choice between letting life get in the way of my writing or write despite the hardships.

And clearly I’m choosing to #WriteAnyway, which has apparently become my hashtag for the year. I have too many goals, too much on my plate, to be able to afford to hide under my blankets and turn on Netflix every time things don’t go the way I wanted them to go.

At the beginning of the year, I made plenty of writing commitments. But one of them was to publish a blog post every day in 2019, as I’ve done every day since 2015 (or 2014?). I did the best I could, but I couldn’t quite schedule enough posts ahead of time to maintain the buffer I like to have in place on days like this. So it’s currently nighttime and I have to have a post ready to publish in less than 12 hours, which is, as you can imagine, not my favorite thing.

I’d love, just this once, to say, “Forget it. My readers will understand. I’m tired. I’m done.”

But what kind of example would that set? What right would I have to tell aspiring writers to write even when they didn’t feel like it, when I have to publicly admit to not writing because I didn’t feel like it? That would be more than silly. Irresponsible. Unacceptable.

I said yes to writing these posts. I am a credible source for writing advice not because I’m necessarily an “expert” but because I practice what I preach. When I make mistakes, I admit them. But I’m also here to show you why and how I avoid those mistakes.

Writing seems a lot harder than it actually is, at least in terms of the actual sitting down and doing it part.

I sat here for a long time thinking I wasn’t going to be able to write a blog post today. But look at that. I put my hands on my keyboard and started the thing and wrote until I finished it (or am in the process of doing so). I wrote anyway, because it matters to me. If writing is important enough to you, you will always find a way to make it happen no matter what.

Stop giving in to excuses … but also know your limits.

Don’t say “I’ll never.” Say, “Maybe I can’t today, but I will tomorrow.”

And don’t just say it, either. Mean it. Follow through with it.

A commitment is more than just your word. It’s actually siting down and doing something.

So even if you don’t want to write today, if you have the choice, #WriteAnyway. If it’s a choice, always choose to do it. I promise, you won’t regret it. You’ll be glad you took a deep breath and made the words happen. Well, I know I am, at least.


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.

When You Can’t Finish Writing Your Story Because You Don’t Want It to End

Endings are hard. They’ll always be hard.

It happened three times in a row over three consecutive years. I hit the 70,000-word mark, or roughly that. I was, all things considered, almost done with a whole book. And then I just … stopped.

I loved these books; adored these stories. One helped me through the grieving process after losing a close friend. Another found me out of the blue, I adopted it and made it my own, and fell in love with it. And the most recent one was the first time I ever allowed myself to tell “my” story through a fictional character, something that was challenging in the best way possible.

I didn’t just start them. I nearly told them all the way through, with some gaps here and there in each one, but that’s to be expected near the end of the first draft.

For whatever reason, I just couldn’t fill in those gaps. I just couldn’t bring myself to write until I could truly call them finished.

But why? Why, after working so hard and coming so close, did I just … quit?

You might actually already know the answer to this question if you’ve ever had similar problems finishing something you so excitedly began writing not all that long ago. Or maybe you don’t, and that’s why you clicked on this blog post — for an answer, or an explanation. Either way, all I can offer is a theory.

Put simply, we avoid completing writing projects for the same reason we put off watching the series finales of our favorite shows and stop reading just before we reach the last page.

We don’t like endings. We don’t like facing them. We don’t like the uncertainty that comes after them. And most of all, we don’t like putting things away or behind us. We want to hold onto the things that are important to us, the things that make us FEEL.

Sometimes that’s a book someone else wrote or a TV show someone else created. Sometimes it’s a story we started writing ourselves. Maybe it’s not the best story ever written, maybe it’s not the most original idea or we’re not completely proud of all its parts. But it’s something we made, and if we could, we would make that thing last as long as possible — maybe even forever.

Finishing those books would mean having to say goodbye to the characters I had fallen in love with. It would mean the end to the stories that I had spent so many years of my life completely immersed in.

And of course, it would mean that I’d probably have to edit and/or rewrite the things, and you can’t blame me for dreading that part of the process!

Here’s the truth: All good things must, someday, come to an end. You might not like it. You might try to run from this reality for as long as you can. But at some point, you have to take a deep breath and let it happen. Watch that last episode. Read that last page.

Write the end of your story. Fill in all the gaps. Call it finished — at least, for now.

It’s quite possible I won’t finish these projects. For one in particular, it’s just too late to go back. But there does come a point at which you do have to let go of a story — whether that means formally ending it and calling your first draft finished or setting it aside and accepting defeat.

Neither of these decisions is “right” or “wrong.” It is, when it comes down to it, nothing more than a choice. You are in a position that allows for complete control in this regard. You can choose to leave what you started unfinished, and you have every right to do so for your own reasons.

Or you can choose to do one of the hardest things you’ve ever done as a writer, and finish what you started.

By the end of May, I’m committing to finishing one of the three projects I almost gave up on. I am so close. I am terrified to call it finished, but I know it’s a decision I will not regret.

What about 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.

It All Begins With a Word

Starting is easier than you think.

Have you ever thought about how cool it is that one second you are staring at a blank page, and the next you are filling that page with words?

I have. It was thinking about this that prompted me to start writing this blog post.

It sometimes seems, as you’re staring at that blank space in front of you, as if that’s not possible. Creating something out of nothing? How does that work?

It’s pretty simple, actually. All you have to do is take a deep breath and begin.

Just start with one word. It’s not nearly as difficult as you might think.

Before you know it, one word will become two, and two words four, and the words will continue to multiply until at some point you lift your hands from the keyboard and realize you’ve written a story all by yourself. You took an idea that just appeared in your head and you made a whole story out of it. YOU. YOU DID THAT.

When you feel stuck, blocked, sad, alone, unsure, unmotivated, uninspired, sometimes all it takes is placing one single word on one blank page. Because once you do that, the page is no longer blank. You have started writing something, and clearing that hurdle is a feat many aspiring writers never even come close to accomplishing.

Some see a blank page and freeze. They don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know how to transform it into a story. They don’t believe they are capable, don’t believe they have the power to make it happen.

But you do. You can.

So. What’s your one word? Write it down. Then write another after that. Form a sentence, a paragraph, construct a page. Don’t think about writing a whole chapter and especially not a whole book. Focus on the small things. Focus on that one word, and conquer that battle, and I promise you, things will not seem quite as impossible from there.

Writing doesn’t necessarily get easier as you go along. But that barrier to starting does become easier to knock down once you learn how.

Starting is hard because you’re thinking too much about how hard it is to start.

Stop thinking. Start writing.

Well, to be fair, you do have to put some thought into what you’re writing eventually or you’re just going to end up with a jumbled arrangement of words that don’t make sense in any context. But one word doesn’t have context. It doesn’t need it. It’s just a word. And it can be proof that you Did It. You Started Writing a Thing.

Sit down in front of your blank space, whatever that may be, and write the first word that comes to mind. Chances are the first sentence in whatever you’re about to write won’t start with that word. But your only goal here is to build a story off of that word. It’s kind of like a game, except by this point, you’re probably already frustrated and seriously considering giving up. (Don’t!)

Here. Let me demonstrate.

The first word that came to me when I told you to write the first word that came to you was boats.

I know nothing about boats, I’ve only been on a few boats in my life, but I think boats are pretty cool, so I’ll run with it. I’ll start writing a story about boats.

The next paragraph will come straight out of my head, no overthinking allowed, and will serve as the beginning to a story I may or may not continue writing at some point in the future:

When I rode the ferry to the island on May 14, it was like falling in love for the first time. Thrilling. Wondrous. Unforgettable. I’ve ridden on boats and fallen in and out of love plenty of times since then, and it’s not quite as magical as it used to be. Kind of like when you’re a kid and everything is cool and exciting. Once you grow up, you realize the ferry is just another form of public transportation. Nothing special. No magic to see here. But before I was forced to grow up, it was May 14, and the ferry took me to a place I had been dreaming about visiting my whole short life.

First drafts are first drafts and that’s all I have to say about that. But now I can’t stop thinking about the critically cynical character that has walked into my life and I kind of want him or her to keep talking? Moving on. (Or am I?)

See? That wasn’t so hard. I am exhausted and sick and anxious, but I just thought up a word and pulled the beginning of a story out of my brain. If I can do it, you can do it. Let’s see you give it a try in those comments.


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 Successful Writers Don’t Spend All Their Time Behind a Screen

Writing is about more than actually writing.

I was 15 years old. I was sitting in the library, writing in a notebook, while the rest of my classmates were outside working on a project for our creative writing class.

Why was I inside, by myself, writing instead of working on a project? Because it was a creative writing class, not a “go outside and do things with other people” class! I wanted to write, and so that’s what I was determined to do.

My creative writing teacher wasn’t having any of my silent rebellion, of course. He tracked me down, took away my notebook, and told me to go outside.

Rude!

When I asked him what was wrong with sitting alone with a notebook in the library by myself, he gave me a look and then said in an uncharacteristically serious tone, “If you want to be a writer, you have to go out into the world and experience real life.”

That was over 10 years ago, and I still think about it almost every day. Because it completely changed the way I looked at writing, and what it meant to be a writer.

Writers write. It is literally the only prerequisite for being able to call yourself a writer. In this profession — or hobby, or whatever you prefer to call it — you are going to be spending a lot of time behind a screen telling stories basically to yourself. That’s not going to change, and you shouldn’t sacrifice valuable writing time ALL the time for other things.

But you do need to take breaks, venture out into the world, and give your brain the space and the stimulation it needs to draw more ideas in.

My sophomore year of high school, I didn’t get out much. I had no interest in doing so. I wanted to sit alone in my room and write books. I thought that was all it was going to take to make my dreams come true.

Fast forward to this past weekend 12 years later. I’m in Chicago walking around a giant convention center all based around a weird space opera some guy named George Lucas wrote in the 1970s. I sit in on a panel and hear Jon Favreau say he wrote four episodes of a TV series before even proposing it to higher-ups because he couldn’t stop the story — he was so in love with it he just HAD to write it — and I’m thinking, “I want to love my stories so much that I keep writing them even if no one ever buys them, because maybe someone will someday.”

And even though I could go on and on about Star Wars Celebration for 50 blog posts at this point, I bring it up to show you that meeting people, and listening to real discussions, and HAVING real discussions, and being away from your work for an extended period of time while having those experiences makes all the difference.

Writing gets better when you have real-world experiences to draw from. Not the ones you see secondhand that other people are telling you about or acting out on a screen, but real firsthand sights and sounds and events you will never forget. THOSE are the experiences that truly matter.

Now, I’m not saying you have to go to a 5-day nerd party with 80,000 other people to have the kind of experiences that are good for harnessing creative energy. In fact, most people probably won’t ever do that. That’s fine. For you personally, “real-world experience” can pretty much mean anything, even if you don’t stray far from home.

Sometimes, just walking out your front door and breathing in the outside air is all it takes. Or even just sitting by the window without going outside and just letting your mind wander. Anything that takes you away from your screen, away from your work, and allows your mind to focus on … well, nothing!

Most of us aren’t fortunate enough to have someone always looking out for us, someone who will track us down, drag us away from our creative comfort zones, and force us to go outside and live in the real world. It’s something we have to train ourselves to do on our own. We have to diverge from our normal routines and the preferences that keep us comfortable and experience new things. It’s like studying new material we can later come back and write about.

I don’t remember what that project was or what we did when we were outside that day. But I do know that every time I step away from my writing and come back having spent time in reality, I am so much more motivated and inspired to create than when I’ve been sitting in the same chair day after day doing the same old things.

You never know what you’re going to find out there. Just take a deep breath, save the writing for later, lift up your head, and open your eyes. See it all. Feel it all. Live.


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


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

You Don’t Have to Give Up Things You Enjoy to Be Successful

Success does not require misery.

Have you ever thought about the reasons aspiring writers quit? Writing is challenging, of course, and many people aren’t prepared for that level of difficulty. But there’s another reason so many people who desperately want to write for a living never make it that far.

Writing makes a lot of people miserable.

Not because they don’t enjoy writing, but because someone at some point has told them that if they want to be a writer, they aren’t allowed to do anything else.

Adding this to the list of garbage writing advice you should never, ever follow. Ever.

So many people think you have to give up everything you enjoy — or that you can never even try to find balance — in order to succeed in writing. Or in any profession, really. Video games? No time! Netflix? Forget it! Reading for fun? Who even does that?

I can’t have a family, I’m a writer! I can’t have a house or start a garden or go to the farmers market on weekends, I’m a writer!

Who told you that? And why the heck did you believe them??

Success does not require that you are miserable. What would be the point? Would publishing a dozen books, working full-time as a blogger, or whatever it is success looks like to you really be worth it if you were unhappy and still felt unfulfilled?

Humans are not built to work all the time. “Successful” people who claim you can only make it in the world by sacrificing family and friends and your health are sending the wrong message, and it’s not fair that they get to use their influence to tell aspiring creatives and other wannabe professionals that they have to work themselves into the ground to make good things happen. It’s not realistic, and it’s not helping anyone.

Do you have to work hard as a writer to succeed in this industry? Of course you do.

Do you have to make sacrifices along the way to keep your focus on writing? Absolutely. Sometimes, you’re going to have to cancel plans, give up the one morning you have per week to sleep in, or miss the series finale of your all-time favorite show. This does not mean plans cannot be rescheduled, another morning can’t be slept through, or you can’t record the episode and watch it later.

You don’t have to stop making plans altogether, or settle for less than six hours of sleep every night, or stop watching TV completely. There is such a thing as less, and in the long-term, saying yes to less is probably more effective than trying to say no to everything all the time.

Say you’re maybe sort of most definitely hooked on Netflix — so much so that you often choose to binge-watch half of a season of a show at a time instead of working on your long-forgotten novel. Your first instinct might be to stop watching Netflix altogether. After all, if streaming commercial-free TV shows and movies is stopping you from writing, isn’t it best to just cut yourself off completely?

It might be an effective strategy … at first. For the first few days of saying no to Netflix, you barely even think about it. You don’t even really miss it. It’s just entertainment! You don’t need that!

But then on Friday, a highly-anticipated original series drops on the platform, and EVERYONE is talking about it. You look at the writing you’ve done this week and notice you’ve made good progress, at least compared to previous weeks. Not watching Netflix was the best idea you’ve ever had. You should keep it up!

Now it’s Saturday, though, and you’re itching to start watching that new show. You do the best to focus on your writing, but you can’t stop thinking about it. You want so desperately to honor your No-Netflix commitment so that you won’t stop writing. You can’t give in!

You make it until the next morning, and finally cave. And instead of writing, you spend the entire day plowing through the series so you can talk to your co-workers about it Monday morning.

Having broken the cycle, you shrug your shoulders and return to your previous routine of watching Netflix instead of writing. It was nice while it lasted, huh?

This “all or nothing” mentality is not effective, and it’s going to make your head spin. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t write and also watch Netflix. You don’t have to cut out the fun to make room for the work. You have to do the work first and use whatever time is left in your day to indulge in your pleasures.

For you, this might mean getting home from work, writing for an hour, eating dinner, and lounging on the couch in front of the TV for the rest of the evening. It might mean saving all your TV time for the weekends and focusing on your writing during the week — a different but still potentially effective way to fit both things into your life.

There is no right or wrong way to do it. Identifying the problem — too much Netflix — is a good start. But you don’t have to jump straight into deprivation. You’re going to face the temptation to spend an entire day watching TV no matter what. But what’s going to put your mind in balance: Only writing and never enjoying someone else’s story, or getting your writing done and then indulging in a few episodes before bed?

Finding balance is one of the hardest things creatives have to learn, and many never master it. I sure haven’t. There are weeks I get less writing done but read my way through several of the books on my shelf. There are weeks I read absolutely nothing but make a ton of writing progress.

If you enjoy watching Netflix, then you should continue to allow yourself that enjoyment. Say yes to less. Work hard, but have fun. Spend time with the people in your head, but also the people in your life. Write a lot, but also sleep and eat decent meals and exercise every now and then. The more fulfilled your real life is, the better you’re able to serve the fictional lives you’re in charge of.

Take care of yourself, and embrace the things that bring you joy. Just don’t forget to write, and to find as much enjoyment in that work as you can. It really does make all the difference.


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


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

What Is a ‘Flow State’ and How Will It Help You Write More, Faster?

This could change your writing life for the better.

It was early on a Saturday morning. The dog had woken me up an hour or so earlier, and even though she had just fallen back asleep for a quick early morning nap, I was still awake. I decided to grab a cup of coffee and start my day off slow — the best way to kick off a weekend, in my opinion.

Coffee at my side, I decided to open my blog and decide what I was going to write about later. The next thing I knew, the coffee was gone, a little over an hour had passed, and I had written two blog posts, neither of which I had planned on completing until that afternoon.

Had time fast-forwarded itself without my permission? Technically, no. But that’s what it felt like to me. Because once I sat down at my desk and let my brain do a little thinking, I had unintentionally entered an often neglected creative “zone” in which everything except those blog posts ceased to exist.

This is something psychologists call a “flow state.” It’s the sort of trance you enter while giving a speech, playing a championship game, or writing a blog post. Nothing else matters. Only the task in front of you. And most people, whether they intend to or not, perform better in this state than they do when they aren’t in it.

Entering into a flow state means that you are completely immersed in whatever project or activity you are actively engaged in. Getting sucked in to a YouTube video doesn’t technically count because you’re not actually doing anything. Spending two straight hours working on your novel without realizing much time has passed does count, though, because you’re completing an action without interruption.

For me personally, being in this state of mind when I’m writing pretty much transports me to a place where time does not exist. I become completely unaware of who I am, where I am, and what’s going on around me. I don’t hear anything, I barely even move. The only thing my mind is able to focus on are the words I am taking from my head and transferring onto “paper.” It usually takes a noise, an alarm, or finishing whatever I’m working on to pull me out of flow.

The best thing about being completely engaged and focused on something like this is that I’ve noticed I’m not only able to write better during that time, but I’m also somehow able to write more.

An hour of unfocused, forced writing time is a lot different than an hour of completely interrupted writing time. I basically don’t stop writing for the entire duration of the session. I don’t look at my phone, I don’t click over to other tabs to check my email or social channels. I stay completely immersed in my book or blog post or whatever it is I happen to be working on at the time, and the writing just gets done.

In general, most writers struggle to get their work done because they never focus completely on the task in front of them. They’re either always trying to do 50 things at once or they don’t think there is room in their life for an uninterrupted writing session.

These are problems that have solutions. The process of entering into a state of flow can act as one of those solutions, as long as a writer puts in the steps necessary to do so.

How do you enter a flow state if you want to write more in less time? It’s not as complicated as you think — if you’re willing to make the effort to make it happen.

  • Pick a time and place where you won’t be interrupted. This means finding a spot in your schedule where you can be completely alone in a room with your words without the chance (or less of a chance) that your dog, spouse, or children will disrupt your flow. For me, 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning in my home office is apparently the best time and place. I’ll keep that in mind for next time.
  • Get comfortable. I don’t mean snuggle up with a pillow and blanket — creating ideal napping conditions won’t help you get any writing done and you know it. I just mean you should make sure you don’t have any reasons to get up. Have a snack or something to drink nearby. Put on comfy slippers or find a blanket (but not too much snuggling!). Pee before you sit down. No discomfort, fewer reasons you’ll be able to justify getting up in the middle of your writing session.
  • Eliminate all distractions. Close out any unnecessary tabs or temporarily disable your Wi-Fi or the internet if you have to. Turn off your phone or, at the very least, leave it facedown just out of your reach. If music or a podcast will distract you, leave it off. If these things will help you stay focused, turn them on.
  • Just start writing. Don’t think too hard about what you’re about to dive into or the perfect way to execute the story. Just start making words. A lot of people think just jumping in without thinking through where you’re going is a waste of time, but think of it like this: Would you rather spend 15 minutes of your writing time trying to plan out where the story will go, only to abandon that plan 15 minutes into actually writing for something different? Or could you just save 15 minutes or more by letting the story take you where it wants you to go without worrying about getting it “right”? If the objective is to get more done, there’s very little room for unnecessary planning. Just start writing.

The deeper you get into your writing session, the easier it will be to enter a flow state. It happens seamlessly, and you may not even realize you’re in it until it’s over. This is not a bad thing. You don’t want to be thinking about being in a flow state while you’re trying to get your work done. You want to focus completely on that work without distracting yourself with other thoughts.

It’s not an easy thing to achieve for everyone. Most people have not been taught or have never taken the time to learn how to create the ideal environment for this kind of deep creative focus. That’s okay — no judgment here. But I do hope these suggestions help. And if there’s anything else standing in your way of Making Writing Happen that I haven’t mentioned here, don’t hesitate to let me know. I want to help. Will you let me?


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 Simple Changes That Will Make You a Better Writer Almost Instantly

Change your attitude and other good things will follow.

1. Don’t write like someone you admire. Write like you.

2. Two words: Nope Days.

3. Write as if no one’s ever going to read it. Let go. Go offroad. Be wild.

4. Stop saying, “I’m not good enough” if it’s going to interfere with your writing. Get good by writing.

5. Write about things that interest you, even if you don’t think they’re “trendy.”

6. Stop “writing what you know” and start writing about what you want to know more about.

7. If your big writing goals seem too hard or too far away, focus on something smaller. Like writing 2,000 words this weekend.

8. Every now and then, get back to basics. Write a simple, predictable story. Then go back and twist it around untilit’s something surprising.

9. Open yourself up to more stories, whether it’s through books, films, or in interacting with other people.

10. Stop trying to go from zero to bestselling author in 60 seconds or less. Take your time. Also, breathe.

11. Treat rejection as a challenge to do better next time.

12. Write when you are discouraged. Remind yourself that you’re doing what you love, and hard work will get you to where you want to go.


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.

Interruptions Are Inevitable. Don’t Let Them Knock You Down.

Tired of writing interruptions? Here’s how to deal.

About a year ago, I brought home a husky puppy. My life changed in many ways after that, and I am more than grateful for the vast majority of them. (You know what’s not fun? Picking up dog poop in the rain without an umbrella while the very strong dog is trying to run after a passing car because she hasn’t learned the sit command yet and also CARS.)

One thing I didn’t really think through before bringing Izzie home was how much her almost constant presence throughout my days would impact my writing life.

Before #DogMomLife, I could write whenever I wanted to. I had almost total freedom over my time. That changed very quickly, and at first, it put an almost complete stop to my writing.

That obviously did not last. And that’s a good thing.

The strangest thing about this drastic change in my life is that it actually taught me how to make better use of my time. Puppy naps would be the perfect time to watch a few episodes of my favorite TV show or read 25 more pages of my current book. But it turns out these are things I can very easily do while said puppy is awake and sitting on me (she likes the sits). Do you know what doesn’t happen when she’s sitting on me? Writing.

So guess when writing happens most often now? When she’s napping. And I guess this strategy is working out just fine, since I’m almost done writing my book, I haven’t let this blog go silent out of frustration, and I’m making excellent progress on my writing goals.

This doesn’t mean that I’m never in the middle of writing something when my dog decides she needs immediate post-nap pets. (These are, I have learned, essential tummy pets that must happen after the naps in order to achieve full awakeness.) Usually, I have to stop in the middle of a sentence when I am summoned, because otherwise she stands on her back legs, puts her front paws on my keyboard, and tries making her own words until I intervene.

Dogs don’t word very well. They don’t have useful thumbs. It’s very challenging.

Izzie isn’t the only interruption I have to work around throughout my day. Notifications pop up, emails come in, I get another robocall (STOP). I live with people who insist at watching television at full volume (or my favorite, turning on the television, turning up the volume, and then leaving the room to not watch television at full volume).

I tried enforcing a “please don’t come into my office unless you knock first” policy, but dogs (and apparently people) don’t understand knocking as a general concept. And even if either of these parties did knock, a knock is still an interruption. Interruptions are part of the writing life, really.

So how do you deal?

Honestly, the first thing you need to do to handle “writing interruptions” is to accept that they aren’t going to stop happening. Writers don’t live in an enclosed bubble completely cut off from the outside world. I’m not going to get rid of my dog because she stops me in the middle of a really good chapter. I’m not going to throw out all the TVs in my house to make it quieter (though I can’t say I’ve never been tempted to try it).

But even though I can’t kick out the dog or hide the remotes, I can minimize certain interruptions, adapt my schedule, and work around the inconveniences I face on a daily basis. Or do my best to, anyway.

  • List out the things that interrupt your writing time. For me: Puppy. TV. Twitter notifications.
  • Highlight the interruptions you have control over and decide how you’re going to handle them. For me: Twitter notifications. I can very easily log out of my Twitter account on my computer if it’s distracting me (temporarily blocking it with Cold Turkey is an effective last resort), and simply flipping my phone over or turning it off takes care of that problem. (I could also give my phone to the dog, but I’m not sure that would end well.)
  • Figure out how you can work around the interruptions you can’t control. I have a pretty good idea of when the TV is going to start blasting. Sometimes noise-canceling headphones are enough, but it’s actually a lot easier for me to write in complete silence. (I like being able to hear where the dog is, because long story, she can’t be trusted.) This means I have to do a lot of writing very early in the morning, which actually isn’t my favorite time to do it, but it works. And the dog, well, as I said earlier, when she naps, I write. It also works.
  • Don’t blame other people/your pets. Most people (and 99.9% of all pets, the 0.1% is my dog) don’t even realize they are interrupting you. Writers are weird. We sometimes deep focus so hard that we forget our own names. A lot of people aren’t even aware that’s a thing. Don’t roll your eyes at them for not respecting your time or space. Writers have to learn to work around other people’s existence sometimes. It’s not easy to stay in your own head when there are other things going on in your world that apparently need your immediate attention. You have to do the best you can with what you’ve got.
  • Set boundaries. It’s not always easy negotiating with your fur children. But people are a lot easier to approach with these kinds of things. Sometimes, you are going to need to confront the people in your life and let them know you need just one hour of uninterrupted time every evening. No interruptions, no noise. Make a deal. Play with the dog for an hour and I’ll take her out at three in the morning because she can most definitely hold it until five, but doesn’t know it. I don’t know what your living situations are like. Do what you will with these tips.
  • Plan for the worst. There are small interruptions, like puppies wanting you to pet them at inconvenient times. Then there are bigger interruptions, like unexpected life events that take you away from your writing for longer periods of time. Expect these things to happen every once in a while, and give yourself permission to step away from your work when they do. You don’t have to shut out the world to get writing done. Especially when important things come up.

Interruptions can be frustrating, and very difficult to manage for many writers. But don’t let them stand in your way. Write around them. Thrive despite them. There are many things in this world you will not be able to control. Focus instead on the things you CAN control, do your best, and be patient.

If writing truly matters to you, you will find a way to make it happen.


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


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

You Don’t ‘Find’ Writing Success. You Create It.

Is writing success really something you “find”?

“Finding writing success is a challenge worth pursuing.”

That sounds nice. But what does it really mean?

I don’t mean the actual message behind the phrase — that succeeding in writing isn’t easy, but is worth the effort you’re willing to put into it.

I mean the actual words. “Finding writing success.”

Is writing success really something you “find”?

I’ve used the phrase myself a dozen times on this blog and any other place I’ve talked about writing. “Finding” writing suceess sounds cool, like you’re making some kind of epic discovery after a very long journey full of trials and missteps and small victories. But I have a big problem with the word “find” in this context. So I’ve decided to change the way I refer to writing success as I’m encouraging people to achieve it.

At some point either in a writing or language class or in your own practice as a writer, you probably encountered lessons about the difference between active and passive voice. You don’t write, “By walking I got to the coffee shop.” That sounds wrong somehow, even if you’re not exactly sure how. Instead of using passive voice, you turn the sentence into an active phrase: “I walked to the coffee shop.” There. That’s better.

Passive voice is clunky and confusing. It’s often unclear who is doing an action and why. Passive things are almost never favorable. Passive aggression, for example.

“Finding writing success.” It sounds like a very passive, effortless thing, doesn’t it? It implies that you were just strolling casually down the road and accidentally stumbled upon writing success. You found it! But that, furthermore, implies you put zero effort into your achievements. You simply strolled casually, and then writing success happened.

Those who have succeeded in writing, know people who have, or at the very least know what it takes to succeed as a writer are very aware that success is not passive. It does not “come naturally,” it does not simply happen because you will it to happen. Definitely not all on its own.

Writing success happens with years of hard work, of consistent time and effort put into improving your writing skills, connecting with writers and editors, and making a place for yourself in the publishing industry (whatever that might mean for you specifically).

Hard work. Time. Effort. Making space, all as you are creating works of art that have the potential to touch lives, say things that matter, and change the world one reader at a time.

The truth is, you don’t “find” writing success at all, friends. You create it.

You. Not your creative writing teacher, not your mom, not your roommate’s cousin’s best friend’s uncle. You.

No one else can or should do the work for you. That’s on you.

No one else can dictate your odds of success. You create them yourself.

Will you encounter people along the way who will help you? Of course. Every writer needs an editor, for example. But those who are helping you are part of your success, and wouldn’t have joined you on your quest if you hadn’t first ventured far enough along in your journey to realize you needed them.

It is still a path that you are creating for yourself. With enough effort, the hope is that every writer will determine the route that will most effectively get them to where they want to go, and along the way they will earn the trust and help and respect of those qualified to assist them in any way possible. Agents. Editors. Publishers. Readers. And so on.

Someday when you look back on your life as a writer and remember all that you have accomplished, you won’t say, “Wow, I really found success, didn’t I?” No. You made that. You created that. You started out with absolutely nothing and you built something from that void and you deserve to say, “Yeah, that was me. I did that. I succeeded.”

I hope you’ll get to that point someday. To the top of the mountain, where you can look back in the direction from which you came and allow yourself to be proud of all you have accomplished.

If you continue to work hard, if you set goals and figure out how to turn them into achievements, if you train yourself not to give up no matter what comes your way to try and knock you off course, I promise you, you will create the success you have always wanted. It may not look exactly the way you’ve dreamed of it. But it will happen one way or another. And you will be so glad you did that. Not all on your own, but using yourself as the ultimate foundation. Because you are just THAT strong, and THAT brave, and THAT relentless.

So, what are you waiting for? Start writing. Right now. Or get back to it. Or ramp up your efforts. Success isn’t nearly as far off as you might 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.