There’s Only One Thing That ‘Makes’ You a Writer

Do you call yourself a writer? If not, what would have to happen before you felt comfortable using that title?

Technically, I have never published a book.

The more time I spend casually offering advice to other writers, the more this fact bothers me.

Not enough to stop me from writing — not enough to make me question every single response I compose to strangers and acquaintances alike. It’s more like a subtle yet constant ringing in my ears. Most of the time I don’t even notice it’s there. But every now and then, I do. And for a short time after that, it’s so irritating that I can’t concentrate on anything else. At least until I get used to the ringing again.

We all, in some way, have our own definitions of what it “means” to be a writer. There’s nothing wrong with setting your own parameters defining what may or may not qualify you to use the title of “writer” in a variety of contexts throughout your life.

But sometimes, setting these parameters can prove harmful. At least in the way a constant ringing in your ears can seem harmful from time to time, anyway. Am I unqualified to give writing advice because I haven’t published a book? Maybe. Maybe not.

Maybe it’s the wrong question to ask when deciding who’s “really” a writer and who isn’t. Maybe it’s much simpler than many of us think it is.

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Seeking Encouragement and Asking for Writing Advice: What’s the Difference?

We all secretly wonder, from time to time, if we should just give up on what we’ve been working so hard on and pick a more “practical” profession.

“I’m trying so hard and I’m still not published and I don’t know what the point of writing even is anymore.”

We’ve all felt this. Every single one of us. All writers are the same in at least one of a few ways: We all have our dark moments. We all secretly wonder, from time to time, if we should just give up on what we’ve been working so hard on and pick a more “practical” profession.

In moments like these, it’s very common to feel lost, stuck, and like you’re completely alone in the universe. It’s during these periods of creative despair that we often turn to other people — often those more experienced than we are in our desired fields of expertise — for help.

But people aren’t always as responsive to these “requests for assistance” as we’d like them to be. And maybe that’s because we sometimes approach other writers seeking advice when we really need encouragement … or the other way around. Perhaps the problem is that many of us still don’t know the difference — or why it matters.

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It’s Not (Just) About How Much Time You Spend Writing | The Blank Page

We count our writing time in hours — but should we?

The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.


How do you measure your writing progress?

This question has a complicated and different answer depending on the individual in question. Some people aim to write five times a week and count any session as part of that five as long as they write at least a few hundred words. That works — you have to measure these things in ways that work for you.

But then there are all those things you hear about the 10,000-hour rule, and how long you “should” be spending on your writing on a daily basis (some even use “daily” in the literal sense — uh, please don’t). Should you be measuring your writing time in hours? Should you keep track? Does it matter?

There’s something that actually matters so much more.

Continue reading “It’s Not (Just) About How Much Time You Spend Writing | The Blank Page”

All the Work, None of the Reward (Yet)

Last year, I spent over 50 percent of my writing time composing words that still only my eyes have seen.

Last year, I spent over 50 percent of my writing time composing words that still only my eyes have seen.

In my (perhaps over-ambitious) quest to write 1 million words in 365 days in 2019 (I did it, but barely — more on that later), there was no way I could have spent 3,000 words’ worth of time every single day only writing words presentable enough for readers, editors, and potential collaborators to view.

Since one of the main purposes of this personal challenge was to force myself to all but completely abandon my natural state of perfectionism, I ended up spending a lot of time writing unpolished prose.

It’s an extremely effective way to train yourself to write anything and everything, anywhere, anytime. But there is one consequence to this particular method of practice: You end up doing a lot of work without the adrenaline rush that often comes with the typical rewards of completion.

Without anyone congratulating you — without getting paid, or promoted, or getting that metaphorical gold star many of us still secretly long for upon completing a lengthy and trying task — where do we gather the motivation necessary to get to the finish line? I have a few ideas.

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12 Simple Strategies For Writing When You’d Rather Do Literally Everything Else

2. Plan your writing time in advance and treat it like an appointment, with a time and location.

1. Before you clock out of “work mode” at the end of your workday, set a goal for the next day’s writing session — “write for 30 minutes” or “write 1,00 words.” The specific goal is up to you.

2. Plan your writing time in advance and treat it like an appointment, with a time and location. “I’ll write tomorrow night” is a vague task very easily moved from one day to the next without any action.

3. Close yourself off from distractions. Believe it or not, you can survive 30 minutes or more without notifications and other disruptive alerts eating away at your writing time — especially if they’re preventing you from starting.

4. Start with a simpler writing task or a project that’s a little more informal, such as writing a page or two of something no one else is doing to see. It’s like a warm-up before a workout.

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Enjoying What You Write Isn’t a Luxury — It’s Essential

Professional writing is a constant balance between the things you can’t wait to do and the things you’ll be tempted to put off doing for as long as possible.

Writing is a constant balancing act. With lives so hectic and time so seemingly scarce, creating space for Making Words Happen — even just the words that NEED to happen — can sometimes feel impossible.

So when you’re caught between the work that needs doing and the “fun” writing waiting to be had, how do you decide what’s more important? Is it even a decision — or just a matter of learning to create time for both?

Professional writing is a constant balance between the things you can’t wait to do and the things you’ll be tempted to put off doing for as long as possible. But making time for writing you enjoy isn’t something just the “lucky few” can do. You can do it, too — and you should.

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The 1 Thing Writers Fear Most (and How to Keep Writing Anyway)

It just so happens to be the one that prevents more writers from reaching their full potential than any of the others.

Publishing something that no one reads.

Publishing something that everyone hates.

Never being able to make a living as a writer.

Never achieving your writing goals. Never seeing your wildest dreams come true.

These are all, believe it or not, vastly common fears among writers and creators in general. But one worry in particular seems to stand out above the rest … and it just so happens to be the one that prevents more writers from reaching their full potential than any of the others.

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How to Set Writing Goals If You’re Bad at Setting Writing Goals

Hello, fellow writer. I have some tips that might change your life.

Is there a writing project you really want to start and finish this year?

Are you really, really bad at setting goals you can actually achieve?

Hello, fellow writer. I have some tips that might change your life.

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Why You Can’t Set Writing Goals That (Directly) Involve Other People

Thankfully, there are ways to still set goals and work with others without dooming yourself to a forever unfinished checklist.

Writing is not a completely solitary profession.

In general, most writers do their work alone and improve their work with the help of other people.

Because goal-setting is so vital to many writers’ early success, it’s important to keep in mind that the things you set out to accomplish can’t always depend on outside sources to reach completion.

How do you balance collaboration with productivity in your work? Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

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Creating Writing ‘Practice Time’ Should Be Your First Priority | The Blank Page

A writer must write even when they’d rather not.

The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.


“Practice your violin — 10 minutes minimum.”

This is what’s written in my planner every weekday for the next month (same as for the past month). Practice. Even though you aren’t preparing for anything specific. Even though you’re not good at it yet. Practice. Make the time.

As a beginner, it’s extremely important that I give myself this mandate. Otherwise, it won’t happen. That violin will stay in its case for months unplayed because for some reason, the idea of “practicing” sounds just as unappealing as preparing for weekly music lessons did in middle school (I am in my 20s).

It turns out writing isn’t much different than playing an instrument in this regard. If you want to do it better, you have to sit down and do it. A lot of the time, you’d just … rather not do it? But too bad. You have to. Seriously.

We often don’t think of time spent writing as “practice” the same way we do when a sports team is preparing for a game or a musician is getting ready for a performance. But they’re the exact same thing. Pretty much without fail, if you put in the time — and you make good use of that time — you will see steady improvement moving forward.

Continue reading “Creating Writing ‘Practice Time’ Should Be Your First Priority | The Blank Page”