How to Earn a Career in Writing – Part 3

Work your butt off.

A single success is just an open door. It is not a free ride to happy town. Anything worth doing is tons of work… When that door opens, that is when you start working your patoot off. And when your patoot falls off, staple it back on until you work it off again.

– Ben Grelle, internet comedian, writer (Hustle Economy, p. 32)

I have successfully answered to the (loud, terrifying, unwanted) call of my 6 a.m. alarm for nine days in a row.

I do not particularly enjoy emerging from my pillow and blanket haven this early in the day. Currently, it is still dark out when my alarm goes off.

This morning, I was dreaming about impressing a former professor with cupcakes (#cookingforagradescarredmeforlife).

I’m doing squats daily. My butt is very confused and would prefer for me to move as little as possible for the next 72 hours.

I would have gladly returned to my warm and comfy sanctuary. But I didn’t.

People who say you have to wake up early to be successful are wrong. I don’t do it because it’s somehow magically going to get me a job or win me awards or something.

Nope. I do it so I can spend six uninterrupted hours every night watching Netflix.

Netflix is not work. I don’t generally talk about how many hours I spend per week streaming shows, because it makes me sound lazy.

Except I’m not. Because when I wake up at 6 a.m., I spend the first three hours of my day in preparation – making lists, reading, journaling, exercising (squaaaaats), caffeinating – not working. But working my way up to working.

And then, from nine to five, guess what I do? I work.

Sometimes I spend an hour after that on what some would call “passion projects,” but I prefer to call them, “things I’m going to launch at some point but still have no idea what exactly they are so not yet.”

The point is, I spend a solid eight hours working – meeting the reasonable demands of my clients, hunting for small projects to take on, keeping this blog on the radar, slowly (sloooooowly) still trying to finish novels from the past two Novembers.

Work. I work. Hard. And then I give my brain (and butt) a rest. Because, right now, I am very fortunate to be able to do that – leave some space in the schedule for myself.

Here’s the thing about work: no two people work in the exact same way. So what I’ve just told you might be interesting, but it’s probably not the way you prefer to do things. And that’s OK.

You might love sleeping in. Someone who works from home, as I do, has the luxury of doing that. You might be completely fine not starting your work until lunchtime and working late into the evening. There is nothing wrong with that. That is what works for YOU.

So far in this series we’ve talked about working for free and about finishing what you start, whether the work is good or bad. But now we have to talk about the work itself – or the process of working, rather. Because you have a zero percent chance of success as a writer if you do not work to earn what you want.

You have to work the way that works for you – and I mean REALLY works. If you can only find time to do the bulk of your writing on weekends, then the generic non-inclusive advice to take weekends off from working does not apply to you. As long as you are spending that time doing quality work, and you are proud of that work, then keep working like that. It’s no one’s place to say you can’t.

The more you work, the more likely you are to earn one success. And once you earn one success, you have a choice: let it go to your head and get lazy, or use the momentum to kick your work up a notch.

I could probably work more than 40 hours a week if I wanted to. I would make more money and publish more content. But that is not what is going to work for me right now. I spent the past 20 years in school and I deserve a few months of not having to constantly staple my butt back on, thank you very much. But this is not typical for me, and I don’t plan on letting squats alone kick me into shape for long. There will come a point when the work that I am doing now pays off in a very small way (slow and steady), and when that happens, I will have built up enough stamina to take off running again, stapler at the ready. Not now. But soon enough.

People don’t like figuring out for themselves what they need to do to make work work. I’m not completely sure why that is, but reality check: if you’re not working the way that works, you’re not going to want to keep doing it. Going back to last week – giving up happens when you’re not willing to follow through. Hard work ALWAYS pays off. Not always immediately, not always in the exact way you want. But your success is a path unlike anyone else’s. No one has succeeded in the way you will before. The more you work, the more efficiently you organize your work, the further down your own personal path to success you will go.

Here – these are all the resources you’ll need to get better at working. Work your butt off. Or if you’ve just literally worked your butt off, take a short breather, grab your stapler and get back to it. It’s your work. It’s your success you’re going after here. You have to make the conscious decision to go for it, to make the necessary sacrifices, to earn it.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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 an Amateur Writer Becomes an Expert

The four phases of becoming an expert in your niche.

Here’s the thing about writing: everyone starts at the bottom. Some work their way up to the middle. A select few manage to climb to the very top. That’s how it is with any profession. You have no idea what you’re doing. You start to figure it out. At some point you probably come to a crossroads, where you decide how much of a priority you want writing to be in your life. Do you want to advance – or are you happy at the level you stand on now?

To move from the very bottom to the very top – a beginner, all the way to a expert – every writer moves through a series of phases. Like riding a bike, they start out wobbly and terrified. They start to get the hang of it. Maybe eventually they start teaching other people how to ride bikes. It’s a process. A long, frustrating process.

How does this work? Let’s break down the phases, starting with the copycat phase.

Phase 1: Playing the part

This is the beginning of the beginning. These are the days of mimicking and “do as they do.” A phase 1 writer’s style typically shifts back and forth depending on what they are reading, watching or listening to at the time. They have yet to develop their own style – ideally, they’re still learning how to string sentences together in a way that works.

As an editor, I frequently read drafts that are written awkwardly – as if the freelancer is writing something that sounds the way a writer would phrase something (because that tends to happen unintentionally). This is a clear sign that this writer may not quite be at a high enough skill level to be doing the work, but that’s what an editor is for, I suppose.

It’s sort of like being nine years old and trying to act the way you think a teenager acts. You have no idea how it works yet. You’ll get there eventually – but for now you’re acting on what you know from what you’ve seen/heard. It’s not bad writing – it’s just generic. Sentences don’t flow easily from one to the next. There are a lot of words that don’t belong. You’re a tiny human at this point, if we’re going to compare it to growth. You’re just starting to learn.

Phase 2: Finding the voice

At some point, if a writer keeps up with their hobby long enough, they move into phase 2. There is no specific moment this happens – no visible evolution in which you burst through your cocoon and start fluttering your wings. It just … happens. You read. You listen. You watch TV. You absorb. Different writers and voices influence you in different ways. You learn the kinds of writing you like – and the kinds you don’t. Everything comes together to form your voice – your style – the way you prefer to phrase things, the words you use, the formality (or lack thereof) with which you address your audiences.

Every experienced writer has their own style of writing completely unique to them. You can’t identify your own voice – it’s just the way you write. When you say, “I love the way so-and-so writes,” you’re essentially falling in love with their style. I am literally hypnotized by anything Shonda Rhimes writes. I can’t explain it – but the first time I listened to her TED Talk, I sat completely still for 20 straight minutes, barely breathing. Some writers’ voices connect with specific readers on an extremely deep level.

Sticking with it, every writer eventually develops their unique form. It comes only from writing consistently – which is how you learn to translate ideas from the content you consume and create a piece of writing out of them that is all your own, instead of transcribing someone else’s style – a very phase 1 thing to do.

Phase 3: Developing the knowledge foundation

It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or you’re a journalist or you write essays in your spare time: everyone has their own knowledge foundation. Possibly even before a writer hits phase 3, they start to develop a personal theme – a common thread that runs through everything they write. Mine is health. I don’t know when it started or when exactly I finally figured out it was something I needed to grab onto, but it was there, and I pursued it.

So what did I do? I picked up a second college major. I landed my first position as a health writer. I eventually specialized in health communication as a graduate student. There is some kind of health-related underlying message in the majority of things I write, but I am able to back that by my education and my experience. In other words: I know what I’m talking about, I have the credibility to talk about it, I do not mess around when I am not just playing, but acting in the role of expert health writer. And that is how we advance to the fourth and final phase.

Phase 4: Earning the title

You have the right style and the right skills – now you need the experience. Experience = credibility. A phase 4 writer starts writing for free – blogging, guest posting, interning – and slowly moves into paid professional writing. And even then, they’re still the lowest of the low on the professional writing hierarchy. Many writers make money. Experts have a following – they are known for writing a specific type of thing, often. They are trusted. They are asked all the cliche questions writers hate to be asked, even though they remember what being in phase 1 was like. They never forget.

I only recently changed my profile headlines. Calling myself an expert health writer while still a first-year writing intern wouldn’t have made sense. I didn’t have the experience or the trustworthy publishing credits, and definitely not the income, to have earned the title of ‘expert.’ It wouldn’t have even made sense to expert-ify myself a year ago. But I didn’t stop at phase 3. I kept working. I dealt with rejections – or worse, never getting a response at all. I dealt with things I published reaching absolutely no one – until they started to. And continue to.

I don’t think there’s a specific time frame in which someone has to write in a specific format or genre before they can promote their expertise, but it does require moving through all three phases, as well as publishing – a lot. Blogs, websites, magazines, books, videos, podcasts – the number of ways a writer can gain a loyal following on and offline keeps growing. You have to get out there. Transform yourself into an authority figure – a legitimate one. Educate yourself. Do something so many times over that people can’t logically call into question anymore why you matter.

There’s no time frame, sure – but it takes a minimum of years to go from amateur to professional. I wrote for over 10 years before I first published something. This is why I always tell writers to be patient. You cannot go from point A to point B in a year. It probably won’t take you 10 – unless you’re 7 years old as you’re reading this, as I was when I discovered the joy of writing for the first time. But it will take time. Let me repeat that: IT WILL TAKE TIME.

What do you do in the meantime? You keep writing. You keep studying and reading. You experience the world. Writing doesn’t happen unless you make it happen. Expertise doesn’t happen unless you earn it – legitimate expertise, anyway. You CAN do it. You CAN productively wait it out. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to wait – you don’t have a choice. That’s how this business works. It’s slow. It’s exhausting. But it’s breathtaking. Worth the effort, 200 percent.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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.

You Have Two Weeks – What Are You Going to Do with Them?

Pick one thing and do it – with 100% effort from start to finish.

Many writers, creative people in general, have one thing in common: they’re really, really good at wanting to do things, but putting them off as long as possible.

So when the end of the year appears, harsh and frantic and demanding, one of two things usually happens. You either transplant Stuff You Want to Do from 2016’s list over to 2017, or you take a deep breath and try to get as much done as possible before you have to throw your old calendar away.

You don’t have to give up and Try Again Next Year. You also don’t have to Try to Do Everything right here, right now. But you SHOULD do something. One thing. You should decide how to make the most of the rest of the time you have left before 2016 ends forever.

Why? Because, why not?

What are you going to do? Work really hard this week and then take next week off (because you can and you deserve it)? Go easy on yourself this week because the holidays are hard – which is totally OK because you’re allowed to be human? How about finally doing that one thing you’ve been putting off all year – submitting that article, emailing that editor, finishing that book, finally starting that blog?

I’m all for using the New Year as an excuse to start fresh and Do All The Things. But this is the time of year for Doing All The Things You Haven’t Yet. 2016 is not over. We all wish it would end already, but there are two weeks left. Two weeks to do what you need to do. If you already have in mind something you haven’t done yet, that’s your thing. It’s time to plan out how you’re going to get it done before the year ends, sit down and do it.

Why? Because if not now, then when? Never is a major possibility when you’re actively procrastinating. There are probably a lot of things in your life that are already wrapping up. Next week is especially critical, because most people are going to stop – or at least slow down significantly. So sure, maybe you’ll email someone and they won’t get back to you because they’re enjoying a nice tropical vacation while you’re stuck in your office trying to meet a goal no one else seems to care about. But that’s why it’s so important. Fewer distractions. Less of a chance that someone will reject you within two hours of hitting the submit button.

Whatever is holding you back – there’s no more room for excuses. Look at your calendar. Look at all the things you have accomplished in the past year. Look at your list of things that haven’t been accomplished yet. What’s the one thing you still want to cross off that list before everything resets? Circle it, highlight it, underline it, whatever you need to do. And then do it. Now. Don’t wait. Right now, the outcome is the least of your worries. Finish it. Get it off your mind. Don’t drag it along with you into 2017. Get it done and, in the most basic sense of the idea, leave it behind. If you transfer it over to your 2017 to-do list, you’re just going to put it off all year, again.

You have two weeks left to Do That Thing. This time of year is busy in many ways and awfully slow and boring in others. Just make this part of the deal.

You have to weeks left. What are you going to do? Why? How? Don’t ask when. Do it now. Start it now. Finish it soon. Start fresh; new.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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 Structure Your Life to Make Room for Creativity

There’s a lot to balance – but it’s essential that you do it.

Creativity is something many people have, but don’t use. There were times in college I can remember going weeks without doing anything other than homework and consuming other people’s creations. It’s important to continuously exercise your creativity – though you won’t be able to do this everywhere you go. Sometimes work, people and just life in general get in your way. That’s why you have to learn to block out time in your schedule for everything – including your own personal, private time to be creative.

Here are all the things you can expect to have to balance – not including Adult Responsibilities, which you just have to do regardless of whether you want to or not – if you want to live a healthy, fulfilling and vastly creative life.


I’ve turned down way too many chances to spend time with people I like for the sake of writing, and that’s not recommended. Even creative people who consider themselves introverts need a social life. People who go out into the world, form relationships and experience real life are better writers – and more creative, in terms of application, in general. Make time for friends, family, significant others, whoever is in your life that’s important to you. Plan something social outside of school/work at least once a week. Go out to breakfast or lunch or for a drink with someone. You need it. And you DO have time for it, whether you think you do or not.


Writing or being creative at work does not count as a creative project. I don’t even consider more creative freelancing gigs to be creative projects. I think there needs to be a separation between the things you create as part of your job/career and the things you create voluntarily. It’s hard to approach creativity the same way under someone else’s guidance than when you’re calling all the shots. It sounds exhausting, having a creative career working under someone else and then coming home to work on your own projects, but trust me, if you really want to stretch your limits, you’ll make it work. Sometimes, you’ll work jobs you couldn’t care less about. At some point, you might run headfirst into your dream career. Balancing that with your own personal work is still hard – but it’s absolutely possible.


Dedicate time, maybe in the evenings or on weekends, to spend time with your hobbies. Anything you like to do on your own time – usually without any stress or negative pressure to excel – can be considered a hobby. I like to play video games sometimes. It’s fun, it’s stimulating and I can get lost in it for hours at a time (but I usually don’t, because who has time for that? …). I look forward to Saturday nights when I have a few spare hours to do some much-needed zombie slaughtering. Some people play sports. Even things like writing, dancing and music are hobbies – unless you’re working on something specific, like choreographing or writing a poem. Writing in general can be your hobby; writing a poem is technically a creative project.

Creative projects

Creative projects can be hobbies, but the idea behind making time for creativity specifically is that you always have something you’re working on – something with a start and end point. I’m always working on a novel in the background, for example, even if it’s not my priority. It’s not my work, but it’s also not my hobby. A creative project forces you to actually do something with your creative motivations. It’s not always relaxing – sometimes it’s even harder than your actual job. But if you’re a true creative, you’re going to need this time to literally or figuratively sketch out and develop the many ideas popping up in your head.


You can’t forget to take care of yourself – no matter how busy you think you are. Things like cooking, exercising and sleep are not going to take away from your productivity. In fact, the healthier you are, the more productive you are going to be. So set aside at least an hour or so every night just for you. You can watch Netflix or play games on your phone … it doesn’t matter. Stop working. Give your brain a rest. And then PHYSICALLY rest. Go to sleep. Use Bedtime, if you have an iPhone. Set a specific sleep-wake pattern for yourself and stick with it. Sleep deprivation and stress WILL kill your creativity, 100 percent.

Be creative. Make time. It’s worth it – but only if you put as much time and effort into it as you want and need to.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-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 If You Never Make It?

It’s like playing golf.


What if you dreamed of spending your whole life writing books that sold millions of copies, but it never happened?

Would you keep writing, holding onto the hope that you still had a chance? Or would you allow yourself to believe it was worthless, and stop writing, because it was hopeless?

What if you started a blog, dreaming of helping thousands of writers find success, but only a few hundred people ever read it?

Would you keep blogging, knowing that if nothing else a few hundred people were influenced by your words? Or would you quit, because you didn’t get the instant results you wanted?

Me telling you that life never works out exactly the way you plan doesn’t help. I know. But the reality is, hard work will always get you somewhere. Not always where you want to be, or as far as you hoped you would go. Somewhere. Somewhere is still an accomplishment.

There is no guarantee that any of us will write successfully in the way we secretly dream of. Our books may never turn into movies. We may never go on a book tour or sign a copy of our own published work. We may never, technically, publish anything at all.

A few months ago I wrote a post about how I’m probably never going to publish a work of fiction, even though I spent 10 years dreaming of doing that. What I’ve realized, in pouring as much time and energy into my newest novel this month as I can, is that, at least for me, the longer I spend wondering if I’ll ever publish a novel, the less I worry about whether or not it will actually happen.

I’ve been focusing so much on my story, on developing my characters and twisting around the plot, that I’ve barely thought about whether or not I even want anyone else to see this. It’s an experiment, different than the things I usually write. Despite being 20,000 words behind on my word count, I’m not even stressed. I’m having too much fun. If I finish this first draft and set it aside and never look at it again, at least I can say I wrote something I genuinely loved.

I’ve tried to stop writing fiction. I tried, just a few weeks ago, to convince myself to try going a whole year without writing any fiction at all. I can’t do that. I need to. If I had to explain it to someone who isn’t a writer or creative mastermind of some kind, I would say it’s like telling someone they can’t play golf when they love playing golf … I guess. It’s not necessary when we’re talking life or death, they could live without it and be fine, but playing golf fills some hidden emptiness inside them that nothing else can. It’s time-consuming and it’s exhausting, but in some form of the term, it is necessary – mentally, maybe even emotionally. They may never go pro. That doesn’t mean they stop playing.

Would you really stop writing just because you weren’t sure if you could ever get anything out of it? Because when you’re writing something that fills you up in a way other things can’t, why wouldn’t you? You don’t have time for this. But you make time for it, because in ways it’s so hard to describe, you need it. It may never give you a steady paycheck or fame or whatever your reason is for wanting to do this, but it’s a part of you. Success isn’t about the victories everyone else can see. If you write something on your own time and you finish it and you’re the only one who knows about it, that’s still success. It’s small, but it counts.

You can dream your whole life of accomplishing something, and it might never happen the way you hoped it would. But there’s more than one way to succeed in writing. Don’t stop just because your path is unclear. If you like writing, keep writing. Do it for you, and your own personal happiness. No one else will ever value your work the same way you do, deep down. That’s OK. If you write to fill a need, and afterward you feel better, that’s good enough.

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.

Write Those Scenes You Don’t Think Belong In Your Book

Say “yes” to the ideas that make you shake your head “no.”


Last week, I wrote a scene that both surprised and amazed me. NOT because I’m the best writer ever or because it’s the greatest piece of prose a human has ever written (nope and, uh, NOPE), but because I never planned on writing it at all.

In fact, the moment the idea wedged its way into my head, I immediately tried to reject it.

Without any spoilers (because I guess you never know), my favorite character does something bad. Really bad. She knows it’s wrong, but she does it anyway. I already know that, if I ever get to the revisions stage of this book, I’m going to have to make this scene even less sympathetic toward this beloved character than it already is. Which breaks my heart. A good sign, but still.

I did not want to write this scene. I did not think it really had a place in this story, originally. Yet somehow, the moment I started writing it, I knew it was a keeper. The basic framework of it, anyway.

This happens a lot – a writer composing part of a book or script they hardly recognize as being theirs. But very rarely do we notice that it’s these unexpected, initially rejected ideas – and having the courage to give them a chance – that turn an okay story into a really good one.

The reason you don’t believe you can pull it off, or don’t think it’s a good idea, is because you’re used to holding yourself back. I’ve had this problem since the day I started writing, so don’t think it’s something bad. We don’t even realize we’re telling ourselves, “You could never get away with that.” Oh, yes you can. You’re a writer. You can get away with murder (FIGURATIVELY), and so, so much more.

I have found over the years that it’s the scenes I don’t want to write, that I’m afraid to write, that I don’t think my family/friends will approve of or my future readers would like, that end up becoming the most important passages in every story I have ever written.

We try to hard to write “good” things. It’s not good because it meets a certain set of criteria. It’s good because it comes from somewhere deep within our souls, only accessible through the words we write even when we aren’t sure they’re the right ones.

This is why I always advocate for, even though I struggle with, thinking about what you would expect to happen in a story and then flipping it around so the opposite happens. Not EVERY story works like this – I just read one of those holiday romances that was predictable, but I was still glad it turned out the way I secretly wanted to. But twists and surprises and those “wait hold on what just happened” moments are what keep pages turning – for your reader AND you.

Let it happen. It could go wrong and you’ll never end up using it in later drafts. It could also go very right, and create a story you (and perhaps a future agent) will be proud of.

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.

Read This Before Midnight … | NANO PREP 2016

NaNoWriMo is upon us!


As I’m writing this post, in my time zone, there are 12 hours left until November starts. Otherwise known as, less than half a day before National Novel Writing Month officially begins.

I thought I would give you some last-minute bites of inspiration to chew on before you start writing this year. There’s a lot of excitement, and probably a little nervousness, buzzing around in our heads today. Here’s what I want you to remember.

Think about your ‘meh’ days

Thinking ahead, I already know weekends are actually going to be the hardest writing days I’m going to have all month. For you, Mondays and Wednesdays might be torture. If you know ahead of time which days of the week you are going to struggle, you can plan ahead, both mentally and scheduling-wise, to compensate for possibly not getting as much writing done on those days as you might like to. I will probably get more writing done on Thursdays and Fridays than usual to make up for rough writing weekends. Plan. Expect. You might even find you don’t have as much as a hard time as you thought you might.

You’re about to do a lot of bad writing – that doesn’t make you a bad writer

A lot of people get hung up on the fear that they’re writing badly, which sometimes stops them from writing completely. NaNoWriMo isn’t meant to help you write a publish-worthy novel in 30 days. That’s impossible. As the month goes on, you’re probably going to end up writing some stuff that just isn’t good. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer. While some might argue that writing quickly for the sake of “getting it done” is a waste of time, I strongly disagree with the idea that you can only ever write good content. My last point will justify that further.

Whether you make it to 50,000 or not, the attempt is all that matters

Those aren’t just nice fluffy words to pick you up before you’ve fallen down. I don’t give out fluff, not even for free. NaNoWriMo exists to get you writing your novel. It’s an excuse to get writing done. It’s a reason to try starting or continuing or finishing that book you just can’t seem to put together. It really doesn’t matter whether or not you make it to the winner’s circle. But you should at least try. Trying is a sign of strength. Successful people try. Successful people also fail. Unsuccessful people don’t fail, but they also never try – and end up accomplishing nothing in the process. Just start writing. It’s OK if 50,000 words is too much for you. But you’ll never know until you write 100, or 1,000, or 10,000.

Well, I guess all I have left to say is … good luck. I’m still going on with our normal posting schedule, NaNo-related every Monday until December. Feel free to leave suggestions for any topics you want me to cover this month. Happy 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.

People Who Need Writing Advice – and Compassion

Who are these people, and why is it so hard to please them?


So this post started out as something completely different. It turned into something I’m not really sure will go over well with those of you who don’t read this blog regularly. To be clear, I’m not trying to single anyone out or criticize. I just found this idea interesting. It’s something I’ve noticed more and more as this community has grown and as I spend more time in the NaNo forums, and I wanted to share it with you. I’m admitting my uncertainty because I would rather be transparent. I’m publishing this because my brain goes weird places, and exposing you to those places is a guilty pleasure, I guess.

If you regularly give writing advice as I do, or it’s something you want to do in the future, here are a few profiles of people you will come into contact with – either in person or through the internet. If you ARE one of these people – here are some comforting words you might really appreciate right now.

The anxious dreamer

Not every single writer is an introvert with self-confidence issues, but there are creatives out there who do what they do because their brains just operate differently than “average.” These are the “what ifs.” “What if people don’t like what I write? What if I never finish my book? What if someone else steals my ideas?” They know what they want – likely, they have a pretty specific set of goals they hope to accomplish. They often have a hard time executing them, however, because uncertainty is overwhelming. “Just try it and see what happens” is a foreign concept. They need a lot of encouragement – maybe even a, “I’m here if you ever need anything.” They’re fairly independent – they just need to be reminded to keep moving forward.

The doubtful pitcher

These are the askers. The apologetics. “I’m sorry for asking so many stupid questions,” they mumble nervously or type with trembling fingers. It’s not that they’re afraid of looking stupid. They just don’t want to be wrong. But they are extremely dependent on their superiors for every ounce of guidance they can get. They do not want to be shown; they want to be told. They feel they cannot navigate the unknown without step-by-step instructions. Eventually they will realize they cannot learn unless they act – that, or they will never act at all, and may come to fall into the next category.

The bitter quitter

Rejection hurts. Hard work met with silence almost hurts even more. Some people just can’t carry around that kind of disappointment on their shoulders. It’s not that they want to stop – but the pain of never getting what they want just isn’t worth the struggle. That doesn’t mean they’re happy about it, though. In fact, they’re pretty miserable. Don’t encourage them to start again: they might not be ready. Instead, just be a good listener. Remember that giving up, though sometimes necessary, is still one of the hardest decisions a person will ever have to make.

The lonely know-it-all

These writers are the most complex and difficult to assist. They interact with other writers out of loneliness – starting conversations simply because they expect a response. They are not interested in advice or being told what to do or how to change. That’s not to say they’re not good people. They’re in it for the community aspect, to discuss and share what they know (and often, they hope others will do the same). They’re not likely going to learn anything new from you, though. Still, you can use them to get your community talking – as long as they don’t hog the conversation, you might really come to appreciate that.

Above all, keep in mind that all these people want the same thing: approval for being who they are. It’s not always about their writing. Though, if they value that aspect of their lives on an extremely deep level, their writing, to them, is a refection of their own value, which is why criticism in the writing world is often such a touchy subject.

Just be nice. And don’t take anything personally. And understand that every individual is different – if they’re asking for your help, it isn’t always clear what they want. But knowing, in general, why some people behave the way they do in these kinds of communities, can help you respond appropriately to anyone you come in contact with in the writing world.

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.

For the Writer Who Is Not a Superhuman

Don’t stretch yourself until you break.


Before I started getting paid to freelance at the beginning of this year, I wrote a lot for free. I became an online contributor to as many sites as I could. When you’re trying to establish your credibility, and even your brand, that’s just what you do.

But as I slowly transitioned into freelancing full-time, I stopped making the time to contribute to sites that couldn’t pay me to produce content for them. Even though writing for free isn’t ideal, having a place to publish your thoughts – where there is no pressure, no deadline and no one telling you every little thing you’re doing wrong – is comforting. Fulfilling, even. It’s a relief.

I realized this morning that if I wanted to contribute to those sites again – if I wanted to volunteer my words for the sake of giving people something nice to read – I could no longer take on as many clients. And because business is business, student loans are student loans and not having my own home office is giving me hives (siiiiigh), I can’t afford to work less simply because I want to write for free sometimes.

I am the kind of person who wants to write everywhere. As often as I can. And I can’t.

I call this struggle “write-life balance.” You know, like work-life balance, but with writing. You would love to believe you’re some kind of superhuman because you have this career and this side gig and you volunteer and you have friends and you’re up-to-date on all the latest TV shows – we all would. But I’ve learned the hard way – again; again and once more – that it isn’t possible to do it all.

Perhaps you could, for a day or even for a week. But anything more than that, and you burn out. You crash, and it hurts. You break, and then you have to heal, and that takes time away from the things you want to do. You can build up a little bit of resistance to fatigue, but pressure is suffocating. It sucks the life out of you, and recovery is slow.

I would love to be able to keep up with everything – blogging, writing a novel, getting paid to write and edit and the like, plus more – but over the past few months, my limits have been challenged. I’ve pushed myself too far, again, and I’ve had to all but abandon projects I care about because I wasn’t making money working on them. One of the greatest challenges for every creator is trying to decide if something is worth doing, whether you get paid to do it well or not.

You’re a writer. You can write about anything you want; you have that power. But you also have to remember that without that power, you are not your true self. And if you expend all your power by trying to distribute it between too many things at once, you won’t be able to create as freely as you often have the privilege to do. And that will hurt. You will not be OK with that.

How do you divide your time between what you can do for free and what you must do to support yourself and/or others? I don’t have an answer to that question. If I did, I probably wouldn’t even be writing about this here. The problem is, every writer – and every writer’s life – is different. But I hope that if you are struggling with this, you will be able to make time for writing when you aren’t working, and time for you when you aren’t writing. I hope you find balance in your life. I will try to do the same.

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 I’m Reading Old Blog Posts (and Why You Should Read Yours)

2009 Meg wrote a lot of literary analysis papers.


Sometimes when I’m stuck and I’m not sure what to write about next, I go deep into this blog’s archives, to a time long before Novelty Revisions.

I’m talking 2009 – the year I started blogging for the first time.

It’s been a particularly rough few weeks for me. It’s Sunday, and I have hours of work left to do before the work week resets tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how long you do this stuff … there are always going to be challenges. Sometimes you trip over hurdles. I’ve been doing it for a week straight now, constantly feeling like I’m failing somehow, despite two separate clients saying, “You know, you’re doing a really great job. I just want you to know. Thank you.”

I’m tired. It’s as simple, and yet complicated, as that.

I’m not going to sit here and complain. But if you haven’t figured it out already, the struggle is real. It’s exhausting and a bit repetitive. But it’s worth it. I’m grateful to have a constant challenge to go up against. Seven years ago I wrote a blog post complaining about how easy my AP English homework was (too easy – or “frightfully easy,” as I phrased it). Who was I, to complain to the internet about not being challenged enough instead of doing something about it? 

Two years after that almost to the day I almost quit my English major because it was “too easy.” I would love to say I don’t recognize this person, but there’s a reason I’m tired. I keep trying to do more, more, more, because FOMO. It’s knocked me down in the past and continues to do so. A month after I wrote that blog post about my homework being too easy, I remember completely breaking down in front of my English teacher because life was hard and the idea of college was scary and I was tired.

I literally don’t have time for crying and ice cream now. But in a way, blogging is my therapy. I don’t like writing about myself. But sometimes you have to. Sometimes honesty is what counts.

Sometimes I go back and read things I wrote about, back when this was just my personal blog – me writing about writing, about homework, about weird thoughts I felt the need to share with the world. I do this not because I enjoy reading things my past self wrote, but because growth – personally; professionally – is so, so hard to measure. It’s so hard to write something in the present and realize, “Wow, I’ve come such a long way.” That is, unless you dare to reflect. Unless you dare to go back and read things you don’t even remember writing.

It’s not about criticizing yourself, but appreciating how the challenges you have faced – and lack thereof – have shaped who you have become as a writer. I wouldn’t be the kind of writer I am today if I hadn’t been a bored, frustrated 17-year-old. I probably never would have even considered making a career out of freelance writing. It still amazes me, how time brings so much change.

Do it. Go back and read something you wrote seven years ago. A blog post; a journal entry; an email to a friend. In some ways, you’re a completely different person. In others, you’re exactly the same. It’s fun, pointing out the similarities and discrepancies. Once you get past the cringe factor. It’s not that bad. It might even help motivate you to write something new – knowing that you’ve made progress, and will continue to do so, as long as you keep 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.