You Could Do Better

You don’t know what “best” really means.

I used to cringe every time someone gave me constructive criticism.

It’s still not my favorite thing to swallow. Feedback from my editor is a given — professionals are trained to give a balance of praise and criticism to motivate writers to continuously improve from assignment to assignment. Clients, on the other hand, aren’t always trained editors or even experienced writers. Sometimes their “feedback” is a little too blunt for my self-esteem to take lightly, I’m not going to lie.

The phrase that used to trip me up the most, though, has become one of my favorite lines of feedback from people I’m writing for: “You could do better.”

It’s not always spoken straight — it’s not the nicest-sounding phrase you’ll ever hear or offer to another person. But its implications are actually more motivational than the most inspirational quote on Tunblr.

It means: “This was fine. But I know you’re capable of more.”

“Great. Now let’s make the next one even better.”

“Awesome! So here are some things you can do next time to double the awesomeness.”

You can always — ALWAYS — do better.

In the past, I always took this to mean the work I was doing wasn’t good to begin with. But that’s usually not the case. Most of the time, “better” means above average, while your original work was simply average. You did all right the first time. But you’re not reaching your full potential yet.

I don’t believe you’re ever doing your absolute best, especially in writing. You’re always improving, even when you don’t notice it. It’s very difficult to track subtle, gradual changes in your style, but it’s happening. So the writing you’re doing right now might be great. But it’s not as good as something you’re going to write a year, a month, maybe even a week from now. If you write with the mindset that your best work is yet to come, you’ll never stop striving to improve.

And that’s probably one of the best things that will ever happen to you, writer.

There’s unlimited motivation hidden in that thought pattern. “You could do better” could become the primary driving force of your entire creative operation. It’s become mine. I’ve accepted that things like views and followers and the like are usually meaningless when it comes to the quality of my work — but the better I get at what I do, the more satisfied I am with myself.

If I do happen to write a bad article every once in awhile — it happens — it doesn’t destroy my confidence. Someone telling me to do better next time is literally just telling me to do better next time. It’s not commentary on my skill level or the value of my existence as a writer. It’s just the truth.

You can always do better. Don’t forget that. You haven’t peaked, you’re not exactly where you want to be. You’re where you are right now. And they’re SO much more ahead of you, as long as you keep moving forward.


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.

That Thing You’ve Wanted to Write for a Long Time? Start It Now.

Do it. DO IT.

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Do it.

You already know what it is. It’s the first thing that came to mind when you read the title of this post. It’s the one thing – the most intriguing thing – you want to do, but that you’ve been putting off. Why have you been putting it off? You probably already know the answer to that, too.

The most common underlying reason for writers never writing what they want to write is doubt. It’s not about money or time or exhaustion – not really. If doubt wasn’t there lurking in the background, you’d take the financial risk, the time, give up that extra hour of sleep or that Netflix binge. If you think you cannot do it, chances are, you won’t. It’s sad, it sounds mean, but it’s nothing more than honest. You want to do something, but you haven’t yet. If you truly believed you could, you already would have.

That doesn’t mean it’s too late. Doubt is only a symptom of a much bigger psychological challenge. “Now” is an excellent treatment to ease the pain, numbness, anxiety – whatever it is you feel when you wonder why you still haven’t done it yet. Whatever ‘it’ is for you.

Doubt is such a powerful force that it can stop you from succeeding before you even try. Without anyone ever actually saying to you, or implying that you cannot do something, doubt can convince you it’s impossible. That’s your fault, but it doesn’t make you a bad person or an epic failure. It makes you human. Imposter syndrome is not rare. Its symptoms can be treated. Whether or not it can ever be fully cured has yet to be determined. The symptoms are what stops you on the road toward the finish line.

And the best treatment option available to you is to sit down, take a deep breath and write. Write neither the easy thing nor the fun thing – write the thing that scares you, that makes you doubt yourself. The thing you’ve been avoiding is the thing you’re supposed to do. So do it. Start it. Continue it. Finish it.

There are a million reasons to never start, to stop, to never finish. Doubt, fear, past experiences, finances, time, energy, motivation. These are called excuses. We all have them, and very few of us dare to step past them and keep moving forward. But you can. It’s all about doing. Not dreaming, not hoping, not planning – doing. Dreaming and hoping and planning are easy. Doing is a struggle. But you can do. You don’t think you can, but you can.

Doing, now, is the only thing that matters. Worrying about the final product, about distribution, about whether or not people are going to like it – that all comes later. If you get that far. Because if you never ‘do,’ there won’t be a ‘later.’ There will be a ‘never,’ and no one likes that word.

Do it. You already know what ‘it’ is. Outline it, research it, write it, edit it, rewrite it, any of it, all of it. Now. The only thing you should ever avoid in creating something out of nothing is the concept of never. Now, not never. Now. Today. Go. Don’t wait. Don’t look back. Always forward.


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.

The One Thing That’s Kept Me Motivated to Write All Year

This is how I stay motivated.

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At the beginning of 2016, I knew I needed to start writing more. At that point, I didn’t have a job yet. A lot needed to change, and the only way I could think to get myself started – and stay on track – was to start writing down everything I wrote and published.

I’m not really sure why I started keeping track of every single article or number of words I wrote, specifically. It’s become a little much. The document is now 55 pages long, which includes every publication I have pitched to, published for, names and dates of articles and number of words.

There’s really no need to keep doing this – I’ve now worked my way up to writing full-time, which means I gather a lot of my basic motivation from an “I have to do this or else” mindset. But I keep doing it. Every single article I write goes into that document. I’ve started using it as a place to keep my ideas until I’m ready to work them out, which is one reason why it’s gotten so long. I have a lot of ideas.

I would recommend doing this, even if you don’t normally keep track of your writing. If I go into the document now, I can see all of the publications I’ve pitched to and been rejected from, who has hired me, who I still have the option to contact if I ever need to – it’s all there in one place. When I don’t feel like writing, I can open that document and see everything I’ve accomplished (it’s literally called “2016 writing accomplishments” on my desktop). It makes me feel more confident. Less like I’m going to fail if I try writing just one more thing before calling it a day.

Figure out what motivates you – even if it’s weird or seemingly pointless. Because in those moments you don’t want to keep going, you need something to remind you it’s worth trying harder. You need that push, and often, it needs to come from you.

Do you have a method for keeping up your writing momentum when life gets stupid? What’s your strategy?


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.

Everything You Need to Hear Right Now

Maybe you really need to hear this today.

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Writers: here are a few things you might really need to hear today.


You’re working as hard as you can right now.

Forget all those “successful” people who wake up at 4am and work 13 hours a day six days a week. You don’t have to be that person. If you’re busy and tired and going through stuff and all you can do is write a few hundred words to wind down at night, good for you. If that’s the best you can do, acknowledge and accept that. At the moment, you’re probably working as hard as you can. You don’t have to try and push yourself further than that simply because you’ve bought into the illusion that it’s expected of you. You can do only what you can do. For right now, that’s OK.

A handful of readers is precious.

You don’t have to have a big audience to make a difference in someone’s life. You don’t have to please everybody. You don’t have to write about what’s popular or write things you think will make people like you more. A small audience is beautiful. A small community can do great things. The whole world doesn’t have to know what you’re doing. They don’t WANT to know. Focus on the small circle of people within your reach. Cherish them. Care for them. They will do the same for you.

If your words matter to you, they matter.

It is easy to forget that you don’t write just for other people. If you really didn’t have any interest in writing anything at all, you wouldn’t. So when there’s something on your mind and you want to write about it, because you think it’s important and it matters to you, nothing should stop you from believing in that thing. It doesn’t matter if someone can’t relate to it. Nothing you write is ever going to be relevant to everyone’s lives all at the same time. If what you’ve written holds significance to you, it’s important. Treat it that way. Appreciate its value.

It’s OK to take things slow. It’s also OK to take a break.

Being a creative person is exhausting. Especially when you have obligations, like a job or an education, that don’t let you work as creatively as you would like to. It’s hard to make time to create things on your own, even when you enjoy them. So if you start to not enjoy them so much, or you’re not sure if you want to keep going, or things are just crazy and it’s all too much to juggle, it’s OK to take a step back. It’s OK to slow down, and it’s OK to walk away for awhile. There’s a big difference between quitting and taking time off for yourself. If you’re not at your best, your writing will reflect that. Put yourself first.

You don’t have to be the best at something you enjoy.

Skill is not a prerequisite for creativity. If you want to create something, and you’re hesitant about it because you know you aren’t going to be very good at it, go on creating anyway. If you really enjoy doing something – if it makes you happy and helps you feel less stressed and you feel whole and alive doing it – it doesn’t matter if you’re good at it. You don’t have to be the best at something to enjoy it. Besides, just because you’re not good at something doesn’t mean you can’t get better by practicing. You have to suck before you can succeed.

I’m rooting for you.

If you ever feel like no one cares or no one is paying attention or no one appreciates how hard you are trying, you can at least sit down to create – write, draw, play, whatever – knowing you have my support. That’s what I’m here for. Maybe not always in the way you want me to be, but hey, I’m just one human. I built Novelty Revisions specifically to provide a place for you to come and work through your creative barriers and improve your skills. I’m here to listen to all of you, and encourage you. It may not seem like much, but it’s sure better than nothing at all.


It’s completely normal to need a reminder that what you’re working so hard to accomplish, even if it doesn’t feel like it, counts. Keep writing. Even if it sucks. It’s going to get better. Things always do.


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

What Is Writing Motivation, Actually?

In the end, it’s all up to you.

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Have you ever felt “unmotivated” to write? Of course you have; we ALL have. Or, we thought motivation was to blame, anyway. There are plenty of reasons why we find and give in to excuses for not writing. Motivation, or lack thereof, goes a little bit deeper than a shallow excuse.

What do we mean when we talk about motivation, in terms of writing? Probably not what you’ve always thought. Let’s break it down.


It’s not something you can go looking for

Don’t mistake motivation for inspiration. There’s enough of a misconception of what “writespiration” is anyway. Motivation isn’t a feeling. It’s still not as tangible as you might like it to be, but it’s something you are in complete control of. It is a mixture of desires, goals, strategies and plans. The Return to Your Reason challenge we attempted a few months ago focused on the idea that everyone has a specific reason, or motivation, for writing. You’re the one who establishes that. It’s not out there somewhere waiting for you to find it.

Searching for your motivation to write doesn’t mean there is one specific tool, activity or emotional state that is going to somehow give you writing superpowers. In reality, writing motivation is more about the big picture. It’s the thing that drives you to sit down and write not just once or twice, but consistently over an extended period of time.


Your writing motivation can only come from one place

And that place is, as you’ve probably already guessed, within your own head. This is why YOU must be the one to decide to commit to your writing, and YOU have to be the one to set the goals, and YOU have to come up with plans and strategies to make it all happen. Take the guide I included in last week’s newsletter, for example. It’s called a ‘guide’ because it’s only a suggestion. My role here is to give you tips and tools for you to go away and try on your own, not force or tell you how things should be done.

It’s really a matter of taking responsibility for your own writing. As humans, we’re not always good at that, so it’s understandable that you might struggle here. We just naturally like to rely on other people and feel like others’ contributions to our goals makes a difference. A lot of times, it doesn’t. Regardless, it has to start and end with you. No one else truly knows why you want to write this thing in the first place. Only you know that.


It’s going to take other attributes to turn motivation into productivity

That’s what this whole series of posts over the past week has been about. Attributes like discipline and focus and motivation all work together to fuel productivity. Once you have your true “reason” for writing – you have a mission to teach people something through writing, or you have a specific message you want to send through a particular story, etc. – you have to use that to get started. But other things have to be in place in order for you to keep writing.

This is why having a series of clear end goals and creating schedules to help you move toward those goals is the most effective way for you to write what you want to write. I can’t stress enough the importance of being specific about what you really want to use writing for or what you want to accomplish while doing it. I know this is hard. But it’s what’s probably going to help many of you get from where you are to where you want to be.

Motivation is more than just wanting to do something. Just because I want to finish my novel by November 1 doesn’t mean I’m going to sit around and wait for a day I feel like working on it – because there’s so much else going on, I very rarely do. I’m telling the story for largely a personal reason, but that is my motivation. So I set a time to sit down and work on it on specific days, and that’s what I do.

Is it hard? Yep. Do I want to do it, most of the time? Not really; it’s almost been a year and I’m ready to move on the moment it’s finished. But I keep doing it because I don’t lose sight of that underlying motivation I have to continue on even when I don’t feel like it.

That’s what you have to do. Figure out your motivation. Use that as a foundation, and start 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.

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

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

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

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

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


1. Motivation

What is it?

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

How to get it:

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

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


2. Energy

What is it?

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

How to get it:

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

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


3. Discipline

What is it? 

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

How to get it:

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

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


4. Focus

What is it?

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

How to get it:

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

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


5. Resilience

What is it? 

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

How to get it:

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

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


6. Balance

What is it?

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

How to get it:

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

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

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

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


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


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

To the Writer Tired of Her Voice Never Being Heard

There is no scientific law that says you will never be successful unless you touch the exact point where they are standing.

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You’ve been doing this a long time.

Saving your thoughts for the moment you can sit down and put them to paper, knowing they’ll never sound the same way out loud as they will when the world reads them in their own heads.

Staring at a blank screen just long enough to lose a little sanity, and then somehow, transforming that empty space into a masterpiece.

Finding yourself thinking you’ll never stop feeling a certain way, then changing your mind the moment you finish writing it all out.

Believing words can change a life. That your words are important enough to make a difference.

You’ve been at it forever. Writing. Hoping. Dreaming. Writing some more.

Yet no matter how hard you work, no matter how deeply you dive into the stories you create, it never seems to be good enough.

No matter how many projects you take on, no matter how many people you connect with, you’re still just another name on a very long list of aspiring writers hoping for the same outcomes you are.

Whenever something moves you – sometimes, even when nothing does – you sit down and you write about it. You paint pictures with your words, sculpt and shape messages in ways you’re sure no one else ever has before.

You just want all that hard work, all that passion, all that determination, to mean something. To matter.

You just want to be heard.

You have a voice, powerful and refined and passionate. But no one seems to notice.

Nobody seems to care.

We have all been here. Every single one of us. Because here’s the thing about going after a goal: no one can say, for sure, if you’re ever going to achieve it.

It isn’t that you’re not good enough or strong enough or determined enough. It’s just … success, sometimes, doesn’t happen the way we think it will, or think it should.

You read your favorite authors’ books and you follow them on Twitter and you can picture in your mind the day when you will be as successful, as widely read, as well-known as they are.

But their degree of success, the level they have reached, is not a standard. There is no scientific law that says you will never be successful unless you touch the exact point where they are standing.

Your voice, your words, may never reach hundreds of thousands of people.

It may only ever reach one, or two, or 20.

But does that make all your hard work, your passion, your drive, any less worthy of praise?

Perhaps only one, or two, or 20, 0r 200, or 2,000 people will read your words. Out of a population of billions and billions of people, that number seems so small.

But you are still being heard. Someone out there is listening to you.

Don’t go silent just because the whole world has yet to recognize that you have things to say and points to make and hearts to mend and lives to change.

Because that one person, those two, 20, 200, 2,000 people, might be counting on you.

They are listening to you.

They think your words are amazing.

Never forget that you are doing this because you love it. Never forget that you are a writer because you cannot live without the relief of spilling ideas out onto a page and arranging them into stories that make sense, even if they only make sense to you.

Remember, in these moments when you feel lonely and discouraged and unheard, how writing makes you feel. How it makes you come alive inside, in a way you’re not sure anyone or anything else can.

Remember that without your words, the world would not make very much sense to you.

Keep writing them. Even if it seems like no one is listening.

You cannot see what the future holds. You cannot predict where this will lead.

Hold on. Write on. Because tomorrow, everything could change.

Image courtesy of Eva Peris/flickr.com.