Don’t Throw Away Your Old Journals

There are gems. There are memories. And there’s you.

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Every once in a while I dig up some of my old journals.

This hasn’t happened since I moved. In fact, when I went looking for them to make my 2018 Project for Awesome video last week, I found them at the bottom of a stack of very heavy boxes. Because I apparently finally convinced myself I didn’t need to look back at them anymore. At least, not for a long time.

I was, of course, wrong.

Because as I was filming that video (and making a heart out of journals), I decided to flip through a few of them to see what I could find. And I am so, so glad I did.

My journals don’t contain pictures or poems or really anything all that artsy. They do, however, contain my thoughts. I have collected thoughts for two decades now, I guess, storing them in all these journals that now almost don’t all even fit into one box.

These are important thoughts. Because I have, by now, forgotten about most of them. I’ve forgotten what happened on the first Tuesday in January of 2009 that made me happy or sad or reflective or angsty. That is, in part, the reason I write my thoughts down. Sometimes, it’s best to record and forget — at least temporarily.

There’s an important lesson here — a lesson I apparently needed a refresher on: Your past is just as important as your future. It matters.

Never throw away your old journals. Never put them in a box and shove them in a corner and pile other, much heavier boxes on top of them. Never treat them as though they’re parts of your past that don’t matter. Because they tell stories you may have forgotten about. They reflect the person you used to be. And as a writer, these are significant things that should not be ignored.

You may not be the person you were when you wrote on those lines way back when. But the you of today deserves to see how much you’ve grown from the you of years gone by.

You’ve learned. You’ve changed. But that didn’t happen overnight.

Every writer’s path is a journey, and every writer’s journey looks very different. Don’t try to bury who you used to be. You’re writing the stories you’re writing today because of that person. You’ve survived and hopefully thrived because of that person.

Take some time, every now and then, to remember what made them shine.


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 It Feels Like No One ‘Gets’ You

Those who matter will try to get it.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that being a writer is hard.

Notice I didn’t say “writing” is hard. It is, sometimes. But being a writer — being a person who spends a lot of time in front of a computer, in their own head, and generally away from people — is harder.

I did not grow up in a house full of writers. I didn’t even have that many friends who considered themselves writers, or took their writing as seriously as I found myself taking mine.

So basically my whole life, one of my biggest barriers in writing has been writing despite the barriers those around me unintentionally create.

I love my family and my friends. I love spending time with them and living in the real world.

But they do not get it. They do not get me.

When I’m still in my office at 11 p.m. working on a project, they ask why I’m still awake.

When I decide to delay mealtime due to the fact that I’m in the middle of working, they ask why I can’t just stop and come back to it later.

When I’m quiet during a conversation because I’m paying attention to an idea fluttering around in my head, they ask why I’m so quiet.

The answer is always the same: I’m creating because these are my brain’s default settings, it came this way, and I have no complaints about it.

This answer and its many variations never seem to satisfy them. So I’m left feeling guilty and distracted by this guilt, get frustrated, and then feel guilty about feeling frustrated.

It’s not anyone else’s fault I’m not normal. I don’t try to be normal. But society has this way of trying to pressure you to always do things the way they’ve always been done, and it’s not very kind to creative-minded people who work a lot because they happen to enjoy working toward very large, seemingly impossible goals.

Have you ever felt this way — like no one gets it?

Well I do. It’s the reason I created this blog. I figured out being a writer was very lonely, and that the best way to handle that was to “talk” to other writers about it.

What do you do? You keep being you. You keep writing those things, you keep creating when inspiration hits, you do everything you can to stick to your schedule and Make Words Happen. Sacrifice is part of the game. There will be people worth giving up some of your creative time for. There will be plenty of people who will try taking it away from you without your permission.

Don’t let anyone take something so sacred from your hands. Compromise is one thing. But being forced to walk away from the things that make you feel alive is not acceptable.

Those who matter will share you with your creativity, You have to give them the attention they deserve, too — and if they’re the right people, that will be something you want to do. But they’ll also be more willing to understand your weird schedule and your creative sprints and your very loud (to you) silence.

They’ll understand beceause they’ll try to understand.

Thank you for understanding how all this feels. It makes all this feel far less lonely, you know.


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.

Find Someone Who Believes Your Writing Matters.

Say what you mean. Always.

Grief is strange.

It has a funny way of reminding you, at seemingly the worst possible moments, that it’s not completely gone. That it will never be gone. That with every anniversary that passes, that dull ache will return — even just for a moment — and suddenly it will feel like no time has passed at all.

I told this story in a Project for Awesome video a few years ago — maybe one reason I feel so weary and shaken as I type this. I just find it so unbelievable that five years later it still hurts that he’s not here.

I’m not sure I would have become a writer professionally if it weren’t for my high school creative writing teacher. He was my mentor. He made me believe I could write for real because he genuinely believed I could.

Imagine being 17 years old and having someone tell you you’re going to make it and mean it. That’s life-changing. Imagine waking up every morning and being excited to write because you knew one day you’d be able to not only dedicate a book to this person, but you’d be able to hand them a signed hardcover copy in person and thank them for being so kind and inspiring.

Imagine waking up one morning and being told that person is gone forever.

What do you do when the person who believed in you goes away? You get up. You keep trying. Maybe one day you actually do all the things they said you would. But not right away. Because first you have to fal apart, and get mad at everything, and cry so hard you lose your voice. Twice.

The thing is, through all this, the only thing you want is to say all the things you never said. Like “I’m sorry for not responding to your emails” and “I’m sorry I never went back home to visit” and “thank you.”

You figure out how to go on anyway. You figure out how to write through the pain. You remember how much they believed in you, and that fire just keeps burning inside you for years. Hopefully for decades.

But you never forget. You never stop thanking them, in your heart, for everything.

Every day I wish I could say thank you to him. I can’t.

So if you do have someone in your life who supports your creative efforts — in big or small ways — tell them how much it means to you. TELL THEM HOW MUCH THEY MEAN TO YOU.

And if you have yet to find that person … remember that even when there’s someone there who believes in you, you have to believe in you too. You have to believe your work is worth it. Because there won’t always be someone. All you’ll have left then is you.

Hold on to those who care. And never forget to keep going even when it feels like you’re on your own.

You write for a reason. KEEP WRITING for that reason. No matter what.


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.

Writers: Pace Yourselves.

It’s a skill that never gets easier, but it makes all the difference.

Do you go through periods where you write a ton, followed by periods you write nothing, only to wake up one morning and feel like you could write for an entire day without stopping?

Here’s a secret: Even if you feel like you could write until your hands fell off … don’t.

THIS IS SO INCREDIBLY HARD TO DO! Because you feel inspired! You feel like you could write an entire novel in one sitting! All the ideas are coming to you at once and you almost wonder if not getting them all down on paper as quickly as possible will cause some kind of implosion in your brain.

But you should not — REALLY should not — write as much as you possibly can in one day, or two, or six.

You should, instead, write a little bit every day, stop, and come back tomorrow. Repeat.

But WHY? You might be screaming at your screen right now even though I can’t hear you. WHY would I STOP WRITING when I FINALLY FEEL LIKE WRITING?

Because it’s quite possible the reason you often don’t feel like writing is that you burn through all your creative energy the second a spark of inspiration ignites in your soul.

It’s honestly like spending money right after you get your paycheck. You’d be able to stretch it out much longer and still afford everything you need if you avoided spending it all at once. But you probably end up spending more — maybe even on things you don’t need — when you spend it all right away.

Creative energy works the same way. You want to spend it; you need to spend it. But the longer you make it last, the more you’ll potentially get out of it.

The past two years I’ve done NaNoWriMo, I’ve taken on a personal challenge to pace myself. In 2018, I wrote less than 2,000 words for 30 days straight. It was difficult. Each time I reached my daily word count, I found myself desperately longing to continue, to write more, to pump out as many words as I could.

But I didn’t. I kept up that pace, and managed to surpass 50,000 words (my goal) because of that.

It wasn’t actually as painful as I expected it to be. Because every morning I sat down to write my words for the day, I had the leftover energy necessary to do so. If I’d “over-written” the day before, I might have woken up feeling low on energy despite the fact I felt I had plenty the previous day.

I have personally found that the key to writing a lot over a long period of time is to write in very short bursts. This is not easy to do, and to be honest, it doesn’t necessarily get easier as time goes on.

But you DO get better at willing yourself to set an end goal for every writing session and (usually) stopping when you pass that goal. Not because you want to, but because you want to reserve your energy for your next session.

Give it a try. Trust me — it might work better than you 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.

Journaling Isn’t for Everyone, But It Definitely Shaped Me.

DFTBA!

DFTBA!


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 Thoughts You’ve Probably Had While Trying to Come Up With an Idea. Any Idea.

Oh look a cat video!

1 OK. I’m just going to sit down at my computer. An idea will come to me if I do that. Right?

2. No? Great. I should try listening to my favorite song.

3. Oops I listened to it on repeat five times. I still don’t have any ideas.

4. A walk! I should clear my head with a walk.

5. I never made it past the couch. Can I write about that? Eh.

6. I’m not hungry. I’m not that tired. I don’t think at least? what is wrong with me?

7. I should just start trying to write something. Anything. But I … can’t.

8. I will literally write about anything. I JUST NEED ONE STUPID IDEA.

9. Oh look a cat video! Oh look another cat video!

10. ARGH. I thought that would help. It did not.

11.`Why does this even happen? How am I supposed to get any writing done when I can’t think of anything to write about?

12. AHA! I CAN WRITE ABOUT NOT KNOWING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT. MISSION COMPLETE.


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.

Your First Draft Is a Terrible Giant Mess. Love It Anyway.

Embrace the mess.

At the beginning of this year, I set a goal to not only return to my unfinished NaNoWriMo draft, but also to finish writing it.

But then I made the mistake of rereading everything I had written over a very rushed month and a half. And to be honest, I’ve barely looked at it since.

Not because I don’t love the story or even because I don’t intend to go back and finish it someday. But because what I saw on those pages was enough of a mess to turn me off to the project for a long time.

I realized as I read that in order to tell a better story, I would eventually need to rewrite most of what I’d worked so hard to write the first time. I even wanted to change the main character/narrator’s name and switch from a single-perspective, first-person point of view to a multi-perspective narrative. Which really would mean basically redoing everything.

Excuse, excuse, excuse. I felt overwhelmed, and I let the excuses get to me, and yes. I walked away. Temporarily.

The problem was that I let myself forget how normal it is to be imperfect, especially in this context. If only we could see more famous writers’ first drafts! They’re all absolutely terrible because that’s literally the purpose of first drafts. They are garbage. They give you a pile of trash to turn into something better.

We cannot let ourselves forget that the things we create are always going to turn out flawed on the first try. If you look down at what you’ve made and it’s a mess and you’re not sure you can salvage any of it, good. That means you’re going to have to think deeper about whether or not your story is everything you want it to be yet — and decide whether or not you’re going to do something about it.

Love what you have made despite everything that might be “wrong” with it. If you really take a second to think about it, you might step back and realize that what you are holding is something YOU MADE. You did that. You wrote a thing. You started with an empty page and turned it into a story.

You must really care about this thing you created. Otherwise you wouldn’t have bothered creating it … or finishing it. You probably wouldn’t even still be thinking about it now.

And if you care that much, you probably care enough to try working with it some more. Extracting the parts that are good and making them really good. Improving the parts that are okay. Removing some parts that are great but don’t belong, and many parts that never should have been there at all.

It’s a reconstruction. A mess turned into slightly less of a mess.

This is why writers who only love having written never make it far. You also have to love the process. Every part of it, not just the fun parts. You have to be willing to write something, not feel great about it, do it all over again, and feel just a little better about your work.

This is what you signed up for. Can you learn to make the most of even the least pleasant moments?


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’s Your Go-to Trick for Starting a Deep-Focus Writing Session?

What do you do right before you need to focus?

I used to have a hard time focusing when working on a writing project.

For me, that meant that sitting down and starting something was a challenge, but not an overly tough one. Staying focused at the start — long enough to enter what’s often referred to as a “flow state” (when you kind of get sucked into what you’re doing and almost go on autopilot while your brain does all the work) — was often impossible.

The closer I got to being a full-time writer — actually making a liveable wage making words happen — the more I realized I needed to find a solution to this problem, or I was never going to survive the often overbearing demands of online content creation.

So I, sort of accidentally, came up with a solution that worked for me.

Three words:

Noise. Canceling. Headphones.

Okay technically that’s two hyphenated words plus one but WHATEVER.

It took me years — way too long — to discover that what helped me the most to focus and really get into what I was doing was to literally block out everything else around me, eliminate auditory distractions, and allow my mind to drift not away from what was in front of me, but instead toward and far into it.

Put simply: I need complete silence. Not all the time. But definitely when I need to deep-focus for even a short period of time (like when I need to write an article in an hour or less for work).

This is something I’ve figured out about me and my workflow. But I feel like I need to clarify that just because I made this personal discovery and it has worked for me does not mean it is the “right” or “best” way to do things. My way is my way. But it doesn’t have to be your way.

Some people need background noise. The various sounds floating around a coffee shop, perhaps; the TV; music, a podcaast, or maybe even a combination of more than one of these things.

Some people require different background noise — or none at all — depending on what they’re working on, where they are, or how they’re feeling. When I’m happy, sometimes I don’t mind listening to music while I write. When I’m frustrated, I need to dive deep into my focus cave until I’m finished dealing with whatever is on the top of my task list at the moment.

The point is, you have to do what works for you. And the only way to figure out what works for you is to try different strategies until you learn what works and give up on what does not.

So: How do you do it? How do you prepare yourself for a writing session that requires your full attention for either a short or longer period of time? Do you block out all noise? Turn up the music full volume? Five-second dance party? Tell me what you do. I’m curious!


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.

How to Say No to a New Idea

It’s tempting to dive headfirst into every new possibility. But you shouldn’t.

When a new idea flirts with me, I fall for its tricks. Hard.

Translation: I am terrible at saying no.

Believe it or not, it’s not as hard for me to say no to people as it is to say no to new ideas. Which is weird, I know. Ideas don’t have feelings, they don’t care if you reject them or ignore them or throw them into the hot burning lava of Mustafar or whatever.

An idea doesn’t hold grudges or judge you because it doesn’t have a conscience. Thank GOD.

So I don’t know what’s wrong with me and I’m long past the point of trying to figure it out (EMBRACE YOUR TRUE WEIRD SELVES). But I do know that being almost completely unable to turn down new ideas has gotten me into serious trouble more than once.

Why? Because when you can’t turn down ideas, they start piling up. You start making too many commitments. You get overwhelmed. And if you’re anything like me, the only way you know how to deal when you feel like there’s too much to do is to proceed to do absolutely nothing at all.

Which is, uh. Bad.

Wait wait wait, you’re probably saying out loud (or not): Why does the title of this blog post imply that you are going to tell me how not to do this thing when you’ve just admitted that you STILL DO THIS THING?

Listen. I’m not perfect and don’t try to be. I’m learning right along with y’all. I also sometimes don’t always practice what I preach and I admit that for the sole purpose of letting you know I’m just like you. Sometimes I know what to do, but don’t do it.

So regardless of whether or not I’m good at remembering to put this into practice IRL, here’s what I’ve learned about rejecting the ideas that come to you begging for all your attention:

Write them down and leave them the heck alone!

Because the truth is, you can’t do everything. You are not a superhuman (I mean, you are a super human, but you have not been blessed with exceptional power … and if you were, you’d never tell me I was wrong).

You don’t have time to say yes to every idea for a new project that might come to you. Because in addition to making things you also have to eat and sleep and remember your family and friends exist. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting any of these things. Please.

Honestly, the best thing you can do is get it down on paper and try to forget about it for a while. Your head is not going to explode. Someone is not going to take your exact idea or create the exact same thing you want to create. The world is not going to end because you didn’t start working on YET ANOTHER project today.

Saying no is hard. But maybe it’s better to think of it as “not right now.” If you truly care for an idea — if you’re really determined to make sure it exists in the world at some point — you will get to it. You will find a way. It does not have to happen now.

I know that a lot of you reading this probably have the opposite problem: You can never seem to have enough ideas to work with. I wish that wasn’t something you had to struggle with. I wish there was more I could do to help. Actually, if there is, let me know below. I’m here if you need me. Always.


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.

Does Being a Writer Make You Better at Saying Goodbye?

It’s never pleasant but maybe it can be easier.

I’m not good at goodbyes.

It doesn’t matter if I’m the one being left or the one who’s walking away. Goodbyes are terrible. I don’t like endings. I don’t like uncertain futures, or wondering if I’ll ever see someone again.

Which makes for an interesting life as a writer, since part of our job is getting to know people (fictional or otherwise) and then leaving them to go onto the next project.

Goodbyes are never easy. They’re never pleasant, they rarely make you feel good about the difficult choices you have had to make. But goodbyes are also an inevitable part of being a human. However they fit into your ever-expanding world, you can’t escape them. You can try running from them, from their aftermath — but in the end you do have to face them.

And maybe writers are better at this than anyone. Because whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, whether you’re a blogger or an instructor or a poet, you’re always saying goodbye to characters and people and tales. Your stories always have an end, whether you’re happy with them or not.

You always have to move on from any grief you might experience as a result of all that so you can move on to the next thing. You can’t let it slow you down or stop you completely. Creativity just doesn’t work that way.

And neither does the real world. When you say goodbye, you can fall apart, you can try to stop the world from turning, you can take as long as you need to catch your breath. But eventually you do have to put yourself back together, let your world keep turning, breathe not as you stand but as you move.

I’m not great at goodbyes. I think the worst ones are those that happen gradually over time — when a formal “see ya” never really happens but eventually you just lose touch with someone who really mattered to you. It happens when you unintentionally abandon a writing project. It often happens when you lose an old friend.

But the more I write, the more I expose myself to farewells of every kind. When I write a book and the story ends when I finish that last page, there’s nothing more for me to say to or do with those characters. They’re ready to move on, and so am I. And so I say goodbye. I put them on a shelf. I go on to the next thing.

You don’t have to love walking away or train yourself to do so without feeling anything. You just have to learn that goodbyes happen, and you can’t dwell on them forever. Only for a little while.


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.