Eight Characteristics of Serious Writers: Curiosity


How excited am I allowed to be that we are starting a new series today?

Better yet, how excited are you?

Never mind, don’t answer that question.

In this series, we are exploring the eight characteristics that make a good writer. I say eight, but I think we all know writing is more complicated than that. I could do eight hundred and still not have covered all of them—or explained fully how each and every writer is different and has a different system and a different way of approaching their books.

Still. We are going to ultra-simplify the process and cover the eight most important characteristics of a writer.

And . . . *cue drumroll* we are going to start with Curiosity!

“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.”

~ Bernard Baruch

When you cultivate curiosity, you set your stories alight and allow the magic back into your pages. The best writers are always curious. They want to know how something happened, but they also want to know why it happened, how it felt, what it meant. Their curiosity translates to the page and keeps the reader tucked up with their book long after they meant to go to bed. Curiosity does that to us all, and it is the best trick of the trade for a writer.

After all, who can resist the question, “What happens next?”.

Tips to Cultivate Curiosity.

1. Take a moment, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. Stop. Listen. Look around. As I’m writing this, it is just before dawn at my house, outside is dim and cool, a cricket is chirping, and it is so, so quiet. In moments like these, stories wake up. In the silence. In the pause before the day begins, or before it ends. The best way to get your mind moving and your stories to come to the surface is to step away from the lights, the noise, and the routines of the day, and find a few minutes to just be still and listen.

2. Read widely. Read about everything. Pick up books you think you’ll hate and read them anyway. Read books people recommend to you. Find out about personality types, about the enneagram and the Myers-Briggs test. Research Stockholm syndrome and the civil war and the trenches in the ocean. Everything is story fodder, and a good writer can get some snippet, some thread of an amazing story out of the strangest of places.

3. People watch. When you’re shopping, when you’re sitting at the library, when you’re having coffee or in line at the doctor’s office. Try not to be too creepy about it, but stories are about people. About their lives and loves and pains and hopes. Wooden characters and cliche cardboard cutouts will sink a story faster than bad grammar and nonexistent punctuation. So watch. Watch how the cashier at a grocery store deals with customers who are difficult. Watch how the mother in the restaurant interacts with her child or the two friends at the coffee bar laugh over something no one else would find funny. Don’t be creepy, but do watch.

4. Allow your story to have a ‘What if’. Sometimes we get so stuck in our vision of what the story should be and the very first vision we had for it that we forget to ask ‘What if’. What if the friend your hero depended on so completely was actually a backstabbing snake? What if instead of getting the girl, your hero leaves her to set out on a quest and she marries someone else in his absence. Stories are built on what if, and if you forget to ask it, your book will suffer. Remember, your first idea is not necessarily your best one.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Creativity, Inc.


I listen to audiobooks on my commute to and from work every day. It’s how I keep reading when life is busy and crazy and I don’t have the time or the energy to stop and open a book.

Which, unfortunately, is all the time right now.

So, my commute is my saving grace. An hour and a half every day, five days a week, will plow you through a lot of audiobooks.

This week I’ve been listening to Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. It’s the origin story, you might say, of Pixar animation studios, written by one of the original creators.

It’s absolutely fascinating.

Pixar is and always has been one of my absolute favorite movie studios. Up, The Incredibles, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo are all established classics in my mind, and ones that I will watch again and again over the years.

The writer of Creativity, Inc. is an amazing blend of scientist and storyteller, and hearing him talk about the years they spent developing the animation necessary for these kinds of movies, the ups and downs they’ve had, and the disasters they’ve faced and walked through, was incredible. Creativity is one of those things that is very, very hard to push into a box and establish in a nine-to-five, and most big businesses manage it by grinding their workers to dust and replacing them every few months.

Pixar, thankfully, has set a different standard, and their model revolutionized the storytelling industry.

As a person who also tells stories for a living, it has been an incredibly eye-opening book to read. (Or listen to.) The more I learn about the story industry—whether that be books, movies, TV, or radio—the more I want to learn and the more determined I am to continue working in my field. No, it’s not perfect, and yes, it has its issues, but there is nothing else I would rather be doing. Stories are a magic and a science all of their own, and I am slowly, with many fumbles, starting to understand and appreciate them for more than just the face value and box office reviews.

Creativity, Inc. gives a captivating inside glimpse into the life and business of some of the best storytellers on the market. Writers, I would highly, highly recommend it to you, whatever sort of writing you do. The very driven, pressurized atmosphere that he describes in his books may not appeal to you, but the principles that they’ve built their company on continue to be some of the best in the industry.

No wonder Up has the single best love story in animation in its first eight minutes.

(Okay, that last part is only my opinion.)

But still!

Have you ever read Creativity, Inc. or a similar book that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear about it!

9 Truths For A Writer’s Soul: Persistence

Someone asked me a few days ago how to write a book.

Since I am obviously a professional and have coached people through the process and know everything, I explained in detail how to get from an idea to the finished product.


Actually, I hemmed and hawed a good deal and gave a vague answer that had something to do about being faithful and writing a lot.

It is important to note that the person asking me was not a writer. Or much of a reader either. The fact that they asked me that question made it obvious.

Those of us who are writers know that there is no real answer to that question.

But the question made me think, and I realized later that—although my answer was stilted and a little confused—it was the right one.

Nothing—not talent, not passion, not connections—is more important to a writer’s journey than persistence.

People ask me all the time what ‘inspires me’ when I write. I usually laugh and tell them that inspiration is overrated. It feels nice, it gets words out for a little while, but it fades.

So does excitement for an idea.

Persistence is the only thing that gets me to the end of a project. Sometimes it means writing when I don’t feel like it. Sometimes it means writing the most awful drivel I have ever had the audacity to throw on paper, just to get something down that I can fix later. Whatever the case, I have found persistence to be far more important than anything else in a writer’s journey.

My Experience

I’m going to tell you a horrible secret.

Actually, it’s not a secret. But I’m going to tell you anyway.

I’ve written more trash than I have good, solid content.

I’m serious. Some of the chapters in my books have been written four or more times. And not just edited—trashed and started over. I’ve trashed entire manuscripts and started over.

I do it a lot.

In fact, I’ll be doing it again soon. The third book in my series needs a serious overhaul, and I fully intend to dump the entire thing in the trash and start back at the beginning. Not because it’s unredeemable, but because I want my books to be the best that they can be, and I am willing to go the extra mile to make sure they reach that level.

The point is not to make more work for myself, I promise. It’s to value my career and my writing enough to be persistent in seeing my book become the best it can be. And sometimes, that really does mean struggling through a hard day or making the rough decisions.

Four Tips To Apply It In Your Own Life

1. Have a routine. Know when you’re supposed to write and show up. Brew your tea or coffee, switch off your phone, start that playlist that gets you in the mood, and start. If you’re a morning person, don’t hit snooze. If you’re a night owl, switch off Netflix and Youtube and commit to your story for a while.

2. Know your priorities and stick to them. When you’re writing, you’re busy. You’re working. No one has to know any different, not that one friend who always wants you to come pick them up, not the person asking you to take their shift at work, and not the coworker who has plans for you after work. Your time is your own, and your writing is allowed to take priority if you so choose.

3. Pay more attention to where you’ve been than where you’re going. Writing is a long road, and it can get so discouraging to continually be looking at how far you have to go. Instead, take a glance over your shoulder. Admire how far you’ve come. There are people who are striving to get where you are now and feel like they might never make it. Celebrate your progress!

4. Write. Honestly, it’s as simple as that. Sit down and write. It doesn’t matter whether you have ten minutes or ten hours, or whether you get a hundred words or a thousand. The point is, you sat down and you did it. That’s persistence, and that’s what will help you to the finish line more than anything else. 

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Was this post helpful to you? Tell me about it in the comments, and drop in any tips of your own! I would love to hear about it.

This is the last installment in my series, 9 Truths for a Writer’s Soul. I so enjoyed this journey with you, and I hope you will tune in next week as we tackle 8 Habits for a Healthy Writer.

Until next time!

Wait . . .


. . . didn’t you get a new job?

Why yes, so I did.

Shockingly, my life is not completely made up of weekend adventures, although it may look like it on my blog nowadays. I actually have a real job and I go to work every morning and come home every night. I have a commute, I have a desk, and I go to meetings.

I don’t have a whole lot to contribute to these meetings quite yet, but I go.

Really, though, I actually have a solid reason for not mentioning the work I’ve been doing up until now. See, I work as an apprentice scriptwriter for a radio program. Emphasis on the word ‘apprentice’. My job is to pitch ideas, write scripts, and say yes to anything and everything that comes my way.

Last week they were filming me for a promotional ‘inside peek’ of the production process.

Yeah . . . there’s a reason I didn’t become an actress.

Anyway, this job has been a stretch for me, not just because of the spontaneous quick tasks they need help with, but because of the normal, everyday work that I do.

The word ‘apprentice’ should have tipped me off.

See, I thought I was a good writer. Eight books, two years of blogging, various articles—yeah, I totally know what I’m doing. Right?



I went from being one of the strongest writers in any given room to being the weakest. I’m not saying that modestly, and I don’t mean ‘one of the weakest’.

I mean the weakest writer in the room. The one with the least experience. The most to learn. The least to contribute.

The people I work with—and I mean all of them—have 20-30 years of experience under their belts. They are some of the most successful writers in their field, and they have the platform and the ratings to prove it.

And I am a very little fish in a very big pond.

Needless to say, my pride has taken a beating in the last seven weeks. I don’t think I have ever felt so out of my depth anywhere else.


Writer, it is the single best thing I have ever done for my career.


If you want to grow as a writer, put yourself in a room with six of the greats and let them critique your work. It’s going to hurt, but my goodness, you are going to grow. And not with baby steps. In leaps and bounds. My team is committed to seeing me grow as a writer, and as hard and uncomfortable as that can be at times, it is such a privilege.

So if you ever wonder what happened to me or how I’m doing, just know that I am in the process of swallowing my pride and having my ego kicked in the face a few times.

And that I am learning. And I am so, so grateful to be where I am.

Have you ever gone through a season of rapid growth? Any tips for me? I’d love to hear them!

9 Truths For A Writer’s Soul: Discouragement

Writer, the journey between idea and page is a long one. I have ideas that I have set to simmer on a back burner in my brain that have been waiting there for five years. I haven’t written them yet, but I will.

The books I am writing now are seven years old.

They are still not published. I am only just now beginning to get paid for all the time I’ve put into my craft, although I’ve treated it as a full-time job since I first started writing seven years ago.

Writing is a long term project.

Very, very long term.

Books aren’t written in a day. Authors don’t have overnight success stories. (Does anyone, really?) Platforms, fanbases, and careers take a long, long time to build. I’m talking years, not months. Sometimes decades. And all of that waiting can be extremely discouraging if our mindset is wrong.

You are never more discouraged than when you are focused on the outcome more than the process.

Writer, this book is a privilege. Having the time, the moments to dedicate to your craft is so, so precious, and something to celebrate whenever possible.

The end will come.

The book will be finished.

Someday—hopefully—it will be published.

In this moment, cherish the story.

My Experience

I could not have lasted seven years if I didn’t love what I do. Not the warm glow of having written, not the excitement of having someone read my story, but the writing itself. The story. The characters. Yes, my goal is and always will be to get published and sell books.

But first and foremost, the reason I am able to get up in the morning and sit down to write every day is because I love to write. My ideal day consists of rainy afternoons, a cup of steaming tea, my sister working on her art at our kitchen counter, and myself curled up on the couch typing away.

I’ve learned to cherish the moments. To treasure the process.

And, no, I don’t always remember to do this. Some days are harder than others, especially if the story isn’t flowing and my words are stilted.

But the days I do remember to pause and enjoy the moments are the days I remember. And the days that stave off the discouragement of waiting for an uncertain outcome.

Four Tips To Apply It In Your Own Life

1. Enjoy the moments. Take the time to make that cup of tea before you start writing. Savor the fact that you have a morning, or an hour, or even ten minutes to continue your story. Whether it’s scheduled words or stolen time, your writing is important. So take the time to love it.

2. Romanticize what you do. Instead of being frustrated and drained that you ‘have to write’, take a few moments to turn your mindset around. You are a writer. Curled up on your couch or hunched over your desk with a steaming cup of tea and your cat purring on your desk, scribbling about new worlds and creating a written account of your adventures into your imagination. Doesn’t that sound better than ‘I have to get five hundred words before I go to work’?

3. Look at how far you’ve come. Most people who start a book write the first chapter. Or plan the story and never write anything at all. So keep track of how far you’ve come. Celebrate your progress, and remind yourself that, however slow you’re writing, you’re making progress.

4. Take the next step, no matter how small it is. Write a page or a chapter. Send your book to a beta reader, or find an editor you would love to work with. Post on your twitter. Outline a series for your blog if you have one, or build an author website. Design a logo, or create a spreadsheet of agents you want to query. (Don’t forget to do your research!) The point is, take a step, however small. Even a little bit of progress will keep off discouragement.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild!

Was this post helpful to you? Tell me about it in the comments, and drop in any tips of your own! I would love to hear about it.


I saw a mermaid this weekend.

Actually two.

Real live actual mermaids.

Okay, not actual. But definitely real live mermaids.

Okay, it was two actresses wearing costumes and taking pictures with the kids at the Denver Aquarium. But you were not there, so technically, you can’t prove that they weren’t real live actual mermaids. And since I didn’t actually get close enough to get a good look at their tails, I can’t technically prove they weren’t real live actual mermaids.

So they might have been.

Anyway, as you’ve probably guessed by this time, my sister and I took a trip to the Denver Aquarium this weekend.

We saw a lot of fish.

Since we also ate lunch in the aquarium restaurant, we also ate a lot of fish, but we decided not to tell the other fish. Although . . . I think this one may have suspected something. He looks a little suspicious.

I also found out that my sister is the stingray whisperer. The aquarium has a touch tank for stingrays, and usually, they swim by the people and ignore them.

However . . . my sister stuck her hand in the water and they came running.



I don’t know if they thought she had food or is she just smells good or what, but they loved her and tried to eat her hand and her arm and maybe the rest of her. I think if we ever get stranded in the ocean together, I may swim about ten feet from her because she is apparently very attractive to sea life and I’m not totally sure that won’t extend to sharks and monsters.


Not that we’re likely to get stranded at sea. But still. Something to keep in mind for future adventures.

As I mentioned, we also had lunch in the aquarium restaurant, and guys—I had lunch with the fishes. Like, they had a tank inside the restaurant. A huge one. And since they were feeding the fish at the same time we were having lunch, we had lunch with the fish.

It was great.

I certainly didn’t expect it to be as crowded in the aquarium as it was, but despite a little trouble with parking and a long line outside the building, we had a blast. We are slowly attempting to get more acquainted with the beautiful state we live in, and our trip this weekend was definitely a step forward.

Do you have any aquarium adventures—or pictures—to share? Tell me about them in the comments!

9 Truths For A Writer’s Soul: Magic

The other day, I had an awesome idea.

A great, awesome idea about a book that I am planning. I intend to start writing it in five to seven years. After I’ve finished—and published—my current series and written the series I am actively planning and will be writing next. (Yes, I think about those books on a regular basis. Because I am a career woman and also a fanatic.)

And guys. The idea was so good. So, so good. It gave me chills. I also got a lump in my throat, which is a weird by-product of a really good idea for me.

When that happens, I always know my idea is a good one. An especially fantastic, must save kind of idea.

That’s how I know I’ve touched magic.

Magic doesn’t come naturally. Like any craft, you have to cultivate it.

I’m going to be honest with you here. I don’t believe in muses. I love the idea of muses. I think they’re so fun. I’m pretty sure that my muse is a hedgehog named Mortimer.

But when it comes down to it, I don’t believe in muses. And I think inspiration is a lovely feeling that will never get a writer anywhere long term.

The best way to cultivate magic is by showing up, constantly, day after day, and being faithful to your story no matter what. If you aren’t on the lookout for your ideas, you won’t find them.

My Experience

I’m going to be straight up honest with you. That brilliant awesome idea I was talking about? I had it while I was driving home. I wasn’t sitting at my computer, I wasn’t journaling or brainstorming. I was driving home after work and thinking about my story.

Actually, I’m always thinking about my stories. All the time. When I work out, when I’m driving, when I’m cleaning my house or at work or anywhere else, my stories are in the back of my mind. Simmering away. Turning over. Searching out new ideas and new angles and new ways of looking at things.

I search them out and give my mind the time it needs to thoroughly explore a world and a character.

That means that when I’m not driving or at work and I have the time I need to write, I know what happens next. I’ve touched the magic already, and I can translate it to the page.

Four Tips To Apply It In Your Own Life

1. Write bad stuff. I wish I could scream this to the heavens or din it into your brain. Write terrible, terrible drafts that totally embarrass you. Write choppy poems. Write awful dialogue. Write and write and write, and never delete any of it. Pretty soon, it won’t be terrible.

2. Be consistent. Find your rhythm and work with it. You don’t have to write the way I do, but find the way that you write best and keep to it. The more you write, the more you’ll want to write and the better your writing will be.

3. Dream. Spend time dreaming. Set aside time to dream. Your dreaming is where the magic is born. Train your mind to wander through your stories, to probe at possibilities, and to find what causes that hitch in your breath. It might seem strange to schedule time for daydreaming, but, writer, that’s what we do! Without that time, your stories will stall and sputter out. So take the time. Be intentional about your dreams.

4. Love what you do. Remind yourself that you love it. Remind yourself that you’re choosing your stories, and that you love to spend time in them. Magic comes from passion, from loving what you do and appreciating it. If your stories become a drudge and a task you resent, the magic will fade. And nothing makes a task more of a drudge than complaining about it. So love what you do, and remind yourself that you enjoy it.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Was this post helpful to you? Tell me about it in the comments, and drop in any tips of your own! I would love to hear about it.

Adulthood is a Myth


My sister sent me an awesome birthday gift this week.

A Sarah’s Scribbles 2020 calendar entitled Adulthood is a Myth.

I felt that one to my soul.

Not only was it strange to remember that next year is 2020, but the calendar also has the added advantage of making me laugh at myself. Because adulthood is a myth. And I love it.

This last week was all about adulting for me. Getting up early when I didn’t want to, plowing through meetings and checking tasks off my to-do list, procrastinating on my writing and having to scramble to make up for it later.

You know. The kinds of things we all do.

Also, my tire went flat on Friday night. At work. I may or may not have changed it while still in a skirt.

Actually, forget that. I totally changed it while still in a skirt. Because I am an adult and that’s what an adult does when they’re off work and have a whole weekend ahead of them only to find they have to start said weekend off with a flat tire.

My work clothes ended up looking a little worse for wear.

See, my spare tire is caked in dust. Because I live on a dirt road. And I never wash my car.

Arguably my own fault, but there it is.

A very sweet older man offered to help me. I told him I was fine and that I could handle it. While trying to turn one of my lug nuts the wrong way.

In my defense, he startled me and I was flustered. So I can’t be responsible for my actions.

I think the poor man was worried I was crazy. He sat in his car for an uncomfortably long time waiting to see if I would finish. I would have let him help, only I was already halfway done and the rest was reasonably easy. No point in two of us getting covered in road dust just because I never wash my car.

In the end, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Since I always have my jack in the car and a spare, it’s easily fixed and done with. And I’m no stranger to having to fix my tires myself. One does, you know, when one has no boyfriend/husband to do such things. But Friday night—and most of the week—really showed me how easy it is to finish a day, arrive home, and . . . have nothing left for writing. No time, no energy, no creativity.

It’s amazing how quickly it happens. Sometimes, as a writer with a full-time job, good intentions just aren’t enough. Things have to be cut out in order to give oneself the time that’s needed.

Since I’m still deciding exactly what things are going to be cut out, I will get back to you on what I eventually do. But don’t be surprised if I suddenly drop off the planet for a month or two. I’m not saying that socializing will be the first thing I cut out to give myself the time I need. Of course not. That would be silly.

It may end up being the second thing, however.

How do you make sure you have time for the important things in your life? Tell me about it in the comments!

9 Truths For A Writer’s Soul: Priorities

Has anyone ever sat down, fully intending to have an awesome writing session, and managed to get absolutely nothing done?

I have.

In fact, it happens more often than I would like to admit. I am the queen of procrastination. I can sit down, open up my Scrivener document (because Scrivener is the best and I love them every day) and then find two hundred and twelve tasks that need my attention right at that moment.

And thus my story withers away, watered with good intentions and distracted glances.

Except it hasn’t. I’ve managed over the years to occasionally get my grasshopper brain to actually sit down to a writing session and shut up long enough to get a few thousand words out. It’s very nearly a miracle.

What I’ve discovered is this:

There will always be another load of laundry.

Writer, things pile up. Life happens, and it really doesn’t stop happening. Ever. One task leads into the next, and before you know it the light’s gone, you’re so tired that you can’t keep your eyes open, and your alarm is set way too early tomorrow morning.

Life. Happens.

But, writer, it doesn’t have to steamroll your writing. Not if you’re intentional about it.

My Experience

It took me years to figure out that I could say ‘no’ to things. Parties I didn’t want to go to. Jobs that people offered me. Even college classes that people were sure I ‘needed’. Everyone had an opinion on what I should be doing with my time, and as a people pleaser, I was always quick to agree with them.

But a job at Walmart didn’t push me forward in my career, whereas a nanny job—which offered no consistent hours, no work experience, and no benefits—gave me the time I needed to write.

Writing classes would have been wonderful . . . but actually taking the time to write was more important to me and to my books.

Socializing and cultivating relationships is absolutely a priority for me . . . but not at a party. Because I’m an introvert, and in order to really connect with someone, I like to be one-on-one in a coffee shop, or at home on my couch with a cup of tea.

Writer, it took me so, so long to stop feeling guilty for saying no when someone else wanted me to say yes. But I did it. Over and over again, because I knew my priorities and I knew where I wanted to end up.

So I chose my writing. I chose it over a stable job, over college credits, and over a social life that most people would chase after.

And I have never once, in all the years I’ve been writing, regretted it.

Four Tips To Apply It In Your Own Life

1. You can’t do everything. Say no. Practice saying no, even when you feel guilty about it. Even when people try to guilt-trip you into saying yes. (Because they will.) Value the people in your life, treasure them, be there if they need you. But have boundaries and stick to them.

2. Know your priorities. What are you after in your life and in your writing? What is most important to you? You need to know that, especially if you’re trying to set boundaries for your writing and don’t know when to say no and when to bend a little. Sit down and dream a little. Where would you like to end up? What kind of person do you want to be?

3. Cultivate your lifestyle around those priorities. If you want time to write, set a time you want to write and defend it ruthlessly. Let people know you are not available during these times. If you had work in the evenings, would you let your friend pressure you into a night on the town? Of course not. If you want writing to be a priority, then treat it as one. If it is the last thing on your list, it will probably never get done.

4. Let the laundry sit for an hour. Or the dishes. Let your floor be a little dusty. You will always have time for cleaning and it will always be there waiting for you to take care of it. So take an hour, and let the laundry sit for now. Your stories are important too.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

Was this post helpful to you? Tell me about it in the comments, and drop in any tips of your own! I would love to hear about it.