Eight Characteristics Of Serious Writers: Work Ethic


I’m going to make a crazy statement to start off today’s post.

Are you ready?

Here it is.

The most talented writers will not necessarily be the most successful.

There. I said it. You can lynch me now.

Are you shocked by my crazy pronouncement? I don’t take it back. In fact, I stand by it. You know why?

Because I meet talented writers all the time who . . . just . . . don’t care. They have other ambitions and their writing takes a backseat. Kind of a, ‘I’ll get to it when I have time’ mentality.

The problem with this is that no one gets to it when they have time because no one ever has time.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

~ Thomas A. Edison

The sad fact of writing is that, unless you make it a priority in your life, it will never get anywhere. Everyone wants to write a book, but very, very few people are willing to put in the kind of work that is required. They write a few chapters, hit a bump, and it sits on their desktop for the rest of eternity, plagued by added sentences and guilt.

So I’ll say it again. The most talented writers will not necessarily be the most successful.

But the writer who works the hardest? The one who makes time when there is no time? The one who cares when no one else does and keeps going after everyone else has left off? The one who catches at every opportunity and makes writing their job, not their hobby?

That’s the writer who will end up with books on the market and a career that sustains them.

Tips to Cultivate Work Ethic.

1. Be consistent. Have a rhythm to your writing and show up for it. Yes, we are creatives, we are the people who wake up in the middle of the night to work because we have a good idea. But we are also entrepreneurs and business owners, and we need to show up at the desk too. Until you take yourself seriously, you’re going to find it impossible to get anyone else to treat you seriously. Especially agents and editors, who can tell when you’re toying around with your ideas.

2. Write a little every day. My goals for my stories—even though I am working 40 hours a week—is 700 words a day. 200 in the morning, 500 at night. I don’t always hit that, but I do what I can. Writing something every day keeps your skills sharp and your mind on track. It also teaches you to have ideas on demand—which, believe it or not, is possible. I do it every day at my nine-to-five job. Not all the ideas are good ones, but there are always golden nuggets among the duds.

3. Be determined. Know your goals, know what kind of writer you want to be and the kind of books you want to produce, and go after it. You are the only one who can make it happen, and the only one who is brave enough and crazy enough to dream big. Be that one insane, ridiculous person who has goals like their story reaching the big screen, being interviewed on a talk show about their books, or having book signings that are booked in advance. Be that person that dreams big, and the one who works a little bit every day to reach your goals.

4. Know when to rest—and when to get back to work. I am a huge advocate for resting when you need to rest. I have burned out too many times to laugh it off and say push through, you’ll be fine. When you are worn out, rest. Please. But know when to start again. Know when resting becomes procrastination and procrastination becomes abandonment. Life goes on, dearest writer, but if you want a career in writing, you have to drag your writing along with it.

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

Eight Characteristics Of Serious Writers: Resilience


I’m going to tell you a secret today.

Not everyone is going to like what you write.

In fact, some people are going to hate it. They are going to leave a one-star review, write a nasty summary, and leave you a little shattered on your keyboard.

Hopefully, this will not happen often.

Since you probably already knew that, it’s not much of a secret, but as a writer, it’s an important thing to remember anyway. Critiques in the writing world are harsh, reviewers sometimes forget that the person on the other side of the pen has a heart and soul to wound, and agents are often times too busy for anything other than a brusque ‘no’. Sometimes even our closest friends and family becomes the sharpest critics, and people who should have been the ones to hold you up are the ones shooting you down.

It gets hurtful.

But, writer, your success does not depend on everyone loving your books. Your success depends on your ability to last through the criticism—to be resilient.

“The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability as opposed to resilience and hard work, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.”

~ Joshua Waitzkin

Resilience is one of the most important character traits for an author. You need it for those curt rejections, for the reviews that seem to come straight out of someone else’s bad day, and for the well-meaning comments from people in your life who will tell you to give up, because they’re concerned about you and don’t want you to fail as epically as you are obviously going to.


Writer, trust me in this. Now is the time to start working on your resilience, because if a ‘no’ is all it’s going to take to get you to turn from your path, you might as well pack up your typewriter right now. Your path will be paved with ‘no’s. Everyone will try to tell you ‘no’ . . . and I do mean everyone.

But all you need is one ‘yes’. So long as you are still around to greet it when it arrives.

Tips to Cultivate Resilience.

1. Don’t wallow in the negative. One hurtful comment shouldn’t linger for weeks. Take a deep breath, let it sting for that moment, and then move on. It’s only too easy to let things like that live on repeat in your brain, but it shouldn’t. Choosing your thoughts is a vital part of mental health, and choosing not to dwell only on the negative is definitely a vital part of writing. When it pops into your head again, replace it with something else. Guard your mind fiercely, because it is from this your stories flow.

2. Find the positive and learn from the negative. You’re not infallible. None of us are. Sometimes rejections, harsh reviews, or sharp comments have a grain of truth to them. If you want to grow as a writer, you need to learn to take criticism—and learn from it. Don’t dwell on nasty words, but don’t toss them aside as ‘irrelevant’ or ‘ignorant’ opinions. Take a few minutes to decide if there is truth in the negative and grow from it. Then set it aside and find a positive—whether from someone else or from yourself. I hate to tell you this, but most of your encouragement as a writer is going to come from yourself. It’s your job to keep those stories alive. No one else’s.

3. Don’t engage. I wish I could tell you this a thousand times. With a megaphone. The worst thing you can do for your career and yourself is to snap back at reviewers or cranky agents with a smart remark or, heaven forbid, a long dissertation about why they’re wrong and you’re right. It looks bad, especially online, it’s unprofessional, and it will never, never help. Also, it can damage your chances with someone else. So take a deep breath and let it go. Scream into your pillow if you need to, but do not respond.

4. Pick yourself up and keep walking. A writer is more than one negative review. They are more than one rejected pitch. They are more than the bad feedback. Keep going, dearest writer. You have so much more ahead of you than a single story. You will get rejected a thousand times, and you will have fans that write to tell you that you got them through their dark night of the soul. Keep writing, because it means something and it matters. One ‘no’ can’t stop you—not if you don’t let it.

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

Eight Characteristics Of Serious Writers: Enthusiasm


I still get excited about my writing.

After seven years on the same set of books, that sounds crazy doesn’t it? Don’t the characters get stale? Doesn’t the world get boring?

Actually . . . they do.


I have days when I’m not excited about what I’m writing. We all do. In fact, I have weeks when I’m not excited about what I’m writing, especially when it comes to the last rounds of revisions and editing. Once I’ve written a chapter eight different times and it still isn’t right, I start to get a little irritated with it.

But for the most part, I love my stories. I think they’re worth all the frustration I’ve spent on them, all the years I’ve devoted to their creation. And . . . I honestly just like the story. I like the characters. I am endlessly enthusiastic about writing them because I want to read what happens. And that fuels my writing more than any dream of getting published I can come up with.

But I learned a long time ago that enthusiasm wouldn’t write the pages for me unless I paired it with discipline.

“In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm . . . in the real world all rests on perseverance.”

~ Johann Wolfgang Goethe

It’s great to be enthusiastic about your stories. I highly recommend it, in fact. That love is going to shine through in your writing and eventually in your pitching. Your readers will be able to tell if you love a character, story, or even a setting. Or if you don’t care about them.

But sometimes I think we as writers—and as humans—don’t realize that enthusiasm doesn’t last without a little help. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about a new idea—for about two weeks. Maybe even a month, if you’re determined. But to be enthusiastic about a story for seven years—that’s a little harder. But if you continue to foster that attitude of enthusiasm for a project long after everyone else would have given up on it, you may just find yourself far ahead of those authors who refuse to stick to one idea for more than a year or two.

Tips to Cultivate Enthusiasm.

1. Think of enthusiasm less as something you feel—and more as something you choose. Feelings fade. They are fickle, flighty things that pop up at the most inopportune times and vanish just when you need them most. If you are a writer who writes only when you feel like it, you will probably never finish a book. So choose to be enthusiastic. Choose to love your characters when you don’t like them, and appreciate your story when you would much rather hate it. Give it love when you don’t feel like it, and the feelings will follow.

2. Prioritize. Give your writing time precedence. Value it. Make it special with tea, a writing companion, or a well-worn ritual. Know when your best writing time is and take advantage of it. Start with a hundred words, or two hundred. Once you’ve started, it’s much easier to keep going—and to remember why you loved this story in the first place.

3. Spiral journal. I got this idea from one of the loveliest author/speakers in the industry. (Hi, Nancy!) Sit down with your journal, ask your character a question, and give them two minutes to answer while you scribble frantically to get down what they say. Then choose a sentence you’ve written that you want to dig deeper into, write it down, and set your timer again. Have your character talk a bit more about that. And so on and so forth. Believe me. It’s brilliant. Nancy taught us this technique at the last writing conference I went to, and it built my sixth book from the ground up. I was so very grateful.

4. In the end, worry less about being enthusiastic and more about being committed. I’m afraid this is what it comes down to, O writer. It’s lovely to be enthusiastic about your story. It helps a great deal and pours a lot of love onto the pages. But in the end, what really matters is that you are committed. That you are going to show up, even when you’d rather not, and write the next page when you’d rather trash the whole thing. A writer who can do that will conquer any story they touch.

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

Eight Characteristics Of Serious Writers: Tenacity


One of the questions that I get way too often in my life is, “How are your books coming?”

It’s understandable, actually. People know I’m working on a book series. They know I’ve been working on it for a long time—seven years, in fact. And most people aren’t aware of how slow the publishing industry really is or how long it takes to write a book.

For those of you who don’t know—it takes years. And I do mean years.

Seven years is a long time. But, no, I am not published yet. I will probably not be published for a while yet. I am only just now starting to be paid for the craft that I have spent so long honing and learning, and guess what?

I’m still learning.

Really. I spent seven years working my butt off, practicing, studying, and correcting my mistakes, just to become an apprentice. And you know what?

It was worth every single second. Really. I love my job, I love that I get paid to hone my craft and practice my passion, and I love that I get to learn from people who are as close to mastering their craft as most people get.

But in all those seven years, I didn’t know it would end up like this. I didn’t know if I would ever get published, or ever make enough money to support myself, or ever have anyone care that I was a writer and had something to offer.

But I wrote anyway.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

~ Mary Ann Radmacher

Tenacity is one of the most important traits of any writer who intends to see their work sitting on a shelf. I cannot begin to count the many times that I wanted to give up in the last few years. How many times I worried that I should have come up with a backup plan when I first started this crazy venture. I worked as a nanny for seven years, and I was terrified that I would end up doing that for the rest of my life.

I didn’t. But I sure wondered a few times.

The point is, if you give up, drop your dream when it gets hard and move on to something else, you will never see how amazing your life could have been. And your books will never, no matter how much you love them, see the light of day.

Tips to Cultivate Tenacity.

1. Spend less time worrying about the end result and more time enjoying the process. The times I was the most afraid for myself and my future were always the times I spent way, way too much time obsessing about when things were going to happen. I wanted answers, I wanted a plan, I wanted a solid time of when my life was going to come together and I was going to be able to sustain my writing without a supplementary job. It never helped and always, always stole my joy. The best moments were when I let the future stay where it was—out of sight—and focused on the task in front of me. Those moments brought me where I am today.

2. Finish the projects you start. Commit to them. A book you never finish is a book that will never get published, and although you may learn a great deal from it, you’ll also set a habit by abandoning it and moving on to something else when you get bored, stuck, or simply have another idea. Giving up is a habit. So is typing ‘The End’. Choose your habits.

3. When you have a brilliant new idea, jot it down in a notebook and leave it there. Let it sit. Let it simmer in the back of your mind, turning over, getting the time it needs to develop. A brand new idea is not a book. It’s not even a story yet. It needs time, and your current WIP needs time too. So let it sit, just for now, and come back later.

4. Set goals and celebrate milestones. What do you want from your writing? Do you know? What do you, as a writer, want to accomplish this year, or this month, or simply just today? Write it down. Have a to-do list, and celebrate when you mark things off. And when you type ‘The End’? Open a bottle of something sparkly and make a night of it. If you don’t celebrate your milestones, it’s far, far too easy to let yourself think that there hasn’t been any.

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

Eight Characteristics Of Serious Writers: Empathy


When I was a teenager, I read a book with a main character that didn’t react emotionally to anything.

His mentor died. His family died. Everything he had was torn away from him, and he was left running for his life from people who wanted desperately to either kill him or shove him into prison for forever and a day and not let him out again.

And he never reacted in a believable way. (I won’t tell you which book, because I’m not trying to bash the author or the story, which was quite good despite this flaw.)

He didn’t cry, he didn’t feel sad, he didn’t do anything. He barely got angry.

It made him almost impossible to like.

“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes.”

~ Daniel H. Pink

I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I can’t empathize with a character or care about him in the slightest, I drop the book. I don’t read another page. I don’t have any interest in characters who are cut out of cardboard and flung into the fray to be chased down and killed. Sure, that’s traumatizing. But if I don’t like him to begin with, there is no way I’m going to stumble through fire and death in his wake.

I have to come because I care about him. I have to love him. And believe me, it’s hard to love a character that doesn’t act in a believable way.

Tips to Cultivate Empathy.

1. When you are writing the massive chase scene, the heroic death, or the meaningful moment . . . pause. Take time to go a little deeper into the scene, to get into the character’s head. Yes, he’s sad. So, how does that feel physically? Mentally? Believe me, there’s more to crying than tears and there’s more to grief than sobbing on the ground for ten minutes, then moving on with your day.

2. Research. Seriously. The five stages of grief. PTSD. Survivor’s guilt. Phantom pains. Something. When traumatic things happen in your book, either a death or an injury or even just a breakup with a middle school crush, there is a response. It’s your job as the author to research and know just what that response should be—and how to manifest that in your character.

3. Remember it. Grief lasts longer than a chapter. If your character’s father dies, and he never notices, feels sad, or thinks about it again after the chapter it happened in . . . he’s going to look like a jerk, and you’re going to look like the kind of author who kills characters because you want the shock value or because the character became inconvenient. Not good.

4. Look for the change. Deep emotional experiences—deaths, near-death experiences, romantic attachments—cause a good deal of change in a character. They change the way the character perceives the world, himself, and the people around him. If a significant event in your story is not changing your character, it may be time to step back and question why. The point of a story is to take your character from A to B . . . not to throw a series of calamities at him, have him dodge them all with ease, then go home and get back to his normal life.

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.