Blog

Shake Up Your Writing

In which I get excited about a project again…

In this on-the-road episode, I come to you fresh from a conference, full of new energy and ideas, and I encourage you to find ways to shake up YOUR practice.

LINKS

Critique Week

Other Ways To Increase Your Joy Around Writing

Download the Short Story Framework:

Take the 3-Day Challenge

Sign up for the StoryAWeek Newsletter

Take the I, WRITER Course

https://stada.me/iwriternow

Join the Superstars Group

https://storyaday.org/superstars

Coaching with Julie

The Art of Improving (with groundhogs)

In which I give you a writing prompt and talk about the perils of success beyond your wildest hopes


What do groundhogs have to do with getting better at skills? So much. Listen…

LINKS: Friday Freebie

Other Ways To Increase Your Joy Around Writing

Download the Short Story Framework:

Take the 3-Day Challenge

Sign up for the StoryAWeek Newsletter

Take the I, WRITER Course

https://stada.me/iwriternow

Join the Superstars Group

https://storyaday.org/superstars

Coaching with Julie

Fiction Matters

In which I try to persuade you not to persuade anyone this way…

In which I talk about Mary Oliver and the power of words to lift us out of the everyday.
I also invite you to take part in the January Challenge, a five-day exercise that will make you more decisive around your fiction and every aspect of your writing life.
Sign up here: https://storyaday.org/jan-challenge

Transcript

Good morning. Good evening. Good afternoon, Julie from story a day here.

I’m going to be inviting you today to join me next week in a free mini challenge that’s going to set you up for the year ahead for the life ahead. And it’s, it’s a challenge that helps you get back in the groove with your writing helps you stay on track.

I’ll send you five tiny little lessons over the week and you’ll build a tool that will help you in your writing everyday.

Sign up right now and, and we’ll go from there.

Fiction Matters

But I wanted to. Read you something today that I wrote, this week. In case you are wavering in your commitment to your fiction, in your courage around your fiction, in case the world is beating you down and telling you that fiction doesn’t matter and you should be doing more important things.

I don’t think there’s much more. Important work than

stimulating peoples imaginations, giving them hope. Giving them a respite from the world. So here’s what I wrote one morning this week.

When it seems. Like everything in the world is terrible. How can I possibly justify writing about. Or playing with my imaginary friends. When there’s so much news to catch up on to care about. So many causes to champion. Persecuted groups to try and save. How can I possibly find the time and energy for creative acts?

It’s a real question.

But we creative people must be courageous enough to try.

Because we can write beautiful, inspiring. Terrifying. Hopeful things. That lift people out of their everyday experiences and show them how they are part of something bigger than themselves. Not everyone can do this. But you can.

This morning, I read an essay by the poet, Mary Oliver. In which she talked about Walt Whitman as if he really was her friend although I don’t think they ever met. She only met him on the page. She took him everywhere with her and he lifted her when times were difficult.

And I thought about all the times and places where I’ve heard Mary Oliver’s poems quoted, on social media, at business conferences. Poetry is possibly the most exalted and derided. Form of writing that there is: how are you ever going to make money from poetry? Nobody makes money from poetry.

And yet poetry reaches us in a way that sermons and lectures and essays can’t do.

I thought about the pause, the hush in the room, the sense of respite that her words provide.

In March of 2020, what did everyone reach for, to lift themselves out of the fear and uncertainty that the news was dishing up to us? Art. Stories. Stories made up by writers. Stories brought to life by actors. Stories sung by musicians. Wordless music shared from makeshift kitchen stages.

Humans can be rational creatures, but we don’t thrive on logic alone. So today, please, step away from the real world and create something true. Something that reminds me, that takes me into a moment of being human that I couldn’t experience otherwise.

Tell me about the sunrise over Martian mountains, or the houses where you live.

Show me a morning glory flower, unfurling.

Give me a moment of true connection between two characters when one finally learns the care, or terrify me as another character stands to lose everything that matters to them.

The world can overwhelm us and the only way to cope is to avoid or to shut down our feelings. So please write something that reminds me to feel. Remains me to fear. Reminds me to hope. Reminds me to love.

I realize the irony of delivering a kind of persuasive essay and then telling you that fiction is a much better way to persuade anyone of anything. And yet I’m doing it.

I think your teachers misled you. I don’t think persuasive essays should be called that they should be called. Informative essays. Because they don’t change hearts. Emotion persuades. And there is no better way to convey emotion, even though I’m doing it in an essay, than through the arts.

There’s no easier way to create empathy for others than by making me care for your characters.

So no, writing fiction is not an irresponsible use of your time, during difficult teams or any other times in the world.

It is necessary. It’s generous. It’s healing.

It’s a gift.

Thank you for writing.

Other Ways To Increase Your Joy Around Writing

Download the Short Story Framework:

Take the 3-Day Challenge

Sign up for the StoryAWeek Newsletter

Take the I, WRITER Course

https://stada.me/iwriternow

Join the Superstars Group

https://storyaday.org/superstars

Coaching with Julie

When Writing Feels Hard…

In which I’ve got blisters on my fingers…

In this episode I discuss the concept of discomfort in the journey of pursuing creative endeavors and explore the different types of discomfort, such as striving to reach one’s ambitions versus worrying about not having what it takes. I encourage listeners to embrace discomfort as a sign of growth and progress, and suggest a solid-gold way to make that less grim. I also invite you to the Story A Day Superstars, a supportive community for writers, and announce upcoming writing challenges and courses. Plus: a writing tip about making characters sound more realistic.

0:00 StADa133 When Writing Feels Hard

00:31 On Discomfort

13:02 StoryADay Support

14:37 My Annual Theme

16:11 Writing Tip on Character Voice

LINKS:

StoryADay Superstars: https://storyaday.org/superstars

Other Ways To Increase Your Joy Around Writing

Download the Short Story Framework:

Take the 3-Day Challenge

Sign up for the StoryAWeek Newsletter

Take the I, WRITER Course

https://stada.me/iwriternow

Join the Superstars Group

https://storyaday.org/superstars

Coaching with Julie

Nope, Writing Is Never Going To Get Easier

(…not if you’re doing it right. Sorry!)

I regularly talk to writers who confess to me that they’re not sure they’re ‘meant to be a writer’ because they find it hard.

So, should they quit?

So Wrong For So Long

When I started taking my physical health seriously (ahem, in my 40s) I found out that I had completely misunderstood what ‘getting fit’ meant.

I had always thought that, with enough practice, exercise was supposed to get easier. When it didn’t, I got discouraged and quit. Over and over again.

Eventually I started working with a trainer whereupon it dawned on me (at an embarrassingly glacial pace) that this was never going to be easy…and that was the point.

As I got stronger, my trainer would fist-bumped me…and then increase the weights.

Some training days are easier than others, but if I’m doing it right, they’re always a bit hard…and weirdly rewarding.

And occasionally, I pick up one of the ‘baby weights’ I started with, and marvel at how far I’ve come.

What It Looks Like To “Do Your Best”

Being a writer means always wanting to do your best.

And that is hard.

It’s always going to be hard because, every day, your ‘best’ exists at the limit of your abilities.

Some days may feel easier than other days. But mostly, if you’re doing the best you can on that day, it’ll be a bit hard.

And weirdly rewarding.

And when, occasionally, you look back and see how far you’ve come from those first ‘baby stories’ you wrote, it will be marvelous.

Keep writing,

Julie

P. S. And don’t forget that, as with physical training, sometimes the best thing you can do is to take an intentional ‘rest and recharge’ day…

Through A Portal…

A writing prompt from the archives, to prove that originality is not something you should worry about!

…to the archives

When I talk to new writers they are often concerned that their ideas aren’t ‘original enough’.

Of course, the more we write and the more we hang out with other writers, the more obvious it becomes that originality comes from you, not from the idea.

Ideas are everywhere.

Nobody will ever treat an idea in exactly the same way you will, so you can stop worrying about ‘being original’ right now. You ARE original. You can’t help it.

And to prove that, I’m sending you to a popular guest writing prompt from 2020, from author, podcaster and puppeteer, Mary Robinette Kowal.

So far, this prompt has sparked two very different stories that have been published and a whole novel that is still in progress…and those are just the ones I’ve heard about.

What can you do with this prompt, this week?

Keep writing 

Julie

P. S. If you’d like more in-depth writing prompts, weekly, complete with a writing lesson and a jolt of inspiration from me, consider the StoryAWeek newsletter

The Tiniest Thing You Can Do For Your Writing

How can you take advantage of the New Year energy without becoming overwhelmed? Read on…

Happy New Year!

If you set some writing goals for this year, why not take advantage of that New Year energy and figure out:

What’s the tiniest thing you can do, today, to support your image of yourself as the kind of person who take your writing seriously?

Could you:

  • Read a story you wrote last year and find a sentence you enjoyed?
  • Capture three story sparks today?
  • Write in your journal about why you love to write?
  • Read a story someone else wrote?
  • Write a sentence, a paragraph or a scene?
  • Put some time on your calendar to write, next week?

Pick something tiny and do it for yourself today, with joy.

Keep writing,

Julie

P. S. My Superstars group hosted a writing sprint at 8:30 this morning. (I slept through it. That was NOT the tiniest writing success I could manage today…),but it was a GREAT way to start a new year and a new day. We’ll be doing it again tomorrow. Join us?

What Are You Turning Towards, this New Year?

In which I, rather unexpectedly, talk about dog training…

Are you setting goals for outcomes or simply turning towards your writing more?

Here are some ways I can help

Download the Short Story Framework:

Take the 3-Day Challenge

Sign up for the StoryAWeek Newsletter

Take the I, WRITER Course

https://stada.me/iwriternow

Join the Superstars Group

https://storyaday.org/superstars

Coaching with Julie

CHAPTERS

[00:00:00] Intro

[00:00:32] Where Are You Headed?

[00:03:16] Turning Towards Your Writing, Consistently

[00:05:12] Goals or GPS?

[00:06:26] More Successes

[00:12:02] No More Negative Voices

[00:13:54] Ways To Get Support from StoryADaym

[00:14:25] Short Story Framework

[00:14:35] The 3-Day Challenge

[00:15:51] StoryAWeek Newsletter

[00:18:50] I, WRITER Course

[00:19:39] January 5-Day Challenge

[00:20:18] StoryADay Superstars

[00:21:51] Coaching

[00:23:19] Wrap up

The Enduring Benefits of a Coach

A young man sat at a piano, his fingers easily traveling over the keys…until a grumpy old guy with a vaguely Eastern-European accent, batted the younger man’s hand away.

“You have to breathe after this phrase, to bring life into the music.”

I was astounded.

The old guy was correcting the piano playing of Jon Battiste, who had recently been nominated for 11 Grammys and who is one of the country’s most beloved musicians.

And yet, Battiste listened to his old teacher, breathed, and nodded appreciatively as he heard the change in his playing.

Everyone benefits from expert coaching, no matter whether they are starting out, or scaling the heights.

If you want to make progress in your writing, faster, and with fewer wrong turns, it’s worth asking yourself if it’s time to get someone in your corner.

My superpower is that I can really hear what writers need, and what they may not be able to hear themselves say.

Your gift is your writing. What are you letting get in the way of that?

Let’s find out.

If you already like my style, and know you’re ready to commit to your writing, watch this video and then let me know you’d like to talk.

Keep writing,

Julie

P. S. Where do you want to be this time next year? And what are you going to do, to ensure you get there? Let’s talk…

2023 Triumphs

In this episode I talk about some of the publishing successes StoryADay Superstars have achieved this year, and invite you to share your own. Also, a special invitation for you, if you’re ready…

in this week’s episode I’m celebrating the successes of writers from the StoryADay Community, and our Superstars Group. Some of those successes are publication-related and others are more about the progress of the writers’ practice. Join us. I also extend an invitation to join our Superstar group in the coming year.

LINKS

Join Superstars


Never Give Up (Brenda’s Post)

WATCH NOW (with subtitles)

Watch with transcript

Superstars Triumphs

Publications:

The Mothership, The Rumpus, Maery Rose

Elixir – Laura Porter

Bikes In Space AnthologyMonique Cuillerier

Sad Goose Collective Issue 2 –  Astrid Eggar

Blink-Ink Issue 51 – Astrid Eggar

A Boat, a Bike, and a Balloon (Or What It Takes to Return a Stolen Sun), Bikes In Space Anthology – Marta Pelrine-Bacon

Bones In The Road, Pilgrimage Magazine – Peyton Ellas

Naming The Dead, Heartwood Literary Press – Walter Lawn

The Unguarded Moment , Active Muse – Astrid Eggar

Death Chips & Love Fries – Short Stories for City Lovers – Neha Mediratta

Make A Wish, Fiddlehead Folio – Robin Stein

From Nothing, Rise – Monique Cuillerier

Fixing The Books, a novel –  Fallon Brown

The Garage Fridge Situation, a novel  – Fallon Brown

The Warrior Defying Time And Space, Short Fiction Break Reader’s Choice Award – Neha Mediratta

The Painter Must Be Going Nowhere, Wingword Poetry Prize, longlisted – Neha Mediratta

Honorable Mention in NYC Midnight Short Story Contest – Kim Younkin

Never, Never Give Up On Your Writing

When a catalogue of disasters struck, one writer used the power of her writer’s group to keep her on track…

Why do you need a writing support group?

Two weeks ago, I chipped the end of the femur where it enters my ankle (4-6 months recovery); my dog split her nail (so it had to be cut back even with the end of the toe); and my daughter’s 10-year relationship ended. (She is far away so I cannot hug her) …

But I kept on writing.

This week I had to cancel two lunches, one supper, a dental appointment and a hair appointment. My husband and I have RSV (respiratory ~something, something~ virus). Mine started with razor blades in my throat and hasn’t really changed. Larry is getting progressively sicker…

But I am still writing every morning.

Then, last night, my two young dogs got into a scuffle with a porcupine (they lost). Larry has been nursing a shoulder injury for months (from when he tripped over the old dog) and in our flurry to get the pups back to the house, into the truck and to the vet, he reinjured his shoulder and I messed up my foot (again).

Daisy had 35 quills and Eddy had 20. They are both doing fine.

And this morning, I still showed up for my writing.

For long time I wrote alone. I would get up in the morning, have coffee and then sit at my desk and write for an hour. I liked it, it worked for me; but the events of the last couple of weeks would have knocked me off my schedule and I would have spent at least a month getting back on track.

A couple of years ago, I tried StoryADay May, then I joined Superstars. (one of the best things I ever did for my writing).

As luck would have it, they had a regularly scheduled writing sprint at the exact time I like to write. (I try to host on Tuesdays.)

So, this morning (Tuesday), when I woke up and my foot was throbbing and the dogs were whining and my husband moaned and coughed on the couch I sipped my first coffee, played a game on my phone, fed the dogs, and refilled my cup.

Then I limped up to my writing desk (12 stairs) and wrote for an hour with the other Superstars.

It was my turn to host and even though I didn’t “want to” I DID want to (if you know what I mean). I knew people would show up “in the squares” and I would be inspired.

So once you have sufficiently felt sorry for me, (because that is really what I was going for) remember:

Never, Never Give Up on Your Writing

(Thank you Superstars ~ you are the bestest)

storyaday graphic divider
Icon on Brenda hugging her dogs

Brenda Rech is happily married with two beautiful daughters, three dogs, two cats and a bird named Amy Farrah Fowler. Her flower gardens are forever at the beginner’s stages as she would rather hike with her husband and dogs or explore her writing. Her favorite breakfast is crispy bacon and strawberry jam on white toast. She is currently working on her first novel and has a monthly newsletter, Thru the Window.

300 Episodes Later…

In which I share what’s been going on and what’s coming up at StoryADay AND talk about AI and you.

In this episode I explain where the podcast has been for the past few week, talk about the workshops I’ve been running and talk about what’s coming next for StoryADay, AND encourage you to understand the value of the work you’re doing.

00:00 Introduction and Podcast Updates
00:10 Creating Content and Workshops
02:08 Exploring the Use of AI in Writing
04:56 AI for Organizational Structures and Marketing
11:21 Reflections on Recent Events and Future Plans
11:40 StoryADay Superstars Group and Annual Planning Bundle
15:48 The Pressure of Milestones and Overcoming Blocks
20:19 The Importance of Writing and Encouragement
24:15 Conclusion and Future Podcast Plans

LINKS:

Holiday Stories Workshop 50% discount

Annual Planning Bundle

Would you like the AI workshop?

What do you love/like/want in the podcast

StoryADay Superstars waitlist

Your stories from 15 years of StoryADay

WATCH NOW (with subtitles)

Who Do You Talk To About Writing?

When my fellow writer—let’s call her Amanda—popped onto my Zoom screen, she was hunched in her chair, listless, and slightly cynical.

For months, she’d been trying to work on her novel.

She knew what she had to do.

She knew the scene she wanted to work on.

She had a writer friend she checked in with weekly…and still she was spending her writing time checking email and looking at social media and feeling the self-loathing grow like a thorny hedge, choking out her creativity.

The Heart of the Problem

As we started to talk it became clear to me that the problem wasn’t with her work ethic (she’s worked as a writer for decades) or her identity (“writer” is central to her identity and she has no problem saying it out loud).

The problem was technical: she didn’t know enough about the structure of the story she wanted to tell; about reader expectations; about how to arrange her beautiful writing into a compelling, novel-length story.

And that is a problem that can be fixed.

But it’s hard to fix alone at your desk (or alone inside your brain).

As I asked more questions, and Amanda answered, I watched her sit up straighter, lean in towards the camera—she may have even clapped her hands in glee—as the true problem emerged.

What Happened Next

With the problem diagnosed, it was a snap for us to put together a plan of action to tackle it.

She’s ready to write, again.

Better than that, she’s excited to write again.

She was so happy she called me a genius.

Not A Genius

I’m (probably) not a genius.

But I am a coach.

I study and practice storytelling all day long.

And I ask really good questions.

Your Turn

  • If you’re stuck on your writing, and you don’t understand why
  • If you’re making progress slower than you’d like
  • If you don’t know what the next step is, for you

Do you have someone you can talk to about your writing, and who asks excellent questions?

Leave a comment and let me know

Happy People-Watching Season!

During the busy holiday season (when did October-Jan become ‘the holiday season?!) we’re all overwhelmed with inboxes full of holiday greetings, people trying to sell us things, and the inevitable (endless) invitations to social events. (or a feeling of nostalgia for the days when we used to get more invitations…).

This is just a quick love-note from me to encourage you, in case you’re feeling like you’ll never have time to write on your work-in-progress again.

This is actually a great time for writers:

  • All those people getting together and interacting in ways they wouldn’t on a normal day? Fuel for your next crowd scene!
  • All those smells and tastes and sights that only come around once a year? Grab a notebook and capture the exact words that you can use later to recreate a similar scene in your fictional world (a quick trip to the bathroom can be your friend, here!)
  • All the feelings inside you, as you wait anxiously or excitedly for your celebration to begin? Pinpoint where they are happening in your body and how they manifest. Write them down and give them to a character (a great way to go beyond ‘she gasped’ and ‘his eyes widened’!)

Grab your notebook. Stay hydrated. Take breaks (get outside if you can) and try to remember: it’s all material!

Keep writing,

Julie

P. S. StoryADay’s 15th year is coming up in 2024 and I’d love to see it back on the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers list for the anniversary, so if you’ve ever taken part or gained any inspiration from the StoryADay blog, podcast, emails or challenges you can let Writer’s Digest know here.

Why You Should Include Holidays In Your Stories

September.

That was when I saw the first ‘holiday’ themed products in my supermarket (and yes, I mean the twinkling-lights, snow-covered, jolly fat-man type holiday),

And I know I’ll start seeing Valentine’s displays soon.

As a consumer it drives me a little crazy.

As a writer, it’s a great reminder.

  • Holidays are part of the fabric of our lives
  • It pays to plan ahead if you’re creating something with a date-related theme!

Why Include Holidays?

When it comes to end-of-year holidays my personal bias is towards Christmas & New Year, but there are so many other holidays to celebrate. Which will you choose?

The great things about including a holiday in a story are:

  • They are evergreen: you can recycle them every year! (Think about how rich Maria Carey has become from that one song…)
  • They are universal: no matter what culture we come from we all have those days where people come together, eat too much, face family members and friends they don’t really want to see, see people they haven’t seen for years, have fights, make up, fall in love, and get nostalgic.
  • It’s an instant character-motivation-creator: around a holiday you always have some people who are sad, some people are excited, and some people who are a little too into it…
  • If you are writing in a secondary or fantasy world, including this universal human experience in your story enriches the culture you’re creating. It feels real when your characters’ lives are complicated by ritual events they may have strong feelings about (even if it’s just to be frustrated at the interruption to their quest!)

Instant Drama

One of the best ways to get to know people is to see how they act under stress.

One of the best ways to stress your characters and find out who they are, is to throw them into the mix with people they wouldn’t necessarily choose to be with.

Can you think of a better way to do that, than to send them a holiday party? 😉

What holiday will you include in your next story? Is it real or fictional? What is your favorite holiday? Leave a comment!

It’s Time To Tell Holiday Tales

Have you thought about writing a holiday story?

In my world October 31 ushers in what feels like one big long holiday season: from Halloween, to Guy Fawkes in the UK, to Thanksgiving in the US, and then the headlong rush through Hannukah, Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, New Year and Lunar New year…and blink! We’re almost at Valentine’s Day!

There’s no doubt these next few months are busy and freighted with expectations (have you thought about your end of year review? Your New Year’s Resolutions? If you’ll send holidays cards? Whose house you’ll go to for which family gathering? What topics are safe to talk about?!)

In simpler times*people used to gather round and tell stories at holiday gatherings.

(*times were never simpler. They were always full of complicated humans with complicated needs)

Holiday Story Traditions

In Dickens’ time ghost stories were in fashion.

Hans Christian Anderson went in for tragic tales of noble poverty.

Nowadays we have the Hallmark Christmas Movie and the Holiday Disaster Film as our new ‘fireside’ traditions.

But have you given any thought to writing a holiday story of your own?

I started doing this a few years ago, sending each year’s story out to friends as an alternative to the dreaded family newsletter. I only sent them to people who I thought would enjoy them, and only when I had a chance to write something I felt good about.

Writing a holiday-themed story is a great way to

  • Get in the mood ahead of time (it’s a good idea to start early)
  • Have something to talk about that’s not politics, religion, or money, when you get to the family gathering
  • Slowly build a collection of stories with a similar theme you could put together in an anthology
  • Have an excuse to get some writing time before the holiday rush starts (or during it).
  • Exorcise the demons of all that socialising, especially if you start writing next year’s story when you get home from a particularly ‘colorful’ event, this year.
  • Always have something on hand for the holiday-themed hungry calls for submission that will start appearing next July.

There are so many tropes and traditions to play with when it comes to Holiday stories, and I’ll be back soon with some ways for you to think about them.

But for now, I must dash and grab some brandy. I’m already late to soak the dried fruit for this year’s Christmas cake…

Have you written holiday stories? What holiday would you choose if you did? What would be your ‘must-have’ ingredients to make truly a holiday story? Leave a comment!

Creating a Creative Commute

A new way to get to your writing faster and do better, more creative work

Life is busy and it’s hard to fit writing in.

And even when you do make time to write, it can be hard to adjust your brain’s settings from ‘life out there’ to ‘life in here’ quickly enough to make the most of your writing time.

I call this process ‘the commute’.

Finding the right way to commute from your daily life to your creative life, can make a huge difference to your productivity and happiness.

Abrupt Transitions – Good for Drama, Bad for Real Life

When my kids were babies and I was adjusting to being alone at home with them all the (very) long day, I really looked forward to their dad coming home.

Unfortunately for him, he had a very short commute. It didn’t give him time to transition out of being an orderly scientist in the lab and into being just another one of the clowns in the three-ring circus that was our toy-strewn living room.

The transition was jarring and, for a while, it didn’t go well…

…Until he learned to use his short commute consciously, to shift his mood and expectations. No more mental auto-pilot on the drive home.

Now, he deliberately prepped for his second job, and didn’t come in the door until he was ready to be pounced on (often literally, when it came to the kids) by three needy people who were ready for a break from each other.

Likewise, if you try to rush from ‘doing all the things in my daily life’ to ‘I must be creative immediately’, it’s a jarring transition and your brain will likely go on strike..

It needs a bit of a commute.

But What If Your Commute Takes Too Long?

My commute from my last office job took well over an hour, meaning that I had plenty of time to unwind from the stresses of the day, before spending quality time with my husband...for the short amount of time we could spend together before it was time to go to bed, get up early and do it all again.

The long commute cut too deeply into how I wanted to be spending my time. Eventually, I left that job.

Many of us use practices and rituals to help us commute mentally from our daily lives to our creative lives. Maybe you use Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” or j you journal, or use some other ritual –perhaps involving scented candles, meditation or soothing music.

And while I love the principal behind all these ideas, it becomes a problem if you’re using all your time and mental energy to warm up, and leaving nothing for the projects you really want to work on.

And what if, like many busy caregivers, employees, and you know, living people, you only have 20 minutes here and there in which to get some writing done?

You can’t spend the whole time commuting or you’ll never get to the good part.

My Recent Experiment

I love some stream-of-consciousness Morning Page writing to floss out my brain, but what would happen, I asked myself, if I didn’t have to write three pages?

It’s something that was so helpful as a concept when I first tried it out, that I hesitated to embrace the heresy that I might be able to warm up in less time. But I decided to try it and see what happened.

I started on a morning when I had a 25-minute block of time to work on my fiction.I didn’t want to spend the whole 25 minutes warming up, so I set a timer for 8 minutes (I love a deadline, don’t you?) and got to work.

  • I wrote quickly and continuously until my timer went off and discovered that, after all these years of leisurely morning page rambles, I could do a quick sprint—a High Intensity Interval Training session, you might say — and get the same benefits.
  • I went on to outlinesnowflake‘ the next section of the story I’ve been stuck on for ages, which was a my ‘real work’ for the day. (Important note: sometimes ‘writing’ doesn’t look like ‘creating a draft’).
  • Because I wrote in a very conscious way, it didn’t matter that the interval was short. It was all about the intensity, and that was what got me in the right frame of mind for fiction.

Some things that worked particularly well for me:

  • Set a timer for no more than 1/3 of the time available.
  • Write as fast as possible (by hand works really well for me because it slows me down, but your mileage may vary. I wrote as fast as I could so I wasn’t staring into space, but slowly enough that I got to choose my words.
  • Write about one thing that I noticed or loved, or enjoyed over the past 24 hours (In this case I was reading the book “The Living Mountain“* by Nan Shepherd before bed last night, and wrote about some of what I’d loved about it.)
  • Try to write with as much sensory detail or emotion as I can
  • Keep a separate sheet of paper available with “To Do” written at the top of it. As I write, things pop into my head, demanding my attention (“You should make that appointment/fill in your ballot/go to the post office/answer that email! And you should panic about it too!!” screams my brain at regular intervals as I try to write about Nan’s ability to capture the exact colors of autumn on the mountain….) I write them on my ‘to do’ list to worry about later and get back to my commute.
    (After all, if I was driving to work, it these things would have to wait, right?)
  • Stop as soon as the timer goes off.
  • Take a breath and notice the change in emotions, breathing, feelings about possibility…

EXPERT ADD-ON: Don’t Forget the Evening Commute

Something that has really helped me shorten my ‘morning commute’ has been taking some time at the end of the day — or the end of the writing session—to do a similar process:

  • Do a little journaling to capture what needs to come out of your brain from today.
  • Capture the same ‘to do’ list brain-calming measures. This is not the same as putting things into whatever task management system you may have. It’s just a list to capture random thoughts while you are writing. What you do with it after your writing time is up to you!
  • This means that, when you sit down the next day, a lot of the ‘But What About That Appointment You Need To Make” things your brain uses to try to distract you is already on a ‘to do’ list for today and can simply be waved away. This makes your commute even more efficient!

If you’re struggling to get your head in the game when you sit down to write, you may want to look about how you’re spending your ‘commute’ from one reality to the next.

Get the Creative Commute Lesson & Workbook now

Creative commute download button

Not ‘If’, But ‘How’

I could give you a million and one tactics for fitting writing into your life…and none of them will matter a jot until you do this one simple (not easy) thing…

🎧 Listen now!

Links:

The Keep Writing Workbook https://stada.me/kww

The Short Story Framework: https://storyaday.org/framework

Want to go deeper? Take the 3-Day Challenge

Want to go for longer? Let me send you a StoryAWeek writing lesson & prompt

Transcript is here

Subscribe to the podcast and don’t miss an episode

Support the podcast

And finally a remainder that know you can support this podcast, if you would like to, which some people have asked me about and to do that, you go to glow.fm/storyaday, and you can make a one-time or recurring donation to keep the show going. And I really appreciate your support. That’s it from me this week. Happy writing. And I’ll see you again soon.

SWAGr for November 2023

It’s that time again: time to make your commitments to your writing for the coming month. Join us!

Welcome to the Serious Writers’ Accountability Group!

Leave a comment below telling us how you got on last month, and what you plan to do next month, then check back in on the first of each month, to see how everyone’s doing.

(It doesn’t have to be fiction. Feel free to use this group to push you in whatever creative direction you need.)

Did you live up to your commitment from last month? Don’t remember what you promised to do? Check out the comments from last month.

And don’t forget to celebrate with/encourage your fellow SWAGr-ers on their progress!

Download your SWAGr Tracking Sheet now, to keep track of your commitments this month

****

Examples of Goals Set By SWAGr-ers in previous months

  • Finish first draft of story and write 3 articles for my school paper. – Courtney
  • Write on seven days this month – Clare
  • Extend my reading and to read with a ‘writers eye’- Wendy
  • write 10,000 words – Mary Lou

 So, what will you accomplish this month? Leave your comment below

(Next check-in, 1st of the month. Tell your friends!)

How Good Is Good Enough?

Beyond Prizes and Awards: The True Value of Sharing Your Stories

Welcome to The StoryADay Podcast, where we explore the power of storytelling and the importance of writing every day.

In this episode encourage you to think about the significance of our narratives and the impact they have on the world around us. Drawing inspiration from a talk by former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, I reflect on imposter syndrome, internal motivation, and the responsibility writers have to capture the essence of human experience. Join me as we explore the value of our stories, regardless of accolades or recognition, and the role they play in helping others make sense of the world.

It’s time to embrace our unique perspectives and share our narratives with the world. So grab your pen and paper, and let’s get started on this storytelling journey together. Stay tuned!

🎧 Listen now!

TIMESTAMPS

[00:01:33] No one is asking for your story

[00:02:17] We are wonderful weirdos

[00:04:42] Who We Are Not Competing Withx

[00:07:45] How We Spend Our Lives

[00:08:49] What Stops You From Writing? (And Is It Worth It?)

[00:10:20] How Good Is Good Enough?

[00:12:53] Get the Short Story Framework or take the 3-Day Challenge

Links:

The Short Story Framework: https://storyaday.org/framework

Want to go deeper? Take the 3-Day Challenge

Want to go for longer? Let me send you a StoryAWeek writing lesson & prompt

Transcript is here

Subscribe to the podcast and don’t miss an episode

Support the podcast

And finally a remainder that know you can support this podcast, if you would like to, which some people have asked me about and to do that, you go to glow.fm/storyaday, and you can make a one-time or recurring donation to keep the show going. And I really appreciate your support. That’s it from me this week. Happy writing. And I’ll see you again soon.

Does Your Writing Cut The Mustard?

The first restaurant I worked in was an American-style family restaurant – pretty exotic for the southwest coast of Scotland in the 80s, a place festooned with fish’n’chip shops, where ‘chicken tenders’ sounded like a new language.

One of my jobs was to set out bowls of condiments before the customers came in…and not just salt, pepper, vinegar, and the two sauces known to us (red and brown), but things like ‘hamburger relish (it was green! Who had ever heard of such a thing?!) and three types of mustard: one classic yellow, one fancy ‘Dijon’, and one totally alien grainy concoction that I fell in love with.

Tonight, I opened a jar of that grainy mustard and its tangy smell transported me back 38 years, to the service corridor between the kitchen and dining room of my first job, when mustard was an exotic new experience.

It reminded me of a truth in writing: we spend so much time in our own heads that we take for granted the way we think, the way we talk, and the way we write.

Sometimes, when we show our work to someone else they are thrilled by a throwaway phrase or a description that took no effort at all…because it’s normal to you.

Sometimes we need other writers to push us to try the mustard, when we’re accustomed to always reaching for the salt and vinegar. 

And yes, this is my fancy way of letting you know that Critique Week is coming up, and that if you would like to get some fresh eyes on your writing you should consider joining us.

But more than that, it’s my way of encouraging you not to take your own writing for granted. It might be the new flavor someone else is looking for!

Keep writing,

Julie

P. S. I’ll be opening up registration for this round of Critique week, soon. Get on the waitlist here.

Engaging With The Publishing Industry

In which Julie has opinions how to engage with the publishing industry…if that’s something you’re interested in doing

Making Your Stories Pop and Connecting with Your Audience

Are you looking to find success in the publishing world?

Join me on The StoryADay Podcast as I discuss the importance of engagement in writing and publishing.

In this episode titled “Lurk Your Way to Success in Publishing”, I share strategies and insights that can help you achieve your goals as a writer.

Here are 3 key takeaways from the episode:

1️⃣ Don’t rush into building an author platform: While it’s tempting to focus on social media presence and building a following, it’s crucial to prioritize the writing itself. Spend time honing your craft and creating compelling content before diving into the world of author branding.

2️⃣ Engage with the publishing world: Stay updated by following authors on social media, reading industry publications, and educating yourself about the realities of being a writer. Become part of the conversation, learn from experienced authors, and stay informed about industry trends.

3️⃣ Define your own success: Don’t let societal expectations or external pressure define your writing journey. Take the time to reflect on what success means to you personally and set realistic goals that align with your values. Remember, writing is a journey of personal growth and creativity, and your definition of success should reflect that.

🎧 Listen now!

TIMESTAMPS

[00:02:03] Engaging With The Publishing World

[00:03:42] Should You Even Pay Attention?

[00:06:54] Have a Strong Definition of Success For Yourself

[00:09:18] If You Want To Publish

[00:10:25] First Steps In Pursuing Publication – Lurk (aka ‘research’)

[00:11:53] Agents

[00:14:44] Queries and Book Proposals

[00:15:45] Why Submission Guidelines Matter

[00:18:33] Ways to Lurk

[00:19:35] Publishing Shorter Pieces

[00:21:56] Get Off My Lawn

[00:23:22] Be Human, Make Friends, Be Successful

[00:25:37] Where To Find Writers and Publishing Folks, Online in 2023

[00:29:04] Wrap Up

Links:

Kameron Hurley Interview

Kate McKean’s Agents & Books Substack Newsletter

The Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing

Want to go deeper? Take the 3-Day Challenge

Want to go for longer? Let me send you a StoryAWeek writing lesson & prompt

Transcript is here

Subscribe to the podcast and don’t miss an episode

Support the podcast

And finally a remainder that know you can support this podcast, if you would like to, which some people have asked me about and to do that, you go to glow.fm/storyaday, and you can make a one-time or recurring donation to keep the show going. And I really appreciate your support. That’s it from me this week. Happy writing. And I’ll see you again soon.

Engaging Readers

In which Julie has opinions how to make your stories compelling and keep readers hooked.

Making Your Stories Pop and Connecting with Your Audience

Welcome to another episode of The StoryADay Podcast! I’m your host, Julie Duffy, from Storyaday.org, and today we’re diving into a topic that every writer grapples with: engaging the reader.

As we explore the importance of captivating our audience, we’ll also discuss the challenges that come with balancing our own creative process and the desire for validation from readers. \

Join me as we uncover strategies to make our stories irresistible and learn how to effectively engage with our readers. So, grab your pen and notebook, and let’s get started on this storytelling adventure!

00:01:27 Permission to create freely, fear of judgment.
00:03:58 Engaging stories and readers: tips and importance.
00:11:17 Structure, pacing, and character engagement in writing.
00:14:17 Direct contact without social media or ads.
00:19:58 Don’t overthink, write and engage with readers.
00:21:17 Writing challenge: 3 days to complete stories

Listen to Part I – How To Be A Writer

Listen to Part III – Lurk Your Way To Publishing Success

Subscribe to the podcast and don’t miss an episode

Sign up for the StoryADay September Challenge: https://storyaday.org

Want to go deeper? Take the 3-Day Challenge

Want to go for longer? Let me send you a StoryAWeek writing lesson & prompt

Transcript is here

Support the podcast

And finally a remainder that know you can support this podcast, if you would like to, which some people have asked me about and to do that, you go to glow.fm/storyaday, and you can make a one-time or recurring donation to keep the show going. And I really appreciate your support. That’s it from me this week. Happy writing. And I’ll see you again soon.

How to Be A Writer

In which Julie has opinions how creative people should engage with their writing…and their identity as a writer

As we kick off StoryADay September 2023 I talk about how there is more than one way to engage with your writing…and your identity as a writer.

CHAPTERS
00:15 How To Engage with Your Writing Practice
15:16 Strategies for StoryADay

Listen to Part II – What About The Readers?

Listen to Part III – Lurk Your Way To Publishing Success

Subscribe to the podcast and don’t miss an episode

Sign up for the StoryADay September Challenge: https://storyaday.org

Want to go deeper? Take the 3-Day Challenge

Want to go for longer? Let me send you a StoryAWeek writing lesson & prompt

Transcript is here

Video Version

Support the podcast

And finally a remainder that know you can support this podcast, if you would like to, which some people have asked me about and to do that, you go to glow.fm/storyaday, and you can make a one-time or recurring donation to keep the show going. And I really appreciate your support. That’s it from me this week. Happy writing. And I’ll see you again soon.

Are You Trying To Be Good or Get Better

Struggling with procrastination? Maybe you’re trying to ‘be good’ when you should be focused on something else…

PSST! Want to take part in the StoryADay September challenge, and go through all the 2023 prompts again? Sign up here and I’ll send you email reminders each day in September 2023.

I LIKE TO LISTEN to the radio while I eat lunch, which means I stumble across all kinds of random facts and stories.  Today’s random story was about slumping British tennis player Cameron Norrie. He did really well earlier this year, but has been losing everything since June. 

The reporter’s theory was that, after his early success, Norrie put too much pressure on himself to be perfect–in matches and on the practice court.

That’s the part that made me pay attention. 

Sports psychologist Kevin Willis told me he encourages athletes to ask themselves: today, am I trying to “be good” or “get better”? 

I didn’t understand the distinction until he explained:

  • “Be good” is for match days, when you’re performing, showing what you can do, being judged against other people. (For us, the equivalent is when we’re polishing up a piece for publication. We want it to be good, because it’s going to be judged against all the other writing out there, and it’s going to have to compete for readers’ attention with all the other things life throws at them. We need those pieces to be good.)
  • “Get better” is for practice days…this is where you need to let go of trying to be perfect, and instead allow yourself to experiment: try new things, fail, learn from the failure and try something else. This is where the only person you’re competing against is yourself: can you be better (or worse) than you were yesterday? And what can you learn from that?

For most athletes–and most writers–there are a lot more days when we are striving to ‘get better’ than days when we absolutely must ‘be good’. 

In fact, trying to ‘be good’ when you ought to be in practice mode stifles your ability to try new things, to play in the dirt, to have fun and learn new things. 

That’s what Cameron Norrie fell victim to, and is probably why his game is off.

The StoryADay Challenge is ALL about trying to get better, by doing lots of writing-that-doesn’t-need-to-be-good.

It’s all about getting comfortable with writing even when it’s not perfect (it can’t be. Not if you’re trying to write a story a day!)

It’s about training ourselves to allow that first draft to be, well, first draft-y and extremely imperfect.

I’m running the StoryADay challenge again this September, with all the prompts from May arriving in your inbox if you sing up here:

I hope you’ll join us.

Keep writing,

Julie

P. S. If you’ve tried the challenge before and failed, good for you! You learned something. If you’re interested in trying the challenge again, but this time “doing it properly” download this guide to failproofing your StoryADay Challenge

Download the SOS Workbook

Amazon, AI & Author’s Rights

In which Julie has opinions about AI and Amazon, and invites you to get in the habit of celebrating all your triumphs, this month

This week author Jane Friedman noticed that someone had used her name on a bunch of junk, AI-generated books about writing, and they had become attached to her profile on Amazon and Goodreads…and the kicker is that there is no due diligence done by these companies to make sure the books were actually hers. Their response? “Trademark your name, or there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Which is patently nonsense.

But, lest you get discouraged about having to monitor identity theft as yet another writing-adjacent task youhave to ad to your to-do list, I have some thoughts on what authors can do instead.

Also in this episode: the Importance of Celebrations, and some tips for how to do that.

Want to jump straight to the part where you’re celebrating your writing? Buy the workbook now!

The Importance of Celebrations Image BUY NOW

TRANSCRIPT IS HERE

LINKS:

The Importance of Celebrations Workbook: http://stada.me/wb-celebrations

This episode: https://storyaday.org/episode294

Some Author Advocacy Groups:

The Alliance of Independent Authors: https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/

The Author’s Guild: https://authorsguild.org/

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: https://www.sfwa.org/

PEN America: https://pen.org/


Subscribe to the podcast and don’t miss an episode

Sign up for the StoryADay Anytime Challenge: https://storyaday.org

Want to go deeper?: Take the 3-Day Challenge

Video Version

Support the podcast

And finally a remainder that know you can support this podcast, if you would like to, which some people have asked me about and to do that, you go to glow.fm/storyaday, and you can make a one-time or recurring donation to keep the show going. And I really appreciate your support. That’s it from me this week. Happy writing. And I’ll see you again soon.

How to Improve, as Writers

In which Julie has opinions how creative people should think about organization

All writers want to improve, but what does that mean and how do you, ah, do it?

Subscribe to the podcast and don’t miss an episode

Sign up for the StoryADay Anytime Challenge: https://storyaday.org

Want to go deeper?: Take the 3-Day Challenge

Transcript is here

Video Version

coming soon…

Support the podcast

And finally a remainder that know you can support this podcast, if you would like to, which some people have asked me about and to do that, you go to glow.fm/storyaday, and you can make a one-time or recurring donation to keep the show going. And I really appreciate your support. That’s it from me this week. Happy writing. And I’ll see you again soon.

Record-Keeping For Writers

In which Julie has opinions how creative people should think about organization

Do you struggle to keep records of what you read or write? Do you beat yourself up over it, because you’re sure it’d make your life easier? Maybe yes, maybe no. Let’s dig in to record-keeping for creative people: why it works, why it doesn’t, and what to do about it!

Subscribe to the podcast and don’t miss an episode

Sign up for the StoryADay Anytime Challenge: https://storyaday.org

Want to go deeper?: Take the 3-Day Challenge

Transcript is here

Video Version

coming soon…

Support the podcast

And finally a remainder that know you can support this podcast, if you would like to, which some people have asked me about and to do that, you go to glow.fm/storyaday, and you can make a one-time or recurring donation to keep the show going. And I really appreciate your support. That’s it from me this week. Happy writing. And I’ll see you again soon.

7 Lessons from StoryADay in May 2023 – Part 2

In which Julie has opinions about someone else’s (terrible) opinions…

In part 1 of this 2-part podcast, I talk about the first 5 things I learned while writing a lot during a busy month!

In this episode I talk about the two most important things I learned (again) while writing A StoryADay in May. Listen in!

LINKS:

3-Day Challenge

Transcript is here

Video Version

Support the podcast

And finally a remainder that know you can support this podcast, if you would like to, which some people have asked me about and to do that, you go to glow.fm/storyaday, and you can make a one-time or recurring donation to keep the show going. And I really appreciate your support. That’s it from me this week. Happy writing. And I’ll see you again soon.

Transcript available here

SWAGr for June 2023

It’s that time again: time to make your commitments to your writing for the coming month. Join us!

Welcome to the Serious Writers’ Accountability Group!

CONGRATULATIONS! Whether you wrote stories during StoryADay May or focused on living the life that will feed later stories, congrats!

(I did a bit of both!)

Special June Edition of SWAGr

Because we’re coming out of a month of intense writing, I HIGHLY recommend you download and fill out the StoryADay Post-Challenge Workbook.

  • Capture your ‘lessons learned’
  • Document what worked for you (and what didn’t. No judgement, just data!)
  • Plan for the future so you don’t lose momentum OR burn out

Listen to two podcast episodes that walk you through the debrief process

Part 1 – listen now

Part 2 – listen now

Then:

Leave a comment below telling us how you got on last month, and what you plan to do next month, then check back in on the first of each month, to see how everyone’s doing.

(It doesn’t have to be fiction. Feel free to use this group to push you in whatever creative direction you need.)

Did you live up to your commitment from last month? Don’t remember what you promised to do? Check out the comments from last month.

And don’t forget to celebrate with/encourage your fellow SWAGr-ers on their progress!

Download your SWAGr Tracking Sheet now, to keep track of your commitments this month

****

Examples of Goals Set By SWAGr-ers in previous months

  • Finish first draft of story and write 3 articles for my school paper. – Courtney
  • Write on seven days this month – Clare
  • Extend my reading and to read with a ‘writers eye’- Wendy
  • write 10,000 words – Mary Lou

 So, what will you accomplish this month? Leave your comment below

(Next check-in, 1st of the month. Tell your friends!)