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,


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…

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,


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?

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,


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…

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)

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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.

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,


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


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!

Don’t Let Shame Kill Your Creativity

In this video post I talk about how shame shuts down the exact processes we need for creativity and what you can do about it.

Spoiler alert: I talk about reducing your expectations, celebrating every single tiny thing you do that contributes to your writing life, and collecting Story Sparks.

Find out more about Story Sparks here

Characters Are People, Too

Writing a character sketch can be a great idea…as long as that’s not the way we introduce the character in the final story…

or: How I Met Their Father (and what it tells you about introducing characters)

After our first proper date, the boy who had taken me to the theater sat across from me in a smoky pub in Edinburgh and told me stories from his life. 

We had somehow managed to claim the coveted armchairs near the fire (because pubs in Scotland have such things). As we talked, one or other of us would lean forward to pick up our pint glasses from the low table in front of us. Gradually, we started to do it in unison.

 It would have been noisy and it must have grown dark while we talked, but I don’t remember any of that, because I was laughing, and listening, and piecing together a person from the stories he was telling me.

He told me about his boss at the university, the stupid games they played in the lab to pass the time while experiments ran, the (very) daft things he’d done after too many pints, and – and this is where I remember thinking ‘you should careful with this one’s heart’ – the story of an ex-girlfriend or two.

It wasn’t until much, much later that I learned about his hometown, the granny he loved, the games he invented alone in his room on rainy Saturday afternoons.

I learned about him backwards. 

It’s how we meet most people, if you think about it. 

And yet we tend to make a fuss when stories are deliberately written that way, as if the author is somehow breaking the rules. 

How To Introduce Characters

When we make character sketches and biographies, it makes sense for us to start at the beginning (where were they born? Where did they grow up? What formative experiences did they have?)

But if we try to do that when we introduce them to readers it feel like an info-dump…because that’s not how we get to know people in real life.

It feels stilted. Awkward. Weird.

So don’t be afraid to introduce characters in the moment and gradually peel back the layers gradually, and only when it becomes important for us to know why they are the way they are.

How do you think about character development vs introducing characters on the page? Leave a comment:

How To Be A GREAT Critique Partner

There’s a memorable scene in the movie Silence of the Lambs, when Jodie Foster’s FBI supervisor points out that assumptions are treacherous “Because when you assume, you make an “ass” out of “u” and me…”

I was thinking about that today, as I prepare for another Critique Week, here at StoryADay.

When I interviewed Matthew Salesses, author of Craft in the Modern World, he talked about the difficulty of giving meaningful feedback to other writers if we don’t root out our unconscious biases.

Chances are, if you’re like me, most of the literary greats you were exposed to at school were white, male, and dead. 

“Good stories” were those that were modeled after Faulkner or Joyce, or Poe. 

But what if you’re being asked to read a story by your friend who is queer, 25, and an immigrant from Nigeria? How do you ‘judge’ that story?

How To Be A Sensitive Reader

In my experience, the best way to give helpful feedback is to get into conversation with the writer.

Some useful questions include:

  • Who are you writing this for? (Accepting, humbly, that I might not be the target audience.)
  • How do you want the reader to feel at various points in your story?
  • Are there any cultural storytelling norms you’re using that I might need to know (if I’m not your target audience)?

I hope this gives you confidence to say ‘yes’, next time someone asks you for feedback.

Keep writing,


P. S. If you’re interesting in getting great feedback from some talented and thoughtful writers, find out more about the StoryADay Critique Week.

Do you know about ‘The Pause’?

I’m writing this in Rancho Mirage, California. It gets five inches of rain a year, and I think they all fell today…along with a violent windstorm that took down a tree outside my hotel room.

I watched as the maintenance crew arrived, piled out of their truck, then paused to assess the damage.

There was some milling around, some chatting, but at a certain point someone picked up a chainsaw.

Someone called for the wood-chipper.

The pause was over.

Everything was noise and motion and determined action.

If you’re finding it hard to write, perhaps you’re in the pause.

Perhaps the pause is necessary.

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The last few years have been… a lot.

Most people are standing around looking at the damage, not yet capable of formulating a plan for what happens next.

Imagine what might happen if people like us helped lead the recovery.

Imagine what might happen if, while everyone else is trying to put back what’s been broken, storytellers stepped in to clear away the dead wood and shape the landscape of the future.

We need new stories.

Stories that allow people to imagine better futures.

We need stories written by the quiet kids, the overly-sensitive kids, the ones who pause and notice everything.

If you’re not feeling the pull to create right now, get ready.

It’s coming.

And we need you.

Download the Keep Writing Workbook and always know your next, smallest step as you chase your writing goals.

What kind of stories do YOU think the world needs right now? Leave a comment

Networking Without Nerves, a conversation with Coach Larissa Sjarbaini

Crafting a writing life isn’t all about knowing where to put commas and how to develop characters. It’s also about engaging with other humans. This week I’m in conversation with Larissa Sjarbaini, a high performance coach, about how to do that and why you might want to, even if you’re an extreme introvert. And stay tuned for an opportunity to develop your own game plan for a writing life


Set Yourself Up For Success sign up now!

Announcing the StoryADay Fun-Size Challenge

Whether you’re easing back into a writing routine, need a break from your magnum opus, or just want to inject a little fun into your day…


New For 2022: 2 Ways To Play

This year, for the first time, I’ve created a Fun-Size StoryADay challenge—one month, one story—to ease you (back) into a daily writing practice that fits your life.

Your Perfect Writing Day

Imagine opening your email each morning of May and finding an encouraging note, writing prompt or tiny task that will start you off on the right writing foot.

No guilt, just an invitation to let your inner writer come out and play.

What’s In the Fun-Size Challenge?

Each day you’ll receive a tiny task to lead you through the process of writing one story during the month

  • Week 1 – Ideas and preparation
  • Week 2 – Developing your ideas and beginning to write
  • Week 3 – Working through the middle and ending the story well
  • Week 4 – Tidying up and planning ahead

PLUS anyone who signs up will have the option to enter the ‘review lottery’ and may get feedback on their writing, live on a group call.

By the end of the month you will have a draft of a story that didn’t exist 31 days before.

Perhaps you, like StoryADay writers Gabrielle, Marta, Kim, and Lex, will have created the draft that gets you your first, second or fiftieth fiction publication.

Or maybe, like Laura, or E. Rankin, you’ll make your first paid sale.

And how great would it be if, at the end of May, you are like StoryADay writer Michele who finally created “that daily writing habit”, or Robin who says “I have become a real writer”? Or Jeff, who says “every day, I have that desire to put in a little time with my writing and I’m confident that will always be there for me, now.”

Even if you need to take a day or two off, the tasks are manageable enough that you’ll easily be able to keep up. Importantly, you’ll keep making progress towards your goals, throughout the month.

(And don’t worry, for all you hard-core challenge fans, the classic 31 days, 31 prompts, start-and-finish-a-story-every-day version is still an option, with new writing prompts every day, and a lively community to keep you going!)

If you’ve been looking for a way to break through your blocks, fight the fear that comes with perfectionism and high expectations, and simply have some fun with your writing again, join us this May for the free StoryADay May challenge.

A Foot in Both Worlds

keeping one foot in each world—living up to your obligations to other and saying ‘yes’ to your need to write—-takes time and practice.

I took a week away from my writing. And I want to tell you why, and why it might (or might not) be a good idea for you to do the same.

It’s not like the timing was perfect…I’m two weeks out from putting on the 13th StoryADay May challenge, and this year I decided to make it easier (on you, not me) by creating a whole new Fun-Sized Challenge. (Have you signed up yet?)

But frankly, the time is never right. Not for vacation, not for a crisis, and certainly not for you to become a writer.

So what are we to do?

Continue reading “A Foot in Both Worlds”

Healing – A Short Story

Yesterday morning, my iPad and iPencil kept telling me they needed recharged (yes, normally I write on paper, but I was working with electronics for…reasons).

I charged the iPad for a while, then, impatient, pulled the cord and moved around with it.

It worked for a while then complained it needed charged.

The same thing happened with the iPencil.

In my impatience to get things done I was trying short-term, stop-gap fixes.

Finally, I realized my devices were trying to tell me something I often ignore when my body tells me the same thing:

Continue reading “Healing – A Short Story”

Please don’t do this…

I popped into a writers’ group on Facebook this morning and saw something so awful, so muse-crushing, so career-killing that I had to write to you and beg you not to make the same mistake.

Sound dramatic? 

That’s because I feel so strongly that you shouldn’t do what these two writers did. I’ve seen it stop writers in their tracks for years, if not forever.

What was this horrendous thing?

In two separate posts, this morning, I saw writers post their tender first efforts at writing (in their words “the opening of my novel”)  in a forum full of strangers and ask for feedback. 

Here are some of the responses they got:

Continue reading “Please don’t do this…”

Everything Else, We Can Learn

Do you believe that you have a right to write? Not that people in general have a general right to be creative. Do you believe that you, specifically, have a right to write? Even if it takes time away from your partner, even if it takes time away from your kid, even if, even if, even if…

Do you believe you have a right to write? Do you believe your voice is important? Do you believe your voice matters?

Mindset is I’m coming to believe more than half the battle when it comes to writing. Everything else? We can, we can learn as we need it. I think getting that in place is huge.

If you need a place that’s snug and safe, to work on your writing practice, consider joining us in the I, WRITER Course. Find out more.

The Value of Morning Pages

Some writers become discouraged by the Morning Pages practice: It can feel like running on a treadmill to nowhere, never sure if you’re making progress.So how do you know if you’re ‘doing Morning Pages correctly’?

This morning when I had a realization that might convince you to try (or enjoy) Morning pages, yourself.

Do you write Morning Pages?

Julia Cameron popularized this free-writing practice in her book The Artist’s Way and many writers swear by it.

The idea is that you write 3 pages of no-obligation, possibly-stream-of-consciousness ‘stuff’ every morning, to warm up.

But some writers become discouraged after doing Morning Pages for a while. It can feel like you’re running on a treadmill to nowhere, never sure if you’re making progress. So how do you know if you’re ‘doing Morning Pages correctly?

I’m sporadic with the ‘morning’ part of Morning Pages, but I do tend to journal most days and/or free-write before I try to write anything ‘proper’.

That’s what I was doing this morning when I came to a realization that I thought you might enjoy sharing. it might even convince you to try Morning pages, yourself.

Julie’s Morning Pages 21 Jan 2022

I am at my desk and facing the classic writers’ dilemma: there is so much I could work on. I can feel the clock ticking away the minutes I have carved out for writing and the first stirrings of panic bubble low in my chest.

I want to write. I don’t want to waste this precious moment but the task seems so huge—and it is! I either find my way back into a dormant story or begin building a whole new world full of decisions about the world (is there gravity? Are we even on earth? Which Earth? When? Where?) and people with full, complex histories before we meet them on the page. And then, how do I make something interesting happen, and keep happening?

The whole thing weighs on me like heavy cloth and I begin to feel the gravitational pull of busywork, the need for the affirmation of a thumbs up or little red heart on social media (It’ll just take a moment to check and I might get an idea for a story!) or perhaps it’s time I learned to use Scrivener properly—whatever that means. (I’m sure I bought a whole course on that.Surely when I have mastered a new tool, THEN it’ll be easier to write…)

Luckily for me, I have been pursuing my writing goals with a will for over a decade now and I know, beyond a doubt, that my only hope of doing anything like ‘good writing’ rests in one practice:

Continue reading “The Value of Morning Pages”

What Should You Write, Today?

It’s a new year, full of promise…too much promise, perhaps?

A new year can feel like that beautiful notebook someone gave you as a gift: full of potential, unspoiled…too good to mess up with your messy handwriting and half-baked ideas.

(Be honest: How many beautiful blank books do you have on your shelves just waiting for the day when you have a project worthy of their quality?)

The Curse Of Perfectionism

After all the hoopla of New Year and the endless year-end review/goal setting articles flooding the web, the new year can arrive with stakes that feel ridiculously high.

So, if you’re having trouble deciding what to write this week you’re not alone. Many of us struggle with that urge to get things right. First time. This time.

But…the truth is, creativity isn’t about getting things right. It’s about making new things, which usually involves a bit of mess-making.

In Praise of the Mess

Continue reading “What Should You Write, Today?”

Pay Attention to Your Process

Here at StoryADay I talk a lot about the importance of not just starting, but also finishing your work.

Finishing (and sharing) your stories allows you to improve your craft with words, but just as importantly it helps you get to grips wiht your process as a writer.

You might wish you were the kind of writer who could get up at 5 o’clock every morning and write 2,000 words and then get on with your day. And maybe you can white-knuckle it for a week or two.

But maybe your process is different.

And would it be so terrible if you allowed yourself to start with what comes naturally and build on that?

My Customary Freak-Out

I’m preparing a new workshop and was getting discouraged about my apparent lack of progress.

I had a little freak-out as I sat down at the blank page to make myself start work on the outline.

Then I laughed.

Because the words ‘customary freak-out’ popped into my head and I remembered that this isn’t new. This is my process when i’m creating anything new, whether it’s a workshop, a story, or a whole course.

It goes like this:

  1. Come up with an awesome idea
  2. Mention it to people, who say ‘yes, please do that’.
  3. Do loads of research and get excited.
  4. Back away and look at my project only out of the corner of my eye.
  5. Berate myself for procrastinating
  6. Have a small freak-out
  7. Realize that what looked like procrastination is actually percolation and what looks like me backing away from the work is actually me backing up, so I can see the whole thing clearly.
  8. Sit down to create The Thing, and have it pour out of me in one messy-but-promising first draft.
  9. Revise and polish and get excited all over again.
  10. Deliver the thing. Have a blast. Help people.

The Upside of Knowing Your Process

Since we’ve been through this before, my brain has started to move the ‘freak out’ date further from the delivery date (thanks, brain!) so there’s more time between the messy first draft and the production copy.

But it has only done this because I’ve finished and delivered things (workshops, essays, books, articles, speeches, launches) so many times before.

You Can’t Be Someone Else

I envy people who can work on a project for an hour a day for a month, making steady progress. That doesn’t seem to produce my best work, or make me happy.

I’m reluctant to say that I can’t change that, because clearly things can change. I’m not pulling all-nighters. I’ve discovered I can work at any time of the day, not just my beloved vampire-hours. Mindset controls a lot.

But I suspect that working with, rather than against, our natural inclinations, makes for an easier route to productivity. My process isn’t all rainbows and sprinkles, but it works for me.

Finding Your Process

Your process may be different from mine (I hope it is!) It very likely is.

If you think you don’t have a process, it may be that you’re not paying attention OR that you’re not finishing and ‘shipping’ products.

There is an inherent stress in making all the decision needed to call a piece ‘finished’. There is anxiety in showing it to people. You’re raising the stakes. But raised stakes cause us to pull out all the stops. Extra effort builds muscle. The adreneline rush of promising to show your work makes you strive to do your best work.

The more often you go through the whole process of producing and sharing work, the better you will your own process.

And the sooner you can recognize your process for what it is, stop fighting and start tweaking it so that you can produce more, get more creative, and be more fulfilled.

Happy creating!

Have you noticed what your creative process is? What do you do that other people might not recognize as forward progress? Leave a comment!

7 Myths About Revising your Writing

If you want to improve your writing you know you have to revise your writing. But, in my work with writers I encounter a lot of resistance when it comes to revision.

Some of this resistance comes from myths around the best way to revise and edit your own writing.

I’m here to bust seven of those myths.

For more, listen to the companion podcast episode

1. Revision is all about seeing where you’ve failed

It’s not. 

As I talked about last week, seeing where you’re succeeding can be just as important, if not more than seeing what’s not working. You don’t want to cut out your best lines!.

It can be helpful to get other people to look at your work, both for a fresh pair of eyes on a project we may be too close to, and because we do tend to be a little hard on ourselves. 

Experienced writers tend to have a well-developed sense of what’s working in their writing as well as what’s not…but it’s not flawless and we all need a little feedback from time to time.

And when you DO find something that needs to be reworked (let’s not call it a ‘failure’) work on celebrating. 

  • Seeing what’s not working gives you an opportunity to fix it. 
  • Going back to older stories and noticing what’s not working, is a measure of how far your skills have advanced. 

So celebrate!

2. You must walk away from your work for two weeks, before you revise

Continue reading “7 Myths About Revising your Writing”

Should You Sign Up for that course or challenge?

Cover image workbook: should I take part in NaNoWriMo or other creative writing challenges, courses

So Many Challenges, So Many Courses

Have you ever lost an afternoon reading all about how to market your novel…before writing the novel, never mind figuring out how to revise or publish the thing? 

Or figuring out if you should take part in the latest writing challenge all your friends seem to be doing? 

Or maybe you spent way too much energy deciding whether to invest in a new writing workshop or class instead of buckling down and practicing our creative writing skills.

Yeah, me too.

Instead of trusting that the work we’re doing will inevitably lead to progress, we get distracted by Shiny Object Syndrome!

But going down endless rabbit holes will leave us no closer to our goals than we were before. 

In fact, it can leave us overwhelmed, discouraged and stalled. 

How can we make the courageous choices that really lead to progress in our writing life? And how can you decide if that new writing course, challenge or book is Shiny Object or a Shiny Opportunity?

Spend Some Time With Future-You

What do you hope for when you open a new book about writing, sign up for a course, or embark on a new writing project? 

You don’t just hope to complete the course, or the book or the challenge.

When tempted to try a new Shiny Object, you probably build an image in your head of Future-You, a you who has unlocked something with a magical key that is this Shiny Object. 

What does Future-You look like? Happy? At ease? 

When they sit down to write, does it feel inevitable that they will write and write well?

Hope motivates us to learn that new thing, take that new course, or start that new project: the hope that we will become the writer we’ve always wanted to be. 

And that this Shiny Object will be the one that gives it to us.

And it maybe it will be, if we do it properly

(Download the workbook for some tips on how to do that).

But sometimes it backfires and we end up discouraged, and no closer to our goals than we were when we first caught sight of the Shiny Object. 

The ABCs of Learning The Writing Craft 

We can’t absorb everything at once, nor can we progress faster than we progress!

When considering how to learn the craft of writing, we should do it with care.


What are you trying to achieve?

Be specific.

Ask yourself when do you want to achieve it by/when you will reassess and see how much progress you’ve made?


Ask yourself what resources you already have on tap? A bookcase full of books on writing? The StoryADay site’s prompts, feature articles and podcasts? Online courses that you have signed up for but not completed? Course notes from conferences and courses you took in the past?

What wealth is hidden in those treasure chests?

Might you find the answer to ‘how should I show that my heroine’s heart is breaking, without saying that?” in one of those resources? 


Sometimes we’re tempted by Shiny Objects because of our own lack of confidence. 

Can you become your own best cheerleader and give yourself permission to keep working on what you’re working on now?

Ask yourself:

What do you already know how to do well?

In writing – what are you doing when writing seems easiest? 

In life – and how might those skills support your writing. Are you already an expert organizer? Can you schedule (and stick to) writing/learning time on your calendar? Are you excellent at connecting meaningfully with other people? Can you use that to write powerful emotional scenes? Or are you the one people trust to set up writing dates, for accountability?)

Now that you’re feeling secure in the skills you already possess, you should be able to more clearly assess whether or not you really need the Shiny Object and whether it’ll really help you, right now.

A Process For Investing In Yourself

Sometimes, of course, a great opportunity comes along: a teacher you’d love to work with, a writing challenge that seems exciting, a book recommendation that you can’t stop thinking about.

Sometimes taking advantage of those opportunities is the right thing to do.

How can you tell which Shiny Objects are actually Shiny Opportunities?

Don’t stress, I’ve got you covered. Here’s the StoryADay Shiny Object Decision Flowchart. Go through it any time you need to make a decision. But, before you go, download the free workbook that goes along with it and expands on each of the flowchart questions.

Download the StoryaDay Shiny Object Workbook now
(with bonus Decision Flowchart!)

StoryADay Shiny Object Decision Flowchart - Should you take part in NaNoWriMo, StoryADay, or other creative writing challenges and courses

Download this flowchart and the accompanying workbook now

Leave a comment: what Shiny Object/Opportunity were you most recently wrestling with? How did you make your decision? How did it work out?

You Don’t have To Be Brilliant From The Beginning

I found this in my Free Little Library the other day and it prompted a powerful lesson that I thought I’d share here as advice for writers. If you’re struggling to write and wondering if you’re any good, Snoopy has a lesson for you.

Continue reading “You Don’t have To Be Brilliant From The Beginning”

A Recipe for Success During StoryADay

In this guest post, StoryADay Superstar Leslie Stack shares her recipe for success during the StoryADay challenge: Story Sparks

Story Sparks logs in a box
photo credit: Chris Stack

This is my fourth year participating in Julie Duffy’s StoryADay May and it has truly been instrumental in jumpstarting and refocusing my writing.

Whether it was in May or September, I found my writing grow in meaning, technique, and purpose.

Sparking Stories

One of the difficulties of this writing challenge is thinking of a fresh idea every day.

To help me with this, I use both the daily writing prompts and Julie’s Story Spark Notes.

Continue reading “A Recipe for Success During StoryADay”

20 Short Stories That Will Make You A Better Writer

Don’t try to write short stories without reading some. Here are 10 modern and 10 classic stories to get you started.

Reading in front of the fire

Chosen by members of the StoryADay Superstars community

  • Perhaps you want to write short stories because novels seem overwhelming.
  • Perhaps you’ve been told that you ought to start with short stories.
  • Perhaps you read a short story you loved and thought “I want to do that!”

The rules for novels and movies don’t apply to short stories. Part of the fun of short story writing is that the form is so flexible.But how would you know that if you’re not reading them?.

Here are 20 great short stories you should read, suggestesd by the StoryADay community.

Each story is either a classic or one that stuck in the reader’s head for years.

storyaday divider

What if writing was inevitable?

Does writing have to be a struggle? What if your writing felt inevitable? What impact would that have on your life?

If not, you could find yourself, two weeks from now having written nothing,  unsure of what you want to be writing, struggling to find your rhythm again.

I have mindset change to make you joyfully productive. Read on…

Use Your Powerful Imagination

Imagine, instead, that you had a plan for the first two weeks of October. What would that look like?

Continue reading “What if writing was inevitable?”

The Five Most Romantic Things You Can Do for the Writer in Your Life

This guest post, from Michele Reisinger, combines the wisdom of many of the StoryADay Superstars. Make sure to leave this open in a browser for the people in your life to ‘accidentally’ read! 😉

My husband would deny it, but he is a romantic at heart.

We’re all struggling with the effects of pandemic pandemonium,  but recently he’s given me some pretty awesome gifts that have not only helped me cope with our “new normal,” but also develop a writing practice that will last far beyond this shared crisis.

Even better, while their value to me is priceless, their cost was almost zero. As writer Chari Schoen points out, “Sometimes it is just the little things” that mean the most.

So, what are the most romantic things you can do for the writer in your life?

My amazing cohorts in StoryADay’s Superstars shared their stories and wish lists.

Continue reading “The Five Most Romantic Things You Can Do for the Writer in Your Life”

Let’s Stick Together – in the StoryADay Cafe

Something I do with the StoryADay Superstars, is get together once in a while for writing sprints.

During this next couple of weeks, when everyone is isolating physically, I thought it might be helpful to open that up to the whole community. So you’re invited to join us for some writing dates!


Continue reading “Let’s Stick Together – in the StoryADay Cafe”

How Can Our Community Help You?

A live video I recorded earlier this week full of positive ways to ride this thing out

The herd instinct is only a problem if you’re following the wrong herd. 

Let’s see if we can put it to good use. Let’s circle the StoryADay wagons and help each other to write more of the stories that people need to hear—to distract them, to entertain them, to uplift and connect them.

Some things I’ve shared with people over the past few days

  • This is a wonderful time to catch up on your reading. Everyone has a pile of books they’ve been meaning to get to. Turn off the TV and open those books!
  • If you can’t get to a writing group because you need to protect your health, ask other people to turn on the voice memo feature on their phone and record the group discussion for you.
  • If you’re a member of a real-life writing group, ask the organizer to sign up for a free Zoom account. You can get everyone together for 40 minutes at a time under the free account, and chat about writing, or hold your critique meeting, or whatever you usually do.
  • You don’t have to be writing fiction if it doesn’t feel right, just now. Write letters to friends you haven’t seen recently. Write journal entries. Work on a non-fiction project you’ve been meaning to get to. Advocate for a favorite charity or write postcards for a political candidate’s campaign.
  • Use writing prompts to write tiny, throwaway stories that are only intended to amuse and distract yourself.

What other ideas do you have?

What can I do to help you?

  • Do you need an online writing hangouts this week, to keep you from obsessing about the news, or keep you sane while you work from home?
  • Do you need daily SWAGr check-ins at for the next week, to keep you accountable?
  • Would it be helpful if I put together a bundle of links to the most popular articles on the site, so you can read something that isn’t virus-related?

Is there something else I can do to help you?

Leave a comment and tell me how you’re doing, and what you need. Also, if you’ve found something that helps you, please share that too!