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.

ASSESS

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?

BRAINSTORM 

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? 

CELEBRATE

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?

Changing Seasons image
Change is inevitable. Why not writing?

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”

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

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!

When

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 StoryADay.org 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!