Should Writers Work From Home?

When the pandemic yet, many workers were forced out of their office spaces and told to work from home. 

During this time, I heard many authors say in interviews and online that for them, nothing had really changed because they worked from home anyway. Rolling from the bed to the desk was nothing new to them. Several jokingly said they’d spent their entire working career preparing for this very moment. 

For some, the only thing that really changed was that they were no longer the only person home. Though this is not an insignificant fact, to a degree, maybe it is true that writers who work from home were the best prepared and the least affected during lockdowns. 

In a recent piece for the New Yorker, Cal Newport noted that historically, writing is one of the few cognitively demanding tasks that could be performed outside of a professional office or workspace. 

There is a reason why Penguin Random House doesn’t offer a workstation when you sign a publishing deal, nor does IngramSpark when you use them as a distributor for your self-published venture. 

Writers decide for themselves where they are happiest to work and for many novelists and freelance writers, that happens to be at home. 

Obviously, this decision is partly informed by financial factors. You don’t need an office or formal workspace to write, so why spend the money on renting a co-working space when, hypothetically, you can work anywhere as long as you have a laptop or a notepad and pen?

The second is convenience. It is just too easy to wake up, go about your morning routine, and then disappear into your home office. 

No commute. Pants optional. 

You don’t have to buy a coffee every hour as payment for occupying a table in a café and you don’t have to pack up your laptop and notes every time you need to go to the bathroom if you’re working at a public library. 

And yet, despite the financial benefits and convenience of writing at home, some authors have gone to great lengths to get out of the house. 

Prior to the pandemic, Joanna Penn would take the entire morning to write at a local café. While Non-fiction author, Gretchen Rubin, has an office space in her home, she chooses to write her books at a small local library, and Ray Bradbury wrote on a typewriter in the basement of UCLA’s library. 

Maya Angelou used to rent out hotel rooms, arriving at 6:30 in the morning with nothing but a bible, yellow legal pad, and a bottle of sherry. 

TS Elliott, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, and F Scott Fitzgerald all wrote while sitting in coffee shops and cafes. 

Beloved Zen devote and writing guru Natalie Goldberg appears to write everywhere from cafes to workshops to friend’s houses to park benches and even while out walking! 

So why did all of these writers choose to work outside of the home, despite the benefits of pyjamas and free coffee and tea? 

The reason why there were so many ‘how to work from home’ articles published during 2020 is because working from home is not always the most supportive environment. 

Why? Because we associate this space with family time, nourishment, celebration, and rest. Four words we probably wouldn’t use to describe work. 

Beyond this, however, is the simple fact that houses are filled with distraction. 

Every short trip to the bathroom or kettle risks derailing productivity. 

Seeing a laundry basket full of dirty clothes, a dishwasher in need of emptying, wilting pot plants, or dusty shelves sends a signal to your easily distracted brain: you should do that, it will only take a minute. But as Newport argues, the visual cues ‘destabilizes the subtle neuronal dance required to think clearly.’  

Some people love to work from home because it means that they can complete these domestic chores in-between work tasks, but according to Newport and other academics concerned with the link between cognitive process and productivity, home may not be the most supportive space for cultivating good work. 

Maybe it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal. Does it really matter if you get up to put a load of laundry on during a scheduled break? Well, no, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. 

Instead, consider how your home is a minefield of potential distraction and even if you don’t engage in that distraction, your mind is momentarily pulled towards this urgent but unimportant domestic task and away from whatever it was you were working on. 

It takes a lot of discipline and energy to write and we don’t want to waste those finite resources on overcoming potential distractions (see: laundry, dishes, vacuuming, mowing). 

And I haven’t even begun to talk about how other people are also a form of distraction. 

Working from home is often presented as a perk and it is one of the few benefits that writers – well known or not – share. And yet, there are many writers who forego this privilege in the name of productivity. 

Perhaps the solution then is, as Newport said, to work from near home. 

For those on a shoestring budget, that may look like working from public libraries, but you’d be surprised at how creative you can get with this. I’ve spoken with writers who’ve written books in the empty spaces above bookshops, who’ve contacted their local library and requested a private space work, or who have made an arrangement with their local university. 

A lot of magic can happen when you ask and the worst is that they will say ‘no’. (And I’m pretty sure you can handle that). 

If you can afford it, then renting a desk in a co-working space or hiring a room that you can turn into a writing retreat may be a great option for you.  

Now, is this an unnecessary and privileged expense? 

You bet ya. 

But this type of grand gesture is what can elevate you from amateur to professional, or so Steven Pressfield would say. This kind of investment is a signal to yourself that writing is important to you, that you are worth backing, and that you are taking this writing practice seriously. And you never know, the cost of working in such a space could be covered by your increase in productivity. 

As with all writing advice, you need to decide what works best for you, but I do think this is an aspect of our writing routine that deserves some serious experimentation. 

Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you write from home? Do you find this space supportive or distractive? If you write at home, please share what types of locations work well for you, cafes, libraries, co-working spaces, and do you think this makes writing easier? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it because I’d love to know. 


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Five Lesser Known Writer Problems

We’re all familiar with some of the problems that writers’ struggle with: writer’s block, procrastination, perfectionism, and crappy royalties… 

But in this week’s blog I want to discuss five common, but less discussed problems, that many writers’ experience.   

#1 Between projects 

It takes a long time to write a book, often years.  

We have moments of really loving what we’re doing and moment where we cannot wait for this thing to be over.  

We pour so much of ourselves into the creative process, and following publication, we don our extrovert hats and go out into the world to promote the heck out of it.  

But once we return home, we realise that even though we couldn’t possibly read our book one more time, we kind of miss working on a project.  

If you’re lucky, you may already have another manuscript on the go, but even then, starting a project is very different to being in the middle of, or finishing, a novel.  

During the later stages of writing, you still feel self-doubt, but you know the work and you’re reasonably confident in your ability to pull it off.  

Starting energy is different to finishing energy.  

Beginnings are wide open with possibility; they are the great unknown.  

You could take your manuscript in a variety of different directions and it’s very exploratory which in one way is fun and in another way totally overwhelming because there are so many things that you could do that you don’t know what to do.  

It’s decision overload.  

But as a work nears its completion, the parameters around the story narrow because you’ve already made all those big important decisions about plot, character, setting, structure, theme and so on.  

You’re not creating a work from scratch, you’re just improving the story that you already have.  

When a major project wraps up it’s a cause for celebrations, but once the confetti settles and it’s just you and the giant unknown of ‘what’s next?’ it can be surprising and uncomfortable to discover that you don’t know what the answer is.   

#2 Repeating yourself

This problem piggy-backs off problem number one.  

Once we finally get an idea for a new project or we feel brave enough to pursue one of the many ideas in our creative volt, it can be a huge relief to have writing back in our lives again.  

But you may reach a point in your draft where you start to have this niggly feeling of, hmmmm this seem familiar.  

With great dismay, you discover that your new manuscript is eerily similar to the last one.  

The characters sound the same, the plotline is overly similar, and you’ve chosen a near identical setting.  

You start to wonder if you’re a one hit wonder, that maybe you only had one story to tell, and that if you pursue this new project, you’ll become one of those writers who build a career off publishing the same book.  

You worry that you’ll never release a “second album” and that your creativity was a lot more limited than you thought.  

The thing is, we spend so long working on a book that the structure and format of that project become embedded in our brain. It’s a loop that we’ve create through multiple drafts, edits, and countless hours spent thinking about the narrative.  

Little wonder that when we sit down to write a new book, we end up playing the same track.  

Fortunately, awareness is the first step to recovery. Once you realise that you’re repeating yourself, you can then take active steps to construct new characters, chose an alternative setting, and dismantle the structure.  

Writing is largely about problem solving and every writer begins again with the start of every new project.  

We’re drawn to writing in part because of the challenge that it presents and realising that your new manuscript is a cover of the last is just one more opportunity for you to develop your writing skills.   

#3 Someone already wrote it

Many writers have experienced this problem which is basically a backhanded compliment. 

In one way, it’s physical proof that you were right. This is a great idea; a publisher would be interested in this and there is a market for this type of story. The slap is that now it has been done. A publisher has already accepted this story and this could have been your success if you hadn’t spent so much time procrastinating.  

Your inner optimist will attempt to reassure you by saying that there’s no such thing as an original story and that every book is drawing upon all of the many books, myths, and fables that came before it—nothing is wholly original.  

And your inner-pessimist will want to shove a muffin down their Polly-Anna throat.  

#4 Writing what you don’t know

Write what you know has become a cliché piece of writing advice for good reason. First, it’s easy to write what you know. You can do it with authority, confidence, and include details and insights that don’t exist on Google.  

But there comes a time when you must also write what you don’t know because our lives and experiences are limited and part of creative writing is using our imagination to step into different worlds, careers, and experiences.  

But writing what you don’t know is hard. It takes a lot of research (see: rabbit holes) and it’s scary because you don’t know what you don’t know and the last thing you want to do is make a giant mistake that will cause insiders to laugh at you or worse, you offend them. 

We worry that if we write what we know our work will lack diversity and if we write what we don’t know we will be accused of appropriation.  

Ultimately, what this comes down to is checking in with your ethics (why are you write about this?), doing a bunch of research, and reaching out to sensitivity readers or professionals in the industry.  

What happens after that is between you and your editor.  

#5 Writing isn’t instantly rewarding 

The weird thing about writing is that it kind of feels like you’re doing nothing. 

Like I mentioned in point one, it takes a long time to write a novel. We chip away at our book baby for years before it’s released.  

Rarely do you feel a sense of completion when working on a book. For the most part, it’s just this on-going project that you tinker with for a couple hours a day (if you’re lucky and super disciplined).  

Finishing a scene doesn’t really bring any sense of completion because that means you’re just starting a new scene tomorrow. Sending your manuscript off to an editor brings only a brief reprieve until you receive the line edits.    

The book isn’t done until you’re holding a printed copy on pub day.  

For this reason, when you’re working on a book, on the day to day, it can feel as though you aren’t really making any progress. Even when you’re working on a second or third draft or you’re deep into editing, our progress is often small. Two thousand words written (with 60,000 to go) or three pages edited (with 300 to go).  

Accepting that this is simply the nature of the beast goes a long way to making this fact more palatable. But tracking hours spent or words added (depending on what stage you are at) can help remind you that you are indeed making progress (even if it feels like you’re only taking micro-steps).  

There you have it. That’s my take on five underrated writer problems. Now I’d love to hear from you, what’s a writing problem you encounter that no one talks about? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.   


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Writing After a Break

I haven’t done any creative writing for two months.

Why? Because other things became the priority: teaching, coaching, writing my exegesis, helping family, and taking on some extra hospo work. [NB: an exegesis is like a mini-thesis and forms part of my overall dissertation].

I record my habits every day in a tracker because collecting data keeps me honest, but I was shocked to discover that eight weeks had passed since I’d worked on the manuscript.

Now, admittedly, you can’t do everything all the time.

While I was working on the novel, I made the conscious decision to put academic research aside until I was ninety percent happy with the revision.

Once I reached that point, I then put the novel aside so that I could focus on putting my exegesis together.

We’re all capable of focussing on more than one thing at a time, but I couldn’t see how — realistically — I could continue to write every day, plus work on my exegesis, and take care of my responsibilities as a sessional academic and writing coach.

If you’re a frequent watcher of this channel, or a member of my email list, you already know that my regular Thursday uploads have been irregular lately.

I definitely don’t work on everything every day because cognitive task switching drains energy and fractures focus, and I have to work around time constraints and interruptions (just like everyone else!).

I hate studying writing while not writing.

I hate teaching writing while not writing.

I hate sharing writing advice while not writing.

At first, I tried to justify this brief abandoning of the manuscript, and writing in general, by saying that the project had shifted into a different season, and while that is correct, the project is not complete and I wasn’t going to finish the latest round of edits unless I made writing a priority again.

With everything on my plate right now, I know I can’t dedicate whole days to writing, and even if I could, such approaches usually lead to creative burn out.

So, instead, I’m taking my own advice and carving out a little time each morning to work on the manuscript.

The stage I’m at right now is applying the structural feedback I’ve received from my mentors for acts one and two, as well as conducting a general line edit to correct typos and sentence structure.

This stuff is not earth shatteringly difficult, but as the last two months have shown, this edit will not get done unless I actively make time for it.

I considered using writing as a reward; something I could do after I’d completed working on my exegesis or teaching materials, but knowing how draining these tasks can be, I chose to start my day with writing. That way, I’m coming to the page as my freshest, bestest self.

For now, I’m only working on the edits for an hour a day, and I got to be honest, that hour goes quickly, and even though part of me wants to shove my schedule aside and keep writing, at least for this week, I’m sticking to my one hour.

Why? Because I do have to complete other work that isn’t nearly as developed as the manuscript and two, because I don’t want to do one big day and then not touch the book again for another week.

But that’s just my process from many years of trial and error.

It’s only been a week, but because I’ve structured my entire life around writing, everything starts to feel wobbely when that centre is removed.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Do you ever take breaks from writing, either consciously or unconsciously? Do you feel rusty when you return to writing or does it feel natural? Do you miss writing when you aren’t working on a project? Leave a comment below and let me know.


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Everything is Writing | Part Two

A while back, I posted a blog titled Everything is Writing which broke down how most writes fall into one of two camps when it comes to what constitutes as writing.

Some people think that the only thing that counts as writing is words on the page. They believe that writing is writing, so don’t kid yourself into thinking anything different.

For a long time, I agreed with this perspective, but as I shared in the previously mentioned video, I’ve jumped camps.

Now, I see how my writing is very much impacted by what is going on in my life, both in a practical sense and in a reflect sense. For example, if I have a bunch of teaching deadlines, this will impact how much time I have for writing. Similarly, the books I read or the conversation I have with other people may spark a new idea for the work.

I believe that thinking, reading, teaching, exercise, relaxation, socialising, and even errands can count as writing.

You can actively find ways to connect all of these aspects of your life to writing, but we also need to acknowledged how important it’s for our brains to have legitimate downtime.

Obsessively thinking about writing or your manuscript isn’t helpful.

Our subconscious is startling good at coming up with creative solutions and new idea and how we do that is by giving our conscious mind a rest by swapping tasks or giving ourselves permission to relax.

This reframe of what counts as writing is infinitely more helpful then the punitive belief that only writing is writing, however, even this reframe has a few potential problems.

When you’re first getting into writing, you will mostly likely consume a lot of content as a way to improve and develop your writing ability, your understanding of craft, how to be consistent, as well as how the industry, both traditional and indie publishing works.

You may join a writing group, sign-up for courses online, become a member of your state’s writing centre, attend book launches, volunteer at festivals, and follow other writers on social media.

All of this stuff is great and becoming an active member in your local and digital writing network can be really supportive, but we also need to balance all these external activities with our actual practise.

Don’t let them replace writing.

Let me explain…

Talking for hours with a writing buddy about your latest idea for a manuscript is a lot of fun and deeply satisfying.

However…

We write because our ideas comes with a certain about of tension: we aren’t certain what the story is, who is in it, or what they will do.

Remember, our brains are hardwired to solve problems, and stories are one giant problem, but by talking through your story with a buddy, you’ve largely solved the problem and thus eliminated the tension that would have propelled you into writing.

Every writer is different. Some writers can talk about their ideas before they have fully developed them and it doesn’t affect their progress.

Famously, the collaborative duo Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman develop their stories ideas together and outline the first one hundred pages of their co-written novels — but note that this is an example of a writing team not a solo writer sharing their ideas with another writer or friend.

In this case, Jay and Amie are also acting as accountability partners and they are both invested in working on their story together, plus they only draft one hundred pages at a time, so that the story contains some mystery and flexibility.

Maybe talking with other writers is supportive to your process, maybe it isn’t. But if you talk about writing more than you actually write, then we have a problem.

Similarly, reading craft books, completing online courses, obsessively listening to writing podcasts, attending festivals, book launches, and events are a great way to become a part of the community and to meet like-minded people, but these too can quickly become a trap.

Firstly, you may fall into the habit of constantly learning but never doing. You understand the fundamentals of craft, you’ve studies the writing routines of classic and contemporary writers, you’ve given your inner critic a persona, created multiple Pinterest boards that reflect your novel’s aesthetic, bought a bunch of notebooks, and read Writing Down the Bones four times and On Writing six times.

But you haven’t created an outline. Or written a chapter. Or played around with character profiles.

The internet is wonderful. Seriously. But sometimes knowing so much can actually become a hindrance.

We worry that we’re going to get it wrong.

We’re afraid that if we actually start writing, our worst fear will be proven: that we suck.

Let me reassure you here, you probably (see: totally) do suck because all first drafts suck and that’s okay. That’s why we edit books.

These external activities can hinder you in other strange ways, by getting to know people and building connections, you feel like a part of the tribe. You got accepted even though you haven’t finished (or started?) your novel.

That’s the wonderful thing about the writing community, we accept people of all different levels, experience, and motivations. Beginners, professionals, hobbyists, and devotees – everyone is welcomed.

And yet, when you get initiated into a group without having to do anything except show up and show some level of interest, there’s little reason to write your book because look – you already got in!

Of course, these activity help build your knowledge and being around other writers can inspire you to take writing more seriously, but you can’t rely on the community as a whole to make you accountable.

If you need accountability to reach your goals, then find a writing buddy, a mentor, or group to support you.  

The final problem with all these writing related activities is that they take time: a writer’s most precious resource.

Depending on where you’re at with writing, you need to assess how your time is best spent.

Will a weekend attending a writers festival refill your creative well, provide important industry insight, and forge new connections or should you finish the final round of edits on your novel?

Will signing up for a writing course give you the permission you need to be creative, or should you just get to work on your outline?

While I am presenting these scenarios as ‘this’ or ‘that’, sometimes it is possible to do both. For example, spend one day at a writers festival and one day editing or create your outline (and more!) while doing the course.

Writing related activities can give us the satisfaction we expect to get from writing, only without the hard work, wonder, tears, and joy that is creative practise.

Everything is writing, provided that you are actually writing.


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Are Author Platforms Worth It?

Whether you are an indie or traditionally published author, we all feel the pressure to be online, producing content, and cultivating relationships with our audience.

Most traditional publishers will want to know what your numbers are, and if you don’t have a public author profile, they’ll want you to set one up.

I have seen examples of traditionally published authors who’s social media accounts are run by the publisher or that are totally inactive (created as a way to safeguard against posers), but these examples are rare and it’s likely that these writers have only been able to get away with this behaviour because their books are best sellers — but how did they become best sellers?

Because the publisher ran a massive marketing campaign.

Of course, there are examples of heavily marketed books that ‘failed’ despite the big backing (and big budget) of a major publishing house, and there are examples of indie authors who went from obscurity to lucrative full-time earnings solely because their platform suddenly took off.

Social media can be powerful and it can work for you, but there is no guarantee — and the same goes for traditional marketing.

We’re attracted to building a social media platform because it’s in our control and we’re attracted to traditional publishers because they offer support, experience, reach and a network. (NB: Sometimes ALL that still isn’t enough for a book to be ‘successful’).

What sucks though is when traditional publishers ask their new or mid-list authors to develop a platform. Because here’s the thing: it’s actually not that easy to build a big, engaged audience, AND it’s a massive time suck.

Looking for content to repost on Twitter with a summary sentence or witty comment, replying to comments, creating Instagram stories, and finding your balance between 80% sharing and 20% promotion (the ‘magic ratio’ according to some person on the internet) — all takes time and energy.

The same two resources we need to write, which is the activity that lead to the product we’re trying to sell in the first place!

And let’s be honest, if you don’t have a public author page by now, it’s probably because you don’t want one and if you don’t want one, but feel pressured to have one, you probably won’t do a very good job.

Alternatively, some indie authors have only been able to survive because of their platforms (for e.g. Jenna Moreci).

However, if you speak to the booksellers of brick and mortar stores, they’ll say their customers’ purchases are based off recommendations in the newspaper, radio interviews, or because of a friend.

Now, this may be because the bulk of buyers who still go to physical bookstores consume these type of media, whereas the bulk of people who buy online look to podcasts, YouTube videos, or social media profiles for recommendations. Who knows?

It’s very difficult to track how many followers convert into buyers online, but I’ve heard other writers say that for every 40, 000 followers they’ll make 2,000 sales (during a launch). But again, every platform and artist is different.

The one thing that all those business marketing courses, free videos, and blogs fail to tell you is that convincing a stranger on the internet to buy your stuff is hard.

You can work on your know, like, and trust factors, put in a funnel, develop an email campaign, and every other step recommended out there on the interwebs and there is still no guarantee.

You can do everything you’re supposed to do and not achieve the results you had hoped for, but that’s not to say you won’t ever achieve success, you just need to find the model that works for you, and sometimes, you simply have to give something more time.

The whole point of this post is not to arrive at one tidy conclusion backed by a step by step action plan, but to show that there is no guarantee of failure or success no matter which way you go.

Social media is one way to promote your books and yourself as an author, but it’s not the only way.

The best way to approach this aspect of the writing life is to have an experimental attitude and to find the methods that work best for you.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

It’s okay to write slow

We can be really hard on ourselves, and writing — honestly — can be so frustrating because it’s the exact opposite of everything that capitalism and hustler culture stand for.

Writing takes time.



We shouldn’t speak in absolutes and it’s true that writing a book doesn’t have to take a long time. There are indie authors who write and publish books every 6-8 week; they produce a draft, give it a quick edit, and hit publish.

Dead Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rush are big believers in the originality and authenticity that comes through fast drafting, though admittedly, they always give their fiction three rounds of edits before they publish.

For the rapid release model to be viable as a business, you need to publish new long form content every 3 months.

Sales will peak at the beginning, then taper off over the first, second, and third month.

Some writers maintain this publishing schedule because it’s their full-time job and they want it to become a sustainable source of income, however, there is a massive dropout rate because writing takes energy and many people find that writing 8,000-10,000 words a day and publishing a new 40,000-60,000 word book every three months is unsustainable and they quickly burnout.

To paraphrase the creator of 20booksto50Ks, Michael Anderle, if you stop writing and publishing books, you’ll stop making money.

Rapid release is an option, but it is not the only option.

This model works because it follows the rules of capitalism and hustle culture, but that doesn’t mean that it’s sustainable or enjoyable.

The problem is, most of us aren’t full-time writers, though for some of us that’s the dream.

Because we’re working other full-time jobs or maintaining a portfolio career, our writing time is less than we desire. We get frustrated that it is taking so long to finish a first draft, but writing (prior to the golden days of CreateSpace back in 2002) has always been slow with a few exceptions, such as Charles Dicken’s serial publications.

It used to be that releasing one book a year was considered fast and to be honest, I can’t imagine working at that pace, at least not at the moment.

For example, if I had published the first, second, or even third draft of my current manuscript, it would have been fine, but it would have lacked the complexity and emotional richness that the current (sixth) draft has.

You can write and publish at whatever speed suits you, this is totally in your control, but do not use your slower pace as a reason to beat yourself up.

Even when you work on your writing 2-3 hours a day, five days a week, it still feels slow because we’re often not ‘finishing’ anything. Instead, think of writing as a slow progression, a gentle unfurling.

Writing this way feels more enriching, satisfying, and rewarding. We’re able to go deep into the work, to explore all the possible variations, and we allow space for new discoveries and revelations to occur in the act of writing and when we are out living our lives.  

In this model, writing isn’t a product it’s a practice. It’s an activity that is connected to every other part of your life and every part of your life is connected to your writing.

You’re allowed to take your time, to get messy, to question the work, to lift your game and stretch your abilities, to work in short bursts and long walks. It’s okay to spend time on your writing. The world will wait, and when you’re ready, you’ll know that you did the right thing by yourself and the book because writing is the reward.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you wish you could write faster? Do you have the pace of your own writing frustrating, or do you enjoy taking your time? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

What’s Your Writing Superpower?

It’s human nature to want to progress. One of the best and worst parts of being human is that once we solve a problem or master a skill, we immediately start looking towards the next thing.

We don’t just do this to ourselves, but others too.

At a friend’s wedding, we ask when they will start having kids; a week after someone has given birth, we ask when they will have another; and we toast a new graduate while asking, ‘What now?’ (This problem is so prevalent that Ann Patchett wrote a commencement speech and then published a tiny book by the same name.)

We do this as writers too. We’re constantly looking for ways to develop our skills, to reach a greater audience, and to generally improve.

When we read a great work of fiction, we inevitably compare it to our own work.

The gap between where they are and where we are may be wide or narrow, but it is there all the same.

We’re told one of the best ways to improve our writing is to read more, and this is one of the easiest ways to become aware of our weaknesses as a writer, but it can also be a great source of inspiration as it shows us what is possible.

Reading is one of the best ways to improve your writing.

As creatives, we are so aware of the gap between where we are and where we want to be.

With our eye on the prize, we focus intently on our weakness.

We’re berate ourselves for being ‘bad’ at …

  • Setting
  • Description
  • Dialogue
  • Underwriting
  • Overwriting
  • Character
  • Plot
  • Structure
  • Tension

Of course, it’s important to be aware of our weaknesses, but I invite you to think about what are your writing superpowers?

What’s your writing superpower?

What aspects of writing come naturally to you? What can you do so easily that you’re not even aware of it, or think about it as special?

Write them down or ask a writing buddy, your critique partner, betareaders, or editor.

To give you a little inspiration here are my three superpowers:

  1. Dedication
  2. Discipline
  3. Application of feedback

You’ll note that none of these aspects have to do with craft element but instead relate to mindset and behaviour.

What writing skills come to you so naturally you don’t even think of them as special?


1 / Dedication

I gave up a lucrative job and moved city (multiple times) to pursue writing and writing-related study. (NB: I don’t have a mortgage or kids, but I do have a high tolerance for risk!).

You don’t have to give up your job or move cities to prove that you are dedicated to writing, those are massive decisions with massive ramifications, and to be honest, it’s the mundane, garden-variety dedication that creates meaningful results.

I started a weekly blog seven years ago and later a YouTube channel as a way to document my experiences and share all the writing advice I’d come across (and yes, to build a platform. Let’s be transparent here!).

I consume A LOT of writing-related content, which means I’m able to recommend other resources to my coaching clients and to reference them myself when needed!

I’ve seeped myself in this community for years, and while I don’t know everything, I know a lot.

My dedication to writing is the reason all of these things have happened.

I didn’t give up when I got rejected or even when other things had to become the number one priority.

2 / Discipline

I make time for writing and when I show up, I work with little distraction, not even my inner critic can stop me.

My inner critic may say things like, ‘This is a waste of time. You’re ruining your life. This sucks. You suck. This is boring.’

I acknowledges these comments, often by writing them down, and I think, ‘okay this may suck. This could be boring, but I’m going to keep writing anyway.’ And then I do.

Part of the reason I am so disciplined with writing is two-fold.

One, I’ve worked a lot of soul crushing job and I really want to make this current trajectory to work.

Two, I know the following statement to be all too true: ‘Resisting writing is harder than writing.’ Even on bad days, even on shit days, writing is always better than not writing (even if only for five minutes).

Of course, you don’t have to be saving the world with your writing all the time. Even superheroes deserve a break.

3 / Application of Feedback

I’m great at receiving feedback from betareaders and editors, but I didn’t realise this was a strength until my mentor pointed it out!

They said so many people will accept punctuation suggestions but then reject all the critical advice surrounding plot, structure, characterisation, and so on.

I am always open to feedback and while I’m aware that makes these changes will be work, I know they will lead to a better book/short story/article.

I don’t take the criticism personally because I work with smart and kind people who I trust so I know their feedback is coming from a good, informed place, and it’s often great fun to brainstorm potential solutions.

As life coach, Cheryl Richardson says, ‘Don’t go to the hardware store for milk!’ by which she means, be selective in whom you seek advice from. 

It’s so easy to only focus on our weakness as a writer, and this makes sense because awareness is the first step to improving that aspect of our craft, but it’s also important that we celebrate and acknowledge what we’re actually good at too.

Know I’d love to hear from you. In the comments below, please share 1-3 of your writing superpowers. Remember, these can be related to mindset, behaviour, habits, or craft.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Writing and Productivity: What Can We Realistically Expect of Ourselves?

Our writing practice is rarely perfect, and for so many of us, it isn’t our number one priority (though it may be close!).

Other responsibilities like work, study, care giving, or even health may consume the bulk of your time, but in many ways, this is totally natural and to be expected.

Many professional writers only write for one to four hours a day, whether that’s a result of their schedules or their energy levels.

For the rest of us, we squeeze writing into the fringes of our life. Maybe twenty minutes before or after work or an hour or two over the weekend.

Most of us are doing way more than we should be doing. In fact, I shared the below image on my Instagram, Facebook, and newsletter a few weeks ago and the response was really interesting.

The point of this exercise was to show the mismatched between what I actually get done in a day compared to what social media and hustle culture tell me is reasonable. (Obviously, I exaggerated the left-hand side as a way to make this post funny, but also show how ridiculous these expectations are).

The comments I received back on this post were pretty illuminating. Everyone knew that the left-hand side was a joke, but many actually thought the right-hand side was also overloaded.

  • Some of the comments were things like:
  • Woah! That is intense!
  • So intimidating.
  • I would take half a day to write that.
  • Just one day? I’m in awe.
  • You are a maniac.
  • Puts my day to shame.

    Now, I’m not including those here as a way to big note myself, I’m sharing them because these responses legitimately surprised me. I don’t have a typical 9-5, Monday to Friday job. I have multiple streams of income from working as a sessional academic, coaching, hospitality, editing, and freelance writing.

I’m largely in charge of my schedule, and what I wrote on the right is what I literally did one random Tuesday. And to be honest, I was embarrassed to share this post because I didn’t think it was enough! I was afraid that it would make me look scattered, unprofessional, and unstructured.

On this particular day, I remember feeling frustrated that I hadn’t gotten more done. While I did do four writing session on my novel, I was also aware that I didn’t make any progress on my thesis, I didn’t edit the short story I’ve been working on or the three journal articles that I have in the pipeline.

I also worried that the mini-breaks throughout the day like taking an hour for lunch, meeting my mentor for coffee, and watching an episode of TV would make me look lazy and indulgent.

I shared this activity as a way to show other people how ridiculous hustle culture is and how real life is so much more colourful and responsive; instead, it showed me how much damn pressure I put on myself. Maybe you can relate.

By placing these two lists side-by-side, I wanted to visually depict how our mental to-do list measures up to what is possible in a given day.

The left-hand side doesn’t take into account interruptions or the daily chores we do to keep life ticking along, things like bills and laundry, and seldom does it refer to other people, whereas in real life, we’re usually dealing with other people all day.

Of course, this too can be a daily point of frustration.

Hustle culture and our obsession with productivity can mean that we deeply resent these interruptions because they are ‘stealing time’ away from writing. But something that we need to remind ourselves of is that the story isn’t going anywhere.

We can tend to these interruptions, responsibilities, or the administration of life and then return to our writing, or better yet, we write first and then tend to these tasks second.

Anyway, I just wanted to share these quick insights with you and invite you to have a crack at this activity yourself, either in the comments or using paper and pen as I did. If you do the latter, feel free to tag me on social media (@authortaraeast) or send me a copy via email (authortaraeast@gmail.com), I’d love to see what your two lists look like.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Creative Solutions for Handling the Inner critic

The inner critic needs little introduction. Regardless of where you are in the creative journey, you’re likely very familiar with this inner gremlin.

If you’re new to writing, then the inner critic will be your biggest enemy.

This may come as a surprise.

You may think that your lack of experience, knowledge, or ability may be your biggest hindrances, but these three aspects are within your control.

You can choose to gain experience by writing; you can improve your knowledge by reading fiction books, ‘how to write’ book, and attending courses, and you can improve your overall ability by combining these two steps together, applying what you’ve learnt to your writing practise.

Newbie writers must learn how to overwrite their inner critic and to ignore their harping. It will tell you that you’re no good, that writing is a waste of time, and that do body cares what you have to say. Some of this may be true.

Your writing may be bad, but writing is never a waste, and you have no idea what impact your writing will have on others.

If a newbie writer isn’t careful, their hunger and discipline can become dampened by their inner critic. It can stop you before you even begin, but it is possible to develop creative strategies for handling the critic so that you can continue doing what you do best: writing.

But don’t go thinking that established writers are free from the critic’s grip. Oh no, if anything, the voice gets louder and sneakier. Sometimes, it can be hard to separate the critic from the critical self. (NB: I can appreciate that these terms are similar, but stick with me!)

During the drafting of a manuscript neither the critic nor the critical self are invited to the party, but once you begin the revision process, the critical self is vital.

What’s the difference between these two voices?

Essentially, it’s how they talk.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

The inner critic is mean. The critic will say, this story is no good, you are a terrible writer, what a dumb idea, they did it better, maybe you should check your email instead of write, or you can’t pull this off.

The inner critic pinpoints a fault and makes it personal while offering no solution.

The critical self, confusingly, may say similar things, but it’s usually followed by a suggestion or some kind of encouragement.

For example, this story isn’t working (but you can fix it). This paragraph is awkward (rewrite it). What a dumb idea (make the plot more complex). Theydid it better (there’s a market for this). Maybe you should check your email (do not check your email!). You can’t pull this off (yet. Do some more research. Practise, practise, practise).

The critical self identifies when something isn’t work in the novel, but it doesn’t fling its hands into the air, admit defeat, and close up shop. Instead, it rolls up its sleeves and gets to work.

The critical self is our friend, especially during revision.

The inner critic is not our friend and every writer or creative must find a different way to handle it.

Everyone’s critic tends to offer up the same generic opinion — you suck and everything you write sucks — but our unique critic may fall into one of the following camps as well.

The Over Achiever:

You need to write and publish more content. You cannot rest! You must do more, more!

The Perfectionist:

Every piece of writing could do with one more edit.  Nothing is ever good enough or ‘ready’ for publication.

The Comparer:

Everyone is fantastic, productive, successful, inspired, motivated, and clever all the time. You, however, are none of these things ever.

The Procrastinator:

Publishing = being judged. So, you better think really hard about what you’re going to do. Make a plan and an outline. Think about it. Make a new plan and outline. Repeat.

The Victim:

Writing is pointless. No one want to read my stuff. I am so out of my league.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Perhaps reading these descriptions have helped you better identify your inner critic?

These categories can be used as a spring board for personifying your inner critic. Maybe you can give them a name, describe what they look like, and where they live.

The uber-creative author known as SARK, takes this one step further. Whenever her critic appears, she acknowledges them, listens to what they have to say, and then she imagines them being arrested and taken away, or she invents a job for them.

For example, you could ‘send’ your inner critic away to be an egg packer in France or to escort wild life crossing the road in South Dakota. Think about what type of job would suit an Over Achiever (CEO) and what type of job would suit a procrastinator (nap champion).

For type A personalities, this may seem a little silly, but you might be surprised by how effective this little mind game can be.  

When it comes to dealing with the inner critic, it can be helpful to have a wide range of solutions at your disposal for what works one day may not work the next.

Another activity you can do is sit with your inner critic and have a dialogue with them.

What are they worried about? What is the worst that could happen? Is this situation survivable? What might you do if such an event occurred? Would you really allow your life to unravel to this extend? Is it possible that you could prevent this, if so, how?

If the inner critic appears while you are working, and if you find that their opinions are interrupting your work flow, you may find that simply writing out this criticism on a piece of paper is enough to dispel its power.

When my critic starts piping up with comments like ‘this is boring’, I write down the comment, acknowledge that my writing may indeed be boring, but then continue on anyway.

For some people, a firm ‘no’ said a loud whenever the critic starts piping up may be enough to silence them.

For those who are a little more type A, you may find that questioning your critic’s opinion is the most effect method. When met with a criticism like, this book isn’t very interesting or you’re writing is bland, ask yourself, ‘Is that true? Can I be certain that is true?’ Naturally, the answer will always be ‘no’, because nothing (besides natural laws like gravity, death, and taxes) are certain.

We cannot be rid of our inner critic, and we wouldn’t want to. Their job is to keep us safe and sometimes it is important to be afraid. Fear stops us from crossing the road without looking or publishing an unedited first draft.

Fear is good, but not when it stops us from creating.

Our critics aren’t going anywhere, but with awareness, mindfulness, and playfulness we can learn to live and creative with them. Once you discover your unique formula, it’s possible to turn a critic into a creative ally.   


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

The Myth of the Ideal Writing Day

Imagining your ideal writing day. You can probably do this in a snap because you’ve imagined it so often, wished for it wistfully, and occasionally, even lived it.

We long to write under the perfect conditions because we so rarely experience them.

Days that are appointment free, when the house is empty, the dog is walked (or uncharacteristically uninterested in going for one!), and there’s a stack of left overs in the fridge.

Maybe a fire is going. Your favourite scented candle is let. The sun is falling through the window perfectly.

You have eight empty hours in front of you.

A day dedicated only to writing.

And that’s when the fun begins, because when there’s no distraction between you and the work there is only you and the work present.

As the Buddhist writer Jon Kabat-Zinn said, ‘wherever you go, there you are’.

Soon, you’re up from your desk doing laundry, shaking out dog beds, organising receipts, vacuuming the car, and weeding the front garden. Lunch time rolls around and then you start beating yourself up for allowing this to happen. For wasting such a perfect day.

Ideal writing days often become our worst writing days, because when we fail to perform, we have no one to blame but ourselves: no one was around to interrupt us, we didn’t have any errands to run, or appointments to make — hell, we didn’t even have to cook a meal!

Ideal writing days make for a beautiful fantasy and a pressure cooker reality.

We believe that because the conditions are perfect, the words should melt from our fingers like rare honey. The boundaries between us and the work should blur as we enter a state of deep focus where we forget that we — the author — even exist, and writing becomes a form of passive dictation rather than active creation.

That, dear friend, is a lot of pressure to put on a single day.

On an ordinary day, we have the luxury of blaming our family, friends, colleagues, maintenance workers, or the Administration of Life for interrupting our writing. Unfortunately, if we ‘waste’ an ideal writing day, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

As I write about often on this blog, we only have so many good hours in a day and it takes a lot of energy to write. For this reason, some of my most productive writing days have been days when I wrote in-between teaching classes or coaching clients, picking up an extra waitressing shift, or popping in and out of the house as I completed errands.

Why?

Because I didn’t have the luxury of mucking around. I had to make use of the time available to me. My writing windows were clear and defined: fifteen minutes here, an hour there.

There was no space to settle down into the work by making my environment pleasing with a scented candle, mug of tea, and roaring fire place. All those things are fantastic and lovely to do, but they are decoration; they are enhancements.

You don’t need any of them to write.

Believing we can only be productive when life gifts us our ideal conditions can be dangerous.

Sometimes, you really can’t write because you feel under the weather, you’re distracted by a personal or work related event, or your day is too full of other commitments.

But sometimes, we use imperfect conditions as excuses not to do the work. We can’t write because…

  • The kids are home.
  • Your partner is home.
  • You’re tired.
  • It’s the weekend.
  • It’s rainy.
  • It’s sunny.
  • You don’t have enough time.
  • The dog needs a walk.
  • There’s a hundred emails in your inbox.
  • You’re out of milk.
  • The wrong party won the last election.

And so on.

The truth is ideal writing days can be hard and non-ideal writing days can be hard.

Both can also be great. It just depends on you, the day, what stage the work is at, how the axis of the earth is aligning that day…

Whatever the conditions are, we need to identify what we most need from ourselves in that moment: kindness or firmness, maybe both?

Writing is a strange practise. In so many ways we live a life out of sync with those around us. Our daily efforts are without pay. There’s no sick leave or annual holidays. There’s little different been weekdays and weekends.

A cross word with a loved one or a mean comment online can derail a whole day while a vivid dream or a realisation while walking can fuel us for a week.

Writing, regardless of the conditions, whether we’re feeling inspired or not, is work. Some days the work feel easier, some days it is harder, the only thing that matters though is that we continue to show up for ourselves and the story we’ve committed to.

I know of no other way to live the writer’s life.

Now, I’d love to hear from you? Do you feel as though you can’t write outside of your ideal conditions? Do you frequently use excuses to get out of adding words to the page? Or do you actively work against this form of resistance? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.