What is a writer? This is what pops up when you Google it:
Are you a writer?
According to the dictionary, if you haven’t published anything, don’t write for work, or aren’t known for writing in a specific way, you’re not a writer.
But that’s not true!
If you regularly write stories, poetry, essays, or anything else for fun, or write in a journal, you’re a writer. There isn’t a specific task you must complete to be considered a writer. There’s no “write” of passage.
If you write, you’re a writer.
It took me forever to believe that.
I didn’t feel like I could call myself a writer for the longest time. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I wrote stories for fun, but I didn’t call myself a writer. I certainly couldn’t call myself a writer in college because I never wrote for fun and spent a lot of time questioning if I even liked writing while I obtained my degree in English. (Dramatic, I know.) When I got my first freelance writing job in March 2020, it took me a couple of weeks to realize that I was “officially” a writer.
This is imposter syndrome.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is when you can’t give yourself the credit you deserve because you feel like you’re faking it or doing it wrong. It’s not something you can be officially diagnosed with, but many people experience these feelings.
If you’re a writer with imposter syndrome, you might find writing challenging when you can’t even recognize your own talent. Perhaps you think that every paragraph or stanza is utter garbage, and your piece gets worse with every page. Maybe you deny yourself the title of Writer because you don’t have anything to show for yourself. Maybe you have awards, certificates, and degrees, but you still feel like you haven’t earned any of the praise you receive.
Imposter syndrome rears its ugly head in many ways.
My imposter syndrome looks like this:
I don’t like to tell people I’m a writer because then they’d ask me about what I’m writing, and I don’t have anything good enough to show them yet.
I don’t have a book published yet, so how can I be a writer? I’m a blogger, at best.
So many writers are better than me.
It’s difficult to write for more than thirty minutes at a time without distractions. Writers can write effortlessly.
I don’t read often enough which affects my ability to be a writer. If I don’t read, I’m not a writer.
I always have to look up definitions and I tend to spell a lot of words wrong. What kind of writer struggles like this?
It’s all silly, right?
I know I don’t need a bookshelf full of my work, be capable of focusing for six hours straight, or have perfect grammar to be a writer. Yet, I often worry about things like that.
Imposter syndrome can also cause you to work harder just to feel like you earned the title you already have. If you’re on the payroll as a Writer, Blogger, or Editor, or perhaps someone who manages these roles, you may find yourself working twice as hard just to feel like you deserve that title.
What To Do About Imposter Syndrome
Overcoming imposter syndrome will require a lot of work on your part because it will require you to change your mindset and thought patterns. Here are some things you can try if you don’t know where to start.
Look At The Facts
Those who tend to feel imposter syndrome are likely so overwhelmed by feelings that they overlook logic.
Analyze your life. What makes you a writer? Do you write poetry, fiction, or personal essays? Do you earn money for what you write? Do you volunteer your writing skills?
I’ll say it again: If you write, you’re a writer.
Perhaps you’re hesitant to call yourself a writer because there are Writers who get paid to write for a living. Don’t confuse the noun with the proper noun. You can be a writer without being a Writer. The only difference is that corporate gave you that capital W!
Talk About It
I don’t like to talk about how I feel, but I start to feel better when I finally do. Whether you turn to a family member, friend, Twitter mutual, or a therapist, talking about it will likely make you feel better.
If you’re not much of a talker, try writing it down in a journal first. Taking the time to sit with your thoughts and put them on the page might benefit you, too. Once you’ve faced your feelings, you might be able to talk about them with someone else.
Show Off Your Work
This one will contradict how you’re feeling, and that’s the point. If you don’t show people your work because “it’s not good enough,” that’s more of a reason to show it off! You think it’s not good enough, but how will you know if you’re right or wrong if you don’t receive any feedback? You may be pleasantly surprised once you let others see what you’re capable of.
Here are simple ways to show off your work:
Let a friend or family member read what you wrote recently
Start publishing posts on a blog
Trade stories or poems with a writer friend
Ask someone to critique your work
Post a sample of your work on social media
If you haven’t convinced yourself that you’re a writer, you might benefit from hearing others saying it. Letting others into this part of your life is difficult, but it’s worth doing.
I don’t let anyone see the novel I’m writing, and I spend far too long making sure my blog posts are near perfection before I publish them. I know firsthand that this suggestion is difficult, but that’s why I’m suggesting it!
Connect With Other Writers
Grow your circle of writing buddies and have them look at your work from time to time, whether it’s for critique or just a simple, “what do you think?” Writers can give you more helpful insight than your non-writer friends can. You’ll get more honest feedback if you’re in a writing group. The people you know typically spare your feelings, so it’s good to let people you’re not as close with see your work.
If you’re short on writing acquaintances, join groups, follow writers on social media, or follow writers’ blogs.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Stop Writing
Everyone deals with self-doubt at some point. The best thing you can do to overcome it by yourself is to keep writing. Imposter syndrome may convince you to give up, but that’s the last thing you should do!
Even if you can’t bring yourself to let others see your work, write every day. If you can’t convince yourself you’re good at what you do, write every day. You’re going to struggle, especially when your imposter syndrome is hard at work, but that’s all the more reason to keep trying.
On November 30th, 2021, I won National Novel Writing Month!
As you can see, I started off strong.
On the first day, I was ready to go. I wrote for an hour at midnight, a couple of hours in the morning, and again later in the evening. I wrote a total of 3,550 words that day. Getting so far ahead on the first day allowed me to stay ahead until I started to fall behind around the 19th.
My motivation staggered for several days, followed by a couple of days of not writing at all. That big jump at the end was on the 28th, when I wrote just over 5,000 words!
My daily word count chart has many ups and downs, some more drastic than others. Can you guess when I burned out a little?
Winning Is A Huge Deal
I won NaNoWriMo.
I won NaNoWriMo!
I haven’t said that in almost a week, and it still feels good. I squealed when I updated my word count and got the winner screen. Word on the street says I shed a tear, but I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor.
Winning NaNoWriMo is a huge feat. Writing a novel in one month isn’t easy. Perhaps some writers think it’s easy, but for me, it certainly wasn’t.
I attempted NaNoWriMo in 2014 in high school and again in 2016 in college. Both times I failed to reach even 7,000 words. This year, when I hit 7,000, I had a feeling I was going to win. This year felt different than my last two attempts: I had a detailed outline to keep me on course, I had more time to dedicate to writing, and I had a story I actually believed in.
At 10,000 words, I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t written that much for a single story before. 25,000 had me astonished. I fell behind for a while, but when I hit 40,000, I could see the finish line. I considered myself a winner already because there was no way I would let myself lose this.
To Think I Almost Gave Up On Writing
Mentally speaking, I had a rough time in college. I was working toward an English degree, but I fell out of love with writing while doing it. I declared I wanted to be an author when I grew up when I was eleven years old and felt that way until college. At eighteen years old, I wasn’t sure English was what I wanted to study. I felt like I wasn’t good at writing anymore, and I hadn’t read for fun in years. So what was I doing studying English?
Fast forward to my junior year, and you’ll see me fretting over my identity. I hated my English degree. I hated reading. I didn’t want to be a writer anymore. But how could I feel that way when I’d been writing stories since I was eight or nine? My whole life revolved around writing, so not loving it anymore made me question my purpose and who I was as a person. If I’m not a writer, who am I?
Fortunately, I progressed beyond my personal Dark Ages and enjoyed writing again. Once I got my first freelance job in March 2020, I got my confidence back. I was ghostwriting at the time and couldn’t take credit for my work, but I managed to find my published article online and couldn’t stop smiling. It felt right to see my work on the internet, even though someone else’s name was on it.
With each success freelancing brought me—sending my first invoice, having two gigs at once, my first decent-paying gig, my first article with my name on it, my very own website—my confidence got a boost. Most importantly, I’ve enjoyed every step of the way.
I’m A Writer
I’m a writer, there’s no doubt about it.
Winning NaNoWriMo was more than just winning a fun internet challenge; it solidified my identity as a writer and an author. I know who I want to be, and I’m confident I’ll get there.
Writing an entire novel and getting it published seemed impossible when I was eleven. But look at me now: I have 50,000 words and counting. I’m in the middle of accomplishing my dream. Wouldn’t she be proud?
I’m sure many first-time winners ask, “Now what?” on December 1st. I didn’t necessarily feel that way because I still have a book to write! I stopped at 50,000 words on the dot, but my story isn’t finished. I’m at least halfway through it at this point. I intended to have thirty chapters, and I’m currently on the fifteenth, but I think I’ll change the ending and have fewer chapters. It’s hard to say how many words my book will end up being.
I haven’t worked on it since the 30th because I needed a break. I’ve never written that consistently before in my life. Although I enjoyed it and hope to keep up that kind of progress in the future, I’m not the kind of person who likes to jump in headfirst and go full-throttle to the very end. I need to pace myself, or I’ll wear myself out and lose interest.
But I’ve had five days of rest, and now I’m ready to jump back in. I’m aiming to write 800 words every day instead of 1,667. I would prefer to do 1,000 each day if I can, but I need a number that won’t stress me out on the days where writing doesn’t seem like a fun activity.
Let me make one thing clear: I will finish this book and publish it.
It’s a promise to you and myself. I’ve come so far, and I won’t let myself down. Not after what I’ve been through.
Did you participate in NaNoWriMo? I’d love to hear about it!
For full disclosure, I intended to publish more NaNoWriMo tips posts, but it was a busy month for me, as you can imagine. Since writing is my day job, and I was writing almost 2,000 words for a novel every day, I was ready to sleep by the time I thought about blogging! My plan is to write them throughout the year and publish them next November.
At some point during NaNoWriMo, you’re probably going to find yourself in a plot hole. Maybe your story is stuck in time, moving too quickly, or it doesn’t make any sense. Now what?
The clock is ticking, and the days left in November are dwindling. You have to do something about it!
I’ve come up with a few different ways you can battle through writer’s block that will hopefully see you through to the end of 50,000 words and 30 days. Feel free to mix and match these ideas as you see fit to make them your own.
Kill a character
Create a new quest
Incorporate a new desire
Create a new conflict
Utilize strong emotions
Establish a time constraint
Travel to new territory
Discover a secret
Reach out to other writers
If you’re stuck going forward, try going backward.
Spending some time showing what your character has been through can prepare the reader for what the character is about to go through. If your character is about to make an irrational decision, showing a bit from their past will provide some much-needed insight as to why they would make that decision.
Using flashbacks can be a bit confusing if you don’t have a set structure, so if you’re in the middle of the story and decide to do this, take a minute to decide the best way to execute it.
If you don’t intend to do flashbacks often, you could get away with the character getting lost in thought while they do the dishes. If it’s going to happen often, a section break might be more fitting. You could go the route of dedicating entire chapters to flashbacks, making your reader jump back and forth to different times or places. Choose whatever makes the most sense with your story.
Kill a Character
This may seem like an easy way out. It may even seem like a trope if you frequently kill off characters. Or, maybe it seems outlandish and unnecessary! If you’re comfortable going this route, there are many ways you can incorporate a meaningful character death that will move the story forward.
Be cautious if you choose to remove a character. You may find yourself in a deeper plot hole if you took out someone who had a more significant part in the story than you realized! Before you do anything drastic, analyze everyone’s part in the story and make sure you have an idea of what to do next once they’re gone.
Kill the Main Character
This is for sure a bold move. But, if your story has a few main characters, consider killing one of them. It will provide plenty of emotion, mess up your characters’ plans, and most importantly, force you to come up with a new plot.
If one of your characters has The Answer, what happens if they die? Your other characters are left to find The Answer themselves, and the trauma of losing someone will likely make the task more difficult.
Removing the star of the show will allow you to bring in new blood or shift the focus to someone else who seems to be taking over the story. Sometimes the writing process will reveal that the secondary character you created isn’t so secondary after all. Removing the primary character will allow the others to shine.
Kill a Secondary Character
What happens if Batman loses his Robin? Or if Sherlock loses his Watson? If the main character loses their sidekick, it can cause them a world of heartache and trouble. Now they must learn to rely on someone else. If they’re the closed book kind of person, you get to explore their journey of opening up to someone new.
If you consider this method, allow this character to exist long enough that your readers can develop some kind of attachment to them. It will make the situation have a more significant emotional impact and allow your readers to better understand your main character’s emotions following the death.
Kill the Voice of Reason
Maybe your main character is high-strung or prone to thinking with their heart and not their mind. Who’s the person in their life who keeps them grounded? Kill them.
Maybe your character relies on phone calls from their mother who lives out of state to keep them sane. Removing the mother from the picture could open up new opportunities for the character, such as reconnecting with a family member at the funeral or becoming an independent person.
Kill Someone Insignificant
First of all, nobody is insignificant, but in books, characters can be insignificant to the story.
This may sound like a waste of words in your story, but hear me out.
Some characters are mentioned only once in the story, such as the butcher in the deli your character stops every week. The butcher’s death could cause the deli to close, and now your character’s routine is thrown off, and they have to find a new normal.
Sometimes you can hear of a death in the news that upsets you. Maybe the person was close to the age of one of your loved ones, and it causes you to think about how you wouldn’t be able to live without them. Or maybe the cause of death makes you think of a time you were in a similar situation. Put your character in this scenario and allow their train of thought to affect their actions moving forward.
How can an “insignificant” death become significant to your character?
Create a New Quest
Plots are rarely A → B, and nobody gets to their goal without a bit of hardship.
Plots have subplots. Subplots may even have subplots. As long as your character gets from the beginning to the end without straying too far off from the story’s focus, adding a subplot to fill out the story won’t hurt.
Let’s say your character is getting married. They’re excited and in love, and they know for sure they want to go through with the marriage. Yawn, right? What if their former lover dies and they are invited to the funeral? Attending the funeral may bring back fond memories and cause the fiance to think the flame never burned out, thus putting the soon-to-be newlyweds in a rocky place.
Maybe a fantasy character has a quest to go to the enemy’s castle, obtain an item, and bring it back to the queen. What if they get lost or end up at the wrong castle? Maybe they pick up a sidekick along the way, but that sidekick ends up being the enemy’s spy.
Adding a new quest may not always be the correct answer. There’s no point in making your characters go through something that won’t affect the outcome of the original plot in some way.
Incorporate a New Desire
Desires aren’t straightforward. When you’re hungry, you don’t just want food; you want to feel satisfied, taste something delicious, and avoid starvation. Every desire has layers, and some are easier to see than others.
In five words or less, what is your character’s desire?
Now, think about the complexity. Is their desire all on the surface? If so, find a way to make it deeper.
Nobody simply wants to get married. Depending on the person, they want to have someone they can depend on for the rest of their life. Or, maybe on a subconscious level, they’re hoping to fill an empty space in their heart that was created long ago.
Any desire can be complex. If your character’s isn’t, expanding it will not only add more to your plot, but it will make your character more dynamic.
Create a New Conflict
A story centered around a character who hates their annoying neighbor likely isn’t enough to get forty chapters. But maybe the annoying neighbor steals pets and lawn care equipment or harbors a dark secret buried in a hidden cellar, and the main character learns about it while the neighbor is on vacation.
Add a new conflict if your story seems dull to read or doesn’t have enough to get you to 50,000 words. This could be caused by a new character, a major event, a minor event, or even something caused by a secondary character. What happens if your main characters get into an argument and don’t want to work together anymore?
If you add a new conflict to your story, try adding something that isn’t quickly resolved in a few chapters. Concrete events like a canceled flight or a flat tire might cause a snowball effect, but they’re also likely to wrap up quickly and not add much to the story.
Try messing with emotions for conflict. A broken promise can cause trust issues that last until the final chapters of the story. You don’t have to mention the broken promise in every chapter, but you can base the character’s decisions around it.
Utilize Strong Emotions
Most of my suggestions already deal with emotions, but I think they deserve their own section because emotions are powerful. Think of all the commercials that try to manipulate you by making you feel sad or nostalgic.
If your characters don’t have feelings, your story will likely feel flat. But, if all of your characters are dynamic and show emotions, one flat character will feel surprisingly dynamic in comparison. Your reader will wonder why they seem so dead inside, and you get to reveal the reason later in the story.
How can emotions improve your story? How can they add layers?
Remember, the goal is to write an entire novel, so complex emotions that take some time to explain or reveal should be what you’re looking for.
As you’re trying to develop ways to put emotion in your story, remember that not all emotions have to be negative to make an impression! Joy, confidence, optimism, and curiosity aren’t negative, but they’re compelling enough to create new plot points.
Establish a Time Constraint
Your pregnant character doesn’t have three years to make up her mind about where she’s going to live before the baby is born. Your hero doesn’t have more than five minutes to diffuse the bomb.
When your characters have all the time in the world, there’s no stress and no motive to get the job done.
Once your time constraint is established, you can move to the fun part: what happens if your characters fail?
What happens when the mother has nowhere to go after her baby is born? What happens when the bomb explodes?
You don’t have to make your characters fail, but you should have an idea, so your characters (and yourself!) have the motivation to complete the goal in time. Sometimes you need a terrible thing to happen to spice it up, and consequences are certainly a way to make it happen.
Travel to New Territory
If your story is getting stale, try taking your characters somewhere else.
You could send them on a wild goose chase only to have them realize the answer to their problem was where they began. Or, maybe you decide to move a family across the country, and now everybody has to make sacrifices and adjustments.
If life is too easy or the scene is too familiar, move.
I’ll emphasize once again that you shouldn’t do this if it’s pointless. If the wild goose chase didn’t teach someone a lesson or foreshadow a future event, or the cross country relocation didn’t allow anyone to have a change of heart or a new perspective, consider why you did it in the first place. Were you desperate for a word count, or did you have a goal in mind? (Don’t forget, you’ll have plenty of time after NaNoWriMo to fix all your regrettable last-minute decisions.)
Discover a Secret
Secrets, secrets are no fun unlessI am a part of one.
Kids chanted that in elementary school, but I find that it still holds true.
Is there a secret your character could discover that will turn their life around? Could it ruin a life? Improve a life?
Many stories are founded upon a juicy secret waiting to be discovered. Having a secret will give you a lot of opportunities as a writer. You can choose if you want your reader to be in on the secret or if you want them to know as much as your character does. With a little bit of planning, you can allude to the secret in chapter four but not mention it until chapter twelve and not reveal any answers until the end of the book!
When you have a secret, everyone wants to know it. It will give your characters motivation, and more importantly, it will keep your readers hooked.
If it’s in the middle of NaNoWriMo and you’re considering adding a secret, make sure it’s not coming out of nowhere. The secret needs to be believable, and it should seem like something that existed from the beginning of the story unless it exists because of events that have happened during the story.
Reach Out to Other Writers
Talking to other writers may be what you need to iron out the ideas that are wadded up in your brain. I find that simply talking about my problems out loud allows me to find the solutions mid-sentence.
Reach out to other writers in your circle and ask if they’re willing to lend an ear. If you don’t have any writer friends, maybe your non-writer friends will suffice.
I encourage you to look at posts under the #NaNoWriMo and #amwriting hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. Many writers use these hashtags, and I’m sure there are people out there looking to make new friends and discuss plots. You can always find me on social media or start and join conversations on this post!
Review and Revise Your Current Plot
Now that you have some ideas look over your plot outline. If you’re not the planning type and don’t have an outline, create a quick one by listing out the main points and subpoints, just like you did for essays in school.
What are the big plot points in the story, and what are the essential events between them?
Now, look at the big plot points. Make sure they’re logical. Does Plot Point A logically lead to Plot Point B? Are the events between them realistic?
If everything in your jotted outline makes sense, shift your focus to whether or not it’s intriguing. Sure, it makes sense for John to quit his job because his boss upset him, but is that interesting? What did John’s boss do? Did the boss simply nag John to death, or did he force John into some shady business?
Not every word in your story will have your reader on the edge of their seat, but the outline should have you feeling that way. If it doesn’t, it’s time to revise it and add in some more events that will give your story the spice it’s lacking.
I hope this post can help at least one person get out of the hole they dug themself into. Remember: what’s written today can be edited tomorrow.
If you have more suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!
NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is an insanely ambitious undertaking for most writers. You should do it.
But wait, isn’t that the thing where you try to write an entire novel in just one month? Yes, it is.
It seems like a daunting task, but I think it’s an endeavor that every writer should take on at least once. Or, in my case, three times.
Yeah, I failed twice. My second attempt barely had any effort put into it. But you know what? There’s always next year! I find NaNoWriMo to be an alluring challenge. It’s proven to be impossible to me twice, but I’m going to do it eventually. For some reason, I feel like I must.
If you’re thinking about joining, but you’re hesitating, let me convince you to go on this crazy adventure with me.
What Is NaNoWriMo?
If you haven’t heard about it before, NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization hosting National Novel Writing Month every November since 1999! I’ll refer you to their website to learn more because they do amazing things besides encouraging writers to write until their fingers break every November.
You can choose to dive into the deep on your own, or you can make an account on their website to connect with others online or locally. I’m the lone wolf type, but I coerced a friend to do it with me this year.
What Are The Rules of NaNoWriMo?
Long story short, you need to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which comes out to 1,667 words per day.
These rules are meant to be broken, of course. Sometimes you’re on a roll, and you go way over the limit, while other days, you don’t feel well, or you’re too busy eating turkey and pumpkin pie to care. As long as you reach 50,000 words, you’re good to go.
Can you write more? Of course! Most novels dance around the 100,000 words mark, and you’re sure to find novels that are even longer.
Can you write less? Sure, but according to The Write Life, many publishers accept 50,000 words as the minimum length. But for the sake of your November writing goals, a finished book is a finished book, so I won’t tell anybody if you run a little short.
Where Do I Start?
It’s customary for many writers to begin prepping their novel in October, lovingly called Preptober. NaNoWriMo offers a planning calendar to help you build worlds, characters, and a plot. If their resources don’t suit your style, that’s okay! Search on Google or your preferred social media sites for prep tips, and you’ll find a plethora of ideas and guidelines.
If you’re like me, you’ll go off course and work on the details whenever you feel like it. For 2021, I spent September writing out a detailed plot outline because I knew I’d be too busy in October to do it. I sort of wrote up descriptions for the characters, but I gave up on that pretty quickly. I have a loose description of the setting written out, although the details are more fleshed out in my mind. I’m hoping they don’t get lost before I get around to writing them down.
Some writers go into this writing challenge fully equipped with everything they need, while others are like that kid who forgot to bring a calculator to the SAT test. When the clock strikes midnight on November 1st, what you have is all you’ve got, and it’s time to get writing.
Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo
If you’re on the fence about if you should join in the fun, let me push you. I think you should do it. If you don’t have a writer friend to be your support system, here I am. I spent many November 1sts wondering if I’d regret not joining, and I can assure you I ended up regretting it every time.
I think many writers don’t join because they don’t have someone encouraging them to do it. So, here are some reasons I think you should.
1. You Can See What You’re Capable of Doing
Can you really write an entire novel in just one month? You won’t know until you try.
Maybe you’re the type of person who loses motivation quickly, or you bail on projects because you’re easily distracted. (I sympathize. Have you seen the date of my previous blog post?) These bad habits make you think that you can’t accomplish much, but hey, you have to overcome them eventually, so why not now?
Maybe NaNoWriMo could be The Event in your life that shows you you’re capable of doing more than you give yourself credit for. It could be the breakthrough project that will help you succeed in the future.
Crashing and burning on day three is also an option, I won’t lie.
My first attempt in 2014 doesn’t even have 7,000 words. I tried again in 2016 and had even fewer words than the previous attempt. Will I surpass 7,000 this year? I’m excited to find out.
Homework, work, holidays, and life will get in the way. But as long as you tried, that’s what matters.
2. You Might Accomplish Something Great (Bragging Rights)
Yes, you might fail, but what if you succeed? What if, at the end of November 30th, you find yourself with a complete manuscript sitting in your computer files? Maybe you’ll hit 50,000 words but are nowhere near finished. You’ll still have about half of a book finished. Even 10,000 words are something to smile about.
Whatever you write in November is something you didn’t have written before, and that’s something worth bragging about. If you can’t say, “I finished my novel!” you’ll at least be able to say, “I started my novel!” How cool will that be?
3. You’ll Start A Project You Can Finish Later
Whether it’s a half-finished or entirely written manuscript, you’ll have a project ready for you to keep working on over the following months. That half-written book isn’t going to finish itself, so get to writing. That fully-finished book isn’t going to edit itself, either.
I still have my previous two attempts just waiting to be written. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to them, but I’m happy enough knowing I can go back to them when I’m ready. Part of me likes seeing my former progress frozen in time as if it’s a time capsule showing me my former ambitions.
4. You Can Get Your Schedule Organized
Depending on your typing speed and preparation, you’ll likely need at least an hour each day to dedicate to writing your novel. You’re probably looking at your calendar, wondering where you’re going to find that hour every day, right?
You have to make changes to accomplish something huge.
Maybe you need to wake up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later (please don’t do both). Maybe you have to sacrifice an hour of “me time” in the evenings after dinner. Or, pull out your laptop and write during meals.
Not a fan of unhealthy habits like losing sleep? Reorganize that schedule. Shift those priorities. It’s just one month. You may hate it, but it won’t be forever.
I’m fortunate enough to enjoy slow mornings as a freelancer, but I’m going to have to sacrifice an hour or two of it just to write. But I’m excited about it, so it shouldn’t be so bad.
If you can’t commit to daily writing, that’s okay, too. If you have spare time a couple of days each week, use that time block to write like the wind. Instead of focusing on 1,667 words per day, focus on 11,669 words per week. It’s a more daunting number, but you can divide it up as needed as you go about your week.
Excuses You’ll Make to Get Out of It
I can hear your “But, I—” from here. Whatever excuse you’ve made, I’ve probably made it, too.
“But, I’ve failed before.”
“But, I’m in college and have too much homework.”
“But, I’m too tired.”
Remember what I said before: It’s just one month. If you really, genuinely want to do this, you’re going to have to make some changes and stick with them.
We make excuses because we’re scared. We’re scared to be uncomfortable or fail. You can’t fail if you don’t try, right?
Wrong. I find myself regretting the things I was too scared to do more than the things I did.
So, let’s take a look at these excuses you’re probably going to make, and I’ll talk you out of them.
1. But I Don’t Have the Time
I hear you. I do. But, ask yourself these questions:
Do I lay in bed for 30 minutes on my phone before I go to sleep or after I wake up?
Do I spend a lot of time scrolling aimlessly on social media?
Do I have a long commute?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have some time to spare if you practice self-discipline.
Not all social media time is useless (talking to friends, promoting your business), but I can guarantee some of that time you spend scrolling could be better spent writing a novel.
If your phone can track your screen time, check how much time you spend on social media, games, and other apps. How much of that time can be dedicated to your book?
I know it’s 2021, and more people are working from home these days, but some of you might still have a long commute to work or school. If you’re riding public transportation, take a laptop or a notebook and pen with you. If you’re driving, record your voice and speak your pages into existence. Perhaps your passenger would be willing to transcribe your work for you.
I tried NaNoWriMo while I was in college. I “didn’t have the time,” but I know I did. I spent many hours between classes watching YouTube that I could’ve spent writing. I managed to find time for video games that should’ve been novel writing time. Okay, maybe that time should’ve been spent on homework, but you get the idea.
2. But I Celebrate Thanksgiving
If you’re in the United States, you probably wish NaNoWriMo could take place in a month that doesn’t have a major holiday. Why November when Wednesday is spent cooking, Thursday is spent dealing with spending time with family, and Friday is the day we go shopping? (I think Black Friday is a thing of the past, but I digress.)
Let’s refer back to reason number four why you should try NaNoWriMo: You can get your schedule organized. Load up a YouTube playlist of how to organize your life, and get to watching. How can you work around two or three days of family fun and food? Are you really going to let a couple of days throw off your whole month?
I won’t make any promises, but I’m sure you’ll have enough good writing days that you’ll have some wiggle room at the end of the month. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you should have around 42,000 words. If you can have 45,000 words before the holiday arrives, that will safely afford you two days of no writing.
Maybe your Thanksgiving isn’t a fantastic seven-course meal, and your household isn’t filled to the brim with extended family members. If your holiday is more subtle or not observed, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Grab your laptop and get to writing. (Shoo away family members as needed.)
3. But My Idea Isn’t Good Enough
Maybe you didn’t prepare for NaNoWriMo at all, or you realized 10,000 words in that there’s a significant plot hole. Sometimes, what seemed like a good idea will look like a bad idea and leave you wondering how on earth you’re going to get to 50,000 words in the end.
Here are a few suggestions if you find yourself stuck at some point in November:
Write out of order. If you’re stuck in chapter 7 but know what happens in chapter 14, go ahead and write chapter 14 while those ideas are fresh in your mind. Do you have enough ideas to write chapters 14-20? Do it! You can figure out 7-13 later.
Take a day to revise your plot. It’s risky to get behind on your word count, but it’s even riskier to move forward without a solid plan.
Consult a plot generator. The internet is full of helpful websites for moments such as these. Try a plot generator like this one to see if it can suggest some ideas to help you move to the next bit.
You shouldn’t be worrying about this if you haven’t started writing yet. You don’t know where your creativity will take you! Maybe you know that Character A will do X during Plot Point A, and they’ll do Z during Plot Point C, but what’s the Y and B? It’s okay if you don’t know. Let’s worry about writing chapter 1 first.
4. But My Attention Span Is Too Short
Sigh, me too.
As someone who struggles to stay focused, I find that the Pomodoro Technique works wonders. You only have to commit to working for 25 minutes, and then you can take a five-minute break. When that break is over, work for another 25 minutes. Your fourth break should be 20-30 minutes. You can adjust the time increments as needed to fit your working style.
If that doesn’t work for you:
Download apps, Chrome extensions, or utilize websites to help you turn off distractions.
Lock yourself in your room with your phone on the other side of the door.
Clear everything off your desk except a notebook and a pen.
Pick a new location to write in during November.
Do what you must to make sure you’ll keep your writing commitments.
The most crucial step is to prioritize writing.
I struggle to stay focused on my work unless it’s the day it’s due. Suddenly, I’m on top of things. Why? Because my priorities shift when I realize what day it is. With my phone silenced and my body glued to the chair (metaphorically), I get my work done because it has to be done. There’s no other option.
Until you genuinely prioritize writing, you’re likely going to struggle actually doing it.
Prepare, For NaNoWriMo Is Nigh
At the time of publishing this blog post, NaNoWriMo 2021 is thirteen days away. I’m about 90% prepared. I printed up a word count calendar and taped it to my wall to serve as my reminder that it’s almost time to get to work.
I truly hope you consider joining if you haven’t decided to already. You don’t need to be a fantastic writer to join. You don’t have to sacrifice every hour of sleep in the name of success, but I’ll admire your audacity if you do.
Writing is more fun with friends, so find me on social media if you don’t have a writing buddy! I’ll be more than happy to hear about your plot and characters, help you brainstorm when you get stuck, and prod you every day with “Have you reached your word count?” That is if you want me to bug you, of course. Follow me on Twitter to read my progress updates and complain about it with me in the wee hours of the night.
I hope to publish some NaNoWriMo tips either before or during November. If I don’t, you know why.
Starting a blog is easy with the right tools. Finding that perfect blog niche, however, is the tough part. You might have a topic that you’re passionate about, but can you stick with it for a long time? It can be hard to tell.
I recently started a new blog called Where Plants Go to Die. It’s about gardening and houseplants (and my inability to keep them alive most the time). I wasn’t sure if it was the right blog niche for me. I’ve wanted to have a plant-related blog for a long time, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stick with it since I only occasionally keep a garden during the summer and kill all my houseplants (hence the title).
How do you decide if the idea for your new blog is the right one for you? I wasn’t sure how to tackle this at first, so I started a brain dump. I wrote out a bunch of questions, then, I went back and answered those questions.
This simple process helped me do many things:
Realize how passionate I am about this topic
Get an idea of how I would be able to use the blog
Create an action plan
This thought process helped me out tremendously. If you want to start a blog of your own, I highly recommend trying this for yourself.
Here are the questions I asked. I’ll go into detail about each one:
What is it about?
Who is it for?
What are the possible main topics?
What are possible secondary topics?
How often would you like to post?
How often could you realistically post?
How much do you care about this topic?
How much could you write about this topic?
What kind of expertise is required?
Do you have it?
Could you obtain it?
What would “the end of the blog” look like?
Can you contribute unique information?
Is this professional or personal?
What monetization opportunities are there?
Are they feasible?
Is monetization important to you?
How could you connect with other bloggers in this niche?
What are some blog titles you could use?
Why do you want to make this blog?
Not all questions need an answer. They’re only meant to help you start thinking so you can determine if your blog idea is the right path.
Write out the answers to the questions. Don’t just think about the answers. Write them out so you can see them. Write out your thoughts, concerns, and ideas. Treat it like a messy journal entry. If answering a question toward the end makes you think of something to write down for a question in the beginning, go ahead and do so. I did that, myself.
You’re not just writing useless answers. You’re documenting ideas that you can come back to later.
What is it about?
It’s a simple question, but it’s arguably the most important. A blog without direction is messy.
Imagine going to a blog that promises to be about baking, but there are multiple posts about politics, auto repair, and volunteering. If you want your blog to be about all of those topics, that’s perfectly fine. But, you need to advertise your blog as such.
Your blog topic is going to draw in readers that are interested in that topic. If someone wants to go to your blog about baking and they have no interest whatsoever in auto repair, they might stop visiting your blog if you keep posting about that.
Decide what your blog is about and don’t stray from it. Of course, it’s okay if you want your blog to be a little of this and a little of that. Just make sure your readers know that ahead of time.
Who is it for?
Think about who your target audience is. This might be a tough question because it easily has a simple answer: anybody who’s interested.
That’s not necessarily the case, however.
Let’s go back to the example of the baking/politics/auto repair/volunteering blog. Who is that for? Handy bakers who want to make the world a better place? That’s specific, but maybe that’s the intended audience. If so, you can easily market your blog to that audience and form a community online who enjoys going to your blog.
I’ll use my plant blog as another example. It’s about plants. More specifically, houseplants and gardening. Most plant lovers love both houseplants and gardening. With all the videos and websites I’ve seen about the plant obsession, I don’t think I’ve seen too many people who are enthusiastic about one and hates the other. I can easily market my blog to “plant lovers.”
It’s possible for me to have issues with my target audience, however. If someone hates gardening but loves houseplants, and I start talking about gardening for a month or two at a time, I risk losing the houseplant lovers. If I venture out into the topic of environmentalism because it sort of pertains to plants, I risk losing all of my plant-loving audience if they aren’t interested in environmentalism, because that’s not why they came to the blog.
What are possible main topics?
Make a list of everything that pertains directly to your blog topic. Don’t steer too far off course. This list needs to be as focused on the topic as possible. These topics are the foundation of your blog.
Here are some main topics I wrote for my plant blog when I went through this process myself:
Plant rescue (Propagating or restoring plants I find)
What are possible secondary topics?
Think of secondary topics as being a little off-topic, but not so far off that your main audience will lose interest. Make a list for this group, as well.
Again, here are some things I wrote for my blog:
Plant wish lists
My favorite ____
My secondary topics are personal. They’d only interest the readers that want to get to know me as a person.
How often would you like to post?
What are your visions for this blog? Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly posts? This where you’re allowed to reach for the stars.
how often could you realistically post?
This is not where you reach for the stars. Instead, you need to be as realistic as possible.
Things to think about when answering this question include:
How much time can you contribute to this blog?
Is the topic evergreen? That is, is it relevant all year long?
What obligations do you have that would prevent you from posting regularly?
The example of the baking/politics/auto repair/volunteering blog might have difficulty juggling all four topics. Baking tends to be more popular in November and December because of holidays. Politics tends to be more popular every four years in the USA. Auto repair is evergreen. Volunteering is evergreen but might spike if a cause is getting a lot of attention in the media.
Let’s say this blog is your blog, and you decide to post once a week. Which topic do you post about, and how do you decide that? Or do you make four posts each week? That might be difficult to keep up with, especially if blogging isn’t your full-time job.
How much do you care about this topic?
A blogger that lacks passion might not be a blogger for long. You need to care about the topic enough to be able to post again and again, especially if you’re trying to make your blog work for you financially.
Caring might not even mean enjoying it. If you want your blog to be about a serious topic, like a cause or a political issue, you might not think it’s too fun to write about. But, if you care deeply about the subject, you’ll have the drive to continue.
how much could you write about this topic?
In other words, how much content do you have to contribute to this topic?
When I was answering this question, I noted that sometimes I don’t have money to buy a new houseplant, and I don’t keep a garden in the winter. That means I might have some dry spots on my plant blog where I don’t have much content to contribute. I’ll have to rely on some evergreen informational content to carry me through the winter.
This is where your secondary topics can help you. If you find yourself in a slow spot, take a look at the secondary topics you jotted down to see if there’s something else you can write about until you’re able to get back into the groove with your regular programming.
What kind of expertise is required?
Some topics require expertise. Do you have it? Could you obtain it?
If your blog is personal or opinion-based and you don’t intend to claim expertise in an area, you could probably skip this question. Still, if you’re going to make claims, it’s important to prove that you know what you’re doing, even if you only have to prove it to yourself.
What would the “end of the blog” look like?
Everything has to come to an end eventually. Or does it? You need to decide if your blog has a specific lifespan or an end goal. If it’s the kind of blog that will last “forever” as long as there’s content available, you need to figure out if it’s possible to run out of content. If it is possible, when will that happen?
Remember that the end of your blog can’t always be determined. Perhaps a new obligation will pop up in your life that will take up too much of your blogging time. Maybe you want to blog about a fad that will eventually go out of style. Consider these things when you’re answering this question.
Can you contribute unique information?
What do you bring to the table that’s different than what everyone else is writing?
If you Google, “how to bake a cake,” you will see several results about vanilla cake, white cake, and of course, how to bake a cake. Most of it looks the same, so it almost doesn’t matter which website you choose.
You want to stand out, right? If someone stumbles across your blog, you need to be memorable. How can you do that? If you know the secret to bake a vanilla cake in 5 minutes flat, that’s unique. You might draw in someone’s attention.
Don’t stress yourself over standing out. While it’s important for getting more views, what’s most important is that your blog provides good content, whether “good” means useful, informative, or entertaining.
Is this Professional or personal?
Are you going to use your voice, or are you going to sound like Wikipedia? It’s possible to be professional and provide information while showing your personality.
That’s what I try to accomplish on this blog. It’s my blog, not a blog; there’s a difference! I want to provide resources for writers, so I try to keep it on the professional side. However, I’m a person with a personality, and I don’t mind if it shows through.
Your blog topic, audience, and purpose will all determine how the blog should be written. A professional tone probably isn’t appropriate for a blog titled A Day in the Life of Fido, featuring your dog.
What Monetization opportunities are there?
Money isn’t everything, but with blogging, it can be something. Even if your purpose for blogging isn’t to make money, it’s wise to be aware of ways your blog could be a source of income, in case you do decide to go that route eventually.
Are they feasible?
Once you determine the possible income opportunities of your blog, consider what steps to take to make it happen. Again, money doesn’t have to be the driving force for your blog, but it doesn’t hurt to start taking steps in that direction in the very beginning.
Is Monetization important to you?
The answer to this question isn’t too important. All you need to know is your purpose for blogging. If monetization is an important aspect of blogging for you, then it will probably change how you go about building and marketing your blog.
How could you connect with other bloggers in this niche?
Socializing with other bloggers is a great way to spread awareness about your blog while simultaneously showing support for others. Blogging can be a solitary activity, but it can also be community driven. It’s possible that the people interested in reading about your topic have their own blogs in the same niche, as well.
It’s wise to connect with other bloggers so you can support each other. You might recommend their blog to someone, and in return, they can recommend yours to someone else. It’s a great way to help each other find new readers.
Places you can connect with other bloggers include:
Social media (make use of those hashtags!)
What are some blog titles you could use?
Search the blog names as you brainstorm so you won’t get your heart set on a title, only to find out later that it’s taken.
Why do you want to make this blog?
When I jotted down these questions, I saved answering this one for last. As you answer all these questions, you’re thinking about the why. I grew more excited to start my plant and gardening blog with each question. By the time I reached this one, I had quite a bit to say about it.
I had been contemplating a plant blog for quite a long time. As I mentioned before, though, I had concerns with starting it up because my gardening and houseplant care can be sporadic. I needed to think about if I could really commit to blogging about it.
Answering these questions helped me out a lot. It helped me think of future blog post ideas, and now I have a bit of a game plan for the blog, too. Better yet, it allowed me to have new content for this blog, too.
Hopefully, these questions will help you out, too. I didn’t get these questions from other websites — I sat down and started typing out questions based on the answers I needed to find. This list isn’t perfect, and I can’t promise that it’ll help you solve all your problems, but I certainly hope it’ll at least point you in the right direction.
Seasoned bloggers, what other questions would you add to the list?
New bloggers, did something in this post help you in any way? I’d love to hear if it did.
If you write, I’m sure you’re well-acquainted with dear old Writer’s Block. He shows up when you don’t want him to and stays way past his welcome. So rude, right?
It feels like I’ve always been well-acquainted with writer’s block. Whether it was essays for classes or writing for fun, there was always something trying to stop me. I’d either feel like I was out of ideas or didn’t know how to start. I still get stuck now, and I’m sure it’s not something that goes away.
Fortunately, this can be treated! Here are some tips to help push through this blockage. They are all tactics I personally use. (I cannot guarantee a 100% success rate.)
Listen to [different] music.
What do you usually listen to when you’re writing? If you’re having trouble getting started or continuing an idea, try changing up your music. If you typically listen to instrumental, try something with lyrics. If you listen to any music, try nature sounds. Try turning off the TV if you write while you watch, or try total silence if you’re used to having noise.
You can also try a different source of music. I’m an avid user of Spotify and will swear by it until I die, but sometimes when I feel like I’m in a rut, I’ll look for instrumental music on YouTube to get some new ideas. The smallest change can really help me out.
Journal for 10-20 minutes.
Sometimes writer’s block is just a form of procrastination. If you find yourself unable to write what needs to be written for work or school, try writing about yourself. Grab a journal or a Google Doc and treat it like a diary page – complain, write down the dream you had last night in vivid detail, or write about what you should be writing. Once you get into the flow of writing, it should be much easier for you to work on more important things.
This one isn’t recommended if you’re under a tight deadline or lack self-control. I’ve learned that sometimes the best way to combat writer’s block is to walk away from the project for a bit. This can easily turn into putting it off for longer than intended, so be careful! Taking a break from the project will give you time to rest and think about it, which will likely allow you to brainstorm new ideas.
If you’re worried about time and procrastination, walk away literally. Take a walk for 30 – 60 minutes outside. I’m able to get a lot of deep thinking done when I take a walk alone. It’s definitely a great boost in productivity in the afternoon!
Commit to a specific length of time.
Setting a time limit for a writing session will create a sense of pressure that will hopefully aid you in writing yourself out of your writer’s block. Set a timer for however long you need, even if it’s only fifteen minutes. Once the timer begins, don’t do anything but write! If you have to get up, pause the timer so you’ll be able to come back and fulfill the requirement you made. Setting a timer and not following through defeats the purpose.
Create the perfect writing environment.
Before you sit down to write, make your writing area fully stocked and ready to go so you won’t feel the need to get up in the middle of it. This tip works well with the previous one of setting a timer. Use the bathroom beforehand, have a couple of snacks right there with you along with something to drink, and make sure you have enough of your writing tools, whether that’s a fully charged battery or paper and ink.
Make sure your timer is set correctly and your music is loaded up fully before you begin writing, as well. If you’re the kind of person that gets easily distracted by background programs you’re working with, this is super important. I often get distracted just to make sure good music is queued up or that my timer will indeed stop after one hour, so I try to make sure those things are taken care of before I start writing. Also, be sure to silence your devices!
To create the perfect writing environment, know your weaknesses, and how to prevent them!
How do you overcome writer’s block? Changing my routine is always helpful, so I’m happy to hear your advice.
Although I will be specifically talking about writing in this post, I think this difficulty of beginning can apply to any project. You have an idea, you think it through, you promise yourself you’ll start it tomorrow, and then tomorrow never comes because you keep putting it off.
I often find myself staring at the blinking cursor at the top of the page with no words there. I have an idea, but how do I start it? Dialogue? Describe the setting? How do I start off a blog post? I’m sure many of you can relate to this to some extent.
Why is it so hard to start? I have a few ideas about this.
We fear not being able to finish what we started.
Failing doesn’t feel good. Nobody wakes up excited to fail something. So if we don’t start a project, we can’t have the opportunity to fail…right? That’s not a great philosophy to live by, but I think some of us might have that subconscious thought from time to time.
The only way to overcome this fear is to attack it head-on. It can be difficult to finish what you started writing, especially if it’s long, but imagine how accomplished you’ll feel once you have it done. Let that be what drives you to the finish line.
The blank page is daunting.
A cursor blinks amid a sea of white, sending a shiver down your spine. How is one supposed to create a brilliant blog post, a highly-detailed universe, or moving poetry out of nothing? Isn’t it wild how our imaginations can create absolutely anything we want it to through words?
To do this, we need discipline. I’ve learned that if I don’t sit myself down and say, “You’re going to write whether you like it or not,” it won’t get done. The empty page is the biggest speed bump. Just crack your knuckles and get to writing, even if the words don’t flow right away.
We don’t know how to start.
If you’ve ever heard of NaNoWriMo, you probably know what planners and “pantsers” are. I tend to be a “pantser,” meaning that I rarely plan out what I’m going to write. I’m becoming a planner, however. I’ve learned that it keeps me focused. But my pantser way of life always leaves me wondering how I’m going to begin a story.
I spend a lot of time thinking about my story ideas as movies. Do I picture a drone-like view of the setting first, or dialogue between two characters that reveal a little bit about the situation? It’s difficult to decide most of the time, but the best way I overcome this is to pick one and write. If I end up hating it, that’s fine. I can always change it later!
I have also learned that the best way to start writing is to start writing. Sometimes I begin with a journal entry in a different document. I spend a few minutes writing about my day or what I hope to accomplish in my writing session. Once I get started, it’s easy for me to switch over to my story and write for that because I already built up the momentum.
Writing can be hard work.
Writing doesn’t sound hard. All you have to do is transfer your idea onto paper/word processor via writing or typing with the power of language. That’s it. Easy peasy.
Sometimes, writing is neither easy nor peasy. Focusing can be a chore, there are one hundred other things you should be doing, you’d rather take a nap, the chair is too uncomfortable, or you have to face a topic that’s really uncomfortable to write. There will always be a reason not to write. When you’re faced with the temptation to back away from the computer or paper, ask yourself this:
What made me want to write this in the first place?
What put that blog post in your mind? What sparked that idea for your next chapter? What is that thought you so desperately want to share with the world? Things worth doing will be hard to do. Remind yourself why you wanted to do it and use that as motivation. Write it down on a sticky note and put it on the wall in front of you, if you have to. Write it on your hand, if that will help. You’ve set out to write for one reason or another, so you need to commit and finish.
What are your reasons for not writing? What makes it so hard for you to start a new project? I’d love to discuss it in the comments!
In my previous blog post, I suggested that social media caused me to hate reading. I believe that to be true. I also believe that I don’t really hate reading; I just developed unhealthy habits that resulted in a bad relationship with reading.
It’s like eating healthy. You decide to make a healthy change and start eating well for several months, but then the holidays hit, and before you know it, you’re back to your old ways of eating junk and garbage. Once you’re eating junk and garbage, it’s hard to imagine yourself eating healthy because, well, that’s gross and broccoli and kale can’t compare to fried foods and sugar.
My relationship with reading is precisely like that. Thank you, Twitter.
I loved reading as a kid. As a teeny kid, I always wanted my parents to read to me. When I began learning to read, I would get so excited about being literate that I would run around the room screaming, “I’m reading! I’m reading!”
I continued to be an avid reader in school. AR tests? Aced them. Finished an assignment early? I spent my free time reading. I always went to the school library when I could and always had as many books checked out as they’d let me (and they were promptly returned as soon as I finished them). The Scholastic Book Fair? That was as exciting as the annual South Plains Fair!
I joined Facebook when I was thirteen. I believe it was the following year when I joined Twitter and Instagram, eventually joining most other social networking sites. If I could do it all over again, I’m not sure I would make any of the accounts. I’m a self-proclaimed Twitter addict who has tried to quit several times with little success. (It’s not all bad, though! I’ve met so many amazing people online and have even met a few of them. My best friend, whom I met online, and I converse almost exclusively through Twitter DMs, and we like it that way.)
I remained a book lover until I was fifteen or so. As a young teenager, I was reading through two Beverly Lewis novels a week for the most part! But I slowly started reading books less and less while my time online was becoming more and more frequent.
By the time I graduated high school, I didn’t read for fun anymore. Picking up a book felt like a chore. I preferred to mindlessly scroll the social media timelines for several hours, however. Why was this? I have a hunch that it’s social media’s fault.
Why I Blame Social Media for My Decline in Reading
1. I was conditioned to the restraints of 140 characters.
Before Twitter allowed 280 characters, we were only allowed 140. That isn’t a lot of space to create complete thoughts, and it can only hold so much information. I learned how to confine many of my thoughts to just one or two tweets, even if I had much more to say. Many of my technical writing classes taught us how to be concise, so learning to do this wasn’t necessarily bad; however, there is a downside to this, and that’s my second reason for blaming social media.
2. I was conditioned to believe that short blurbs of information are enough.
Why read more if I can read less? Why bother reading an entire news article when a headline gets to the point? Why read a book when accounts like @ASmallFiction exist? Obviously, the answer is because news articles offer more information, and books are more satisfying, engaging, and meaningful. But for me, spending so much time searching for quick snippets of information led me to become lazy. I couldn’t be bothered to read because it would take too long.
This leads to a more in-depth discussion of instant gratification. Reading a book takes some time. Reading a headline does not. I became too accustomed to receiving information instantly that I began to hate acquiring it the “old” way. I’m not sure if this is a characteristic of the lazy or of the generation that was raised online. I know there are many people who spend quite a bit of time online but also love to read. My third point might be my answer.
3. I became addicted to social media and/or my phone.
It shames me to say it, but I got to a point where sometimes I couldn’t read two pages without checking my phone! Fortunately, I’m able to combat this by locking my phone up with an app or silencing it and putting it on the other side of the room. I often think about how disappointing it is that I allowed my phone to control me this much. It isn’t healthy, and reading isn’t the only area of my life that my social media/phone addiction has affected. While I was in college, it was so hard to focus on homework at times because I was so concerned with what was happening on my phone. Mind you, I was often trying to have conversations with friends, so I wasn’t necessarily itching to read the timeline. At least I was able to buckle down and work when I absolutely had to.
These three things are what I attribute to my bad relationship with reading. I was struggling throughout all of this in college. Of course, most of the learning in college comes from many, many reading assignments, so I did not enjoy reading all that much in school. Clearly, I rarely read for fun during these four years!
So, now what?
Now, I’m trying to regain that love I once had for reading. Over the years, I’ve learned that if I don’t read, I don’t write. Guess what I haven’t been doing much of for several years now? I’m starting out by making myself read for a little bit each day, and I’ll work my way up. I know I’ll fall back into it easily if I can break my current habits and form new ones.
It’s okay to move in and out of hobbies, but reading is one of those hobbies that I sometimes feel bad for not enjoying. This world is full of talented people with beautiful things to say, and as a writer, I really need to read to connect with other writers. I often feel guilty for not reading, but I’m going to “get better.” Life is all about making improvements, and I think that I still love to read. I just need to get past my short attention span!
If you have a book, series, or author you love to read, let me know in the comments! I’m currently finishing Carrie by Stephen King that I started last year, but got too busy with school work to complete. I also have The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins sitting on my shelf that I’ll begin as soon as I finish Carrie.
Happy 2020! I hope you’re all having a great start to this new year. This week I decided to reflect on my college education and talk about why I ended up being more partial toward my minor.
It was 2015 when I started going to college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study just yet, but I was there taking the basics, which meant I had about two years to decide what I wanted to dedicate my life to. That was so intimidating – how was I supposed to know what I wanted to do when I was only eighteen?
I had a hunch that I would major in English. When I was a kid, I decided I wanted to be an author when I grew up, and I still sort of felt that way as a college freshman. My ambition to write had waned at that point, but writing was the only thing I had ever been passionate about that I could study in college. (If I could’ve gotten a BA in Yarn Arts, I would’ve headed to grad school afterward!)
During the two years of taking basic college courses, my father tried to coax me into majoring in technical communication. He said I could easily find work and make a decent amount of money with it. It sounded promising, but I didn’t quite understand what it was, even when I looked it up. I wasn’t too confident about majoring in something that I didn’t understand. What if I ended up hating it when I finally understood what technical communication was after declaring it as my major? I didn’t want to have to change majors and spend more time and money than I had to while I was in school. But, on the other hand, I had grown to hate reading because of the numerous readings I was being assigned. The English major didn’t sound too promising at that point, either.
When it was time to declare my major, I chose English. I threw my dad a bone by choosing technical communication as my minor. My understanding of it was still fuzzy, but it seemed like a stable career path, which I knew I needed since I was beginning to understand just how unstable a creative writing job can be in the beginning. Since I hated reading at this point and wasn’t sure if technical communication was the right path, I was feeling nervous about it. But I told myself that technical communication would be my temporary career. I could quit once I write a book.
In the Fall 2017 semester, I took the introductory technical communication course. The first portion of the semester was spent working on resumes and LinkedIn profiles (which, admittedly, did not make a great first impression on me). Once we got to the second segment in the course, however, I got a taste of what technical writing is all about. I had to choose a text and find its reading level, and then rewrite it to fit an 8th-grade reading level. I also had to pair this with a memo explaining the changes I made.
Something you need to know about me: I have always loved “sounding official.” I’ve mentioned it before on my website and blog about how I’d always write up different documents when I was a kid. Well, writing a memo falls into the category of things I enjoyed doing!
The third segment of the semester became even more fun for me because, in a group, we had to make a training manual for a hotel (all fake, of course). I genuinely enjoyed that assignment. Writing several pages of instructions was fun for me. I did that several times as a kid, but now, I was learning how to do it for real.
It was during this assignment that I had my “epiphany,” if you will, that creative writing had not been my only passion. I had been passionate about technical writing, too. I just didn’t know it had a name or that I was doing it.
I really needed that epiphany. I was so worried about whether I was taking the right direction. I wasn’t enjoying my English classes as much as I had hoped I would, so to find out that I would enjoy my minor was a huge weight off my shoulders. Now, let it be known that during this semester, I was also taking a creative writing class for the first time, which I was also loving, as well. This ended up being one of my favorite semesters.
My upper-level classes became a bit redundant. I would have a couple of literature classes, a creative writing class here or there, and some technical communication classes. I once loved reading but didn’t anymore (I blame social media, and I might detour and blog about this topic eventually), so I always looked forward to my technical writing classes. My Professional Report Writing class was my favorite. I wrote many memos, a business plan, a job posting, and even a letter firing a hypothetical employee. How fun is that?
After the Professional Report Writing class, I began to regret not choosing technical communication as my major. I wanted to switch my major and minor around, but I was so ready to be finished with college that I didn’t want to end up adding an extra semester in case I had too many literature classes that wouldn’t have filled the technical communication requirements.
The Three reasons
I enjoyed my minor more than my major for three reasons. The first being that it was never redundant. My English major proved to be predictable: I’d settle for a literature class I was only partially interested in because my course plan didn’t allow me to have many creative writing classes. The technical writing classes, however, always had something different. I had no idea if I would be in a group or by myself. One of my classes was about design, and we got to use colored pencils and notebooks. I got to illustrate my favorite TED Talk, and I really enjoyed doing that!
The second reason I loved my minor more than my major is that I was passionate about it. I like to write. When I chose English as my major, I had to pick a concentration. I chose creative writing because that was the very reason I was choosing English in the first place. Unfortunately, I only took three, maybe four, creative writing classes and way more literature classes than I thought I would take. It makes sense that studying English involves so much reading, but I thought it would be different since I was supposedly concentrating on creative writing.
My minor allowed me to write. No, it wasn’t creative in the whimsical sense, but it was creative in terms of how I wanted to present the information. I learned that technical writing isn’t just about writing; how that information is presented to the audience is almost more important than the information itself.
Finally, the third and probably the most important reason I enjoyed my minor more than my major was that it forced me to get uncomfortable. Spending hours in books and writing essays about said books was comfortable for me. It didn’t involve anyone but me. My minor, however, required collaboration. I had several group projects and peer reviews and presentations and all of it gave me so much anxiety. But in the end, I’m glad I had to do it. I’m a very introverted person who’s self-diagnosed with social anxiety, so I tend to stay in my comfort zone because it’s easy. But this minor forced me to set up a LinkedIn profile and a website, work with several classmates I didn’t know that well, go to said classmate’s houses, and change up my schedule. I admire a set-in-stone schedule, but many days were thrown off course because so-and-so couldn’t meet until three and the other so-and-so was only available on the third Thursday of the month if the date ended with a three and if it was sunny but raining outside. Okay, it was never that ridiculous, but to my plan-ahead self, it sure seemed like it!
My minor–well, college in general–grew me as a person. It forced me to deal with my anxiety and to take things as they come. I learned that not everything can fit neatly in a calendar and that I can’t freak out every time I have to change plans last minute.
Let me clarify that I didn’t hate my major. It just wasn’t what I thought it would be, but it also taught me valuable lessons, as well. The lesson I value the most is that I learned I really can accomplish something if I put my mind to it. There were several occasions when I had to stay up late to finish reading something even if I really didn’t want to. My phone was often a distraction, but if I locked it up with an app like Forest, put it on silent mode, and threw it across the room, I could work for a lengthy period of time without getting distracted. Every time I said, “I can’t,” I ended up proving myself wrong.
Ultimately, I loved my minor because I thought the assignments were enjoyable, and I looked forward to most of them. But I think the self-improvement side of it is what makes me look at it more fondly now that it’s all behind me. It allowed me to grow as a person, and it served as a source of hope during a time of uncertainty.