Inspirational Posts

Do It Different Day’: Another Way to Build Your Writing Productivity and Just Maybe, Save Your Sanity! by Beth Camp

So you’re deep in revision, the phone is turned off, the to-do list is covered up, and you want to make progress with your story, but you keep thinking about what needs to be done next in the ‘real’ world.

Maybe you write early in the morning or late at night. You write in the middle, between, or before all those other commitments come screaming at you. The job. The kids. Volunteer work. Dare I say it? OTHER writing projects? As in that beta read that’s due this week, chapters waiting for the red pen for your critique group, and that flash fiction you want to submit. Whether you are self-published or not, we add marketing to the list. And social media. By the way, is your e-mail inbox full?

I can always tell when ‘real life’ becomes overwhelming. My office looks like Attila the Hun just paid a visit and took prisoners. And I stop writing.

My challenge this month was balancing writing with commitments to others. My e-mail ballooned to over 600 messages, many gems from writing gurus, and I couldn’t find time to write for 4 days. All too quickly, that fear that I would never write, not be able to finish this beautiful story I’m working on, began to grow. Adding to my doubt, several readers popped into my life to ask: “When are you going to finish the next book?” My daughter reassured me that I’m not a coke machine, producing consumables, but a three-year turnaround is a long time for readers to wait.

I read somewhere that decluttering is a way of life, not just an annual purge.

We start the day and end it with routine. Our stories have structure, and whether we recognize the warp and woof of each day, so too do we weave our own designs for living – the when, the how, and the what – with each small decision we make.

Remember that old ‘fight or flight’ syndrome from psychology class? We all run away at times to those people, activities, or treats that soothe us. Do you run away from conflict and challenge? Consider asking: What have I needed to do for so long and keep putting off? This follows the theory that what we dread falls to the bottom of the list and somehow remains invisible as it grows in our subconscious like a dark, dark alien, sucking energy as it drains away our focus and attention from ‘what matters most’.

Consider facing into your challenges. And if you make lists, now’s the time! Try a ‘Do it Different Day.’

  1. Set your writing aside.
  2. Look at your work space and grab that endless to-do list.
  3. Consider your commitments.
  4. Assess those tasks that interrupt your writing. What gets in the way? Why?
  5. Analyze what needs to be done, break larger jobs into smaller steps.
  6. Tackle the hardest task on your list.
  7. Spend some time organizing/cleaning up your work area.

Why not set that timer for 30 minutes? OK, 15 minutes. Try baby steps and – most important — notice your reaction AFTER those 30 minutes of focused organizing/cleaning are complete.

Know yourself. Know that the crazy disorder will reoccur, unplanned disasters will create havoc (and leave emotional ripples), deadlines will shift, and distractions will multiply. But you can make a ‘Do It Different Day’ a part of your life, kind of a scheduled way to bring order and creativity in balance with the rest of your ‘real’ life and your writing life.

Reality check: I’m back on track with my revision and meeting my minimum of one hour a day on revision. E-mails are comfortably under 100. No, I haven’t confronted that to-be-read pile, and I haven’t watered my long-suffering African violets, but I’m writing. My office welcomes me with materials organized by project. I won’t lose my place. I’m not sure when exactly my next “Do It Different Day” will occur, but this strategy works for me. I hope it helps YOU!


Save the Trees: A Cautionary Tale by Eden Mabee

I took a long time in writing this. I wasn’t sure that a post of this nature would be appropriate—or welcome. It’s not very inspirational. Nor have I filled it with writerly wisdom.

What it is… is important.

Under the purview of a ROW80 sponsor post, it involves the insidious creep of an “Everyone else seems to be doing so well, what is wrong with me? I’m so tired and stressed and… I must be doing something wrong” mindset that pervade social media these days, including ROW80 member blogs, and the inherent dishonesty behind that belief.

a5068ffe5391e9181e63d7e5a4653814a379b8a78647bcace01a494eeeb29245Yes, the ROW80 is the Writing Challenge that Knows You have a Life, so failure is an option where the Cray-cray comes to visit. But how many of us really want to share those personal heartbreaks that mess up our word counts or knock our goals out for the count a week or more? We cannot stop life from having its way with us, but we can stop sharing—we don’t want to seem like we’re whining or being downers, after all.

I’ve been involved in the ROW80 for about four years, and I’ve sponsored for a couple. I’ve watched how we all seem to back off from employing the support we could give each other when life get hard. I’ve seen how we beat back Life’s Frustrations with cudgels of optimism, “I know I can do better next week”…. only to drop from the challenge within the next few check-ins.

I know this pattern from personal experience too. Last year, around now I dropped out of the ROW80 (and a few other writing groups I was involved in) for several months (I’ve only returned early this spring). Life had gotten … punchy, and on top of the many things I was dealing with, I was blocked…. blocked as I had never believed I could be.

From a series of deaths (two family, two friends, and one pet), to having to help my son deal with adjustment to two different schools, to the university bureaucracy as I sought to finish my teaching degree, my husband’s change of employment after sixteen years…. It’s been one hectic year, the kind of year that could –should have filled a thousand stories.

If I could have… as I said, I was blocked. I was stressed, tired… and I was desperate for the solace of my words.

"Do All The Things!" with dust bunnies subletting the vacancy in my emotional and physical reserves.

Do All The Things!” with dust bunnies subletting the vacancy in my emotional and physical reserves.

I returned to the ROW80 because of this… After all, what could be a more natural place to find a way back to one’s words than to take up a writing challenge? It might have been fine, but in my mad need, I also joined the two CampNaNoWriMos and the JuNoWriMo (as crew). I was determined to kick my Muse into action, somehow.

It took nearly ending the life of an innocent maple tree with the 2-ton guided missile that is my truck after a late night visit to my parents to accept that I couldn’t do it all anymore. I never could.

From my social media posts, few would have known. I tried to stay upbeat. I tried to cheer on fellow writers, believing that showing how much things weren’t going well would discourage others. I wonder now, though if it wasn’t dishonest. Things weren’t going well, and this was bad; I wasn’t allowing the ROW80 to be what it was designed to be. At its simplest, I wasn’t truthful in my check-ins. At the worst, I was denying my fellow ROWers the chance to see the bad with the good and the chance to be supportive… to be part of the community that they joined.

This is why I had to write this post, why it was important for me to share.

Because you deserve better of me… and of yourselves. We are a community. Maybe we don’t want to always air our dirty laundry, but we owe it to each other to admit when things just suck. We should feel comfortable enough to say when we need to step away without falling off the world. Because we’re not the only ones out there who need a kind supportive word.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll save a tree for it.


Eden Mabee

Am I Doing This On Purpose? by Shan Jeniah Burton

Do you have any odd little quirks to the way you do routine tasks – things that make perfect sense to you, but maybe not to anyone else?

When I take laundry out of the washer, I shake out each piece before dropping it in the basket. Once, while watching me do this, my Accomplice said, “You could just put it all in the basket at once. The dryer doesn’t need it to be separated.”

He was right – if my goal had just been getting the laundry into the dryer. But, while I shake out our clothing, piece by piece, I think about who owns it, and how thankful I am to have them in my life. I remember special memories and everyday moments that article of clothing was a part of. I get amazed, again and again, at how quickly the children have gone from tiny socks and onesies to people with clothes almost as large as my own – or, in my teen son’s case, larger!

For me, the laundry is a chance to be mindful of our right now. It connects me to the story of our family – almost two decades now of washing laundry as a married woman, and almost fifteen of doing it as a parent. Sometimes, now, those once-babies do the laundry, and I’m removed from this stage of the process. In what might seem the blink of an eye, I could be back to washing for two.

Clean laundry is more of a happy side effect, for me. My deeper purpose is to savor and relish the moments and the fact that we are all here, together, right now, when we haven’t always been, and may not always be. Dirty laundry is more than just a chore to me – it’s the story of us.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Sometimes I forget that my purpose is to be mindful. I get frustrated a the endless round of things I feel I should be tending to. I do them with a spirit of “gotta get this done” that saps the joy, and makes the doing more like a punishment than a blessing. I forget that some people don’t have a home to tend, a family, or passions that beckon and fulfills them. I’m fortunate enough to have all of these, and more.

When I’m in a funk about the goals I’m not meeting, I forget the deeper reason for setting themwhether that’s hometending that makes this a more pleasant place for all of us to live, or embracing my passion for writing, or supporting my childrens’ learning.

It can be easy to get swallowed up in the pursuit of goals, to the point where we forget that we have a higher purpose.

That to-do list mentality gets in the way of finding something much less tangible, and much more valuable. If we’re lucky, we get a reminder, and a chance to reset, like I did a few weeks ago, when I had one of the most intense migraines of my life.

I also had a long list of writing goals I wanted to attend to.

Writing was absolutely out of the question. That added to the tension of being incapacitated – until I had a revelation. I was making myself even more miserable because I couldn’t meet the arbitrary time frames I’d set. I was getting hung up on concrete goals, and that kept me focused on what I couldn’t do.

I decided to set time limit goals aside in favor of the purpose they were intended to serve: creating and preparing my Kifo Island novel series for self-publication.

In Smart Change, Dr. Art Markham cites management philosopher Peter Drucker’s distinction between achievements (or goals met) and contributions.

  • Goals are the path to contributions. Completing a goal is an achievement in the service of the overarching purpose it supports.

  • Contributions are larger scale, and make an impact. For instance, writing a rough draft of a novel is a goal; bringing the book to publication is a contribution, with many more steps (achievements) between the two.

In my laundry story, the goal is clean clothes. The contribution is mindfulness in my service to my family – a much bigger deal, for all of us.

This is an important distinction, because I sometimes get into a mindset of wanting to complete my goals without considering if they still support my desired contributions.

Here are some signals that clue me in that I’m in a “goal” rather than a “contribution” frame of mind:

  • A home that slides too far into unlovely chaos;

  • Feeling like I’m cheating on my writing if I don’t get to the computer right away, and stay there;

  • Frustration with other activities of daily life (like needing to sleep and eat!) and the inevitable hiccups along the way, because they’re “taking me” from my goals and my work.

What if I find myself slipping back into that “to-do list” mentality:”

I’m giving myself permission, here and now, to take time off. I will set my list and schedules aside for a day or three, and allow myself the space to just be – without guilt.

  • to putter,

  • or play,

  • or to do something absolutely not writing-related in any sense,

  • or to dive back into writing for the sheer passion of it.

So…I’ve talked a lot about me. Now, it’s your turn:

  • Are your goals working to move you closer to your contributions?

  • Do you know what your intended contributions are?

  • Are there steps you can take to relax and make sure you’re putting your energy, time, and focus to the best use to support those contributions, while not making yourself crazy with “have-tos”?

If you answered no to the first two points, I hope you’ll join me in taking some time this round to consider how to get a better handle on your goals and contribution planning, so that you get the most out of the time you’re writing – and the time you’re doing those Other Things life is full of, without stressing yourself out!


Shan Jeniah Burton

On “Finding” Your Writing Voice by Denise D. Young

Voice seems to be the most elusive and hard to define aspect of writing. A Writers Digest article defines voice this way:

What the heck is “voice”? By this, do editors mean “style”? I do not think so. By voice, I think they mean not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre. They want to read an author who is like no other. An original. A standout. A voice.

In short, it’s what we choose to notice, the words we use, the phrases, the types of sentences. Voice is not only difficult to define; it’s tough to teach.

Over the years, I’ve written a number of different works: poems that explore my connection to the goddess and nature; short stories following a character through a harrowing, life-changing moment; epic novels about saving a world from impending doom; blog posts chronicling my journey as a writer.

And I no longer worry about writing voice. Because somehow, through all the practice, it’s just there. It’s in the words I choose to describe a character or setting. It’s in the settings I choose for my characters, the cottages and cabins and castles and gardens and ancient forests. It’s in the stories I choose to write (or the ones that choose me, depending on how you look at it).

Many of you have found your voice the same way. You wrote your first million words, anything from flash fiction to sprawling 100,000-word novels, and you discovered your voice along the way.

And if you’re new at this, still in the first stages of your journey and you hear people talking about this thing called voice, and you hear agents say that they’re looking for “a distinctive voice,” or you hear that what really captivates readers is a strong voice, my advice is to write. Write often. Write a lot. Even if you’re just scribbling a few lines here or there. Even if it’s in a journal. Just write.

Because I have learned that writing voice cannot be found when you look for it. It is discovered during your journey as a writer. One day you will look back at a body of work and realize your voice has been there all along.

So go forth. And write. Often. And a lot.

What about you? How do you define “voice”? How did you discover yours—or are you still discovering it?


Denise D. Young

Summer Writing by Fallon Brown

There are times of the year that are better for some things than others. In the winter, I can do a lot of knitting. In the summer, I don’t even want to touch yarn, or rather have it touching me.  When it’s already hot out, and I’m dripping sweat from doing nothing more than sitting (and this is in Pennsylvania-don’t want to imagine summer in the South), that’s the last thing I want, even the lighter yarns. What does this have to do with writing, you’re probably asking yourself. Well, a good bit really. I find the same to hold true, though mostly in reverse.

I’m not sure exactly why it is, but it does seem like I write more during the summer than in the winter. I’d think this would be the opposite, as we usually have more going on in the summer. There may be a few reasons for this, though. One is that, due to my husband’s job, he’s laid off from at least Thanksgiving until usually sometime in March (sometimes this starts sooner, depending on the weather. It hard to do any road construction when the snow starts flying). With him home, my whole routine tends to get thrown off. Another possible reason for this difference is that a lot of the writing challenges, aside from RoW80, that I participate in, happen during the spring and summer. There’s Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July, Story a Day in May (and September, but I haven’t participated in that second one yet), JuNoWriMo in (you guessed it) June. The official NaNoWriMo is the only one that occurs outside those two seasons. And that’s probably another reason. Most of the other months, when there isn’t some kind of writing challenge, are when I concentrate on editing. Therefore, my numbers are lower.  

Even though I tend to write more during those months, summer has some challenges specific to the season. First, the kids are home pretty much all day. My kids are pretty independent even at 5 and 8. But, there are still times they need my help with something, or I need to break up a fight (which has been pretty common just in the first month of summer vacation). Then, there’s all the get-togethers: birthday parties (we have ones in May, June, August, and September, plus any the kids are invited to for friends), graduation parties, family reunions, and anything else that comes up. Thankfully (for me) most of these are on weekends, and I do most of my writing during the week. The other challenge, at least for me, is the weather. I don’t handle the heat very well, so when it gets hot, sometimes I just don’t want to do anything, even sit at the computer to write. Just one more reason I like to get up early. I can get most of my words in before the temperature climbs.

There are some things that can help get the words down even with these obstacles. One of these is writing sprints. You can usually find someone on twitter running sprints, or ask if someone wants to join you in one. I’ve actually been using the word sprint page at for my own writing. They run for the first twenty-five minutes of each half hour, leaving a five minute break between. Of course, you can continue to write during those breaks if you wish to. This works best for me when there are other people there actually writing so I can try to stay ahead (my competitive streak kicks in at the oddest times). You can set it up to save automatically to dropbox, so I go there and copy my words back into the document I’m working on. I used to use write or die, but I’ve found I like this a lot better. And, of course, there’s all the WriMo challenges I mentioned above. Having other people to write with and a particular goal to reach for, helps keep me on track.

Sometimes, getting the words down means having to be flexible. You may have to switch around your usual routine. Usually when the kids are in school, I’ll get most of my words done then. It’ll be a little different this year since both kids will finally be in school all day. I’ll still probably shoot for meeting my writing goals in the morning. This summer I’ve tried a few different things to make sure I get my writing and everything else done. At the moment, I’m writing to the end of a mywriteclub sprint then doing something from my to-do list during the break then picking back up with writing for the rest of the next sprint. Eventually I get everything done. And sometimes it’s necessary to work among distractions if you can’t avoid them completely. I’ve been taking my computer outside to the table on our porch while the kids play. And right now I’m listening to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon while I type this. If I really need to concentrate, I put my wireless headphones in and music playing on my phone, but I’ve found that I can write even without that (like when my headphones die & I have to charge them). The words usually flow better when I have the music, but I don’t “need” it.

I’ve found that I work better at different things during different times of the year. But, that’s just the thing, it’s what works for me. Now, that may not be the way it works out for you. My techniques for getting words down even during those distracted months may not work for you. The important thing is finding what does work for you. In the end, that’s what really matters, finding a way to get the words down.


Fallon Brown

Rising to the Challenge by Elizabeth Mitchell

Kait’s opening post challenges all of us to make progress on our goals every day, suggesting a very neat wordcount and accountability tool called Pacemaker. She justifies the challenge clearly, “If your goal is 1,000 words a day and you only manage 250, that’s 250 that you didn’t have before and your brain stayed at least a little bit in the story. THAT is what I want to reward this round–ANY consistent progress toward your goal, no matter how small. Whether you’re chipping away at that final word count by inches or feet, I want you to make an effort to do something each and every day.”


I have long been a believer in working on something every day. When I taught French, I was amazed how much my students forgot during semester breaks. I’m not a neuroscientist, but I believe that daily work creates pathways that make future work easier. I know that the languages I use more often come much more easily to me than the ones I haven’t read or spoken in months.


I’ve mentioned before in posts on this blog about writing every day. I realize that isn’t for everyone. However, I know how hard it is for me to revisit something I haven’t thought about for a while–rereading and refreshing my memory. Although even I am too young to have had to pump well water, the expression of “priming the pump” is still valid. I will bet that those who argued against my suggestions think about their writing every day, daydream about what their characters look like, or eavesdrop in a coffee shop for plot twists. I’ve seen comments about characters demanding attention, or the proliferation of plot bunnies, so I am sure most of you have your writing close to the surface most of the time. Note that Kait doesn’t say “write every day,” but “do something each and every day.”


My two major difficulties are life and procrastination. The latter sings its siren song to me all the time, “Tomorrow’s soon enough. You’re tired right now.” It goes hand in hand with my perfectionism, which says in my ear, “Don’t do it unless you can do it perfectly.” To which I respond, “A plague o’ both your houses.” I am going to repeat two phrases to myself: “Start where you are,” and “You can’t edit a blank page.” I need to learn about dialogue, but that’s okay, that is progress toward my goal.  And I need to put words on the page, even when they are not perfect, or even when my surroundings are not perfect.


At the moment I am writing this post, I have a garage piled to the ceiling with boxes and furniture, I am living out of a suitcase, and I have been without internet for a little bit longer than a week. It would be easy for me to claim the impossibility of writing, and to be totally honest, I have surprised myself. I am writing by hand, but I am writing.


Kait acknowledges life difficulties in the opening post for this Round, but gives no quarter, “Stop letting everything else in your life come first. No excuses.” Darn her, she’s right. No matter how crazy my life may be, I do have the time to scribble a few sentences from a half-remembered dream, or an insight that occurred in the shower. I have created three projects on Pacemaker for the Round, and am continuing to learn how best to use it.  I agree with Kait, that what I do with my time is a choice, and I choose writing. After all, I can always procrastinate with the laundry.


What are you doing to meet Kait’s challenge?


Elizabeth Mitchell

Branding and Re-branding Yourself by Steph Beth Nickel

Slightly altered versions of this post will also appear on InScribe Writers Online and This & That for Writers.


Ask These Questions


What can you see yourself writing about five years from now? Ten years from now?


What is the overarching theme of your writing? What fires you up? What can’t you stop talking—and writing—about?


How do you want to be known? Close to home and out in cyberspace?


If you can narrow your focus in these areas, you just may have found your theme, your tagline, your brand.


Narrow Your Focus


The name of my blog was originally “Steph’s Eclectic Interests.” That should give you an indication of how not focused I am. A dear friend and fellow writer said, “Each blog you post is focused on a single topic.” Talk about gracious!


A few years back, another dear friend said my tagline should be “Riding Shotgun.” And although I gave her a funny look, when she explained her reasoning, I was humbled and honoured. Because I “come alongside” others and assist them, she thought “Riding Shotgun” would be descriptive of that.


Not being a country music fan (don’t hate me), I never did go with her suggestion, but I don’t suppose I’ll ever forget it.


Like so many other people, I’m what I call “stupid busy.” It isn’t that I don’t like what I do—to the contrary. But it is long past time that I had a singular focus. And recently, I found it. <bouncing up and down, clapping>


A lot of factors came together to make it happen.


On June 25, I attended the Saturday sessions at the Write Canada conference. There, Belinda Burston stopped me to take my picture. Brenda J. Wood joined me in the shot. And I’m so glad she did! That picture is now plastered across the Web. It’s one of those shots that makes me grin—me with my newly dyed burgundy hair and Brenda with her flowered hat. (Who says writers are a stuffy, serious lot?)


That picture was a significant contributing factor to what followed. And late Thursday night, a tagline popped into my head. It was perfect: “To Nurture & Inspire.” I headed off to Dreamland flying high.


I spent the best parts of Friday, July 1, re-branding myself online. I had to find the right background (thank you,, the right font and the right graphic (thank you,


Follow These Quick Tips


So, to close, I’d like to recommend five quick tips for branding (or re-branding) yourself:


  1. Keep an eye out. You never know when inspiration is going to strike. Re-branding myself wasn’t on my To Do list, but one thing led to another and then another, and finally, “Poof!”


  1. Get creative. Explore sites like Pixabay and PicMonkey. Let your Inner Creative out to play. It’s amazing how much fun you can have. I admit that I’m more of a “pantser” when it comes to these kinds of endeavours. However, if you like to be more deliberate in your planning, you can find how-to YouTube videos on just about any subject.


  1. Know when it’s time to hire a pro. You may not have the time or the know-how to create your own brand. However, you will want to work hands-on with whomever you hire. You want to be able to say, “If I could have done it on my own, this is exactly what I would have come up with.”


  1. Your brand isn’t forever. At least it doesn’t have to be. If your focus narrows or changes, even if you just get tired of it, it’s alright to rework it. Don’t get me wrong; if you’re well-established, it may take some time for your readers to adjust, but I would venture a guess that most of them will.


And …


  1. Enjoy yourself. Even if your message is a serious one, I believe there’s something satisfying about choosing a profile picture and tagline as well as colours and graphics that are an extension of your message—and further, an extension of yourself.


Do you have a brand? Are you pleased with it or is it time for some revamping?


Steph Beth Nickel