Here’s One Major Reason People Stop Reading Your Work and How You Can Fix It

We need to talk about you. Specifically, we need to address your use of singular, first-person pronouns.

Yes, that phrase, “singular, first-person pronouns,” probably makes you sleepy and surfaces nightmare flashbacks to grammar class. But using too many of these words in the wrong place can encourage readers to disengage from your work.

Good writing, the best kind of writing, comes from our hearts. It shares personal anecdotes and relays our experiences as stories, tales that may be humorous, gut-wrenching, relatable, or outlandish. By putting ourselves into our writing, we connect with readers.

Yet, we’re also walking the balance beam of reader engagement. Talk too much about ourselves, and readers will abandon the piece.

Your writing doesn’t do its job if no one reads it. Plus, poor engagement can hurt your online content’s search engine rankings.

This story highlights how singular, first-person pronouns push readers away from our work and what we can do about it.

But first, let’s identify what we’re referring to with singular, first-person pronouns.

Person smiling, pointing at the camera
Photo by Stephan Seeber from Pexels

Words that tell readers, ‘Move along.’

Singular, first-person pronouns are the words as I, me, my, mine, and myself.

Most of us use these words quite a bit while speaking and in our writing. It’s hard to tell a story, especially when sharing something from our life, without using these words.

Yet using too many of these words can cause your reader to move along.

Think about the most annoying social media posts you see. There’s a good chance many of them focus solely on the person publishing the post and that the individual uses a lot of me, my, myself, and I.

You don’t want to read someone talking only about themselves, and neither do your readers.

The worst place for singular, first-person pronouns

While it’s a good idea to limit the number of singular, first-person pronouns in your writing, there’s one spot in your work where you should avoid using these words as much as possible: At the beginning of your sentences.

That’s because many people are skim readers, bouncing from one sentence to the next, especially while reading online content.

And singular, first-person pronouns act as stop words for many readers.

Meaning, readers skimming through articles hit the brakes when they come to a sentence starting with “I” or “my.” First, they wonder where they fit into the sentence. Then they often abandon whatever they’re reading.

To keep readers engaged, limit the number of sentences you start with singular, first-person pronouns. Doing so may be difficult at first, but it’s not impossible.

Here’s how you can do it.

How to reduce sentences that start with singular, first-person pronouns

When first trying to limit how often you begin sentences with a singular, first-person pronoun, don’t worry about it while writing. Instead, make this something you focus on while editing your work.

Get your first draft done. Then, read through your writing, identifying any sentence beginning with a singular, first-person pronoun.

Next, rewrite these sentences, one at a time, being mindful about what you want to communicate in that sentence while beginning it with a different word or phrase.

For example, take this sentence from a recent story I published: “The weekend I arrived in Lake Placid happened to be during the 2021 Lake Placid Ironman.”

Let’s say I wrote, in my first draft, the sentence as, “I arrived in Lake Placid the same weekend as the 2021 Lake Placid Ironman.”

While editing, I see the sentence starts with “I.” With rearranging, I can begin the sentence with something other than a singular, first-person pronoun while letting the sentence still communicate what it needs to.

It’s a small change, easy to make, but one with huge potential.

Instead of beginning a sentence with a stop word, in this case, “I,” the sentence invites the reader to continue. Doing so reduces the chance the reader will click away and will instead finish reading the piece.

One small tweak for writers, one giant leap for readers

Some of the best writing contains our experiences and lessons learned, but that doesn’t mean we have to start sentences with singular, first-person pronouns, such as “I” and “my.”

These pronouns operate as stop words, encouraging readers to stop reading our writing.

We fail as writers when people don’t finish reading what we write. And having readers abandon our online content can negatively impact our organic search traffic.

But by limiting the sentences we start with singular, first-person pronouns, we can increase the likelihood that readers will stick with our writing until the end.

Write your first draft without considering your singular, first-person pronoun use. Then, when editing your draft, rework any sentences starting with words such as “I” and “my.”

The more you make these edits, the sooner you’ll include fewer sentences starting with singular, first-person pronouns in your first drafts. It’s a slight shift, but one that can have a massive impact on how readers engage with your writing. 

Include fewer sentences beginning with “me” and “I,” and you’ll have more people reading your work from beginning to end.

Lake Placid’s Tourism Economy Is Roaring Back, But Are There Enough People to Tend the Fire?

You see the signs all over town. “Help wanted,” some read, others, “Now hiring.”

Lake Placid, located along Mirror Lake in New York’s Adirondack Park, is booming. At least it appears that way, walking down sidewalks crowded with people, waiting in line to buy a cup of coffee or a scoop of ice cream. 

But perhaps the most apparent indication of the town’s economic health is in the “help wanted” signs plastered on store windows and restaurant doors. 

“The thing people don’t understand is businesses here can’t get the stuff they need,” a shopkeeper in Saranac, down the road from Lake Placid, says. “You see restaurants closed, but it’s because they can’t get the ingredients they need.”

The issue, the shopkeeper says, is that one supplier provides food for most of the area’s restaurants. And that supplier’s having trouble finding delivery drivers. Without people driving their trucks, the supplier can’t fulfill customers’ orders.

“And where’s the first place they cut?” the shopkeeper says. “Here in the North Country.”

Main Street in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Business is booming along Lake Placid’s Main Street, but are there enough workers to keep businesses open? | Nicholas E. Barron © 2021

A hometown for athletic competitions

Lake Placid is one of three places that’s twice hosted the Winter Olympics. St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Innsbruck, Austria being the other two.

Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. Today, Lake Placid High School overlooks where the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1980 games took place. And the ski jump remains easily visible from many points across town.

And Lake Placid welcomes tourists year-round. Winter enthusiasts find many activities to enjoy, including skiing and snowboarding, while outdoor lovers can hike, canoe, camp, and more in the warmer months.

The weekend I arrived in Lake Placid happened to be during the 2021 Lake Placid Ironman. 

Athletes came from all across the northeast United States and perhaps farther afield to compete in the Ironman Triathlon, featuring a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and marathon-length run. Their families and friends came, too, to show support.

The Ironman didn’t bring me to town. And, yet, as race day unfolded, the supporters’ cheers and cowbell ringing captured my attention. 

It wasn’t long before I stood along the route, taking photos as cyclists and runners passed. Family members clamored for glimpses of their loved ones.

“There he is!” a kid shouts. “There’s dad!”

Even someone who never cared about an Ironman competition can’t help but feel strumming emotions at witnessing so many people encouraging those they love who are pushing themselves to their physical limits.

Night fell, and still, athletes crossed the finish line. They rested, hydrated, and enjoyed slices of pizza, grapes, and other snacks. Then, wrapped in foil blankets, the athletes walked Lake Placid’s streets, family at their heels.

As the Ironman athletes depart, participants in a Canadian-U.S. rugby tournament arrive. Thus, the carousel of athletic competitions taking place in Lake Placid continues rotating full tilt.

Who’s tending Lake Placid’s fire?

Visit a few restaurants in Lake Placid, drink in a couple of bars, and you’ll hear international accents. Italian, maybe something from the Balkans, and is that Russian or Ukrainian?

Although you may encounter a few visitors from outside the U.S, the words aren’t coming from tourists. Instead, it’s immigrants helping keep Lake Placid’s businesses running.

You wonder how they find their way from eastern Europe to New York’s North Country. Considering the pandemic and perceivably more stringent immigration and visa requirements, it seems no small feat for someone to go from, for example, Croatia to a small town in upstate New York.

Yet here they are, speaking perfect if accented English. Friendly and helpful, working alongside those who grew up in Lake Placid, a cocktail of residents and immigrants as old as this country.

Still, the “help wanted” signs tell you it isn’t enough. The tourists, presumably mostly vaccinated and certainly unmasked, are coming. They’re here.

Lake Placid’s tourist economy is back, bursting into roaring flames of outdoor and athletic-inspired consumerism. The challenge now facing this Olympic town is finding enough people to tend the fire.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Why Do We Keep Heirlooms? Because We Can’t Hold On to the People Who Once Owned Them.

Then there’s my paternal grandmother’s records, a mix of mostly gospel and country and western, with a few out-of-nowhere selections.

For example, Grandma Opal had on vinyl the entire recording of Apollo 11’s moon landing. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Neil Armstrong says on the album.

The husband and I use some of mammaw’s dishes. We’ve listened to a few of Grandma Opal’s records. 

But we don’t need or have any reason to keep as much of my dead grandmothers’ stuff as we do, except for sentimental value.

Person holding and looking at a framed photo.
Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

The ostentatious parading of excessive emotion

“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty,” James Baldwin wrote.

Baldwin was referring to sentimentalities in writing, such as the novels Little Women and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

So, maybe he’d give me a pass for having my grandmother’s Ernest Tubb album tucked deep into a closet shelf. Or, perhaps Baldwin could understand why I hold on to an increasingly threadbare potholder with burn spots that my mammaw made.

Unless the ancient Egyptians are right, our worldly possessions don’t come with us into the afterlife. Instead, they are left for others to deal with, own, sell to others, or dump in the trash.

Convening with those gone

One day, I may decide it’s time to part with some of my grandmothers’ things; a bowl we’ve never used, vinyl that’s collected more dust over the years than it’s spun around a turntable. But, until then, I can’t imagine parting with these physical connections I have with the lives of two women I was close to and who I miss daily.

Using these items, seeing them, knowing they’re in my presence, in our home, gives me peace.

Still, possession of this stuff isn’t the only way I convene with my deceased grandmothers. They visit me in my dreams, something they started doing after both moved into the same long-term care facility, not long before they each passed, within a year of each other.

Sometimes they’re together in both dreams.

In other dreams, it’s just one grandma or the other. Sometimes, they’re flying around like ghosts, zipping about a room while my mammaw laughs at Grandma Opal’s silliness. And other times, we’re all three sitting in a room, just chatting, catching up on what’s new.

We hold on to things because we can’t hold on to people, but the truth is it’s not in heirlooms we find those we’ve loved and lost. Instead, it’s in a deeper, hidden place inside us, where we can still convene with those no longer with us.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Sound the Alarm: Bathrobism Takes Previously Youthful People and Marches Them Deep Into Middle Age

You don’t grow up wanting to wear a bathrobe. Wearing a bathrobe just kind of happens to you, like realizing that margaritas give you heartburn or that Jay Leno isn’t all that funny. 

One day you’re living life as someone who doesn’t wear a robe, and then—BAM—you wake up, and you’re a turtle in need of a shell, a shell made of cotton or fleece or wool, that’s warm and fuzzy, flowing and the complete opposite of form-fitting.

A bathrobe is practical, although maybe less so than in the days of drafty houses heated with coal stoves and fireplaces. Sure, we might not need layers to fight off hypothermia while reading Ebenezer Scrooge-style, the London Times. 

But let’s say you’re seated too far from your apartment’s radiator on a blustery cold day. Yes, you can don a sweater, but you’ve just risen from bed and aren’t quite ready for the commitment of a sweater. 

What do you do? Well, you reach for your robe.

Person standing in a bathrobe
Photo by Bruno Ribeiro from Pexels

The slippery slope of bathrobe wearing

Or maybe it’s summer, and your thermostat and your air conditioning are disagreeing. The A/C’s determined to cool your house, despite the thermostat telling it to chill out for a bit. 

“The heat of the day is coming,” your thermostat says to your air conditioning unit. “But pace yourself. It’s 7 a.m., and you don’t yet need to blow with all your might.”

“Ah, but if I don’t start now, I’ll lose control of the whole situation,” your A/C explains. “I must keep the house cooler than you suggest because if I don’t, the afternoon heat will exceed what I can handle.”

And so it goes, all morning long, the argument between your thermostat and your air conditioner. Meanwhile, you’re shivering, huddled over a cup of coffee, despite it being July and already 80 degrees outside. 

What can you do in such an impossible situation? Correct. You put on your bathrobe.

It’s precisely that scenario, a warring A/C and thermostat during summer, that started me down the path toward bathrobism (pronounced bath-robe-ism, unless you’re from New York, then you pronounce it bath-ru-bism).

We moved into our house in August. It was the first time I’d lived in a house since leaving the one of my childhood. Back then, I was a young man who only encountered bathrobes on smiling moms and dads inside store catalogs, and now settling into our home, I was approaching middle age. 

Though I was probably older than the people who wore robes in catalogs, I never thought about being a bathrobe person. That is, until morning after morning of trembling under the force of our air conditioner. I wasn’t ready to get dressed for the day, and yet I froze sitting in my p.j.s. 

Going whole-hog into bathrobism

And that’s what led me to buy my first robe, a thin, navy-blue cotton number with a white lining on its edges. The bathrobe was just enough material to keep the artificial chill of my skin without overwhelming me during the summer months.

But then winter came, and I had a new problem. My first bathrobe wasn’t enough protection against the cold drafts wafting in from our brand-new and supposedly highly rated windows. 

Which meant I needed a second robe, one built for winter. I picked said robe, I kid you not, out of a catalog, an L.L. Bean catalog, to be exact. It is fleece and plaid and surprisingly did not come with an accompanying pipe. 

Three years later, I can’t go a minute of a morning without wearing one of my two robes. I’m now a bathrobe person, a total devotee of bathrobism. 

If we subscribed to a physical newspaper, I’d be the guy stepping onto his porch, waving at you trimming your rose bushes while I bend down to retrieve that morning’s news, wearing my season-appropriate robe. 

I might even say, in my best Leave It to Beaver’s voice, “Hi, neighbor!” which is exactly something I spoke to a neighbor just the other day.

And that’s the danger of bathrobism. You start innocently enough, simply wanting to stay warm while enjoying your morning coffee. 

Next thing you know, you’re sharing recipes with people and groaning as you take a seat. The robe shifts from utilitarian to influencing, its comfort lulling you into complacency and acceptance of your middle-agedness. 

It’s terrifying the damage bathrobism does to people. Someone should sound the alarms, raise awareness of this phenomenon. And I will, just as soon as I take off this robe.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Strategies for Writers to Maintain a Positive Attitude When Their Work Isn’t Getting Published or Read

As writers, we put so much effort into our work. We pour our heart and soul into the words that we write, and sometimes we’re left wondering if it’s worth it.

Our words don’t get published. When they do, it can feel like no one bothers reading them.

It’s easy to feel discouraged and lose self-confidence. But there are some tactics we can try to maintain positivity so we can keep doing the work we love.

Below are four approaches for keeping a positive attitude and staying confident even when you feel like you have little writing success.

Person slumped over their laptop
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

Remember, you’re in the company of heroes.

One way to stay positive is to remind yourself that you’re not alone.

Did you know publishers rejected Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, 30 times?

For six years, author Celeste Ng documented her rejections in what she called her “Spreadsheet of Shame” before selling her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You. That book became a New York Times bestseller.

Maybe you feel like no one’s reading what you publish. Look around, and you’ll quickly find other writers complaining online about low reads and views of their stories.

It’s easy to feel discouraged when hearing about bestsellers and people making thousands off of writing online. But for all those tales, there are many of us experiencing the same disappointments as you.

Being a writer means being in a company of heroes who do the work day after day and don’t always get the recognition we deserve. Remembering that can help you feel better about any struggles you’re facing.

Fall in love again

Another way to keep your confidence is to write for yourself. Spend time writing what you enjoy instead of what you think will sell or others will read.

The earliest stories I remember writing were entertainment for me. It wasn’t until much later in life that I developed the idea of getting published and earning money from writing.

Adult goals can pollute the joy of writing.

If you’re feeling down or lacking confidence, try writing something that’s fun for you to create. Or, think of something you’d like to read and write it.

There’s an oft-cited Toni Morrison quote that goes, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Keeping that guidance front-of-mind can help us get over the doldrums we sometimes experience in our writing. Fall in love again with writing by writing what you want to create and read.

Refocus on your ‘why.’

Similarly, one way to keep a positive attitude is to write about why you write.

Sometimes, when I’m in the dumps, I take out my journal and start free-flow writing about why I write. Sure, it often begins as a series of complaints, sentences that start with something like, “Why do I even bother…”

But before long, the complaining turns into reminding myself why I write in the first place. It’s not so I can score a book deal and become famous. So why do I get so upset when those things don’t happen?

When we lack positivity about our work, we may need to refocus on why we write. And an effective way to remind ourselves about our “why” is to write it out.

Let the negativity flow. Get it all out there in your journal or on the blank screen. 

Soon, you’ll start remembering why you write. And there’s a solid chance that why is different from why you lack confidence.

Screw the gatekeepers

OK, but what if you try all of the above and still can’t escape the negativity of rejection? Then follow this advice: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em.”

Today, thousands of writers around the world self-publish to millions of readers. Some authors release books on sites like Wattpad and Scribd. In addition, they are self-publishing books on online retail sites such as Amazon and Kobo.

There’s an almost limitless number of options for self-publishing. Get creative.

Elle Griffin is serializing her debut novel on Substack, and John McCrae earns about $6,000 per month publishing on Patreon under the pen name Wildbow.

You can even use Twitter to publish your story. That’s how the story behind the film “Zola” got its start.

It’s never been easier to self-publish. Attracting an audience, though, isn’t easy. You’ll likely have to put in a lot of effort promoting and marketing your work.

Still, if you’re sick and tired of rejection, say, “Screw the gatekeeper.” Instead, take your own route to publish.

Keep writing because we’re reading.

Rejection hurts. Putting time into a story no one reads is maddening.

But we writers can’t dwell on the negativity if we’re going to keep writing. And we need to keep at it because it’s what we love to do and because one thing about our writing that’s for certain is that it won’t exist if we don’t create it.

So, here are ways I maintain positivity and self-confidence, which I think can work for you, too:

  • Remember you’re not alone
  • Fall in love with writing again
  • Refocus on why you write
  • If all else fails, self-publish

Practice these tactics when you’re frustrated and feeling low. They’ll help keep you writing, which is what we, and you, need you to do.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Why Being a Touch Naive May Be the Secret Ingredient to Being a Full-Time Freelance Writer

It was near the end of my senior year in high school when I first discovered I might be an idiot.

That’s when my classmates voted me Most Gullible. (Technically, because our class decided to use movie titles for our honorifics, I was voted Most Clueless, taken from a movie I didn’t know existed and wouldn’t see until many years later.)

Being naive wasn’t, until my classmates voted, on the menu of anxieties and fears from which my teenage self ate regularly. But my peers got it right. I am naive.

And some things never change. Were my friends to vote today, there’s a good chance they’d select me as Most Gullible, which is fine with me.

Because after a year-and-a-half of being a full-time freelance writer, I’ve realized one trait you need to make this leap is being a little naive. Here’s why.

Person standing on a street holding a phone, looking confused.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If I had only known…

At the time I decided to become self-employed, I earned an excellent salary. So continuing my career as-is for the next 30 years or so made the most sense. 

Along the way, my husband and I would live a comfortable life with trips and clothes shopping as we desired. Then we would retire and maybe take up hobbies we’d been too busy or stressed to pursue during our careers, such as writing.

But lack of logic is a known side effect of being gullible, a condition my high school classmates diagnosed me with, so I didn’t do the logical thing. Instead, I left my good-paying job to become the most desperate creature, a self-employed freelance writer.

It was Jan. 2020 when I took the plunge. Had I known that a pandemic would shutter the global economy within two months, I may have chosen to stay in my job. 

And, if I’d known my husband and I would eat through an impressive chunk of our savings while I earned almost nothing for a couple of months, I may have stayed in my job. It’s breathtaking how quickly money disappears when you’re not receiving it.

You can say the same for paying self-employment taxes, covering business expenses, and handling clients. Had I realized the reality of full-time freelance writing, including how little time I have to write creatively for myself, I likely would have stayed in my salaried job.

If you’d told me in Jan. 2020 that in July 2021, I still wouldn’t have a newsletter with a massive email list, wouldn’t be getting commissioned to write $2,000 blog posts, and would still be working on the manuscript for my first novel, I may have opted not to become a full-time freelance writer.

And that would’ve been a mistake.

Oblivious into happiness

There are tasks I dread doing — working with my accountant on my taxes, for example.

Yet there isn’t a Monday morning I dread. On the contrary, on most Sunday evenings, I find myself excited about the day to come. I’m eager to get back to my work week routine. 

There isn’t a Monday morning I dread.

Nicholas E. Barron

It feels terrible to say while so many suffer and our planet’s going up in flames, but I’ve never been happier. 

Becoming a full-time freelance writer is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, perhaps second only to marrying my husband. (Without whom, I couldn’t be a self-employed writer for financial and emotional support reasons.)

Not that it’s easy. Self-employment is never simple, certainly not so during a pandemic. Daily, there are challenges, disappointments, and doubts. 

Am I earning enough money? Is my writing good enough? Do I need more clients? Why does my novel hate me?

But I adore the work, the writing, the grind of stringing together sentences. And I love the freedom I have over my time and the projects on which I work. For the first time in my professional life, it feels as if I’m doing what I was born to do, living the life I should live.

However, all of it wouldn’t be happening if I’d not been naive about full-time self-employment. There’s a marvelously long list of stuff that could’ve kept me from making the jump to creative entrepreneurship.

Yet I was too clueless, the Most Clueless, you could say, to know what I was getting myself into. Thank the heavens for that.

Embrace your negatives

We all have qualities that may not appear as assets, especially to other people. But our weaknesses can sometimes be our strengths.

While I may be naive, I’m not stupid. Had I known the road ahead, I may not have chosen to do a challenging thing during a tough time.

Yet, when things got rough, I adapted. Over the past year, I’ve learned and grown. 

Next time you start beating yourself up over being who you are, consider viewing it in a different light. 

Maybe, when seen from a new angle, what you consider a negative is actually your secret ingredient to happiness, fulfillment, and success.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

6 Tweaks to Your Daily Routine That Will Make You a More Productive Writer

If you’re a writer, you know the feeling that you’re not doing enough.

You probably spend hours writing every week. Yet, your list of writing ideas is perpetually long, and you can’t shake the nagging that you’re still not writing as much as you should.

All writers feel this way. But below, I share six relatively easy tweaks I made to my daily routine that helped me become a more productive writer.

If you make the same adjustments, I’m confident you’ll be churning out more copy than ever before.

Man typing on a laptop while lying on a sofa.
Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Wake up earlier (or stay up later)

The world is quietest when most people are sleeping. But if you’re one of the people who’s awake while others aren’t, that means fewer distractions.

No one’s posting to social media, and you’re not getting new emails. The kids aren’t asking you for anything, your boss is snoozing, and your push notifications are quiet.

Take advantage of those times. Give yourself at least an hour, either in the morning or at night, to write.

If you’re a morning person, wake up an hour earlier. If you’re more productive at night, stay up an hour later.

Don’t Netflix and chill.

Early in my self-employment days, I gave myself a treat. Every day, while eating lunch, I streamed a show.

But then I noticed two things:

  1. I was usually done eating well before the show ended. So what would have been a 20-minute lunch took up to an hour.
  2. I struggled to get back to work after finishing the show.

So, I gave up my midday treat. Sure, I still eat. Instead of streaming something, though, I often read about writing.

This brings me to the third easy tweak you can make to be a more productive writer.

Read about writing

Writing is not something you’ll ever perfect. Even the best writers, the bestselling novelists, and the highest-paid freelancers can improve.

That’s why reading about writing is essential to becoming a better, more productive writer. Tons of writers share tips, tricks, advice, and lessons learned on Medium, newsletters, and blog posts.

Find writers who share helpful, inspirational and insightful content. Then make consuming their content part of your daily routine.

One warning, though, is not to spend too much time reading about writing. It’s easy to convince ourselves that reading about writing is the same as writing. It’s not.

You still need to write if you want to be a productive writer.

Set a timer

Time yourself if you’re worried about spending too much time doing anything other than writing.

For example, I read while eating my lunch. When I’ve finished eating, I stop reading as soon as I reach the end of the piece I’m currently reading. Then I get back to work writing, researching, or editing.

While I don’t use a timer, you may need to, at least at first. Give yourself 20 or 30 minutes to read, check your email or social media.

Set the timer on your phone accordingly. Then, when the buzzer rings, stop what you’re doing and get back to writing.

Record every idea

Have you ever thought of something you want to write about and then later struggled to remember what it was?

How many times have you thought of a way to start a story or a sentence you want to use, only to forget it when you were ready to write?

Ideas often come to me while I’m reading in bed, just before falling asleep. Used to, I’d try to commit the thought to memory rather than recording the idea somewhere.

Then I got tired of forgetting, come morning, whatever it was that I thought was such a great idea. So, now I enter every writing-related thought that occurs to me.

If I’m in bed or out and about, I use my phone’s Notes application to record the idea. Or, I scribble the idea into my notebook if it’s handy.

And I mean, I record every single thought. You never know what you might forget, and sometimes your simplest or silliest ideas turn out to be fantastic.

Write freeform, baby.

Sometimes writer’s block is the biggest hindrance to our writing productivity.

From turning off Netflix to recording our ideas, we can do everything right, and yet we find ourselves staring at an unwelcoming blank screen. The words just don’t come.

A trick that almost always works for me is to start writing nonsense in my journal. Usually, I’ll begin by writing about what I did the day before or what I plan to do tomorrow.

Before long, I’m writing about something that’s upsetting me or worrying me. Then, I’ll sometimes fill two or three pages in my notebook about a topic I didn’t even know was an issue for me.

Once I commit to paper whatever’s on my mind, I turn back to my computer and, like magic, can write. Somehow, permitting myself to write about anything led clears my writing practice for takeoff.

Next time you’re stuck, try journaling about whatever pops into your mind.

Tweak your way to producing more writing

Being a productive writer means something different to each of us. For example, it may be working on your novel, while to me, it could mean publishing more blog posts.

However you define writing productivity, there are six relatively easy tweaks you can make to your daily routine to be a more productive writer:

  • Add at least an hour to the beginning or end of your day and use that time to write.
  • Limit the time you spend streaming shows and movies.
  • Read books, blog posts, and newsletters about writing.
  • Use a timer to protect your writing time.
  • Record every single writing-related idea that pops into your head.
  • When stuck, try journaling about whatever comes to mind.

Making these adjustments may not guarantee you’ll become a bestselling novelist. But if you incorporate them into your daily routine, you will produce more writing than you ever have before.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

These 7 Kwame Anthony Appiah Quotes Will Pollinate Your Writing and Help You Blossom as a Writer

Kwame Anthony Appiah is intelligent and productive. You could spend a lifetime reading through the stuff he’s published, a hefty list that includes four novels.

Much of Appiah’s writing focuses on philosophical questions. His books include The Ethics of Identity and The Politics of Culture, the Politics of Identity.

Recently, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Remnick interviewed Appiah for The Paris Review. Remnick asked the Ghanian-born Appiah for insights into how he approaches writing and how he’s been so prolific over the years.

Appiah’s answers throw some light onto the art of writing. Below are some of the most helpful thoughts from Appiah for writers.

Where can we find writing ideas? How should we approach writing about a topic? 

Kwame Anthony Appiah answers these questions and more below.

Photo by Thierry Fillieul from Pexels

Kwame Anthony Appiah on writing

“Many of the things I’ve written were in response to someone saying something and my thinking, I don’t understand that.”

“If a question interests me, and I have to learn some biology to answer it, I will learn some biology. If I have to read some more novels to answer it, I will read some more novels…You should follow questions where they take you.”

“The genealogy of concepts is one way to get a grip on them.”

“Immerse yourself in the relevant bodies of knowledge. Then try to explain on paper what you think people are saying, getting it as clear as you can for yourself. Then try to write what you think. You don’t know what you think until you try to say what you think. Look at it. See if it makes sense on the page.”

“Most of what you write just comes out of you when you put your fingers on the keyboard. It’s not a process over which you have a great deal of conscious control. The initial stimulus for an essay or a chapter is usually an episode—­real or fictional—or an argument or a claim I’ve been struck by. After so much writing, I now know what my take is on many questions, and so I’ve spent more time reading history and fiction looking for stories that make the abstract point come alive. Sometimes, though, the story is already there waiting for me in my own history.”

“I am tempted to explore times and places that I once knew well and that now seem a little strange to me.”

“Literature is produced by writers, yes, but also by communities that shape them.”

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Writers, If You Have a Newsletter, Check Out These Four Fantastic Takeaways for You From an Elle Griffin Interview

The writer of The Novelliest shares tips and tricks for writers with newsletters

Elle Griffin recently shared with Substack some of the secrets behind her popular newsletter, The Novelleist. In the interview, Griffin dished out some potent tips and advice for writers who have newsletters.

Griffin started The Novelleist in Feb. She’s trying to grow her newsletter audience before Sep., when she’ll release a serialized version of her debut novel, Obscurity. The Novelleist is free, but Griffin will charge subscribers for access to Obscurity.

Griffin’s decision to publish her novel as a serial newsletter will be a fascinating experience to watch. If enough people decide to pay $5 a month to read Obscurity, the author may help pioneer a new form of self-publishing.

In her interview with Substack, Griffin talked about growing her newsletter email list, deciding to serialize Obscurity, and more.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

How Elle Griffin handles the demands of newsletter publishing

“The only way I was able to come up with a weekly newsletter — because that’s kind of exhausting for me to write a weekly newsletter every week in addition to writing fiction chapters — so I do a newsletter every other week. And on the other weeks, I interview other authors who successfully serialized their fiction novels. So that I can learn from them.”

How Elle Griffin grows her email list

“I stalked everyone I could find on Twitter who used the combination of the word ‘fiction’ and the word ‘Substack’ in a tweet. I messaged them and invited them to a Discord server so we could learn from each other. There are hundreds of fiction writers in the community now, all talking about what has worked and not worked for each of us.”

“What was most helpful for growth was writing two articles that took me a really long time to produce. One took me all of 2020 to research. The other one took me another six months to research…(One) article had something like 60,000 views in one day, and a lot of subscribers came from that one piece of writing that really resonated.”

How She’s Charging Readers for Access to Obscurity

“I’m following the funding model you see with an online course. In these courses, you have to take the first class before the second class. There is a clear order, and people running courses often open enrollment just once a year…That’s how I’m going to approach it with my novel. September is my ‘enrollment period.’ My plan is to publish the first four chapters in September to my entire newsletter list for free. At the bottom of each of those posts, I’ll tell readers that in order to keep reading in October, they’ll need to subscribe and pay an annual fee.”

“I plan to do this same process every year. This first book will be done in June. I’ll have July and August off, and in September, I’ll start my second book.”

“I think this annual approach is easier on writers who aren’t used to asking for money because you just need to do so once a year, and then you can focus on writing.”

Takeaways from Elle Griffin

Elle Griffin delivers some creative, handy tips and tricks for writers with newsletters in a few words. Here are four critical takeaways from her interview with Substack:

  • Be realistic – Griffin identified content she could regularly produce. It’s crucial not to take on more than we can handle, or else we won’t maintain the consistency required to grow a newsletter audience.
  • Get creative – To attract readers to The Novelleist, Griffin leveraged other technologies, such as Twitter, in innovative ways. Being flexible and open to doing different things can produce impressive results.
  • Focus on your readers – Griffin knows new subscribers will want to start reading Obscurity with its first chapter. So, she established a process for helping new subscribers begin with her book’s first chapter, no matter when they subscribe. Likewise, when publishing a newsletter, always consider your audience to ensure you’re delivering the best possible experience.
  • Plan, plan, plan – Griffin already has a plan for how she’ll launch her serialized novel in Sep. She knows how to introduce new readers to the book, no matter when they subscribe. Griffin even knows when she’ll release her second serialized novel next year. Planning helps us consistently produce a high-quality newsletter that delights readers.

You can watch part of Elle Griffin’s interview, including examples of serialized fiction newsletters, at Substack.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

How a Single Drop of Lukewarm Feedback Nearly Sent Me Off the Edge, Into a Pool of Negativity

A creative person’s ego is like a lily’s petals: fragile and easily destroyed.

If you’ve ever grown a lily, you know what I’m saying. A strong wind can rip, or heavy rain can pummel the petals right off the flower’s blossom.

You also know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever shared something you created with another person. Sometimes, anything less than voluptuous praise can tear your inner self asunder.

At the bottom of every issue of my newsletter, Writerly, readers have an opportunity to provide instant feedback about that email. They can choose from five options, ranging from “Bad” to “Love it!”.

In this week’s email, a reader gave the issue a “Meh” rating. Seeing that nearly sent me into a tailspin of negativity. 

“Oh my God,” I thought. “Someone doesn’t love my newsletter. What am I even doing? I should delete it and go live in a cave alone with just a pet goat to keep me company.”

But I’m not currently coming to you from a cave, and, no, I didn’t delete Writerly. 

Here’s how I pulled out of the emotional nosedive one piece of so-so feedback sent me into, and how you can, too, when you receive anything less than a positive response to your work.

A person crying
Photo by Elijah O’Donnell from Pexels

It’s Not About You

First, let’s accept that not everyone will love what we create. Unfortunately, that means we’ll receive negative, or at least not overwhelmingly positive, reviews.

Let me rephrase. At some point, our work will receive negative, or at least not overwhelmingly positive, reviews.

That’s a significant difference. Responses our creations receive are not reviews on us as individuals. (Yes, people sometimes lodge personal attacks veiled as criticisms of our work. It happens, though I’m not sure it’s frequent for most of us.)

One of the first steps I took to pull out of my tailspin after a reader gave my newsletter a “Meh” rating was to realize their feedback wasn’t about me. Even if it was, my takeaway from their review shouldn’t be about me. So I had to remove myself from the equation.

It’s crazy hard not to take negative criticism of our work personally. We are, after all, making ourselves vulnerable and pouring our existences into what we create.

But we have to realize that most times, we’re not the target. Our work is. Accepting that is the only way we can continue creating, and it’s the only way we can grow as creators.

And It’s Not About Praise

Similarly, we need to understand we’re not creating for accolades. Or, at least we shouldn’t be.

We should be making stuff because we want to help people and because we want to contribute to society and our culture. Many writers, for example, attempt to help us better understand our world through their writing. 

And some writers, such as myself, try to guide and inspire others. We share from our experiences and backgrounds in the hope of giving others the tools and encouragement they need to grow.

That’s something I had to remind myself after getting a lukewarm review for Writerly. The newsletter isn’t so other writers can praise me. It’s so I can help them, to give them something each week they can use.

Reminding myself of this mission allowed me to shift from fretting over the “Meh” rating to appreciating it. For one thing, someone cared enough to provide feedback to the email. That’s something to celebrate.

But, more importantly, they tipped me off that I have more work to do to deliver on Writerly’s mission. Their rating lets me know, at least according to one reader, that Writerly needs more something to be the indispensable weekly email for writers I want it to be.

Remembering why you create and making sure it isn’t so others will praise you will put you in the best mindset for using negative feedback to grow.

The Devil’s Not In the Details

What changes do I need to make? Honestly, I don’t know. 

The downside of Writerly’s easy ranking system is that it doesn’t allow for detailed feedback. That’s OK, though. 

Sometimes the feedback our work receives is vague or inarticulate. For example, maybe the critic does a poor job of pointing out the issue they have with your creation, or perhaps they misplace the focus of their criticism.

But we don’t always need accuracy and specifics from our reviewers. Instead, we can use negative feedback as a pause for our work, giving us a moment to reflect on what we’ve done to see if we can do it better next time.

You may disagree with what someone says about your work. Or, you might not get much information about what someone doesn’t like. 

No problem. Use the moment as an opportunity to review what you created and see if you can identify areas for improvement. 

Don’t agonize over the specifics or lack thereof in the reviewer’s input. Look instead at the totality of your creation and see if you can find one or two things you’d like to try doing differently next time.

Three Lessons for Pulling Out of the Tailspin

And that’s how I decided on two tweaks that I think will nudge Writerly closer to the newsletter for writers I believe it can be.

First, I will change the format to make it easier to see the links I’m sharing. Secondly, I’ll be more mindful of the links I include to ensure they’re focused on helping creative writers while removing anything superfluous.

As creators, we will receive negative, or at least lukewarm feedback for our work. Unfortunately, when we do, it’s easy to nosedive into a pool of negativity.

But when poor reviews strike, keep these three things in mind:

  • The critique is about your work, not you.
  • You’re creating for reasons other than receiving praise.
  • Don’t get caught up in the details.

Remembering these truths can pull you out of your tailspin and set you up to benefit from the input so you can continue growing as a creator.

This article originally appeared on Medium.