Image: a woman in silhouette holding forth a lit sparkler.

3 Writing Prompts to Spark Your Creativity

In this excerpt from her book The Joy of Writing Journal, Lisa Tener offers three prompts to help you see story ideas all around.
Image: urban wall with graffiti reading "Unlearn and rethink."

The Most Significant Choice Of Your Writing Career

This choice has nothing to do with the act of writing, but everything to do with how you talk to yourself about your vocation.
Image: close-up photo of flames rising from burning logs

Strained Brain? How to Stoke Your Mental Fire

It’s impossible to fire on all cylinders all the time, so dedicate some of your writing time to stoke the flames of creativity.
Image: person using scissors to cut a piece of paper on which are written the words "hatred," "indifference," and "envy"

The Green-Eyed Monster: Jealousy in the Time of Quarantine

Despite our best efforts, artistic jealousy affects us all at times. But how we perceive another’s success is never the whole picture.
How to Restart Your Unfinished Book

How to Restart Your Unfinished Book

Your calendar will never be suddenly free of urgent distractions. To finish that book on the back burner, you must actively bring it forward.
letters

Letter Writing as a Powerful Prompt

From Franz Kafka to Bob Dylan, history shows that letter writing can be a portal to discovery that benefits a wide variety of projects.
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Writing from the Bottom Rung: How to Sustain Your Creativity During a Pandemic

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the top rung is where creativity happens—after our sustenance and security are met. Many of us are just not there, yet.
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For Writers, Silence Might Not Be Golden After All

Research shows that most people reach peak cognitive performance under moderately noisy conditions—roughly the sound of a coffee shop on a busy day.
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7 Non-Literary Ways for Writers to Get into the Flow

At times when reading seems like a chore and writing every day is like squeezing blood from a stone, try nurturing your creativity in different ways.
empty train track

Loss: The Exact Reason to Read and Write

Loss can make fiction feel like an obnoxious waste of time. And maybe it is. But what if all of this loss is the exact reason to read? To write?
Lightbulb made of crumpled paper, get out of doldrums

How to Get Out of the Writing Doldrums

When stuck in the doldrums, writing coach Mathina Calliope recommends "writer candy"—literary distractions that nourish the muse.
45 Years

Context: When a Story Demands More Than Plot

Sometimes a story demands more than just a plot. You may want to create a context, a descriptive background that sheds light on a story's meaning.
Yi Shun Lai watercolor notebook

Better Your Writing By Being a Beginner—Every Day

You've probably heard writing advice such as “Ass in chair” and “Write every day.” While the advice has its limitations, there's a good reason it's mentioned so often.
Writer's Block Solutions

Writer’s Block Is a Gift. Here’s Why.

You're intimately familiar with the nature of your writer's block, right? In this guest post, creativity coach and author Julia Roberts pinpoints specific tools, and how they helped her, to clarify and solve the real issue.
chair table el salvador

Considering Your Reader Is Not Coddling Them

Which approach is right? Write only for yourself and in service of your vision OR write with an intended readership in mind.
Leaving Your Critique Group

Knowing When to Fly: Leaving Your Critique Group

In working on your craft, it's one thing to find the right critique group. It's quite another to know when to fly. Writer and librarian Lisa Bubert shares her experience, outlines her formula, and offers tips on leaving the nest.
myth of the natural writer

The Myth of the Natural Writer

There's a legendary joke about the writing life, often attributed to Margaret Atwood. It goes like this: A brain surgeon and a writer meet at a party.
When you're not ready for rejection

When You’re Just Not Ready for Rejection

Rejection is painful, and there's no avoiding it as a writer. But you don't have to submit before you're ready to deal with it. Writer and blogger Shana Scott offers some perspective on the conventional "publish or perish" advice.
love words

When Words Are What You Love Most of All

The writers who visit you in class, when you're still a student—especially if you're young and impressionable—these writers stick with you for a lifetime.
plan first write later

The Myth of Plan First and Write Later

You don’t have to choose between planning and "simply writing." Do both, at different times, all the way through the novel writing process.
writing voice

Voice Is How You Dance on the Page

Voice: It's either there in the writing or it's not. And some writers haven't developed or "found" their voice yet.
looking up

Feeling Envious of Other Writers? Here’s a Solution.

Writer Anthony Doerr once told me something his father told him, and I'll paraphrase it poorly here: You're going to get your neck sunburned looking up all the time.
Feeling Stuck? Focus on a Single Sentence

Feeling Stuck? Focus on a Single Sentence

Focusing on the smallest thing you can accomplish: this is the magic trick to making progress or getting unstuck.
author SWOT analysis

Take Charge of Your Creative Life: The SWOT Analysis

When you understand your SWOT as an author, you can take control over your time. You can stop fighting fires, and start focusing on the things that will truly help you in the long run.
neurodiverse characters

How to Describe Neurodivergent Characters

How do you describe a character with Asperger’s—especially if your story takes place before such a thing had a name?
commitment nanowrimo

Something to Remember as NaNoWriMo Begins

The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic,
creativity wounds

Overcoming Creativity Wounds

There’s no one recipe to overcome a creativity wound, but putting a pen between your fingers and then resting it on a piece of paper is a pretty good start to finding one.
everything is connected

Writing for Connection Brings Both Hope and Fear

Do you write write according to your own internal motivations or creative impulses—with the intention to create serious art—or do you write hoping to create a bond between writer and reader?
how long to write a book

How Long Should It Take to Write a Book?

Writing a novel requires the creation of a living, breathing, fully populated world. Deities can pull off a trick like that in six days, but how long should it take to write a book?
yin yang writing

How to Stay Sane While You Publish

To some degree, we get to pick and choose our publishing and publicity tasks. Sometimes we forget this and freak out because we think we have to do it all.
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Character, Writers, and Portrait Photography

In many ways, a portrait photographer encounters the same great issue as fiction writers, chiefly, creating and revealing character.
In & Of Itself

You Have a Voice and It Means Something

Despite the notion that we are voiceless, the challenge of a good creative writing instructor is to teach students that they do indeed have a voice and that their voice, that all our voices in concert, have meaning.
Writing About Acts of Violence

Writing About Acts of Violence

Violence can be too sanitized, too tamed into a generic, pre-packaged mold, and so it can't yield the kind of interesting questions or meditations readers crave, and writers must eventually confront.
Make Your Writing Anxiety Disappear By Thinking Small

Make Your Writing Anxiety Disappear By Thinking Small

Many people I know are ambitious about their writing. Ambition is not bad in and of itself. But it definitely interferes with your writing. If even before you begin a writing project, you are thinking about where you want it to be published and who, you hope, will review it, you are opening the door to anxiety.
Your Characters Don't Have to Change to Be Compelling

Your Characters Don’t Have to Change to Be Compelling

When a character "change" feels beautiful, it's because the character has confirmed what we've hoped or suspected all along. Maybe the character hasn't changed at all, but rather has finally been put in a situation where her truest self can be revealed.
What You Need to Write Your First Book After Age 50   

What You Need to Write Your First Book After Age 50  

First and foremost: Set realistic goals. Is this book going to change your life? No. After publication, you will not be a different fifty-plus-year-old person. You will be pretty similar to the person you were before, only this fifty-plus-year-old person has written a book. So ask yourself: What are you hoping to get out of the experience?
You Must Write Through Many Bad Sentences

You Must Write Through Many Bad Sentences

Writer Jane Delury discusses the importance of showing up and writing regardless of the conditions you find yourself in, no matter how you feel.
asking questions

You Can’t Get to “Once Upon a Time” Without “What If?”

Danielle Lazarin: "At every stage of my work, questions are my most essential writing tools. I use them to move through to the other side of murky. It's only by stepping into that unknown and uncomfortable space repeatedly during my process that I can become more deliberate in the story I'm telling."
Totality 2017

The Totality Effect: Thoughts for a New Year

What I learned from the total eclipse was this: What wasn’t phenomenal? Everywhere I looked, something grand was there for the taking.
writers and parents

What Obligations Do Writers Have to Their Parents?

There's a very famous piece of advice from Anne Lamott that occasionally makes the rounds on social media. She says: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” This advice, especially when shared out of context, makes me cringe.
writing with a child narrator

How to Write From a Child’s Perspective—But for Adult Readers

Novelist Sophie Chen Keller offers an incisive look at what's different about writing a novel for adults when the narrator is a child.
is it too late to start writing

Is It Too Late to Start Writing After 50?

Yes, it is possible to have a very successful writing career later in life—and doing something new later in one’s career helps to keep you young.
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How I Used Writing to Survive (Or: Writing Despite Illness)

I started writing seriously after being diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s. Now was the time to do it, or quit talking about it.
writing and opera

What Writers Can Learn About Voice From Opera

Opera is the single Western art in which voice determines character, or, more closely, expresses character. For writers, opera offers a set of finger exercises, if not pointers.
distraction as asset

How Distraction Can Be an Asset

Over a last year, a consistent theme has emerged in my discussions with writers around the country: They feel distracted. What is to be done?
emerging as a writer

What It Means to Be a Writer—and to Emerge as a Writer

There’s a term thrown around in the world of writing that I’ve never fully understood: emerging writer. To emerge as a writer, or anything else for that matter, you must emerge from one thing into an entirely different something else.
creation doubt

Creation and Doubt Are Conjoined Twins

All writers have to find a way to deal with the internal negative voice that tells them their work is crap and not worth pursuing.
troubleshooting for writers

Troubleshooting for Writers: 7 Questions to Ask When You Lose Desire to Finish Your Book

Ideally, we’d have all the creativity and energy and desire we need to write amazing stories. However, the truth is, sometimes we hit roadblocks while following through. Here are some of the most common roadblocks and how you might solve them.
character and plot

Having Trouble With Plot? Look at Your Characters.

In a great story, character and plot are inextricable from one another. The seeds of the story conflict lie in the character.
advice to pursue your passion

The Advice to Pursue Your Passion: What Does “Passion” Even Mean?

Here's a word I have eliminated as fully as possible from my information and advice lexicon for writers: passion.