How Learning My Personality Type Is Helping Me Write My Next Story

I’ve always been proud of my productivity. When I know something needs to get done, I plan without hesitation. I create goals, break them down into smaller tasks, and celebrate little victories. My planner is my savior.

When it came to writing I took the same approach. I planned my ideas down to the tiniest detail. My outlines ran ten pages long because each chapter contained as much information as possible. My character sheets were thorough and their relationships clearly defined.

Then the time came to start the first draft and my fingers wouldn’t budge. My brain hit a brick wall and I’d be sitting there — twenty minutes or more — just staring at the blank screen before me. 

What the hell?

I couldn’t figure out why with this amazing outline in front of me I wasn’t able to write. I spent a month or more planning, plotting, and outlining. The actual writing part should be a piece of cake. Right? Wrong!

This happened more times than I care to admit. I gave up writing fiction for a long time because of it. I just couldn’t seem to get a draft written with a full-fledged outline.

I’d read advice from best-selling authors and aspiring writers alike where they’d all say, “Just start.” 

One of my favorite Stephen King quotes even goes…

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

I’m going to say something you probably shouldn’t say (unpopular opinion?): But the advice of “just start writing” is bullshit. It’s all well and good to tell someone that, but it’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s literally the saying, “Easier said than done.”

I knew the concept of “just start.” I share that advice with people myself. And why not? It’s solid advice. You truly can’t finish something unless you start. But that advice doesn’t help me when I’m sitting with my fingers frozen above my keyboard. 

Because in my mind I’ve already started. I put time and effort into the outline I created. Yes, I know an outline and a draft are two different beasts, but the notion that I could punch out an exceptionally detailed outline but not a draft was bothering me.

Now, I’ve finished manuscripts before. At least five. All written and edited with a detailed outline beside me.

So what changed? Why isn’t this tried and true method working for me anymore?

The older I get and the more I learn about this industry has made me realize a few things:

  1. You cannot expect a process to work for you forever.
  2. It’s hard to put your own writing advice into practice.
  3. The only writing advice that matters is the one that gets you writing.

As a copywriter, I know if I don’t produce a piece of content by the due date I tell my clients to expect it, I’m not doing my job right. I’m putting my business in jeopardy. Since copywriting is still writing, I’ll admit I have off days. There are days I don’t have any inspiration to write a blog or email sequence. But I set my timer for an hour, draft whatever comes to mind, and edit it the next day. Sometimes I find what I wrote wasn’t horrible. Other times I cringe reading it back.

So I ask again, why can’t I do that with fiction writing?

If you’ve made it this far, I applaud you. I realize I spent the first chunk of this post whining and I apologize. Let’s get to the solution, shall we?

While sorting through old files, I found my Myers-Briggs results. Done when I was working for a non-profit, I was reminded that I’m an INFJ-T also known as “The Advocate.” Essentially, I am someone with introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging personality traits. The T stands for Turbulent, which is the opposite of Assertive. I never really dove into the meaning of this until recently. 

I was particularly struck by this paragraph:

People with the Intuitive trait prefer to exercise their imaginations as they seek new ideas and possibilities. They live their day-to-day lives just like any other personality type. But while that’s happening, their minds tend to point inward while at the same time gently focusing somewhere beyond the horizon. Their lives are ones of questioning, wondering, and connecting the dots in the “bigger picture,” and they love the theoretical. They often ask, “What if?” and ponder the possibilities the future might hold. [1]

Further reading led me to discover that INFJ types create more through intuition and feeling rather than observations and thinking. This then brought me to look deeper at the differences between plotters and pantsers. Wouldn’t you know it, but most INFJ personalities are pantsers. 

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about: In the writing community, writers often identify as plotters, pantsers, or plantsers. Plotters detail their story from beginning to end. They know every twist, every turn, every character flaw. Pantsers write “by the seat of their pants.” They are inspired by an idea and write without a plan. Plantsers are a combination. They have a general idea of what they want to write and have some basic outline things down, but if they go off-script they’re okay with it. 

Have I been doing this all wrong? Has having a rock-solid outline disrupted my intuitive feelings when it comes to writing? I’m a planner, yes, but perhaps I’m not a plotter.

With this new knowledge in hand, I plan — LOL — to tackle my next project using the pantser method. I have a few ideas in mind and a lot of “what if’s” brewing. So I am going to “just start.” I don’t know how long I’ll be drafting for or where the story will take me, but I’m excited. This is the first time I’ve been excited about a fictional story in a long time.

I’ll be sure to update you guys with how it’s going.

And I also recommend finding out your personality type. If you feel like the process you’ve been using has been slipping from your grasp perhaps you need to try something new. If your process works every single time, then keep it up. I’m not here to tell you to try something that won’t work for you. I’m here to tell you that if something isn’t working, maybe you need to look deeper into yourself to find out why.

Do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type? Do you swear by outlines or do you switch up your process project to project?

(A)Sexual Perspective: Alone But Not Lonely

I love film and television. Like books, there’s so much you can learn and experience through them. We connect with characters dealing with similar struggles. We escape into these fictional worlds where we feel strong and capable. Entertainment is a powerful tool.

But when you’re asexual, connecting with sexually-motivated characters and plotlines is hard. As someone who doesn’t feel sexual attraction towards any gender, it’s difficult to understand why sex and relationships always seem to be the ultimate goal in stories. 

I believe the best way to teach is by using a universal tool. What’s more universal than film and television? And we are in need of more asexual voices sharing their stories and experiences. 

With that said, every other week — in between my regular posts — I’ll be publishing my thoughts on a specific movie or show and how they correlate to my experience as an ace.

I want to note that the opinions and experiences revealed in these essays are mine and mine alone. There are many asexual stories out there and they are all different. I highly recommend checking out the Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN) website for more.

If you’re interested in learning more about asexuality, comment below or send me a message. It’s time to amplify the asexual conversation. 


Alone But Not Lonely

In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, I rewatched Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral. I was in the mood for something that would put a smile on my face. Based on the 1994 film written and directed by Richard Curtis, this 10-episode series was modernized by writer/actress Mindy Kaling. Kaling wanted to revolutionize romantic comedies. She wanted to show her love for them by adding substance and diversity. Her love letter succeeded. The show follows four American friends living in London where they deal with career and romantic obstacles. A delightful reinvention, it elevated the stagnant status quo of rom-coms but still keep the tropes we know and love. Every single character had hopes, dreams, and fears. Full of classic one-liners and zings Kaling is known for, the series is definitely worth a watch.

During the season finale, Kash (Nikesh Patel) and his ex-fiance, Ainsley (Rebecca Rittenhouse) are walking through the streets at night. It’s the first time since the show’s premiere that these characters are cordial. They spend the better part of the series at odds after Kash calls off their wedding in the first episode. Curiosity and guilt bring Ainsley to the theater where Kash is a lead, fulfilling a lifelong dream he’s had. As they awkwardly catch up, she asks how he’s doing. Kash replies, “Things are good. I mean, I’m single and desperately lonely.”

The show had me until that one line. 

It’s the kind of dialogue we often hear in romantic comedies. Characters ache and moan about their single life. About being lonely. They fear they’ll never find someone. Never be happy. Even if everything else in their life is going great, if they aren’t in a relationship, their life has no meaning. 

Cue eye roll.

Now, I loved the series. It was sweet, funny, poignant, and romantic. Exactly what you want out of a rom-com. Mindy Kaling brought her quirky touch to a recycled storyline. By centering it on the four friends, she promotes growth and maturity.

But I hate that line.

I despise any movie, television show, or book painting loneliness as a fate worse than death. It implants a dangerous and harmful mindset.

Brene Brown writes in her bestselling book, Daring Greatly, “We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” I don’t think Brown means solely romantic connections here. She means basic and simple human connection. Is romance a form of connection? Of course. But to suggest that without romance in our lives, we’re bound to suffer, is not how asexuals like me view the world. And the type of language used in these romantic films and other entertainment is not the message we want to give our younger generations.

In the most recent publication about asexuality, Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, author Angela Chen says, “So long as there is no romantic partner in the picture, others will think the picture incomplete.”

I understand for a storyline to have merit the hero or heroine must end up with the love interest. What if they don’t? Is it really so bad if the main character ends up alone? Because let’s be realistic. Loneliness happens. To all of us. When my allosexual (anyone who feels sexual attraction for other people; allo for short) friends are single, they complain they’re “alone.” I want to remind them that, in fact, they’re not. Yes, they’re single. But single doesn’t mean they are alone. We’re never completely alone. Are we alone in the sense that we’re by ourselves? Sure. Can we eat at a restaurant alone? Yes. But in terms of being lonely, we never are.

We have access to friends and family within arms reach. All you have to do is pick up the phone. Call. Text. FaceTime. If you feel lonely and want to talk to someone, scroll through your contacts. Select a person you know you have great conversations with and see if they’re available. If not, don’t fret. Try someone else. Stop thinking you’re alone. The idea of ending up desperately alone stems from society’s pressure on finding a life partner. This someone is your person and they mean the world to you. But to think your life has no meaning because you haven’t found someone and you’re afraid to end up alone is the seed society has planted in us. If romantic comedies have taught us one thing, it’s there’s someone for everyone. Right? Possibly. But what about those of us who don’t view others sexually? What about those who don’t want to partake in romantic relationships?

This is where asexuals are viewed as strange. Downright weird. Immoral. 

What do you mean you don’t want a relationship? How could you not want to have sex?

I think romance is beautiful. To meet a stranger and grow to love them enough, trust them enough with your most intimate dreams and fantasies. That’s pure magic. I’m awed and inspired by my parents’ love. I watched my sister fall in love with her husband. I’ve gone to weddings of friends and family. I’ve seen love in all forms. As an ace and grayromantic woman, romance and sexual attraction are not at the forefront of my brain. They barely exist. And when I say barely, I mean they’re essentially non-existent. Because of this, I’ve learned to embrace my loneliness. I know there’s a chance I won’t ever find a significant other.

Did you gasp out loud? Did the idea of it make you cringe?

Welcome to romanticism for asexuals.

Julie Sondra Decker points out in her book, The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality that “relationships do not have to include sex or sexual attraction to be categorized as romantic.” It’s possible for asexuals to be in relationships with non-asexuals. Many are. How they approach sex varies from couple to couple, but it’s not an easy conversation to have. Imagine telling your boyfriend/girlfriend that you adore them as a person. You trust them with your heart and soul. Now tell them you’re not sexually attracted to them? Doesn’t go over well, huh? This is what makes dating difficult, especially for aces. When I look back on my past relationships — of which there was only one — I realized it was the friendship I cherished more. After I said yes to being his girlfriend, I felt like I did something wrong. We weren’t together for long. The few dates I went on in college resulted in nothing more than a friendly hug at the end of the night and no second date.

Coming out as asexual made me accept the fact that I may never get married. I may never find a partner. If I do, sexual attraction will not be there. I know this to be true because as ace I don’t feel sexual attraction for anyone. It’s not in my DNA. Physical attraction can be present. I’d be happy to stare at a shirtless Jason Momoa all day. But do I feel a burning desire down there? Nope.

Am I terrified of ending up alone?

No.

What about when I’m older? Who will take care of me? Well, I hope to be fine for a while. I have plenty of time to worry about where I’ll be in my seventies, eighties, and nineties. Angela Chen agrees. “It is still unfair that people worry that not having a romantic partner means they can’t take care of themselves in old age,” she writes. 

Will I ever feel truly lonely? Never.

“In reality, friendships can be among the deepest relationships people have—and that goes for everyone, not just aromantic people,” Julie Sondra Decker writes. The friendships I have fulfill me as any romantic relationship would. What do we want out of a romantic partner? Love. Support. Comfort. Trust. The same things we want out of friends and family. Allos want sex and intimacy from their romantic partners but as an ace, I don’t require that to be happy.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “lonely” as (a) being without company, and (b) cut off from others. 

Take a look at those definitions again. “Being without company” doesn’t mean never without company. “Cut off from others.” COVID-19 forced us into lockdowns that cut us off from our loved ones. If you lived alone, I’m sure it was harder on you than most. But thanks to FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Hangouts we stayed connected. Imagine if this pandemic happened ten or twenty years ago? The technology then wouldn’t compare.

As emotional creatures, we tend to overemphasize our feelings. If you dropped a fork for the third time in two minutes you’re way beyond annoyed. You’re livid. Cursing. Calling yourself an idiot with butterfingers. My dad and sister are famous for this. They make it well known how mad they are that they dropped something. So if we’re not in a relationship when everyone around us seems to be, we’re going to amp up the drama. We’re going to say we’ll never find anyone. We’ll be alone forever. We’re unlovable. I’ve heard plenty of variations and they’re all dramatic. 

I’ve become more comfortable telling people when they ask me, “Anyone special in your life, Jess?” that “No. I’m asexual so I may not find anyone, but I’m okay with it. I’m happy whether or not I’m in a relationship.”

The expressions I receive in response range from shock to pity and the occasional, “Oh, you’ll find someone. You’re too sweet to end up alone.”

It’s funny. Even if you tell someone you’re fine with being alone, they can’t accept it. This stems back to society and the pressure it puts on people to fall in love and reproduce. Isn’t that what we’re meant to do? Every other animal on the planet mates. How could a small percentage of people out there not have romantic or sexual feelings?

Unfortunately, asexuals will always have a hard time convincing people that being alone is not the end of the world. It’s hard to change someone’s mind when the idea of something has been drilled into them since they were little. Believe me, I thought for the longest time if I wasn’t married with a couple of kids at a certain age, I failed at life. This is the seed we need to stop planting. It’s not healthy and rom-coms are not helping the cause.

Let’s check in on Kash and his comment. Does he ultimately end up happy, with his lover back in his arms? Of course he does. Would it be a romantic story if he didn’t? Rom-coms are always bound to have those moments where the main character feels all is lost. But from an asexual perspective, describing this moment as him being “desperately lonely” or feeling like life is over is a trope that needs to be reconsidered for future projects. 

Loneliness comes down to mindset. Be sad if you broke up with someone. It’s natural. You need time to heal, but don’t think you’re alone or that your life is over. When you break up with someone, who comes to console you? Friends. Family. Hopefully, they come with wine and chocolate. They give you the love and support you just lost. The next time you feel lonely, grab your phone and reach out to a friend. Chances are, they’ll be there for you. 

You Have to Learn to Pace Yourself

I’ve been thinking a lot about pressure. To be more specific I’ve been thinking a lot about the pressure we put on ourselves.

January is over. The first month of 2021 is gone. Did anyone else feel like January was as long as this pandemic? No? Just me? Ok.

Let me ask you this then: Are you pleased with what you got done in January? Or do you feel like you could’ve done more?

If you’re thinking the latter then this post is for you. You are my people.

Like you, I didn’t get everything I wanted to get done in January. There were moments I had time reveal itself to me but I didn’t take it. Twelve days in, I started to resent myself for not taking the free time I had.

The instant a weight of self-loathing began pressing on my shoulders, I paused everything I was doing and gave myself a pep talk. I took out my journal and literally wrote, “Relax! It’s only the first month of the year.”

After that, I took a few deep breaths and decided to give myself the next day off. I read, I rewatched season 3 of Cobra Kai, and I updated my Spotify playlists. For the rest of the month, I allowed myself to get away with not doing something just because there was time to do it. 

And you know what, it was glorious.

I pride myself on being a productive person. I’m always writing something, plotting something, reorganizing something. Having my own business and working from home gives me the freedom to change my hours as I see fit. Though I usually stick to the same hours, it’s nice to know I have the flexibility to alter them if something comes up.   

I want to share this tweet from author and screenwriter, C. Robert Cargill:

He isn’t kidding. 

In January alone we saw a siege on the Capitol building, a second impeachment, and the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (Madam Vice President!!!). Basically, it was a month of roller-coaster emotions. People were scared, excited, hopeful, worried. I myself felt all of those plus some. My mind was so preoccupied with the state of the world, I barely had the creative energy to write.

If you — like me — didn’t get a lot done because you were trying to hold it together, it’s ok.

Personally, the majority of the writing I did during January was journal writing. My goal was to make sure my mental state was in check. The last thing I worried about was a deadline or finishing my plot outline. 

Now, if you were able to write or complete your January to-do list, way to go! Never be ashamed for working hard. Everyone reacts differently to historical moments. Whatever your reaction was to these January events, I’m here to tell you it’s normal.

February is a new month. The Age of Aquarius starts in February. It is a time of rebirth and transition. Let January be known as the month you dipped your toes in the water. February is the month you’ll jump in, swim forward, and never look back.

Let’s go!

If you don’t already I recommend following C. Robert Cargill on Twitter. He posts a lot of inspirational and relatable writing posts.

Fun fact: The title of this post comes from Billy Joel’s song “Pressure.” It’s a great tune that was sung by Jane Levy on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist in an absolutely hysterical scene. If you’re not watching that show, I highly recommend giving it a go. I’ve never laughed and cried so much.

How did your January go? Did you get everything done that you wanted to? Did you feel more stressed than usual? Comment below.

21 Books on My 2021 Reading List

At the end of every year, we’re inundated with articles about the most anticipated books of the new year. 

I — like many of you — drool over the upcoming titles. But I — like I’m sure many of you — have plenty of other books purchased in the previous year and years past.

This is why I like to create a list of books I plan to read rather than talk about the books I’m excited about. Because I know it’s rare I’ll read nothing but books published in the year we’re in.

So, without further ado, here are the 21 books I plan to read in 2021.

  1. They Don’t Need to Understand by Andy Biersack
  2. Shit, Actually by Lindy West
  3. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
  4. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
  5. Luster by Raven Leilani
  6. Journal Planning Magic by Andrea Gonzalez
  7. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  8. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  9. The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
  10. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
  11. Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
  12. Group by Christie Tate
  13. People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd
  14. Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
  15. The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan
  16. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  17. Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon
  18. The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup
  19. Providence by Caroline Kepnes
  20. The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
  21. Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant

These are in no particular order. I can’t promise I’ll read all of them. A few might be replaced by something else. But these are certainly the ones I am aiming to read this year.

What books are you most excited to read this year?

Setting 2021 Goals and Plans

Let’s be honest. This New Year’s Eve didn’t feel like the “wipe the slate clean” type of day it usually does. Because contrary to what people think, we’re not out of the woods yet in terms of the pandemic. 

We still need to be careful. Wear a mask. Social distance. Protect each other.

But 2021 can represent a fresh start in some ways. And despite the uncertainty, I created my annual list of goals and plans.

I don’t believe in resolutions. I believe in goal-setting. 

Is there a difference? To me there is. 

The reason I don’t like resolutions is the pressure it puts on us. We start out strong and then life gets in the way. We fall behind. We feel like failures and we resort to old habits because it’s easier. Negative self-talk begins. The vicious cycle continues year after year.

That’s no way to succeed. So I made the decision a few years ago to not set any New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I create a list of goals and work on them throughout the year.

What’s the difference between goals and resolutions?

Mindset for one.

The term resolution makes my stress levels rise. Goals don’t need to be completed in a month. I know they might take the whole year to finish, which is fine. 

When people create resolutions they want instant gratification. When they don’t get it, they quit. Turning resolutions into goals removes a lot of stress. You should also break them down into smaller goals.

For example, one of my goals this year is to publish at least 10 essays. This goal includes print and online publications. 10 for the year seemed like a good number. 

This larger goal is broken up into smaller tasks like:

  • Get a list of publications to submit to.
  • Generate a list of topics to write about.
  • Write for 30 minutes a day.

I’m a big believer in breaking larger goals down into smaller tasks. It always feels less daunting.

Some other goals for 2021 include:

  • Complete first draft of essay collection.
  • Draft screenplay.
  • Get 10-15 clients for my copywriting business.

Each goal is broken down into smaller tasks. I use Trello to keep track of them as well as update my progress. I also set a deadline for each task.

However you plan for the new year — whether you call them resolutions or not — remember to celebrate the little victories. 

Set realistic goals. Know your limits. Push them, but not to the point where you feel like a failure. Track your progress. Keep going even if you fall behind. 

Don’t let the term resolution frighten you away. Change your mindset. Write your goals down. Work on them a little each day. You got this! 

What are your goals/resolutions for 2021? Do you believe in resolutions? Have you found more success in making resolutions or setting goals?

Books Read in 2020

Whew! We’ve come to the end of the year we all want to forget but never will.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a lengthy review of the ups and downs of this unpredictable year. I’m simply going to share with you the books I read this year.

The * represents my top five.

Have a safe and Happy New Year, my friends!

Books read:

  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Jason Fry
  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell*
  • Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott
  • The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
  • Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
  • A Love Letter Life by Jeremy & Audrey Roloff
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  • Stray by Stephanie Danler
  • Understanding Asexuality by Anthony F. Bogaert
  • Riding In Cars with Boys by Beverly Donofrio
  • The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker
  • Space Between by Nico Tortorella*
  • Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara*
  • Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle*
  • Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu
  • Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
  • Vampires Never Get Old by Zoraida Cordova
  • Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
  • The Collected Schizoprehnics by Esme Weijun Wang
  • Ace by Angela Chen
  • Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness*
  • We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

By genre:

  • Fiction = 11
  • Young Adult = 3
  • Non-Ficton = 16
  • Short Stories = 3

Total books read in 2020 = 31

My Favorite Quotes About Perseverance

On Monday, November 30, I was called into my CEO’s office and told that due to budget cuts my position was going to be phased out. Effective immediately. 

It was a blow. I’d been at the non-profit for two years and although the job wasn’t my endgame, I was proud of the work I’d accomplished in the time there. I worked with a great group of dedicated women and I miss them. My office mate/program manager specifically.

I’m now joining the thousands of other Americans on unemployment. However, I do have my copywriting business and freelance writing keeping me company. I know others aren’t so lucky to have something like this to fall back on.  

It’s weird to say that losing my job was not the greatest loss in my life. If I didn’t have copywriting or my other writing I think I’d be in an entirely different mindset. I know it’ll take me some time to make enough from those to cover what I’m losing, but I know through perseverance I will make it.

With all that said — and knowing there are many other people out there in a similar boat — I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes about perseverance. It might seem like this is never going to end, but I promise you, things will get better.

When in doubt, repeat one or more of these quotes and remember that you can get through this.


If you are going through hell, keep going. — Winston Churchill

Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance. — Abigail Adams

It always seems impossible until it’s done. — Nelson Mandela

The will to preserve is often the difference between failure and success. — David Sarnoff

The best way out is always through. — Robert Frost

Change takes effort. And the reality is, most people don’t want to put in effort to better their life. — Cesar Millan

If you fell down yesterday, stand up today. — H.G. Wells


Day One or One Day – You Decide

NaNoWriMo Check-in and How to Avoid Burning Out in the Last Week

We’re in the final full week of NaNoWriMo. Can you believe it? I swear I blink and the month is gone.

How are you doing?

Are you on track to writing 50k words? Are you a bit behind, but feel confident you’ll catch up? Are you glad to have any amount of words written without a care as to whether you do 50k?

If you’re like me, welcome to the any amount of words written club.

I started to fall behind midway through the second week of NaNoWriMo. This didn’t surprise me. I knew it was bound to happen. I knew because this month I’m currently:

  • Participating in NaNoWriMo.
  • Writing and editing personal essays for upcoming contests.
  • Writing and editing flash fiction stories for upcoming contests.
  • Editing a proposal for a December 1 deadline.
  • Editing a query letter for a December 1 deadline.
  • Writing content for my copywriting clients.
  • Pitching services to new clients.

All in the single month of November!

Ambitious? You betcha. Insane? Hell yes. Biting off more than I can chew? Maybe. 

I woke up feeling a slight touch of burnout on November 16 and decided to give myself the day off. I knew it’d set my NaNoWriMo project back, but I also know that I’ll finish the project. Definitely not on November 30, but maybe on December 7 or December 14. Either way, I know I’ll get it done.

Burnout is nothing to be proud of. I saw a quote on LinkedIn the other day stating people wear burnout as a badge of honor and we need to stop doing that. It’s true. Working yourself to the point where you physically and mentally can’t handle anything is not healthy.

Yes, you gave yourself the challenge of writing 50,000 words in November for NaNoWriMo, but if you don’t “win” it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Even if you fell short by 1,000 words, be proud of yourself. 

Believe me, looking at that bullet list, I’m freaking out. I know that’s a lot to tackle in a month. Even for someone like me who is a pretty damn good time manager.

I knew instantly on the morning of November 16 that I needed a break. The symptoms of burnout are clear:

  • Headaches
  • Stomachache
  • Feeling drained
  • Reduced creativity
  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism

If you wake up feeling any one or more of these symptoms, give yourself a day to rest and recharge!

I’m going to break a major taboo right now: you don’t have to write every day to be a writer. Once more for the people in the back:

You don’t have to write every day to be a writer.

This is something I learned far too late in my writing career. I felt if I didn’t write and write 1,000+ words every day, I wasn’t a good enough writer. I wasn’t dedicated enough. This mindset led me into two and a half years of no writing and deep depression. I wanted to vomit every time I picked up a pen or turned on my laptop.

Then I stumbled upon a bunch of writers part of the I-don’t-write-every-day-club and my life was changed forever.

NaNoWriMo challenges you to write every day, but it’s not going to yell at you if you don’t. Only you can do that. What I love most about the website — courtesy of a writerly friend — is how it gives you an estimated date of when you’ll finish. It averages out your word count and updates that deadline every time you put in a new word count.

Right now, mine says December 14. That’s two weeks from November 30. Even if it elongates, it’s nice to know I’m on track and nearing the finish line.

Do yourself a favor. If you’re feeling any of the signs of burnout, give yourself one day to relax. Sleep in. Binge a few episodes of a show you love. Read a book. Know those 50,000 words will be written. Your writing is important, but not at the risk of your mental and physical state.

Take care of yourself, my friends. The world needs your words.

Your turn. Have you ever been burnt out before? How’s your NaNoWriMo going? Are you done? Close to the finish line? I’d love to hear how you unwind when you feel on the verge of burning out.

10 Online Shops to Find the Perfect Bookish Gift

It’s never too early to start thinking about holiday gifts. And online shopping this year is predicted to be higher than any other year — thanks, COVID — so it’s time to start ordering now. 

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the bookish person in your life, or if you need to give people an idea of what to get you, I’ve gathered some sites that offer amazing items. I certainly wouldn’t mind getting some of this stuff.

Whether they’re a writer or an avid book reader, your bookish loved one will appreciate the thought you put into their present this year.

Here’s my top ten list of places to find the perfect gift for the writer or reader in your life.

  1. Scribbler
  1. Book of the Month
  1. Out of Print
  1. OwlCrate
  1. MyBookBox
  1. Frostbeard Studio
  1. Chick Lit Designs
  1. Storiarts
  1. Introverts Retreat
  1. Our Little Book Club

Happy shopping!

Tools to Help You Succeed at NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a week away and if you aren’t hyperventilating yet, please don’t start. You’ll be fine. Remember, you’re joining thousands of other writers across the globe embarking on the exact same journey. Connect with them. Lift each other up. Cheer each other on.

You’ve got this!

Since I’ll be participating this year, I thought I’d share some of my favorite resources. These are essential whenever I sit down to write.

Self Control

How many times have you said, “Ok, I’m going to write for an hour and not check Facebook or Instagram.” But then you remembered an awesome outfit or meal on your friend’s account and you want to use it in your story. You break your promise and go on social media. Next thing you know, your hour of writing is up and you’ve only written 100 words.

Mind you, it’s 100 words you didn’t have before, but you’d have a lot more if it wasn’t for social media. 

Self Control is a great, free, app you can use to block certain sites. You create a “blacklist” of sites, set the timer, and within that time frame, if you try and go to those listed sites, Self Control will block them.

It’s pretty ingenious. But what about your phone? How do you stop yourself from switching to your phone for a social media fix? 

The best and only option: put your phone in another room. Or invest in a kitchen safe. Put your phone in the jar, set the timer, and get to work. You won’t be able to remove the lid until the timer goes off. 

These may seem like extreme measures, but if you’re too easily distracted by your phone or social media, they’re actually pretty smart investments.

Be Focused

Bestselling author V.E. Schwab swears by timed writing sprints. She tracks these sprints monthly in her notebook which she shares via her social media. These sprints are usually 30 minutes each.

You may have heard of the Pomodoro Technique. A popular time management method, you work on whatever task you assign yourself for 25 straight minutes. Afterward, you get a five-minute break. Then you work for another 25 minutes and so on. Once you complete four sessions, you get a longer break.

Be Focused is an app that makes using the method easy.

This method has been a life-saver for me. I prefer timed goals rather than word count goals and this one makes me quite productive. Some days I only have time for two sessions instead of four. On really tight days, I can only do one session. But focusing on writing and nothing but writing for those 25 minutes sees a pretty impressive word count.

The app is free and there are a few variations. If you don’t want to use the app, the timer on your phone works just fine. 

Trello

Trello is a list-making website that is great for project management. My team at the non-profit I work at uses it to track our projects and now I use it for writing and personal projects.

You can make “boards” for each individual story and create lists for characters, scenes, playlists, etc. Within those lists can be tasks/notes and within those tasks are the nitty-gritty details like checklists, due dates, and resources. 

What I love about Trello are the functions. You can create labels and color code them. You can attach links, YouTube videos, images, Google docs/sheets, and more. I love making checklists because breaking large projects into smaller tasks makes it more manageable. And the deadline feature is a great accountability tool. 

You can share your board with other writers, especially if you’re collaborating. 

The program is free. The pro version gives you a bit more bells and whistles, but nothing you’d really need if all you’re using are the basics. You can download the free app on your phone to keep all of your notes and deadlines handy when you’re away from your computer. 

Alternatives include monday.com, Asana, and Wrike.

Notebook & Neo

A lot of my first drafts — especially my short stories and essays — are done longhand. Even with Self Control, I sometimes find myself too distracted by the computer to write on it. Basically, I have fear of the blank page.

But when I open a notebook and start handwriting, my thoughts flow. 

I can’t explain it. Writing my first drafts longhand guarantee they’ll get written. I also use my trusty Alphasmart Neo word processor. I can bring it outside and not worry about the sun’s glare. The sound of the keyboard is soothing and it only shows four lines of your current work. Perfect for those who go back and edit too much. 

I’ve noticed a lot of writers — published and unpublished — switching to word processors. With good reason. It’s amazing how much easier the words and thoughts come out when I’m not working off of a laptop. 

If you’re feeling stuck, switch it up. Try longhand writing in a notebook to unblock your thoughts. If you have a word processor, switch to that. 

One final piece of advice 

Be kind to yourself. 

This isn’t an easy thing you’re attempting. You’ll have good days and bad days. Don’t let the bad days discourage you. Write on. Celebrate no matter how much you write next month.

What resources do you swear by when writing? Are you looking for an accountability buddy this NaNoWriMo? Have you ever written a draft longhand?