Bad Writer Confessions: I Haven’t Written in 1 Month

We’re halfway through 2015, guys!

Don’t look at me like that. I don’t control these things.

I’ve been reflecting back on some of the new year’s projects I mentioned in January, and have come to the sad realization that I probably will not finish my novel this year.

It’s not impossible. I mean I do have a more presentable draft that I am more happy with than I have been, ever. But considering the amount of work the whole thing still needs–at least half of the chapters rewritten, and then another 5-6 months of a combined cool-off/editing frenzy period, and it just doesn’t seem likely.

Make that like 6 years running.

This wouldn’t be a huge deal…

  • except that I feel tied to this project
  • and unwilling to start something new because I feel like I must finish at this point
  • and guilty for not writing because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and now I finally have some time (if not the energy) to do it.

Add to that the fact that I’ve been blogging and vlogging about writing as if I know something about it, and I’ve got myself a potent case of imposter syndrome.

I don’t want to get all woe-is-me here because it’s honestly not like that. I’ve been succeeding in other important parts of my life. I’ve been exploring new and old interests like I meant to in early 2015. Making the videos like the one above. Cooking and baking. Keeping in touch with my family. Traveling some. More often staying home. Reading a lot of good books (and really overachieving on my unaggressive Goodreads goal).

I’m not giving up on my novel, but I’m also not missing it much.


Writing Vlog I: Novel Outlining (with Sticky Notes!)

Hi friends!

I haven’t been posting as regularly to Don’t Be A Writer this past year as I did the year previously.  A huge part of that is just my obligations and schedule changing as I go from college student mode to…post-college student?  I don’t want to say adult because, come on, we’re all adults here.  And all of this, no matter what you’re doing, is “real life.”

But I think there’s another, less glamorous reason I haven’t been posting as frequently, which is that I’ve gotten a bit bored.  I feel like I don’t have a ton to contribute in the way of writing encouragement or tips when my writing practice is primarily me waking up early in the morning, hammering out 500 words or so before heading off to work, and calling it good.  I haven’t been thinking as deeply about writing itself because I just don’t have the energy.

One of my projects in this Year of Projects I wrote about last time is to address this.  One thing you may not know about me is that I love Youtube.  Like, a lot.  When I get home in the evenings, sometimes I’ll watch a show, but more often I’m catching up on the latest from my favorite Youtubers.  I sort of thought that everyone had vloggers, etc. who they follow and keep up with, but I understand that’s not the case!  And I pity you.

Saying you don’t like Youtube is a bit like saying you don’t like reading.  There are just so many different types of videos/books that I think you likely just haven’t found the right channel yet.

Enter my video.

Just kidding!  I’m not saying I’m the right channel.  There are many, many more experienced, thoughtful Youtubers than myself who have been doing this for years and really perfected their craft.  I’ll link to some of those below.

But it’s true that I’ve recently started a Youtube channel.  Just to try something different.  You’ll see that so far I’ve talked primarily about books and writing (shocking), so really I’m thinking of this as another format through which I hope to connect with other people who are interested in this stuff (MAYBE PEOPLE LIKE YOU?!?!).

I may start posting more of my thoughts on writing and progress updates in video form.  It felt nice to talk through my struggles and worries just me and the camera rather than writing it all down and then to go back and edit my post.  I still had to edit this video, but the footage was done–I’d said what I’d said, and there was not really a way to edit the content of the video–just taking out a lot of the “um”s.

So watch if you want to. Subscribe if you want updates when there’s more.

Bookish Youtube Channels I recommend:


Ariel Bissett


Other channels that any human will find interesting:


ASAP Science

Wheezy Waiter

Good Mythical Morning

Nerdy and Quirky


Smarter Every Day

On the Importance of Deadlines

There have been quite a few new faces visiting the blog recently, so welcome!  I’m glad that you’ve found my sporadic and slightly uneducated advice helpful.

Whether this is your first visit or your fifth, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been posting, uh, infrequently let’s say.  But I promise I have a great excuse!

I am almost halfway through my senior spring at this point, so I have been busy finishing my thesis and interviewing for post-graduation jobs.

it's always sunny jobs gif

I’m trying not to feel too guilty about not keeping up with this blog, because

a) this is my last chance to enjoy being an undergrad, and

b) this blog isn’t going anywhere.  I anticipate I’ll have more time to write to you all, and indeed, share my thoughts on the transition from writing in college to writing on top of a full-time job-having “adult” soon enough!

But in the meantime, I wanted to share with you what has probably been my most important realization so far as I’ve worked on my creative writing thesis:

Deadlines are terrifying and awesome.

I have finally gotten to this point where I’m writing regularly (i.e. almost daily), and it’s not because of my internal fortitude or love for putting words on the page day in and day out.  To be honest, I don’t always like that part of writing.  It kind of sucks.

No, I’m writing regularly because I have to.  Because I need to show something to someone in a week.

Part of this has been figuring out my own writing process.  I’ve written eight short stories for this collection now, so I know about how much time it takes me to complete a draft, and how much more to edit that mess.

Short story revision: the arts & crafts method.

Short story revision: the arts & crafts method.

The thing about this process is that it’s long.  There are a lot of steps.  That means if I procrastinate on one step, it’s going to throw off the whole process.  And here’s the thing: it’s a lot harder to force yourself to keep moving through this process if you don’t have a hard deadline.

Over the next few months, I’ll be thinking a lot about how to hold myself accountable when I’m not producing work for a grade.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts!  I think having a community of other writers to chat (and commiserate) with is something that can hold us accountable and motivate us to keep doing our own things.

Now go write something.  Jeez.

5 Short Stories That Will Make You a Better Writer

5 Short Stories That Will Make You a Better WriterI selected the five short stories below for their diversity in style and subject matter, but also because each one is a well-crafted story in its own right.

If you own any modern short story collections, some of these works are probably in there. Or, other works by these same authors will be.

Which, by the way, if you are a young writer and you don’t own any story collections yet, I highly recommend picking up one from your local bookstore, or finding a used copy online. Even if you’re a novelist, short stories provide great quick studies into the how to craft an effective story.

1. “Incarnations of Burned Children” by David Foster Wallace

What it’s about: There’s an accident, and a child gets hurt.

Why it’s awesome: It’s short and punchy. No, really, it will feel like someone punched you in the stomach.

What you should pay attention to:

  • What Wallace does and doesn’t tell us as readers, and the effect that has
  • The structure and style. There are only about seven sentences total in this story.
  • How the one short sentence used has a ton of impact

Where you can find it: On Esquire (for free!).

2. “How” by Lorrie Moore

What it’s about: A relationship, from beginning to end

Why it’s awesome: It’s a great example of second person POV done really, really well, and the details of the story make it feel true.

What you should pay attention to:

  • The way Moore balances dark humor and the serious subject matter
  • The devices used to show the passage of time and the progression of the relationship in the story
  • The way Moore plays with language

Where you can find it: Moore’s first short story collection, Self-Help.

3. “The Sun, The Moon, the Stars” by Junot Díaz

What it’s about: A break-up, beginning to end
Why it’s awesome: Díaz captures his narrator’s voice immediately, and although Yunior is a pretty awful person, we understand why he does what he does.
What you should pay attention to:

  • What effect does it have when Junior tells us up front, on the very first page, about his cheating?
  • How the Junior’s version of the break-up story reveals Junior’s character
  • Who or what are we, as readers, rooting for?

Where you can find it: Díaz’s story collection This is How You Lose Her

4. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates

What it’s about: A teenage girl attracts the attention of a less-than-savory man
Why it’s awesome: If you want a guide to writing a story that boils with suspense all the way through to the end, you want this one.
What you should pay attention to:

  • How the initial characterization of the main character, Connie, affects our reading of the rest of the story
  • How Oates goes about building tension

Where you can find it: Right here online (free PDF).

5. “Once in a Lifetime” by Jhumpa Lahiri

What it’s about: The narrator recalls a time in her childhood when her family hosted another family in their home; the close proximity makes tensions run high and brings secrets to light.
Why it’s awesome: Lahiri’s writing is beautiful and gripping, yet quite simple.
What you should pay attention to:

  • The language. Look at those beautiful sentences.
  • How this 2nd-person point of view differs from the point of view in Lorrie Moore’s story
  • The way Hema’s discovery at the end of the story shapes our own understanding of the piece

Where you can find it: Lahiri’s second short story collection, Unaccustomed Earth

Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any important stories. I’d love some recommendations!

35 Things to Do Besides Write (Which Will Improve Your Writing)

Writers write, sure, but you can’t be writing all the time.  Take a break once in a while!

Here are a bunch of things you can do instead that will have you coming back to your desk reinvigorated and full of ideas.

  1. Read a book you love.  Pay attention to what makes you love it. Is it the author’s word choice? The suspense?  The rhythm?
  2. Read something you’ve never read before: new author, new genre, whatever.
  3. Play with a child (or a bunch of children)yerin park sled Continue reading