Could Firmer Boundaries Help You Dramatically Increase How Much You Write?

Back when I was a student, I had long vacations. Sometimes, I’d attend my previous writing group, back in my home town, where members would bring about 1,000 words of their work-in-progress to read each Monday evening.

Guess how many words I wrote each week?

About 1,000. It took me the whole of a Monday, sometimes, in fits and starts.

These days, with two kids and housework (on top of freelancing commitments), I can easily hit 1,000 words in an hour.

What’s the difference? Stronger boundaries.

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Why You Should Join – Or Start – a Local Writers’ Group

Do you belong to a writers’ group?

Some authors don’t feel they have much benefit … and I’ll agree that if you’ve got several published books that are selling well, you’re probably rather beyond the local writers’ circle stage of things.

If you’re at an earlier point in your writing career, though, a writers’ group can be a very helpful, nurturing part of your writing life.

When you meet with fellow writers on a regular basis, you’ll (hopefully!) find that:

  • You feel supported and understood. It’s hard to overstate how critical this can be, as a writer. If no-one in your family or current group of friends “gets” what it is to be a writer, and sees your writing as a weird hobby at best (and a waste of time at worst), then you need the presence of fellow writers in your life.
  • You get practical help with honing your writing. While not all writers’ groups will workshop members’ writing, many do, and you can also approach other group members to set up a private manuscript swap.
  • You set aside time to write. Some groups exist primarily as opportunities to write alongside one another – if you join a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) meetup in November, that’s how it’ll work. Other groups do a writing exercise or two each time, then move on to other activities for the rest of the session.
  • You’ll learn more about great writing. Your group might invite speakers, or members might take it in turns to give a short talk about a particular aspect of creative writing. If you’re workshopping one another’s works-in-progress, you’ll also find you learn a lot from examining other people’s mistakes (and strengths).

While there are lots of excellent online groups out there, and these can be a great support, I’m focusing here on local groups that meet regularly in-person. It’s hard to achieve that kind of interaction and focus online.

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Getting Out of Your Writing Slump: Part #1 – Get Re-Energised to Write

This is the first of two posts about writing slumps; in this post, we’ll be tackling some of the non-writing things you can do to get out of a slump … and in the second post, next Monday, we’ll take a look at getting back into the writing zone again.

Are you writing?

Do you want to be writing?

Every writer I’ve ever known has gone through some sort of “slump” at some point, when they do want to write but they simply don’t seem to have the time, energy or focus to do so.

Writing slumps are normal. Going through a slump doesn’t say anything about your ability to do the work, and I firmly believe that you’re still a writer when you’re not currently writing.

Your writing slump might come after a long period when you have been writing – or maybe you’ve never written much at all, even though you want to: you’ve started off in a slump.

Slumps are often linked to a particularly busy or difficult period in your life, a time when a lot of your energy and focus is being used up by other things.


  • You’ve started university and you’re living away from home for the first time
  • You’ve started a full time job and you’re commuting to work
  • You’ve had your first child (congratulations!)
  • You’ve had a second (or third, or fourth) baby
  • You’re going through a period of ill health (physical, mental, or both)
  • Your day job has been particularly hectic
  • You’re grieving the loss of a friend or family member

It might be that you’ve come out of a very busy or difficult period, but you’re still not writing. That’s normal too: it can be hard to pick up where you left off, if you’ve not written for months (or even years).

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Have Faith in Yourself and Your Writing

Image from Flickr by Sir_Iwan

There are all sorts of qualities that writers have, but one that I don’t see discussed a lot is faith.

Faith …

… that you do have something worth saying

… that you aren’t wasting your time

… that someone, somewhere, will be impacted by your words

… that you’re making progress

… that you’re brave enough (even when you don’t feel at all brave)

Faith doesn’t mean you never have doubts. Faith means you wrestle with those doubts, and you don’t let them beat you.

Faith doesn’t mean you never give up. Faith means that when you’ve fallen down – again and again – you get up and carry on.

I can’t tell you that the writing path is an easy one. I can tell you that it’s worth travelling. And if you want to be a writer, if your life doesn’t feel complete without writing, then you already have the faith that you need.

Today, faith brought you this post.

I didn’t feel like writing a word.

I didn’t even create an outline.

I didn’t know what I wanted to say.

I just knew that today, someone needed to read this. And that today, I needed to write it.



Twenty-Five Ways to Come Up With Great Ideas for Your Writing

Image from Flickr by Sean MacEntee

You want to write … but you don’t seem to have anything to write about.

Whether you’re writing blog posts, fiction, articles, or a book, try these ways to get a creative spark going. There are fifteen general tips, plus five for bloggers and five for fiction-writers:

Any Type of Writing

#1: Read – a lot

To be a writer, you need to read. You should be familiar with what’s happening in your chosen genre or field – but you’ll also want to read outside your comfort zone so that you have a wider pool of ideas to draw on.

#2: Take a walk

I find that walking is a great way to daydream guilt-free (at least I’m getting some fresh air and exercise…) If you can head somewhere inspiring, even better – but a simple stroll around your local streets can help the creative cogs to turn.

#3: Flick through magazines or newspapers

As well as being a great idea-generation method, this is also a nifty way to put procrastination to good use. Browsing through magazines and newspapers can throw up all sorts of ideas, from the lurid to the tragic.

#4: See the world

Travelling has so many benefits for writers: you get out of your usual routine, you try new things, you have plenty of “waiting” time to sit and write in a notebook (on trains, in airports, etc), and you’ll often find your pre-conceptions challenged.

#5: Use your hobbies and interests

If you’ve got a strong interest, write about it. I blog about writing because it’s something I love and a central part of my life. You could write an article, start a blog, or even use an unusual hobby as the basis for a novel.

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Ideas #2: How to Choose and Develop a Great Idea

(Image from Flickr by erichhh)

This is the second post in a two-part series about ideas. You can find the first part here: How to Come Up With Lots of Great Ideas.

Thanks for this post! I don’t have trouble coming up with ideas; it is more about whether the idea is actually good or not and whether it fits within my blog niche. Guess I need to work on #1 and not judge my ideas!

(Kalyn, in a comment on Ideas #1: How to Come Up With Lots of Great Ideas)

Kalyn raises an excellent point: how do we figure out whether an idea’s worth pursuing or not?

This is an issue that I face every day. Like I mentioned in the last post, I use around a quarter of my ideas – the rest, for a number of reasons, get discarded.

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Ideas #1: How to Come Up With Lots of Great Ideas

Image from Flickr by adihrespati


I wonder at what point in time you are planning on explaining to your readers how it is that you manage to come up with so many bright ideas. It seems like your mind works like a computer and you can fire off ideas with the speed of a bullet.

(Archan Mehta, in a comment on Copywriting Essentials from A to Z, Copyblogger)

I’ve been guest posting a lot over recent weeks, and you might well have seen my name popping up around the blogosphere. Archan’s not the only person to wonder how I do it.

In fact, this is a question which comes up again and again in the writing world, and I imagine that every prolific writer gets asked the same thing: How do you come up with so many great ideas? (And how can I do the same?)

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