Sweatpants and a messy bun?
You're perfect. So cuddle up with some quick, light reads in the blog. Choose by category or dive all in.
There are very few writing assignments that make me shudder. Since the age of five, I’ve written short stories, newspaper columns, magazine articles, ad copy, photo captions and more. Despite this, I’m constantly a student. Frankly, you could master every rule in the English language but be a terrible writer. In my opinion, it isn’t how well you understand a language – it’s about continuously challenging yourself to use it differently.
I’ll admit that when I think of copywriting, my original thoughts often wander to “copyright” which is a lot of legalese. Copywriting on the other hand is the act of writing copy or text for the purpose of marketing or advertising. You can do this for a product, business, person, opinion, or an idea. I explain it to those who question the profession like this: the words you read when you visit a website? The “About Us” the “Company History” the “Services” pages – those are all forms of copy to be written for clients. *Light bulb*
Now you may be saying to yourself, “plenty of people can write.” That’s quite true. But have you ever scoured the Internet and noticed just how poorly written some webpages are? And where there is a problem, one must create a solution. Mine?
Curly Q Media (Check it out. Become a client).
As a writer, especially when you’re writing for multiple businesses, you must be flexible with your words.
Flexibility in our words is often one area largely impacted by writer’s block.
So tell me: what words are tripping you up regularly? Share it in the comments below.
For me, it’s the word “said”. It’s so easy to use, especially when you’re quoting someone. But it’s boring, especially when you use it five times in a 500-word article. Trust me. The thesaurus, by the way, offers little assistance to this particular plight.
How do I push through overuse of words? Easy: I create my own thesaurus. Whenever I come a across a word that I feel I use too often, I open my notebook and I write it down. Then, I spend about 5-10 minutes brainstorming other ways to express the same thing. For instance:
Said (this is straight from my notebook, folks)
What is a word that you would really love to start using less?
You're probably guilty of this: saying the cliched phrase, "Everything happens for a reason."
I know I am.
And then I'd go about my life, figuring that whatever lesson said person needed to learn was being learned. So good for them.
Of course, these words have been uttered to me before. And they were always mildly annoying. Because maybe it doesn't happen for a reason. Maybe it's just the way the pendulum is swinging.
But I shook the words off, knowing the person's intentions were good. And the "bad" thing was always small enough that I could convince myself there was a lesson in there somewhere.
So then I lost this house I really wanted. And I didn't lose it because my offer wasn't in first or because the owner didn't pick me. No, I lost it because I was a freelancer. And because I wasn't able to prove my income.
And there were ways I probably could have gotten approved through a different bank. But my rate would have been on the brink of insanity. And that was stupid. So no.
So as you can imagine, this all really pissed me off. Because I made a damn good living as a freelancer. I worked my ass off every single day. Hustling. Meeting. Greeting. Working days, nights, weekends, vacations—whatever it took to build myself the kind of life I envisioned. Because I am not an 8-5 person. I'm not even a 6-3 person or a 10-7 person. I just need...freedom. To be my absolute best. Maybe I work at 4am. Maybe I'm wide awake at 10pm. Maybe I want to take the dogs to the park at lunch. I need to have that choice in order to do what I do well.
And my best cost me the one thing I had always wanted: my own house.
So I did what any logical person would do. I tried to be logical.
I needed two years of W2s to prove I was worthy of home buying. And I searched for a job that would give them to me. Never mind that the job I took paid me less than I'd been making as a freelancer. I swallowed my pride, said "bye" to most of my clients and bought a new wardrobe.
You guys, I despised nearly every. Single. Moment. Of my time in corporate America. I hated that I was going against my heart. That I was fighting a stupid fight, trying to earn something I was already worthy of—even though the big guys, the ones that run this world, said I was not.
But slowly I got used to the regular paycheck that was always the same amount. To the benefits that were a luxury like eye exams. To forcing myself awake and making myself lie still in order to sleep. To saying goodbye to my dogs in the morning, knowing I wouldn't see them again until 6—if I was lucky.
I stopped writing books.
I stopped cooking.
My depression bowled into me with a long held-at-bay vengeance.
It might surprise you to learn that even after we got a house I kept working for big companies.
Because by this time it was habit.
And I'd forgotten what it meant to trust in myself. Forgotten that I was worth so much more than what I was being given.
But then something happened.
One day I decided to let go.
It wasn't easy. I actually gave myself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror that morning. Something along the lines of, "Alright, Janda. You are intelligent. You are a great writer. And you can get through this."
And wouldn't you know...I did get through it.
It wasn't pretty.
And it wasn't graceful.
Mistakes were made.
But once I let that shit go I found many things that were ruffling my feathers to roll off my back. Until eventually I was set free. To a point where I left corporate America and returned to the great wide world of freelancing.
With the blessing of my husband and dogs, of course.
And I have to tell you: I have no idea what the freaking lesson here was.
I love our house. But I loved the one I lost, too.
I was a good (not great but pretty good) writer before I went back to full-time. I am a good (not great but pretty good) writer still.
I value time with my family—but I did before all of this went down.
What's the lesson, here?! If everything happens for a reason then why did all of this happen?
Maybe I'm searching too hard. Or maybe there was no lesson at all. Perhaps it's not necessarily a lesson we take away but the journey that got us here that we're supposed to pay attention to.
Whatever the case may be, I do know one thing: the next time I have the urge to tell someone it all happens for a reason I'm just going to keep my mouth shut. Because maybe it doesn't.
Or maybe it does.
I'll tell you once I have it all figured out.
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London
Truer words were never spoken.
Here we are – almost at a new year. I bet you’re making resolutions aren’t you? Or perhaps you’re just thinking of all those resolutions you made last year that you didn’t fulfill. You’re feeling like a bit fat failure. Next year you’ll be different. Next year things will happen that surround you with just the right circumstances.
One thing that paralyzed me as a writer, for years, was the idea of sharing my work.
That’s a lie.
One thing that paralyzes me about being a writer (present tense) is the idea of sharing my work.
There are those who say writer’s block is simply a matter of severe anxiety. In some instances, I fully agree. This is one of those instances. In fact, the idea of sharing my work with the general public can send me into such terror that writing itself becomes impossible. After all, what could I possibly write that everyone will love?
The answer? Nothing.
I will never write something that everyone in the whole entire world loves and agrees with. It doesn’t happen for the Poet Laureate and it sure as hell won’t happen for me.
And actually, while we’re going down this road, let’s clarify further.
Not only will some people hate my writing to begin with. Some people that start out loving my writing will come to despise it.
Heck, even you’ve been there. Perhaps not with me, but with another creative.
Think of, for instance, that new song on the radio. Gosh, it’s really catchy. Every time it comes on, you can’t help but sing along. Then, a month or so in, it starts to feel a little old. By month three, you swear that radio stations are tracking your movements and only playing the song when you get into your car. Gah! YOU HATE THIS DAMN SONG, TURN IT OFF!
The reality of writing anything, and then sharing it, is that you will encounter a fair amount of criticism. Some immediate. Some down the road. But hey! You did something a lot of people are far too terrified to ever do. That includes your critics.
Criticism is made worse by the internet. The anonymity that haters today can have is rivaled by… nothing.
Frankly, you shouldn’t give a flying bird about any of it.
Being a writer – being an artist – being someone who creates – is reliant upon your ability to kiss comfort goodbye and just make.
And that is something both beautiful and unique about artists of every kind. This is art, my friend. This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. This isn’t perfection. There is no right or wrong answer. This is expression. This is beauty. There is never complete comfort in the unknown.
We kiss comfort goodbye the moment we choose to create.
Is your inability to write caused by a lack of known factors? An inability to know and control the outcome?
I’m here to tell you that, that will never happen. As an artist, as a writer, you must release the anxieties that follow sharing your work with others. In doing so, you may find that your writer’s block falls a bit by the wayside, too.
“Write what you know.”
I can’t tell you how many times this advice has been lobbed at me. Sometimes I feel like it’s all I can do as a writer to fight my way through the phrase. First of all, I don’t feel like I know much of anything. Secondly, that which I do positively, absolutely, no doubt about it know…well, I find that I don’t bloom with desire to share it. Any of it. I know a lot about chocolate, but I don’t want to write about that. I know how it feels to be bullied as a teen, to suffer debilitating depression, but I don’t want to write about that, either. I know that there are people that can – that DO. I applaud them.
But that’s not me.
And frankly, dear Writer, it might not be YOU either.
If people only wrote what they knew, there are a lot of really amazing works that wouldn’t exist. Part of writing is exercising the imagination, thinking creatively, researching and learning and trying and failing and picking yourself up and starting again.
Maybe you suffered from disease. Perhaps you were abused. There’s a chance you lived despite horrible odds. Maybe you had your heart shattered into a million pieces by the person you thought was “The One.” If you want to share that story and you want to find and provide support for fellow survivors – bam. Write your story. I can’t wait to read it.
Maybe one or all of those things happened to you, but what you want to write about is a serial killer or a dude on roller skates or penguins. Then write about THAT. Just because you don’t have personal experience dealing with a serial killer or a dude on roller skates or penguins doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it. Write what you want to write because that’s what is going to be passion-filled and beloved by your followers (or future followers, as it may be).
Perhaps your writer’s block is due to not giving yourself artistic license to write about whatever the hell you want.
Quit asking for permission.
Stop looking for a way to incorporate what you know into your story.
When I typed 1620 into Google, I was thinking in terms of the year. I had pictured corsets made of whale bone and gentlemen throwing their waist coats over a puddle for their lady friend to walk over. Romance. Chivalry. Historical. I can write about that. Here’s what I got:
I laughed. I actually backed out of the search and was prepared to type in something far more safe. Victorian, perhaps, where the strangest thing I would get would be an image of a house. Unfortunately, as a writer, you have to write about things outside your comfort zone in order to become better. I will probably never write a non-fiction book about cars. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to write a few words about them. In fact, learning to write a few words about cars, even if I don’t write directly about them but rather, tie it in to my overall concept, is going to make me better. I find that when I’m writing only a handful of words (25, 50, 100) about things I don’t understand, I’m much more careful- each one counts.
Did I have any desire to do a writing exercise this morning wherein I had to create 50 words about the car pictured above? No. I wanted romance, damn it.
So I did both. I did something solid about cars – a sales pitch with a love angle. Exactly 50 words. No more. No less. Not great. Not terrible. You have to make a concept work for you. Be willing to think outside the box.
Now it’s your turn. Please feel free to share your 50 words in the comments. Trust me when I say that this not a judgmental space.
Just like first love, this car is strong, sturdy, and prepared to steal your heart. Recently restored, it is suited for collectors, first time owners or old souls. Relive your childhood or make memories to share with your children. Take it for a test drive today – you won’t regret it.
The phrase "just do it" comes to mind. Really, it comes down to making the time. When I'm writing, I try to have a dedicated daily word count. Say 2,000 words a day.
From there, I pick a time of day to write. My imagination is usually at top performance first thing in the morning. I set my alarm for 4 and usually manage to roll out of bed by 4:30. I make coffee, quiet my stomach with a breakfast burrito, and just write whatever comes to my head–forever trying to hit that 2,000 word goal by about 6AM when I have to get ready for big girl work. Sometimes the writing happens. Sometimes it doesn't. Either way, I have a new book in about 2-3 months.
1) For the love of all that is holy, DO NOT READ BACK THROUGH YOUR MANUSCRIPT WHILE STILL WRITING IT. You'll just delete the whole thing because you'll be dismayed by how terrible your imagination is.
2) Writing contests, like NaNoWriMo, can give you a real kick in the pants.
3) Seek help. Sure you can learn to do everything yourself, but that takes so much TIME. Throw some money at your problem and let an expert handle it. I've found everything from formatters to graphic designers on sites like Upwork. You won't make back the money for a while, especially if you go indie, but if your only goal is to publish, sites like this are a dream.
4) Invest in a software like Scrivner to organize the chaos that is your thoughts.
Best of luck! If you write a book, be sure to tell me about it.
This one is difficult. It's like picking a favorite child, you know? I mean, I don't know because I don't have children. I have dogs. And you can't have a favorite dog, it's just impossible.
So anyhoole, back to the question at hand.
I don't think I have a favorite. I love each one individually for what it is. That's a bit of a cop out answer, but it's true.
Sex, Murder & Killer Cupcakes: Loved for being the one that started it all.
Seduction, Deceit, & a Slice of Apple Pie: My first book to reach #1 on Amazon. It's my over achiever.
Scandal, Temptation, & a Taste of Flan: Carmen is introduced and the series is NEVER the same.
Ruthlessness, Revenge & Raspberry Cheesecake: I loved the storyline on this one. Loved developing Marian's relationship with Mika further.
Lust, Longing, & Lemon Sorbet: Again, character development in this one, especially with Marian's family.
Calamity, Crisis & Creme Brûlée: New city! New challenges! Old enemies! This was a crazy fun one to write! Never mind that I traveled to Seattle for a bit more insight.
Ghosts, Goblins, & Gooseberry Crumble: I could NOT get that idea out of my head. I loved putting it onto paper.
The Numbers Game: It was my first attempt to write a world outside Marian Moyer. How can I not love expanding my horizons?
So there you have it! No favorites but reasons why each one COULD BE my favorite. which kind of answers the question...
Oh, the number of people that have asked me this one! It's a gray area, folks. A really, really gray area.
In a sense, yes, I am Marian Moyer and she is me. The soundest writing advice is to "write what you know" and if I know anything, I know me. So when I come to a fork in the road for Marian Moyer and I don't know which way she'd turn, I ask myself what I would do in that situation.
8 times out of 10, that's what Marian does, too.
She also looks a bit like me, I suppose. The hair. The freckles.
I can see where readers would get the idea that I turned myself into a storybook character.
Of course, there are a lot of things about Marian that are NOT me. At. All. And while I can't help but incorporate bits of myself, my friends, and even my family into certain characters, no character is EXACTLY like someone I know–including myself!
Clear as mud?
Allison Janda is a self-published author. She has three dogs, one of which acts more like a cat.