Category Archives: building a writing life

Creatively Jazzed

By Milli Thornton

Courtesy Infrogmation, Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Infrogmation, Wikimedia Commons

At the Tumblemoose blog I was reading a post called You Can’t Fake Passion. It was already a provocative post, but this part leapt out at me:

It’s okay if you are not writing from passion central 24/7. I’d be stiffer than a cast-iron lawn dog if I had to expend that much energy. Nope, I’ll take the passion ones when they come my way. It’s just that I’ve decided to not be so random about it.

I found that arresting. I felt I’d be cheating myself if I carried on with my busy day, tackling my never-ending To-Do list while neglecting to do something with that bait.

I took out a decorative journal—a 2006 farewell present from the members of a Fear of Writing group I’d started back in Boerne, Texas. This journal is so ornate and special-looking, I had only used about fifteen pages in all those years. You know that feeling? I can’t write in this gorgeous journal / start my story / write a blog post / work on my novel because I might mess it up.

As I leafed through to get to a blank page, I noticed I’d once written


near the bottom of an entry about what to call my creative muse. This was not the name I gave her, this was how I wanted to feel.

That was it! The motto for the exploring I was about to do.

That journaling session was sweet. By taking the time to write about being less random with my passion, I managed to tap into some passion for writing that I wasn’t already feeling.

How much time and energy do we writers put into worrying about what we haven’t written yet? Or whether we can do justice to our work-in-progress? Or a jillion other self-defeating thoughts? Just think. If we put even a quarter of that energy toward exploring what really makes us passionate, we’d be almost guaranteed to find ways to get more writing done. And enjoyed!

What will you do today to explore feeling creatively jazzed?


Milli Thornton, writing coach and author of Fear of Writing

Milli Thornton

MILLI THORNTON (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course and Unleash Your Writing!, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver’s Travels and Screenwriting in the Boonies and coaches at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.

Knowing What You Don’t Want

In my previous post, Making Lemonade from Those Writing Lemons, I wrote about discarding an approach to writing that didn’t suit my temperament. One of our readers was so passionate on the topic she wrote a response worthy of another blog post. Please welcome our guest, Judith Shaw.

Image © Milli Thornton

Image © Milli Thornton

IT’S EASY TO HAVE the feeling that to get anything out of a class or clinic you have to agree with the teacher or with what is being taught. I learned how wrong that assumption is when I was a horsewoman trying to improve my skills and the proficiency of my horse.

As with writing courses, every horse trainer has the “answer” that will revolutionize everything. You will become a stellar horse handler/dressage rider/carriage driver—whatever it is you want to learn—if you only follow her instructions. And it’s SO easy to think that there is a key, a magic formula to make it all—whatever it is—finally work well.

There’s good news and bad news.

Good news: You can always learn something from any teacher you have, regardless of the subject. Bad news: It often isn’t what you wanted to learn. Sometimes what you learn is that you fundamentally disagree with what the course leader or teacher has to say.

It’s good news, because it’s just as important to learn what you don’t want to do as it is to learn what you do want to do. Disagreeing with something or someone is a signpost to its opposite.

For example: I unexpectedly popped in on a horse trainer of mine, to find her sitting in the indoor arena with a spud gun. She had 5 or 6 horses tied up to the wall of the arena, and she was casually shooting at them with the intent of de-spooking them from sudden impacts and loud noises. I’d been working with her for quite a while with what I would have called good results, but when I saw this training method I knew: Whatever else she had in mind, it wasn’t for me.

It’s not always that dramatic. I signed up for an online course about how to plot a novel. By the time I worked my way through registration and the mechanics of signing in, I had an inkling that perhaps it wasn’t for me, but having paid my money I was going to have a go.

The basic premise of the course was this: Plotting novels is easy. You need a protagonist, an antagonist and a conflict arising between them. The plot lies in resolving the conflict.

I tried really hard to make the novel I was working on fit into that nutshell, but I couldn’t do it. To begin with, the antagonist of my coming of age novel was life in the world, not a villain with a handle bar mustache. The teacher said that wouldn’t fly. It had to be a person. By the time I realized I could not fit myself or my novel into that schema, I had fallen so far behind there was no catching up.

The course presenter had a lot of good things to say about character development, plot lines and what-have-you, but his method wasn’t for me. Period.

The downside was the course fee down the drain. The upside: I knew one writing strategy that wouldn’t work for me. That realization was worth way more than the $225 I had paid.

I know the lemons to lemonade maxim is a clichéd way of making the best of a bad deal. But it’s also true. Knowing what you don’t want puts you squarely on the path to what you do want. Or at least points you in a useful direction. And it quenches your thirst at the same time.


Judith Shaw

Judith Shaw

JUDITH SHAW is a freelance editor who lived for many years in Asia and Australia and has a deep and abiding love of dogs and horses. She has been a student of the Fear of Writing Online Course and the Fear of Writing Grad Course and is now a happy client at Writer’s Muse Coaching. Judith lives in western Massachusetts with her Australian husband and her Jack Russell Terrier, but sadly, no more horses.

Baby steps to a writing life

By Milli Thornton

Courtesy Stockfresh

Courtesy Stockfresh

IT’S NOW March 31 and the puritanical glow of New Year’s Resolutions has long worn off, correct?

Or perhaps you never felt it to begin with.

Common problem these days: After being buried in enough Information Overload on a daily basis, paralysis sets in and we end up doing . . . umm, nothing. We stay in the same ruts and fail to live our dreams.

Sad state of affairs. But it’s not as hard to turn that around as we tend to believe.

Ready, Aim, Fire Me Up Already!

I’ve culled what I consider to be two of the best mental and emotional attitudes you’ll need for the remainder of 2014. Apply these to your writing life (even if currently you can’t even say you have one) and this will help blast you out of those old ruts—one teeny-tiny stick of dynamite at a time.

Tip #1: Do It In 90!

Choose something you would like to accomplish or change within the next 90 days. Ninety days is a much more manageable length of time than a year and allows us to enjoy reaching our goals more often.

— Jeff Herring, The Internet Article Guy

Pick a baby step that’s so doable it’s almost too easy. For instance, you’ve been yearning to write a new short story . . . but so far you haven’t managed to get started on a new story in 2014. Plan how you could work on a new story, say, twice a week for 20 minutes. Be sure to schedule 20 minutes to write, twice a week. And then do it. Ninety days later, you’ll have a finished story.

Are you thinking it sounds highly unimpressive to take 90 days to write a short story? Turn that thought around to see the benefits. If you haven’t written anything in the first three months of the year, but in the second three months you write a story, aren’t you ahead already?

Plus you’ll have broken out of writing paralysis, which is more than half the battle.

Not sure what to write a story about? Use a Storyteller Writing Prompt to get you rolling.

Tip #2: First Be & Then Do

Pick just one thing—yes, it can be your ‘big’ thing. Then ask yourself: Who will I have to BE to attract this into my life?

— Andrea Hess, Intuitive Consultant

How we view ourselves is critical to anything we want to accomplish in life. I’ll go first. Here’s who I want to BE to continue to make my biggest writing dreams magnetically attractive to me:

  • Confident in my writing abilities (torch that insidious inner critic!)
  • Liberated enough to write it as me, a unique individual (torch those imagined future outer critics!)
  • Enough of a morning person to equal time gained, not time pressure
  • Ruthless about anything external that can fritter away my precious scheduled writing time
  • Write for my own passion and fun first. Everything else follows from there.


Milli Thornton, writing coach and author of Fear of Writing

Milli Thornton

MILLI THORNTON (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course and Unleash Your Writing!, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver’s Travels and Screenwriting in the Boonies and coaches at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.