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.

On Creativity and Sleep

By guest blogger Charlotte Rains Dixon

“To sleep: perchance to dream . . .”
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Photo courtesy John p. of Everystockphoto

Photo courtesy John p. of Everystockphoto

How’d you sleep last night? Like a baby? Like a dog on a rug? Like the dead? (Any other cliché you can think of, feel free to add it in.) Or did you toss and turn and cast an eye on the clock beside your bed every hour on the hour? Perhaps you turned in at a decent hour, slept well and woke early, refreshed and ready to work.

Or how about this: maybe you didn’t sleep much at all. Because, you know, you’re an artiste. And artistes stay up until all hours, doing creative stuff, without any concern whatsoever for the concept of sleep. That is, until they crash the next day and then can’t work for the following week because they’re so whacked out.

Reality is, this kind of wild creativity is hard on our bodies. Really hard. And to be at your utmost creative best you need to sleep as well as you possibly can. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep impairs creativity, while sleep actually facilitates insight, humor and cognitive flexibility.

Many of us (myself included) do our best work first thing in the morning. I like to rise, grab my coffee, and head to the computer to pour words out before my nasty inner critic fully wakes. But if I’ve gone to bed late the night before, I’m foggy and unfocused and much more likely to waste time reading email or surfing the internet.

(Bear in mind that some researchers claim it’s not so much the amount of sleep you get, but the quality of it. For a fascinating glimpse into the possibilities of hacking your sleep, dip into this collection of blog posts from the Bulletproof Executive.)

And in case all these ideas have not convinced you, let us not forget that in sleep, we dream, and our dreams are rich fodder for our creativity. I once dreamed of an ex-boyfriend in vibrant detail, woke and wrote a whole short story about him.

So how do we get ourselves a good night’s sleep? The following suggestions may help:

1. Routine. Go to bed at the same time every night and rise at the same time, too. I am blessed to have the kind of brain that wakes when I tell it to, which these days is 5:30. But if I’ve broken suggestion #2, this is much, much harder.

2. Turn off the electronics! Okay, most nights I read myself to sleep on my Ipad, and that’s fine. What is not fine is using the Ipad to check my Facebook stream or look at my HuffPost app. When I do that, my brain is buzzing and I’m much more apt to wake throughout the night. I’m also wasting precious reading time.

3. Limit alcohol. This one pains me. I’m a huge fan of red wine. But I’ve noticed a huge difference in the quality of my sleep when I drink a couple glasses in the evening. And the concentration just isn’t there in the morning. So, I’ve reined in my enthusiasm for it.

4. Try a brain dump. If you wake in the middle of the night and your brain immediately leaps into action, reviewing what you’ve got to do the next day, worrying about finances, or fussing about a relationship, try this. Right before you go to bed, grab your journal and write it all out. Put it on the page instead of storing it in your brain.

5. Figure out what works for you. The standard sleep advice, for instance, is to make your room as dark as possible to achieve a good night’s sleep. But this freaks me out. I wake in the middle of the night with no idea where I am and start to panic—and once I’ve calmed myself down it takes a long time to get back to sleep. So I’ve learned to always keep shades at least partway open to let some natural light in. I believe this is better for my circadian rhythm, and the reason why I’m able to wake myself up whenever I want to.

Are you getting enough sleep these days? Do you notice how sleep impacts your creativity?

Charlotte Rains Dixon

Charlotte Rains Dixon

CHARLOTTE RAINS DIXON is the author of Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. She offers five years worth of articles on creative writing on her blog,

What makes me a writer?

By guest blogger Camille Benson

What makes me a writer? Passion makes me a writer. The passion of hatred! I hate writing. It challenges me. Writing means I have to live up to my own expectations, which is not the way to live a contented life.

Writing means I have to be creative when I would rather be lazy. Writing means I have something nagging at me after a long week at work, especially when I’d rather just have a normal weekend like people who don’t write.

The passion of hatred turns to love and excitement once I get going with a story or even a complaint in my journal. I think, “What took me so long? Why didn’t I just bite the bullet and write this before?”

But it’s like that phenomenon new mothers report about their labor pains: When you’re in the delivery room you swear you’re NEVER gonna have sex again in your entire LIFE because of the pain you’re going through right that minute. But a few days after the birth you go into amnesia. You go home and do it all over again and you get yourself pregnant and you wind up in that delivery room screaming, “Never again!”

Except with writing it’s the other way around. I get amnesia about how much I enjoyed it the last time. All I know is what a chore it looms up as when I’m contemplating doing it. A weariness comes over me and I feel convinced I have nothing to say.

I’m a writer because I complain about writing.

I’m a writer because somebody gave me an assignment to begin two sentences with the words “I am” and I coughed up.

Camille Benson

Camille’s favorite


CAMILLE BENSON is an admin assistant in a non-profit organization. She is a cat lover and has a particular fondness for Siamese cats and orange tabbies. Camille has been a student of the Fear of Writing Online Course.

The Ways We Fraud Ourselves (Especially Writers?!)

By guest blogger Sandra Moore Williams

“It’s good to share the shameful secrets of our vast fears of inadequacies. Shared, outed shames aren’t nearly as powerful as secret ones.” — Sandra Moore Williams

I’VE FOUND THAT whatever I designate as my make-a-living occupation automatically becomes my paralysis factor. I procrastinate, worry about it, feel inadequate doing it and in general sabotage myself on it. I lock myself down and freeze up in that area. No wonder my hips and legs locked up so I couldn’t move! The body takes things so literally! I always feel like I’m on probation with my every output scrutinized by a crabby overseer who doesn’t like me.

I can find a million and one ways to distract myself. I enjoy working around the house and in the garden. If I decided landscape designer or home stager or interior design was my designated make-a-living work, I’d stop doing it. Argh!

I’m slowly learning to stop demanding absolute perfection of myself before I can do something. (How can we learn if we don’t make our mistakes and grow into proficiency? Tell my subconscious that. It thinks that wisdom applies to others only.) The myth that writers or artists are born, not educated into the field is one that I bought into long, long ago. I took a correspondence writing course in my early 20s. One of the founders on the board of the school was quoted as saying “Writers are born not made. Either you’ve got it or you don’t. No one can teach it to you.”

I was furious. I felt frauded and wrote a nasty letter to the school about her comment and quit. In truth, I was afraid she was right and I was wasting our money trying to learn something that couldn’t be taught. The school never replied. I ignored my real life, in-front-of-me teachers in high school and college who praised my writing and called me talented. What did they know?

The ways we fraud ourselves!

Sandra Moore Williams, writer, face reader, astrologist

Sandra Moore

Sandra Moore Williams is a popular face reader and author/illustrator of Faces: What You See is What You Get. She’s my friend and my favorite mother-in-law. Sandra is currently writing a novel; she’s also an illustrator, painter, book designer, astrologist and she cranks out a mean cranberry salad. (Whew! Talented lady.) She’s the author of an e-book created at my special request, entitled Face Reading for Writers, which is an enrollment gift for students of the Fear of Writing Online Course.

The Fear of Writing doggie has a new pad!

Doggie from the cover of Fear of Writing by Milli Thornton

Fear of Writing doggie © Steve Andrus

IT ALL STARTED in 1999, when a comment from a friend triggered the birth of Fear of Writing.

After I finished writing the book, I commissioned artist Steve Andrus to paint an image for the cover. He came up with a dog having a melt-down with his manuscript. (I wonder what doggie was writing?)

The original had a baby blue background and, by today’s standards, was amateurish. But it was a big deal for me to have a website—and a book—and having an online presence led to all kinds of other interesting things, including an online writing course and lots of new friends.

In 2005 I spent many weeks laboring to build a new website to replace the old blue one. I was very proud of the new look . . . at least for a few years. It was frightening how fast things were changing online. I couldn’t keep up. I let go of even doing updates on and I started feeling not so proud of it.

The day has finally arrived when has come into the 21st Century. Do you like the new site? Take a look around and tell me what you think.