My Writing Process: 8 Steps for Creating a Winning Writing Ritual

I’ve had some questions about my writing process, so I figured I’d give you a behind the scenes look at how I create the perfect atmosphere and mindset for writing. I hope this is helpful!

Step 1: Finding Inspiration

The hardest part is getting started. I like to start by gathering lots of inspiration. Spend time researching, browsing and brainstorming. Always carry around something to jot ideas down in, because you never know when something might give you inspiration. I find my best ideas come to me in the shower. It’s probably because that’s truly the only time my mind is mostly switched off and focused on one task. That’s also when the anxieties come to get me. But the ideas, too.

After spending weeks or months careening about your daily life, trying to find inspiration, it’s time to start to seek out inspiration with a bit more intention. Browse websites for ideas. My go-tos are Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. Twitter for the hot takes, Pinterest for the pretty pictures and Tumblr for everything else.

Next, try reading. Books. Articles. Blog posts. I try to overload my brain with content.

When those things don’t seem to work, try aimlessly flipping through TV channels, watching the news and current affairs shows. Listen to music. Then try combinations of watching tv, listening to music, while browsing and reading.

Finally, you’ll find that you can start to piece together some ideas. Time for step 2!

Step 2: Fleshing it out

Next, take your tiny, wisp of an idea and start to flesh it out. Build an outline to help frame where you’re going with your writing project. Writing down all of your main points can help you stay on track and figure out if there is enough meat to the project to make it worth writing.

Step 3: Getting down to it

Armed with your notes, outline and any research, it’s time to get down to writing. Some people can work with a lot of distractions, but that’s not for everyone. Listening to music can help tune out the noise around you, or if you need quiet, pick a spot where you can work in silence.  Make coffee or tea and settle in somewhere comfortable and get down to work.

Step 4: Letting doubt creep in

Sitting in front of your laptop, whether you have a completely blank page or a few paragraphs started, it’s time to start questioning the relevance, interest or humour of your writing project. Browsing through notes and your outline, you’ll find the doubt starts to creep in. Then come the questions. Is this a stupid idea? Will anyone care to read this? Why am I wasting my time and life at this? Do I suck at being a writer?

Before you start thinking too hard about those questions, it’s time for step 5.

Step 5: Procrastination

The next step in perfecting your writing ritual is to put off writing at all costs. Because what you’re writing is probably shit, anyway. There are many options to help achieve peak procrastination. Long-neglected house chores, exercise, calling friends or relatives that you haven’t spoken to in a long time are great ways to procrastinate. Playing with your pets or kids if you have them, or go out and find someone else’s pets or kids to entertain. You can stare out a window, try to find matches for all your socks, or learn something new. These are all good methods of procrastination. And once you’ve exhausted all of those options, sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest are great, too. There are so many rabbit holes to fall down, you’ll be lost for hours. In the case of Pinterest, sometimes you can loose days and weeks. As long as you’re not actually writing, you’re winning. Get creative.

Step 6: Panic

The thing about procrastination is that it gives you plenty of time for that doubt to fully take hold and bring about full-blown panic. You may be questioning your choices in life that brought you to the decision to write in the first place. Maybe you’re wishing that you had listened to your parents when they told you journalism was a dying industry and don’t waste your money on that journalism degree. Maybe it’s more of a general panic that makes you question everything and anything you’ve ever done, made or said. Now you have the perfect set up to move on to step 7! Well done, you!

Step 7: Abandoning the project

After spending days, weeks and maybe even months trying to make your project work, you realize this just isn’t what you first envisioned it to be. You abandon your project to sit in your drafts folder forever and ever.

It’s okay. Maybe your next idea will work out better than this one.

Step 8: Starting over again

It’s been a while since your last (failed) attempt at getting a writing project finished. Maybe you’re feeling the itch to write again. Maybe you desperately need to pay some bills. It could be an assignment for school or work. Maybe you’re stubborn. Perhaps you have a spiteful God. Maybe you hate yourself a little bit. But whatever the reason, you’re faced with the task of writing something again.

Since you clearly haven’t learn your lesson, you set to it again, getting ready to write again. Time to start again. Back to step 1, my friend. Start from the beginning. Rinse and repeat.

 

Did any of my tips help you? What steps do you take to create your writing rituals? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Currently: Dystopian Future Edition

LOL, JK. This isn’t a Dystopian Future Edition. Because we’re living it.  The dystopian future is now.

Anyway. Let me tell you about the escapism things I’ve been enjoying to help cope with the fact that the whole world is basically on fire:

Currently

Watching:

NBC’s The Blacklist. I’ve watched this show from the beginning and found the last season and a half to be…. rough. The writers really didn’t seem to know what to do with actor Megan Boone’s pregnancy. I was so irritated with how they handled it that I nearly quit the show. And I ranted about it a lot. Because misogyny and pregnancy tropes really hit my rage button. The writers seemed to be writing themselves out of that hole, and by the time the show went on its winter hiatus, I was back onboard. Especially because M and I guessed the BIG TWIST that really makes for a compelling story. Good job, Blacklist. I figure this show will be canceled after this season, though, because I can’t have nice things.

Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’ve been watching this series for Snark Squad, and we’ve finally reached the penultimate episode. Or as we liked to call it, the episode that destroyed us. I won’t go into spoilers here, but you’re welcome to check out our recaps over on the Snark Squad website.

Reading:

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. I haven’t been reading as much as I was earlier in the year. I’m going to do a more in-depth review of the books I have read, but for now I’ll say that this was a fun read*.

 

*With caveats

Listening:

I haven’t been listening to as much music as I usually do because I’ve found I’ve been needing quieter things to focus on. Instead, I’ve been listening these podcasts:

Gilmore Guys, turned Bunhead Bros, hosted by Kevin T. Porter and Demi Adejuyigbe. A podcast that was originally just two dudes, special guests and Gilmore Girls discussion (sometimes), that has now moved on to another Amy Shermin-Palladino show, Bunheads. I quit it for a while, because I never really watched Bunheads and then when I tried to watch the show, I hated it. But I came back because these two dum-dums are pretty entertaining.

Welcome to Night Vale is a War of the Worlds-esque podcast, presented in the form of community updates for a small desert town called Night Vale. It is creepy, bizarre and funny. This would appeal to people with slightly twisted senses of humour. So of course, I love it.

Porch Club popped up in some recommendation for podcasts I might like. I gave this a few goes, but man, it’s tough to get through. I find the hosts’ navel-gazing a bit too much to handle. I think if I knew the hosts, it might be slightly more appealing to me, but there is a strange, deeply religious undertone that makes me feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because I’ve retired from organized religion. Maybe it’s the twenty minutes of laughter at inside jokes that are only funny to the hosts. Or maybe it’s not my bag.

EOS 10 is a sci-fi radio play, reminiscent of Welcome to Night Vale. My friend Wendy recommended it to me and she gives good recs (She also introduced me to Saga and Bitch Planet). The story follows two space doctors and their team on a space station and a deposed prince who has taken up refuge in the station’s food court. Definitely worth a listen if you’re down with radio plays. It’s also a great distraction from the sci-fi world we’re currently living in.

 

Loving

I’m also addicted to the Sodastream that I was given for my birthday. I drink a lot of water a day and pretty much drink water (When I’m not mainlining caffeine in the form of coffee and tea) these days. I try to get 2.5 litres of water a day, and I’ve taken to drinking sparkling water for about half of that. But it’s expensive. And not super environmentally friendly. It sounds crazy, but I love, love, love my Sodastream.

I mean, this is the tagline on their website:

It’s the little things in life that make me happy these days.

Lastly, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family lately. My aunt has been sick since the middle of March, so we’ve been helping out, visiting, trying to keep her distracted while she’s gone through a million tests, treatments and doctor’s appointments. It’s weird to say that I’m ‘loving’ all of this time that has come about due to a family emergency, but I’m trying to look at the bright side of things. Because haha, lol, there is so little of that these days. Hi, political world climate.

 

How’re you surviving and coping with the strange, Twilighty Zone world we’re all living in? Tell me all about it.

January Reading List

The last few years, I haven’t been reading nearly as much as I’d like to. I’d had lofty goals on my Goodreads profile to read 20 books a year. Maybe ever 30!

That didn’t happen.

This year, I set out to read different kinds of books. Books I may not normally pick up. And with that, I set a really sad, but hopefully attainable goal. I was going to read 6 books in 2017. That’s a book every two months. Surely I could manage that.

Apparently, I need to set my bar very, very low in order to achieve success. Because in the month of January, I read 4 books.

They were (with brief, spoiler-free reviews and out of 5 star ratings):

The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

It seems like my friends were either reading this book or had read it. I was super curious, so I picked it up. This was easily the best book I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t put it down. Nicola Yoon creates diverse, beautiful characters, with an amazing story. Everything about this book was gorgeous.

I rated it 5 stars on Goodreads.

 

Scrappy Little Nobody By Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick is the next in a long line of actors to write a memoir/autobiography. Anna Kendrick is funny on Twitter and I have enjoyed her as an actor, but there’s a loss in translation from funny actor and tweeter to author. Some of her insights were funny and interesting, but other times the book really dragged. Scrappy Little Nobody was fine. I rated it 3 stars.

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelves for a long time. I tried it and just couldn’t get into it. I loaned it out for a while. Then it went back to sitting on my shelf. I was desperate for something to read, so I picked it back up again. This time, it was a completely different story. I read it quickly and ended up really enjoying it. It definitely falls into the chic lit genre. The twists and turns were pretty predictable. At times, it felt like Lauren’s main character was an alternate-universe Lorelai Gilmore. But it was enjoyable enough. I rated it 4 stars.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

After reading The Sun is Also A Star, and loving it so much, I decided to pick up her other book. Everything, Everything is Nicola Yoon’s first novel. It was a fast read and again, full of interesting and diverse characters. The relationship between the two main characters was quick and predictable, but cute. While this book didn’t grab me the same way The Sun Is Also A Star did, it was still a really good read.

I rated this book 4 stars.

Currently: January 2017

Currently

watching: A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix

I read the books and was a fan, but never watched the movie adaptation. I had zero interest in the film adaptation, probably due to the casting of Count Olaf: Jim Carrey. He’s ruined so many of my favourite things by starring in film adaptations: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol. So I chose to skip A Series of Unfortunate Events.

However, when I heard Netflix was doing an adaptation, and that Neil Patrick Harris was starring in it as Count Olaf, I was really excited for it. And it’s been decent so far, and I have zero casting complaints.

We’re recapping it over on Snark Squad, so if you’re a fan or just checking out Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events for the first time, join us.

 

reading: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

 

This is the fifth book I’ve read so far this year. It’s something I borrowed and is not something I’d pick up normally, but I’m working on broadening my reading choices.

I’m also reading Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer. It is the fourth and final book in the terrible, horrible, dumpster fire of a book series the Twilight Saga. Why? Because we’re recapping it on Snark Squad. I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to be finishing these books.

listening: Fire in my Soul – Walk Off The Earth


The latest single from Walk Off The Earth. I may have mentioned that I’m a fan of all their work? Covers, original songs, it’s all good. So when I saw on Twitter that they were going to be releasing a new single, I couldn’t wait. I like the feel of this tune.

 

making: Labels

For Christmas, my mother gave me a label maker. And that might seem like an odd thing to be excited about, but I was super excited for it. I’ve been using it to organize all of the important papers, contracts, manuals, warrantees, and other documents in the house. It’s a system I’ve been using at work to keep track of templates and master copies of things and it translated really well into a system to use at home. Nerdy and OCD enough for you yet?

 

feeling: Cold

Winter is my least favourite season. I’m just not here for these long nights or freezing, sunless days. And I have the worst time keeping warm. I layer on the clothes, the blankets, I even own and make use of a Snuggie.  But I just can’t seem to get comfortable in the winter, temperature-wise. Is it spring yet?

planning: A retirement party

Not mine! (If only). My mum is retiring this year and we’re working on planning her a bash to celebrate.

 

loving: Spending time with my niece

I haven’t actually talked about this on my blog too much, which is surprising because it’s been such a huge change in my family life, but my brother and sister-in-law had a baby this summer. I am so in love with my little niece and am really enjoying being an aunt. It’s also been really cool to see my other brothers embrace their new role as uncle. It’s been awesome and I’m so lucky to be living close to them and her. I don’t know my other niece and nephew very well, and spending all this time with baby Squish is something I’m really loving.

 

What are you guys up to lately? Let me know!

 

And then it was 2017

It’s 2017! Somehow we managed to survive the dumpster fire that was 2016. As per usual for me, I attempted Nablopomo in November. My goal for Nablopomo 2016 wasn’t to blog every day in November, but to blog a few times a week, every week in November. I felt pretty good about this goal.

And then the American Presidential Election happened and I sort of lost my will to live.

Okay. I’m being a little melodramatic, but honestly. What the fuck happened there, America? You guys okay?

For me, I was sort of at the end of my rope with coverage of the Human Cheeto. And it was depressing to me that so many people looked at this dude that was dumb, hateful, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, bigoted blowhole and say ‘He’s the better choice.’

So after his election, the realization that he wasn’t going away any time soon, left me feeling really overwhelmed. It was depressing. Disheartening. Anxiety-inducing. It was triggering to see a man that bragged about sexual assault, spewing such hate and bullshit being given such a large stage to continue to bully and harass people. And this guy wasn’t even going to be my president.

I was worried to see the trickle down effect he was having. Hate crimes were being committed in my country in his name.

I ended up having to take a bit of a media break. I avoided watching the 24-hour news stations. I switched the TV or radio off if there was coverage of this dude. I ignored the click-bait articles.

In place of those things, I spent a lot of time doing other things. Reading. Working with my hands. Visiting with my family and friends. Spending time with my newborn niece. It’s amazing how newborn baby smell and cuddles can lessen anxiety symptoms.

My media diet definitely helped me feel less overwhelmed, less disgusted and less anxious. It’s not realistic to ignore the news. I actually believe it’s important to stay aware of what’s going on in the world around us. But like everything else, it’s important to keep a balance about media consumption.

Have you ever had to take a break from the news media, or social media to keep your sanity? I want to hear all about it.

 

Friends, don’t fuck this up.

Oh my god

I am so very happy to see that November 8th has finally arrived. And I’m not even an American. I will not be voting today. I will not be getting a new leader of my country today.

But the American election season has been an ugly, triggering mess ever since a certain individual declared his candidacy and I am so glad to see the end of it.

When I look at the two candidates, I’m confused as to how this is even a race. Now before you start in on your tired argument…

hold on

Yes, Hillary is a politician and has probably been involved in questionable stuff. And yes, she’s a woman and some people don’t like that. But like, guys. Guys. Look at your other choice.

dumb people

Seth Meyers did an excellent job of spelling it out:

 

…How is this a choice?

Get out and vote today, American friends. This is a big one, and it’s an election you don’t want to sit out or throw away by spoiling a ballot.

You guys can do it. I have faith in you, because President Melting Hunk of Uninformed Apricot Jello doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue:

And I only have so many guest rooms if this doesn’t work out for you all.

 

And then it was November 5th

The past few years, I have tried and then failed miserably at Nablopomo (National Blog Posting Month, where the goal is to write a blog post every day for a month). I’ve often used it as a way to try to get back in to blogging in a more regular way, while enjoying the whole community around it.

I’ve been busy and distracted lately. I hadn’t even really thought about Nablopomo this year, until a friend on Twitter tweeted about it. She was asking if anyone participated in Nablopomo anymore, as it was coming up fast and she hadn’t seen anyone talking about it.

I think she received two replies to that tweet.

And one of them was from me. I said I would give it a try yet again this year, even if I didn’t make it more than a few posts.

Then November 1st came and went, and this blog sat unattended, as it has since August. Oops.

So having failed the whole ‘blog every day’ thing before it even started, I’ve instead decided to use Nablopomo as motivation to get some writing goals accomplished.

In no particular order, they are:

  • To finish my next recap for The Snark Squad
  • Finish writing two pieces for the different things I contribute to
  • Try to write 2 blog posts for this very blog!
  • Research and write two articles for my B2B blog

I know I’m certain to complete one of those goals, because I have a hard deadline for one of them. Is that cheating a bit?

Don't even care!

Cool. I don’t care if it is.

I also want to try to read some of the posts from my friends that are participating in Nablopomo and support their awesome work at doing the thing that I haven’t been able to stick to!

Have you ever finished a thing like Nablopomo? Tell me all about it so I can marvel at your awesome dedication.

Oh and if you’re Nablopomoing, let me know in the comments below so I can read your words.

Happy Nablopomoing!

 

 

4 Female Protagonist Types I See Over and Over Again

I always have the worst time finding summer reading. I tend to go for easier, lighter reads in the summer and I try to avoid rubbish books. No vampires or werewolves. No more futuristic dystopians. No teens dying from cancer or car accidents. No books centred on abusive relationships. It’s my summer vacation and I don’t want to be reading anything that’s triggering or going to make me anxious.

BOOKSSSSS

I was starting to think that maybe I was a little too picky about my summer reading choices, but then I talked to my 22-year-old cousin and she found she was having a similar problem. She was having a hard time find books to read, period. All she wants is book characters to relate to. We talked about it and came to the general realization that there are protagonists that seem to have thematically similar conflicts that break down depending on the age of the protagonist:

The Teenage YA Protagonist

Books where the protagonist is a high school student, dealing with the transition into the ‘big’ world of high school or starting at a new school. These books usually involve a conflict around an ugly duckling finding herself and her first boyfriend. And spoiler alert: the boyfriend is usually a garbage human.

Examples: Twilight, Willow, Beautiful, Chasing Boys

The College YA Protagonist

Books where the main character is dealing with the transition of either going off to college, leaving her home behind. The conflicts of being out on her own for the first time and the mistakes she makes while she strikes out. These books sometimes feature a love triangle between a high school boyfriend and a new, more mature, college romance.

Examples: Dearst Clementine, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

The Adulting Protagonist

Then there seems to be a bit of an age jump there, and the next kind of heroine we encounter are the post-grads, trying to land her first big ‘real job’ and the hilarity that ensues with that transition. I feel like the subtitle to most of those books could easily be ‘Adulting is Hard’. These Adulting protagonist have love stories that usually see the protagonist getting engaged at the end. Usually, to underserving, terrible boy characters. It’s kind of depressing.

Examples: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Devil Wears Prada, Post Grad

The Balancing Act Protagonist

Then we get to the stories about married women who are struggling with balancing their lives, trying to manage being a ‘good’ wife and mother, while also a good friend and being a rockstar at work. Sometimes, the major conflict is with their husbands, and on the occasion, the heroine is realizing she’s married the wrong man. Sometimes, that conflict comes from the fact the main character has prioritized their jobs over their families, so their husband’s fragile egos are hurt.

Examples: Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, Everyone Worth Knowing or pretty much anything by Marian Keyes

Prove me wrong, books!

I guess that if you’re looking to create conflict in stories, while avoiding dark or heavy stuff, you’re only left with relationships, maybe?

I feel like I’m asking for the impossible trying to find something to read that is easy, fun, while at the same time skipping those more traditional, almost formulaic plots. I could do without these characters that revolve around a female protagonist’s romantic relationship or finding the balance between keeping their romantic partner happy, while also being happy themselves. I’m looking for more from my books, you guys.

Am I being too harsh about these kinds of protagonists? What kind of books do you like to read during the summer?

Or even better… do you have a book recommendation for me? Tell me all about it in the comments below.