How To Overcome Publishing Fears

Many times, I will read something online and immediately think, “that was great, I wish I wrote it.” I may not have written it, but I can still share it. Here’s the latest…

But What If They Hate My Book?  by

This two part article discusses a very important topic for writers — how to get over the fear of writing and publishing a book. I can admit first hand that this fear never goes away.

I am working on my forth children’s book and I have just as many fears (maybe even more) than when I first started. If this fear is something we all experience, how do we deal with it? has some answers, but first it asks some important questions:

  • Why should we go for it?
  • What to do when you get a negative review?
  • How is publishing a book like sending your kid to college?

They answer all those questions and more in their great two part article. Check it out…

What If They Hate My Book – Part 1

What If They Hate My Book – Part 2

9 Weird Habits That Famous Writers Formed to Write Better

Many times, I will read something online and immediately think, “that was great, I wish I wrote it.” I may not have written it, but I can still share it. Here’s the latest…

As I have written about before (here & here) we can all use a few writing tips. We can benefit from pretty much anything that helps us get into the habit of writing better and more frequently. No matter how weird it may seem.

Amber Stanley from Lifehack has complied a great list of strange habits that famous writers have formed to improve their writing. The list includes everything from laying down to standing up. I want to try #5.

Click here to check it out.


A Writing Tip For The New Year

Have you ever been interrupted while reading a book? Perhaps you got a phone call and you had to put down the story right in the middle of a page, maybe right in the middle of a sentence.

If that has happened to you, chances are you couldn’t wait for that phone call to end. Your mind was focused on finishing that sentence, that page, that chapter.

This feeling is similar to what psychologists call the Zeigarnik Effect which states that we more easily remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks than completed tasks.

We didn’t finish reading the page or the sentence, so we easily remember that we need to go back to the book. Whereas, if we finished the chapter and set the book down uninterrupted, hours or days may go by before we think to pick the book back up.

Turns out, the Zeigarnik Effect can not only help us with reading books, but also writing books.

One of the biggest obstacles to writing a book is actually sitting down and writing. I can find a dozen excuses as to why right now is not the best time to write. I should watch TV. I should make lunch. I should watch a TV show about people making lunch. I do not have the drive to take action and start writing.

One way to get over this hurdle is to use the Zeigarnik Effect to our advantage. When we have to stop something because we are interrupted, we feel uncomfortable because we experience a lack of closure. We want to take action to stop that nagging feeling that arises because we were not able to finish.

We can create this need for action in our writing by interrupting ourselves in the middle of a writing session. Next time you are writing and you are getting near the end of your allotted writing time, stop yourself in the middle of a sentence. You may know exactly how you are going to finish that sentence, but don’t finish. Walk away.

I bet that voice inside your head that needs closure will start talking to you. It will tell you that as soon as you can, you must go back and keep writing. This creates all the drive you need to want to keep writing. And next time you thinking about whether now is a good time to write, that voice will be much louder than the one that says it is time to watch a TV show about making lunch.


HT – Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini

This Year In Great Writing

Every year is full of great writing, but in 2016 I really started to pay attention and highlight some wonderful work with words.

Here’s a recap of some of the examples I stumbled upon…

(from July)

Comedian Gary Gulman proves that with some great writing, even the most mundane of topics can make an audience belly laugh.

(from August)

In his book Rules of Civility, Amos Towles show how to really show a character’s love of food.

(from September)

Walt Whitman shows in, Once I Pass’d Through a Populous City, how to really sound romantic.

(from October)

Max Lucado uses an example of a child to show us something about prayer.

(from December)

Max Lucado is back to teach us how to paint a scene of the chaos of Christmas.

What A Saturday Night Live Star Does To Improve

When you are a cast member on Saturday Night Live, you have made it. The show is currently in its 42nd season and has launched the careers of Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase and many other huge stars.

From 2005-2013, Bill Hader was one of those SNL stars. He was a featured player on many of the skits that helped the show gain popularity with a new generation of audience.

He had made it, but like Murphy and Chase, he longed for bigger things. He wanted to write. He wanted to direct. He was in a position of such fame, that he probably could have sat around and waited for those things to come to him. Instead, he chose a different route.

He became an intern for two cartoons.

Well, technically he wasn’t an intern. I doubt he got the staff coffee or delivered mail, but his role wasn’t much higher on the totem pole. He gladly accepted any grunt work he could get for two popular animated programs: South Park and Inside Out.

Hader told Norm MacDonald on Norm’s podcast that he wanted experience, so he went out and found it.

At SNL, you just write sketches…I was trying to write movies, so I wanted to learn about that.”

He said that he wanted to be around these shows and “see how they did it.” And what did he learn?

  • Even after a very successful 20+ year run, the South Park creators never phone it in. They have set the bar so high and continue to strive for something even better.
  • Attention to detail is critical.
  • As is working on the script’s structure.

And guess what? Everything he learn has paid off. Hader has since moved on from SNL and become a writer/star of the HBO series Documentary Now. And he is producing an upcoming movie called Barry.

I recognize 99% of us don’t have the opportunity to just go hang out at Pixar or just go hang out with the South Park guys, but surely there is someone else we can learn from. Can you think of any positions (big or small) that provide the opportunity to learn or grow your craft?

Hader said one other important thing…while learning from South Park and Inside Out, he kept writing on the side. He said he wrote a bunch of stuff that was bad, but he kept writing so he could learn how to make it good.

I often think that I am above the thought of interning and continuing to write even if it is bad, but if it is good enough for a Saturday Night Live star, maybe it is good enough for any of us.

5 Myths About Writer’s Block

Myth #1 – Writer’s Block Has Been Around Forever

I like to imagine an ancient Egyptian scribe standing befuddled, looking at a wall full of hieroglyphics. He had just drawn a guy on a chariot but now he doesn’t know what to draw next. He curses writer’s block as he physically tries to write on a block.

As fun as that may be to picture, it didn’t happen like that. Sure, ancient Egyptian scribes were stumped from time to time, as all writers are, but the actual term “writer’s block” is fairly new. The term wasn’t coined until 1947. Before 1947 when you didn’t have any ideas, you just didn’t have any ideas. Now we “suffer” from writer’s block. On the surface they may seem the same, but now that this “condition” has a name, the symptoms feel more crippling. As Johnny Cash said, “And it’s the name that helped to make you strong.”

Myth #2 – All Writer’s Block Is Created Equal

There is a huge difference between not having any ideas and having so many ideas you don’t know what to do with them. But oddly enough, both result in the same thing…you are blocked from writing. Before you are able to overcome the inability to write, you have to figure out what is causing the block. To help, has come up with a list of 10 types of writer’s block and how to overcome them.

Myth #3 – You Are The Only One With Writer’s Block

If I were the only one suffering from writer’s block, I would not need to write this post. In fact, if that were the case, no one would understand what I am talking about. When we are in the middle of a writer’s cramp, we think we are the only one in the world who could possibly be going through this. Wrong! Don’t believe me, here are 13 famous writers who have been quoted talking about writer’s block.

Myth #4 – Writer’s Block Means You Should Stop Writing

If your pen was out of ink and couldn’t write another word, you would walk away and get a new pen. When your pen works, but you still can’t write another word, you may also feel like walking away. And while it is not a bad idea to try and clear your mind, don’t automatically think you have to have to DEAR (drop everything and run).

Often, the biggest cause of writer’s block is our fear to put our words on paper, thus making us open for critique. If that is the case, the worst thing we can do is stop writing and walk away.

Myth #5 – Every Block Is Writer’s Block

As I referenced in myth #4, your inability to write may have nothing to do with writer’s block. You may have a busted pen, a dead computer or simply too many distractions. Just because you are blocked, doesn’t mean you can just blame it on writer’s block. If you can’t write, get a new pen. If your keyboard won’t type, charge your computer. If there is too much going on, clear distractions or find a new place to write.

Writers Will Relate To This

Somerset Maugham, a popular British playwright from the 1930s was asked if he enjoyed writing. Maugham thought for a second and answered,

I enjoy having written.”

If you have written anything, from a sentence with magnet letters on the refrigerator to the Magna Carta, you know this feeling to be true. Writing isn’t always easy. It isn’t always fun. And what you write, isn’t always read by everyone you’d like.

But there is just something about having written that keeps us coming back.

One Thing Pete Carroll Hates


The Seattle Seahawks coach just does not like them. He views synonyms like most people view Brussel sprouts – life is just better if we keep our distance.

In his book, Win Forever, he explains, why he hates Brussel sprouts, I mean synonyms:

We would always strive to create continuity and consistency. We were even very careful to be precise with our language and terminology. I don’t like synonyms and varied definitions when it comes to terminology.”

As someone who is big fan of a Thesaurus, I was a little taken aback (aka bewildered, or discombobulated) when I first saw this from Carroll. What is not to like about a synonym (aka metonym, or equivalent)?

But the more I thought about it, the more I came around to coach’s point of view. Basically what he is getting at, is that he wants his players and coaches to say what they mean. He is not against colorful language or beautiful prose, as long as the words get their point across.

As a writer, teacher, or leader, clarity is very important (or critical, or imperative…okay, I promise that is the last time I will do that). Sometimes, we try to get to fancy with our words. We want to show we have brush strokes like Monet, when finger paints would work much better.

Without clarity, a writer’s message is missed and misleading, a coach’s communication is complicated and confusing, and neither audience has any clue what is occurring. In case you missed the irony there, the previous sentence would have been much better if worded like Carroll:

If you want to communicate effectively, you need to be clear with the words you use.”

The 1 Word That’s Destroying Your Chance at Becoming A Writer

I am starting to think that trying to become a writer is a lot like trying to lose weight. In the beginning, we have a high level of enthusiasm, but if we are not careful, we will all drown in a gallon of peanut butter cup ice cream.

This comparison seems even more appropriate after reading an article by The 1 Word That’s Destroying Your Chance at Losing Weight and Being Healthy.

Dominique explains that when her doctor put her on a new diet, she was so focused on what she was not allowed to eat.

The list of things you can’t eat seemed infinite . . . no peaches, no wheat, no milk, no fruit juice or avocados or honey (there are quite literally hundreds of items). I focused so much on the “no” list that I had zero idea what to eat. I sat there paralyzed (and honestly, starving, with low blood sugar that probably exacerbated this situation). Panic started to creep in.”

She goes on to say that if she would have focused more on what she could eat, she would have realized that there were plenty of options to chose from. She could have had eggs, banana, oranges or oatmeal. But instead, she thought solely on what she was now allowed to have and it prevented her from doing anything.

I don’t know about you, but this happens to me a lot as a writer. I will come up with an idea for a book about, say, a pilot, only to talk myself out of it because I do not know enough about airline industry. I will brainstorm an idea for a thrilling court case, only to stop because I have never actually been in a courtroom.

There are more things I know nothing about than things I know a lot about. So, it is natural that I can more easily come up with a list of books I can’t write. This prevents me from making a list of books I can write.

And much like, and her new diet, this is paralyzing.

Luckily for us, Dominique came to a realization for how to step out of the I-can’t-quicksand.

The second I stopped focusing on what I couldn’t do and focused on what I could — in this case, it was “I can actually move my body forward for several miles at a slow pace without dying” — I opened myself up to an entire world of healthy activity.

There are plenty of things we can’t do. Forget about those things. By focusing on what we can do (or eat, or write about), we are more likely to lose a few pounds…or become a writer.

Writing Tips from Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians of all time. Whether it be his television show Seinfeld or his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, everything he touches becomes a hit. 

A big part of his success can be traced back to writing. To say Seinfeld has a way with words is to say that this boxer was appropriately nicknamed Butterbean.

10.12.12ButterbeanByLuigiNovi1We would all be lucky to learn a thing or two about writing from Mr. Seinfeld. Thanks to The New York Times, we can get a glimpse into what the comic is thinking when he sits down to write a joke.

Check out the following video where, among many other things, we learn:

  • Why Seinfeld is willing to spend two years writing a joke “on something that means absolutely nothing”
  • What he uses to write on
  • Why he wrote every episode of Seinfeld with one type of pen
  • How to get a laugh from talking about pop tarts
  • The importance of timing
  • And, which part of a joke is the hardest


Photo credit: Wikipedia