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Wanna Define Writing Success on Your Own Terms? Ask Yourself One Magic Question.

About four years ago, out of a desire to clarify a few longer-term writing goals, I hired a creative career coach to take me through a few visioning sessions.

As we sat together on the floor of my office one sunny Tuesday, sketching out a visual map of my deepest writerly desires, I earnestly announced that I believed I had something important to teach other people, and that I felt I could best achieve this through the written word.

She listened carefully, and then she posed to me what I have come to think of as the Magic Question. At the time, though, it felt less magical and more like an upper cut straight to the guts: “Why does it matter if other people read your work?”

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Bringing the Pain: Why Writing Well Hurts

“Eliminate things until you cry.”


Ever noticed how painful writing is?

I don’t mean the bodily act of it, although that definitely smarts, especially around the eyeballs, neck, and shoulders. (FWIW, yoga and stretching are shockingly beneficial for those committed to sedentary creative pursuits, as is learning to stop craning your neck forward like a horny turtle every time you get excited over a particular bit of prose dancing across your screen.)

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Ten Million Unwritten Novels: How To Keep Creating Stuff When There Just Isn’t Time

Driving home tonight, I found myself feeling almost unbearably creatively suppressed.

Dramatic, right? But it’s true. I’m terribly busy with family obligations, plus the task of wrapping a large editing project with a tighter-than-tight deadline, and it’s felt lately like all I do with the miniscule shred of free time that’s left is sit in the damned car. Traffic has become unbearable in my city these past few years, but there is a bright spot: I have also discovered that my mind does some of its best wandering when I’m spacing out at the wheel.

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Unimaginable Unthings: Telling the Story You’re too Afraid to Tell

If you’ve ever had something really shitty happen to you, then you’ve probably noticed the same thing I’ve noticed.

Well intentioned friends and family, in the course of offering you their condolences, will often default to the same, tired three-word phrase: “I couldn’t imagine.”

I had two miscarriages a few years back, and folks lobbed this platitude (or some variation of it) at me quite a lot. Sometimes they couldn’t even imagine, or couldn’t begin to imagine. The braver among them could scarcely or hardly imagine. But always, there was a whole lot of not-imagining stuff going on.

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Writer’s Challenge: Stop Clip-Shaming Yourself!

I can still recall the thrill of my very first newspaper byline—it imparted a buzz far better than drugs (some of them, at least), and the memory of it still gives me a posthumous kick of heady glee.

I was living in Missouri, and it was my first week of grad school, and I’d been asked to write a one-page arts feature for the local newspaper’s weekend insert.

My assignment: to cover a mini-concert headlined by three teenaged rock and hip-hop bands and staged atop a parking garage at sunset. Small peanuts, but that didn’t stop me from my nerves.

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Writing Closer, Writing Harder: Two Quick Lessons from Humble Creatives

I’ve been working this week on listening—far deeper and far more carefully to all the noise that’s happening around me, but most particularly to the thoughts and observations of other creative folks.

Fellow writers, musicians, fine artists: they’ve each got lessons to impart about the call to creativity and all the wonderful and terrible things that come from choosing to heed it in a meaningful or authentic way.

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