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Think of Writing Like Smoking or Drinking

A writing habit is not much different from every other habit or addiction, both good and bad. We need to crave it like a cigarette or a beer (or even exercise). And the pattern of triggers for smoking or drinking also apply to writing.

In Atomic Habits, James Clear writes that every habit has a cue, a craving, a response and a reward. But the first thing is the initial CUE, which leads to other cues. To write every day, you need cues to establish habits that trigger other habits, which then lead to you sitting down at your desk and writing. …

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When I was six months pregnant with my first child, I was accepted into a writing class taught by a famous novelist in his home in Los Angeles. I walked up his fancy white paved driveway to this beautiful modern house with a thick wooden door, which swung open as I approached. Before me stood a short, fit older man with white hair, impeccably dressed. The smile on his face faltered as he looked down at my belly with horror and said: “Oh my god, you’re pregnant? You’ll never be a writer now!”

I gaped at him. Did he really just say that? He went on: “Are you going to give birth in my class?” I said I hoped not. At this point, maybe he noticed that there was an actual human attached to this stomach protrusion and that the ‘said human’ was offended. He stammered, “I mean, once you have that baby, you’re never going to have time to write. It’s impossible to write during a life transition.” As if that was supposed to make me feel better! Maybe he was hoping I’d leave, and take my belly with me. I said, “Well I’d better get busy now then, right?” And I marched into his house, plopped my big old belly at his dining room table, and waited for the class to begin. (I didn’t wear this swim suit to class, but I should have!) …

Do you want to laugh your head off while teaching? Do you want engaged students who aren’t going on their phones? Let’s all have fun with this!

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For my fellow teachers, here are 20 ideas to help you and your students laugh and learn together on Zoom or Google Classroom. As a novelist, I now teach creative writing, but I’ve taught EFL and ELA, and I think some of these ideas can be adapted to other subjects as well.

I’ve found Zoom/Google Classroom can be a very effective way to teach, but it helps to use the student’s environment. Also, just like in person, it’s important to form a heart connection and show them you care, to teach in a multi-sensory way and always try to make it fun. Don’t be afraid to be goofy, to wear costumes or use props and find ways to surprise your students. They’ll love it, especially in this medium. If you’re a teacher, I’m sure you’ve already done some of the following ideas, but I hope I can offer a couple new ones to your list. …

I Was So Jealous of My Friend’s Writing Success

Have you ever read a book and thought I can do better than this?? Or maybe a friend got published and you thought her book sucks and how did it ever get published when yours isn’t?

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(Photo from The Atlantic)

I have been jealous of a friend’s writing career. But it hurt me more than them.

Creative jealousy is a horrible feeling and hurts your own creativity in dramatic ways.

It keeps you from accessing your true original creative and brilliant moments that happen in writing when you’re in flow. …

Happy V Day to all the females out there. (V means Vagina for our purposes today.) This post is specifically for about our vaginas and love and writing through our love wounds.

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Today I’m thinking about the women creators in my life who may be struggling in their love life in some way. This can be a shitty day if you’re feeling unloved or you’re facing heartbreak. Love pain makes it tough for some people to create.

For any writers, this is a good week to examine how our characters experience love. How do we write about love in general and romantic love specifically? Every book will have love within it, and love can be very complicated, filled with trauma and shame and other non-love type feelings. If you write young adult, you may be writing about the challenges of first love. …

The holidays can be tricky for us writer moms. Let’s face it, every time a mom goes for her creative dreams, it is an act of defiance against a culture which still, even in 2019, encourages moms to sacrifice their own dreams for their family. Never is this more true than over the holidays.

I think a family is happiest when all members are striving toward their dreams. Even in the holidays.

When I was pregnant with my first kid, a prominent writer, my writing teacher at the time, said you can’t get any good writing done in the middle of a life transition. (He didn’t have kids.) He was wrong, thank goodness, and actually, now, looking back, it’s pretty obvious. Being a parent means a lifetime of constant transitions, so if that were true, no parent would ever finish a book. But it wasn’t just him. …

It’s Day One of NaNoWriMo. I’m actually doing it this year, not just writing about it, but for real, doing it. At the end of the month, I will have a finished draft of a young adult novel. But like many other writers, I haven’t written a word today, on this first day, because I’m paralyzed.

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My brain is rushing with potential creative problems and solutions.

Do I need to do more character sketches? Is my main character likeable or interesting enough? Maybe I need to think a little deeper on that. I probably need more research too. And do I have a thorough-enough plan for NaNoWriMo? Maybe today I should outline? I mean, I know a couple plot points and I know the ending, but is that enough? I could do the five act structure, or should I do the four act structure? Actually, who am I kidding? I am a pantser all the way. …

Five Ways to Encourage a Budding Kid Writer (And Five Things To Avoid)

Today a friend contacted me and said, “My daughter is in love with books and writing. How can I encourage my budding writer?”

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Parents often ask me this question because they want to encourage their kids’ dreams. Isn’t there something they can do to make sure this isn’t a passing phase? Maybe a way to encourage them to build on their passion and talent?

Below are suggestions for things to do, and more importantly, things NOT to do.

Here are five possible ways to encourage writerly talent:

  1. Acknowledge that your child is already a writer. Honor that in some way. …

Eep! It’s nearly National Novel Writing Month. I told myself I’d do it this year, and I’d blog about the process. But now I want to eat my fingers off. I mean, this is scary business. First, should I get a new computer or fix this one? Mine keeps adding random periods. Or maybe a new desk chair? Maybe it’s time to organize the hall closet and all my papers so that I’m really ready?

I do love to reorganize. But this might not be super productive in terms of my actual writing. It’s how I deal with terror.

I’m always nervous when I start a new project. I worry it’s going to be a horrible, sucky waste of time. I try to talk myself out of it. And this NaNoWriMo thing is no exception. I mean, it’s probably a terrible idea to try to write a book in a month, right? …

One of my favorite things to do with my girls is to go on a writing date with them. They don’t get much creative writing time in school and they love writing, but it doesn’t work as well for us to write at home. Too many distractions, especially screens. So, we head on a writing adventure. This is the best kind of special time, a way to share and a way to listen. Here are five fun writing experiments I’ve done with my girls.

1. Subway/Bus Vignettes: You go for a ride on the subway and as people come on and off, you try to write a description of someone who catches your eye. It has to be complete in two stops, no editing, just letting the pen fly. If you live in a big city, this is obviously easier, but you can do it on a bus too if you don’t get carsick. …


Kim Purcell

Author of TRAFFICKED (Penguin, 2012) and THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER (Disney-Hyperion, 2018), creative writing teacher and mom of two fabulous girls.

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