8 Ideas for Kick-Starting Your Writing Career During Quarantine

Starting a writing career is often a lengthy process. It doesn’t happen overnight; getting your name out there takes plenty of time, effort, and hard work.

But if you’re one of the many people in quarantine mode right now, there seems to be more time on our hands than ever before. 

So if you’ve got room in your schedule to focus on your writing career, here are eight ideas for getting started

(I’ve mentioned several of these strategies on the blog before, so I’ll also link to relevant further reading where applicable.)

1. Update your writer’s CV, LinkedIn profile, and/or Contently portfolio.

A few weeks ago, I covered the importance of keeping an up-to-date writer’s CV. (So check out that full article if you need a step-by-step guide.)

In brief, creating (and updating) your writer’s CV acts as a handy overview of your writing career — including your past publication credits, performances, and awards. It acts as a resume for creative writing work, so treat it as a priority. 

It’s also a good idea to keep an active LinkedIn profile. Be sure to include your creative writing career and accomplishments under your work experience. Keep your profile current with all of your most recent publication credits and awards (if applicable).

And if you’ve got a poetry reading or book launch coming up, try posting about it on your feed. Staying active on LinkedIn will help build your professional network and let you present yourself as a qualified writer.

Lastly, if you’re a blogger/freelance writer, Contently is a great site to help with building a professional-looking portfolio

It’s free to use and gives you a polished home for your writing credits — which is especially useful if you haven’t built a writer website yet. As with your CV and LinkedIn profile, make sure to update your Contently profile regularly so that you can showcase your most recent accomplishments.

2. Edit your past work.

Editing your work is a detailed and often time-consuming process. 

Much like spring cleaning, editing involves painstakingly looking at every nook and cranny of your work. It takes a lot of effort and mental energy, but it’s one of the best things you can do as a writer.

So while you’re at home, try taking a red pen to some of your past writing. Using either a digital word processor or a printed copy, give yourself some time to really dig into your own work. 

If you’re a poet, check out my past article on how to edit your own chapbook for a full break-down of the process.

3. Try compiling a longer collection/book.

This step goes hand-in-hand with editing: If you’ve got enough drafts of past work, why not try assembling them into a full-fledged book? 

For in-depth tips, check out another past article I wrote about assembling a poetry chapbook. In essence, try sorting through some past drafts to see if there are any core themes. If so, play around with grouping certain poems/pieces together into a larger body of work. 

If you’re a fiction or non-fiction author, try reading through your past notes to see if there are any interesting topics you could flesh out into longer pieces. 

Use this time to sort through your rough work and parse out what’s worth expanding upon.

4. Submit to new publications or publishers.

Again, I’ve covered this on the blog, but now is a great time to send your work out for consideration. Take the time to research calls for submissions in your area and assemble some high-quality samples of your work.

Or, if you’ve got a full-length book, try researching local small presses who are accepting manuscripts. Although tedious, this research could lead you to your first big break!

6. Try journaling.

Another topic I’ve mentioned before is the value of journaling. Whether free-form or structured, journaling is a great way to get your creative juices going.

Try not to put pressure on yourself to create a masterpiece while doing this exercise — instead, treat the process like a warm-up

Allow yourself to flex your writing muscle and see where it takes you. Even if you don’t end up with high-quality writing, you’ll be better off having practised.

7. Use writing prompts.

As with journaling, using writing prompts can really help you move past writer’s block. And during quarantine, you’ve likely been afforded the chance to play around with your writing practice.

ThinkWritten has a handy list, but you can find other prompts online (or in a book on writing). Try using one prompt per day to get yourself writing, and see where it takes you.

8. Start a blog or website.

Lastly, you could use this time to start an entire blog

This is an exciting prospect made even easier by the fact that platforms like WordPress make the process quite simple. You can try free versions to start out, and simply use a basic theme to design the site.

Try to pick a subject that you find genuinely interesting — whether that’s sports, makeup, gardening, or video games. Focus on something you’ll be excited to write about on a regular basis.

Alternatively, if you’re a freelance writer, this is an excellent time to start a writer website. As a digital creative, your website acts as a business card. The sleeker your writer website is, the more professional you’ll look to potential clients.

While you could technically use a free website, try shelling out for a custom domain name if at all possible. Even a super-basic WordPress plan will do you well. Be sure to include an ‘about me’ page, a contact form, and even a relevant blog if you have the time.

Conclusion

There you have it: eight tips for kick-starting your writing career while social distancing at home. These are trying times, but keeping busy with a creative practice can serve as a welcome distraction or soothing activity (especially journaling!). 

I hope you’re all doing well (or as well as you can right now). Thanks for reading this week’s post, and be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to be notified of future articles.

Happy writing!

Why Writing Often Flourishes in Times of Crisis

There’s no doubt that this point in history is frightening. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated every normal aspect of modern life: the comfort of lingering in coffee shops, the hustle and bustle of busy shopping malls, or even the act of hosting a small dinner party among friends.

Combined with the constant flood of negative news stories, this situation has undoubtedly shaken us all. 

Crises aren’t fun; they come with unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety, and danger.

But if you’re a writer, you might have noticed a tricky paradox: that your best work often comes out of the most difficult experiences of your life. 

Let’s dig into that concept a bit more.

[Content Notice: the rest of this article mentions experiences of trauma, mental illness, and hospitalization. Please only continue reading if you feel that it’s safe for you to do so.]

The Myth of the Tortured Artist 

It’s a common stereotype that, especially for poets, you need to experience extreme hardship to create great art. 

This is a dangerous belief: it implies that artists can’t find inspiration from joy or happiness. And it often justifies self-destructive behavior (i.e. alcoholism) as the price of being a creative genius.

I’ve always struggled with this myth of the tortured artist because, on one hand, I recognize that creativity doesn’t require pain. 

On the other hand, I recognize that some of my best poetry has been written during mental health crises. 

My Personal Experience

For example, my experiences of being hospitalized on psychiatric wards informed much of my first chapbook. My chronic depression and suicidality were some of the foremost themes of that collection.

I’ve always considered writing as an act of survival. I truly believe that I would have committed suicide many years ago if I’d never begun writing creatively.

Long before I was able to accept help for my mental illness, I supplemented treatment with the act of writing poetry. Writing was — first and foremost — a way for me to process trauma that I was experiencing in real-time. 

It allowed me to take my overwhelming emotional experiences and not only record them, but transform them into words with meaning.

After all, writing confessional poetry doesn’t just mean dumping all of your unfiltered thoughts onto the page (although some writers may choose to adopt that via a stream-of-consciousness style).

To me, great confessional poetry involves taking something that feels overwhelming (like depression) and reflecting upon it. 

After that point of reflection, the writer uses every tool at their disposal (like literary devices) to re-shape that experience into art. Similar to the act of meditation, writing involves finding distance between you and your thoughts. And that is a powerful process.

And the reality is that many of the greatest writers of all time grappled with severe mental health issues; Dickinson, Plath, and Bukowski (just to name a few) have conveyed their emotional pain in their work.

So, while not a hard-and-fast rule, the myth of the tortured artist holds some truth. While pain isn’t a necessary component of good writing, it has often been a source of inspiration for artists throughout history.

How can we apply this concept to the current crisis?

I mention all of this because I believe that this point in history holds unique potential.

No, it’s not good that tens of thousands of people have died of COVID-19 (and many more have become seriously ill). There is no justification for the global experience of suffering right now — it’s horrible and unthinkable.

But what we can learn from history is that times of crisis often lead to immense creative output. 

It doesn’t make the current situation any better or worthwhile, but perhaps it can motivate us to reflect on our experiences and comment on them through art.

The reality is that, for many of us (who are fortunate enough to not be on the front lines), we’ll be confined to our homes for an undetermined number of weeks or even months. 

So while we’re stuck indoors, perhaps we can use this time to create. Because what’s the alternative?

Yes, working from home can help us feel productive; FaceTiming our friends can help us feel connected to those we love; cleaning our homes can help us feel organized. But what will we do to fill that aching void — an emptiness that threatens to consume us?

If you’re a writer, the keyboard has never looked better.


A Note on Writing Advice 

It definitely feels strange to write my usual Writing Advice articles during this time of global crisis. As such, my blog posts will likely have heavier themes than usual. 

I hope that you still find them useful, and please hit the Follow button if you’d like to be notified of future posts. 

Thank you, as always, for reading the blog, and I hope that you & your loved ones are staying safe during this time.  


Disclaimer 

If you’re experiencing mental health struggles, there are many resources available. For example, if you’re in Canada, you can consult this link for a comprehensive overview of crisis lines and information. International readers can also visit the Suicide Stop website for a list of global helplines. 

However, this article is not meant to be used, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical problem, consult your own physician.

4 Game-Changing Books to Read While Cooped up Inside

These are scary and uncertain times.

For many of us, practising social distancing is the new reality — at least for the foreseeable future.

And while you’re cooped up inside, one way to take solace is in a good book.

This post will explore four different books I’ve read in recent years that were legitimate game-changers for me.

Whether in terms of improving my finances, decluttering my home, or developing my personal growth, these titles have shifted the way I live my life.

So if you want to try and be productive during these periods of anxiety, consider checking out one of these books (even if you have to purchase an ebook due to store/library closures).

I’m linking to them via the Apple Books platform for ease of reference, but you can surely find them in other places (and I’m not being paid any affiliate marketing fees — these are my genuine recommendations).

1. The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money

Written by Chelsea Fagan and designed by Lauren Ver Hage, this is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their financial health.

Especially if you happen to be a millennial woman, this book is written is very approachable terms.

As someone who is truly horrific with math, this book broke complicated financial topics like budgeting or investing down to a level I could genuinely understand.

It’s still nuanced and interesting, but if you’re a true beginner at personal finance, this book is a great option.

After reading it a couple of years ago, I gradually implemented changes like developing a weekly/monthly budget, creating a debt repayment plan, and setting/meeting savings goals.

Since making those changes, I’ve managed to pay off over $3,000 in consumer debt, save up $5,000 in personal high-yield savings accounts, and even start investing in a TFSA (no matter how small the deposits!).

I now understand where my money is going, and I feel empowered knowing how to manage my finances.

The Financial Diet is a larger brand, too, including their blog and YouTube channel. I’m actually now a regular columnist at the blog, and have had several articles of mine turned into YouTube videos for their Making it Work series (see here and here).

So if you’re interested in the book, be sure to check out their digital resources, too!

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Written by Marie Kondo, this best-seller has brought minimalism to the masses.

And, speaking of my column at The Financial Diet blog, I’ve actually already written an entire article about this book: see 6 Ways My Life Has Improved Several Years After Completing The KonMari Method.

Check out the article linked above if you want my full thoughts, but in short, if you’re someone looking to organize your home, this is arguably one of the best books out there.

It’s written in a clear and concise way, and the principles developed by Kondo are genuinely life-changing. Check it out if decluttering is one of your goals while practising social distancing!

3. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well

Written by Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, this is another global best-seller.

In essence, it breaks down the Danish concept of hygge, which the author defines as “…when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.”

A rather nebulous concept, Wiking posits that hygge is the reason why Denmark often ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world.

It takes a while to understand the idea, but by the end of the book, you’ll take away your own personal definition.

I stumbled upon this title a couple of years ago at a bookstore, and it was a super pleasant read.

The physical book itself is beautiful, with gold detailing on its cover and stunning photographs throughout.

The pages aren’t text-heavy, so it almost reads like a grown-up picture book: focused more on simplicity and aesthetics than communicating dense writing.

Definitely give it a read if you need something comforting and uplifting (especially during this global pandemic). You’ll be sure to find actionable steps to living a happier life.

4. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Lastly, this self-help title by Eckhart Tolle is probably the closest thing that I have to a bible.

While I consider myself to be agnostic, this book has a great mix of spiritual and intellectual concepts.

Tolle bounces from referencing Jesus Christ to the Buddha to Descartes…and the result is incredible.

He doesn’t align himself with a single religion or belief system, but rather expands his idea of consciousness to encompass all different sects from across the world.

It’s been one of the most profound reads of my entire life, and I regularly return to it.

Particularly potent in this chaotic climate of 2020, Tolle speaks straight wisdom about the preciousness of the present moment.

Give it a read if you’re feeling particularly anxious, lost, or despondent right now. You won’t regret it.

Conclusion

This list was a bit of a departure from my usual Writing Advice series, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it nonetheless.

Give the blog a follow if you’re interested in more content about writing/reading in general.

I hope that you’re all staying safe and healthy during this chaotic time, and thanks for giving this post a read.

The Importance of Keeping an Up-To-Date Writer’s CV

For most people, the idea of keeping a resume is pretty par for the course.

Whether you’re looking for a new job or just trying to stay organized, keeping an accurate record of your employment history, level of education, and key skills is a common thing for professionals to do.

But what about a writer’s CV?

Well, if you’re embarking on a writing career, this lesser-known record of achievement is extremely important. And for many years of my career, I skipped this step altogether.

Let’s break down what a CV is, why you should care, and tips for keeping yours up-to-date.

What is a writer’s CV?

CV stands for curriculum vitae.

It’s kind of similar (in nature) to a resume, but is generally a more streamlined list of one’s professional accomplishments.

And as an author, your creative CV will be specifically focused on your writing career.

You’ll usually need a writer’s CV if you’re applying for contests, grants, or residencies. You may also be asked to supply one if you’re submitting a manuscript for publication or trying to get booked for a gig (i.e. a poetry reading).

In essence, your writer’s CV serves as an easy reference for all of your career highlights.

Why should I care about keeping an accurate writer’s CV?

As I mentioned, I actually went many years without keeping an up-to-date writer’s CV. I was still in the early days of my creative writing career and didn’t understand its importance.

I eventually had to draft one up when applying for an editorial position several years ago.

The problem was, I’d been writing for many years and hadn’t been keeping track of every little accomplishment, so I sort of had to scramble while putting my CV together.

The risk that comes with hurriedly drafting a writer’s CV is that you may end up forgetting important accomplishments. If you’re not maintaining a running list of your achievements, you’ll likely forget some.

So, I’d recommend keeping a CV as soon as possible — ideally from the beginning of your career. If you’re a new writer, this should be one of your top priorities!

This will help you stay organized and ready for any exciting opportunities that come up; you’ll be able to easily send one over when applying for a contest or residency. Keeping an up-to-date writer’s CV will help you look polished and professional.

Applying for such opportunities is the main way you’ll grow your career. Especially when you first start out, you’ll want to take every chance possible to get your name (and your work) out there.

An accurate CV will help you put your best foot forward.

How can I draft my own writer’s CV?

Now that we’ve established the basics of what a writer’s CV is and why it’s important, we can go through the steps of actually writing one.

I’d say that your first priority should be creating a detailed list of every single literary accomplishment you’ve had. For this, I’d write a simple list either by hand or in a blank Word document. (You can worry about the design later.)

Remember that, especially as a new writer, no accomplishment is too small! Even if you’ve only been published in small student journals or maintain your own blog, that counts, too.

As a general rule, I like to break my writer’s CV into three sections: publishing credits, notable appearances, and awards/distinctions.

Now, I’m primarily a poet (in terms of my creative career), so this format may not necessarily apply to your genre. For example, if you write personal essays, you may not give many performances (as opposed to poets who regularly give readings).

Be sure to write down every little detail that would make you look like a qualified writer. Every minor publication, performance, or contest you’ve won will help.

If there are particular accomplishments that stand out, consider highlighting them in a separate section.

For example, I have a section titled “Of note”, where I mention the fact that my book is held at the University of Toronto Libraries. This helps the reader zero in on a particularly important achievement of mine.

Once you’ve got a basic list done, you can fuss over the design. I like to use Microsoft Word templates, but you could also use one from Google Docs.

Plug in all of your accomplishments and spend some time playing around with the layout. I’d recommend making it as visually appealing as possible, so that it’s easy to read and gives off a professional look.

One last important tip: regularly update your writer’s CV. A CV is of no use to you if it’s no longer accurate. At least once every few months, take stock of your recent writing achievements, and add them to your CV.

An added bonus? It feels nice to reflect on how far you’ve come, so this process can also give you an added boost of confidence in your career!

Wrapping up

Hopefully, now you’ve got an understanding of why it’s important to keep a writer’s CV. Remember to start small and stay organized.

This simple practice of drafting one can help you give a good first impression to potential editors or contest judges.

Just as a job hunter needs an impressive resume, so too does a writer need a professional CV.

_

As always, thanks for reading the Writing Advice column here on my site. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to follow the blog to be notified of future articles.

(I had to skip a couple of weeks, but we’re now back to our regularly-scheduled posts.)

Happy writing!

Freelance Writing on a Budget

Introduction

Starting a business can be overwhelming.

If you’re looking to become a freelance writer but are working with a limited budget, you may be nervous about up-front costs.

One thing I’ll say is that you should avoid going into debt if at all possible. Don’t take out a small business loan if you can avoid it.

Writing doesn’t require a lot of special equipment, so it’s possible to keep overhead costs very low at first.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Use your existing tech devices (if possible).

When it comes to freelance writing, you’ll definitely want to have a functioning computer.

A laptop is ideal, since you can travel with it easily, but a desktop computer is fine if that’s all you have.

Don’t just go out and buy an expensive computer in the name of starting your freelance writing career.

If you have a computer that works, try to stick with it (at least for the first several months).

A smartphone with data coverage is also pretty crucial, since you’ll need to follow-up with clients in between work sessions.

But, again, don’t go spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on a new phone just because you’re starting a business.

In the beginning, you’ll want to keep costs low as you build your clientele.

2. Opt for a home office, coffee shop, or co-working day pass.

Again, you shouldn’t be spending tons of money at the beginning of your career.

You’ll want to first build your business (and figure out if you’re truly passionate about the job in the first place).

You might end up not liking the gig — so it’s not worth signing the lease for a new office if you’re still in the early days.

If you have a comfortable amount of space in your home, designate a workspace for your freelance writing.

A spare room, nook, or corner of your bedroom could all work.

And keep in mind that you can often write off part of your living expenses as business-use-of-home (contact your national revenue agency for specifics).

On the days that you want to get out of the house, a local coffee shop is ideal.

Starbucks is great, since their business model is built on the premise that many people come in to use the WiFi while sipping their coffee.

But if you have a local coffee shop that allows customers to linger with their laptops, that’s fine too. 

Try to spend minimal amounts of money ($3-10 per visit is ideal) so that you don’t have to invest too much money in the beginning.

Also make sure to keep your receipts, so that you can claim business meals as expenses on your tax return (again, consult your national revenue agency for specific guidelines).

A step above would be to purchase a day pass at a nearby coworking space.

If you’ve never been to a coworking space, they’re basically shared offices for freelancers and other digital creatives. 

They usually include unlimited coffee/WiFi, and offer meeting spaces (for an additional fee).

If you have the funds, purchasing a drop-in day pass every now and then can be a nice treat. (Here in Toronto, they typically cost $20-30 CAD per day.)

3. Utilize free online tools.

When it comes to your digital toolkit, go for free options wherever possible (at least in the beginning).

Google Drive

As I’ve written about here on the blog before, Google Drive is a solid word processor for freelancers (with a comprehensive free version).

The fact that it’s cloud-based makes it simple to move from device to device, no matter where you go. And freelancers in particular are often on the go.

Grammarly 

Grammarly is also a must-have for anyone who writes in a professional capacity. 

It’s the most thorough spelling/grammar check I’ve ever used. Even the free version is more than enough.

Never submit an article to a client without running it through Grammarly first. I can’t tell you how many times it’s picked up minor errors that I would have never noticed on my own (even as an editor).

4. Maximize your local library card.

Many people overlook the offerings of their local library.

The average library card can offer much more than access to free books.

For example, a valid Toronto Public Library card includes free use of Lynda (now LinkedIn Learning), which usually costs $20+ per month.

Those types of online learning platforms can help you get a leg up while also saving money.

[Another digital learning platform is edX, which anyone can use for free. Users can choose to pay for a certificate of completion upon passing a course, but it’s entirely optional.]

Most public libraries also offer plenty of access to digital magazines, ebooks, and audiobooks (all of which can help you stay on top of current industry trends).

5. Use paid services wisely.

As I’ve mentioned, it’s good to keep expenses low when you’re first starting out.

But some costs are truly worth the money, such as:

Plagiarism checkers

I pay for the Premium version of Copyscape, which is a comprehensive plagiarism checker. 

It costs me pennies per article, and it gives me the confidence that my work is 100% free of accidental plagiarism.

Also, many clients will request or require you to use Copyscape, so it’s a good thing to have available.

Accounting software

I don’t know about you, but I’m horrible with numbers.

I tried to do all of my business accounting by myself at first, but it didn’t go too well. I kept losing track of important receipts and missing out on possible deductions come tax season.

So, I now pay $4.99 CAD per month for QuickBooks Self-Employed (which is a promotional rate I got when I signed up). 

It syncs with all of my bank accounts and credit cards, so I never have to worry about keeping complex spreadsheets on my own.

This is one area that is genuinely worth spending on.

In summary

Every business has unique needs. And these are just my general suggestions.

Take into account your own situation: your finances, goals, and preferences. 

Maybe it’s totally worth it for you to upgrade your laptop or spring for an office space in the beginning. 

See what makes sense for you personally, and try to avoid massive up-front costs if possible.

Stuck With Writer’s Block? Here Are 5 Tips for Pushing Past It

Every writer’s been there.

You sit at your desk, wanting to draft up some new work…but nothing comes to mind.

Especially with creative writing, waiting for that lightning bolt of inspiration to strike can feel frustrating.

Taking a break from writing is sometimes the answer, but there are practical tips you can take to push past your writer’s block.

Let’s look at my top five:

1. Start journaling.

Sometimes, we as writers get too precious about our creative work.

We feel as if we need to be “on” 24/7 — that every new bit of writing needs to be amazing.

In reality, writing is a muscle.

Just like you can’t expect to start deadlifting 200 lbs. before ever stepping foot in a gym, you can’t expect your creative output to magically appear if you never put in the effort.

Honestly, the bulk of what you write isn’t going to be your best work…and that’s fine.

It’s more important (especially as a new writer), that you just start doing the thing: writing.

So break out a nice journal and start writing.

If you don’t already own one, head over to your local dollar store — they’ve usually got plenty of options that won’t break the bank.

The structure here isn’t important; write whatever you want.

You can jot down an informal diary entry, or you can loosely write a new poem.

You can describe the bowl of fruit sitting in your kitchen, or write about the view from your window.

It truly doesn’t matter what you write — as long as you’re flexing your creative muscle.

Chances are, there will some nugget of interesting content hidden in there.

Whether it’s a single word, phrase, or concept, you’re bound to stumble on something of note.

Then, you can more seriously play with whatever idea you had, and get a bit more intentional with your writing work for the day.

2. Listen to some great music.

No matter what your taste, there’s bound to be certain music that inspires you.

Put on one of your favourite albums — and if you can blast the volume, all the better. (If you’ve got roommates or it’s late at night, use some headphones.)

Sit down and really engage with the music: What are the lyrics? What are the harmonies? What is the artist saying?

Pay attention to what you hear. When you catch something interesting, make note of it.

Maybe a certain word catches your eye, or a guitar solo really speaks to you. Write about it!

The same principle goes for other types of art — if you’re a big movie fan, or a visual artist, engage with other types of work that inspire you.

Watch one of your favourite movies, or sit down with a favourite painting that you have hanging in your house.

Oftentimes, all we need to get a bit of inspiration is to appreciate the work of other artists.

3. Read the work of others.

Last week on the blog, we covered why reading poetry is just as important as writing it.

This ties back in with #2, since reading the work of other writers is just another form of appreciating art.

In terms of developing a personal style and getting inspired, there’s no replacement for reading.

Take out one of your favourite books, or pick up a new one from the library!

Read it closely, just as with the music-listening exercise:

What is the author saying? What rhetorical devices are they using? What are my favourite lines? What are my least-favourite lines?

It can also be very useful to expose yourself to classic works of literature, since they’ll often challenge you and teach you words you may have never heard before.

Shakespeare is good for this sort of thing, since his language is so rich. Hamlet or Macbeth are especially engaging in terms of the writing.

4. Check out local calls for submissions.

Another way to get inspired is to find calls for submissions in your area.

Oftentimes, publications will have specific themes or prompts for each issue.

For example, they might list a word, phrase, or question for potential writers to engage with.

This is an easy way to get inspired and focus on a theme for your work (not to mention that your new work will be pertinent to submit!).

Google “call for submissions” + [the name of your city] to get some ideas, and start drafting up some new work.

5. Interact with other writers.

I’ve touched on this point in previous blog posts, but it warrants repeating.

Interacting with other writers can give you a huge boost of inspiration (and also act as a generally fun social activity).

You could take a writing workshop or class (either a one-time or ongoing thing) to get the ball rolling.

Workshops are especially useful, because they’ll usually involve some type of writing exercise/prompt to get you started.

If you’re in college, trying researching your school’s creative writing courses, and enrol in one (if your schedule permits).

If not, local libraries are often good places to start.

You could also attend general literary events in your city, such as poetry readings.

Google “poetry readings” + [your city] to get started.

If you’re in a metropolitan centre, you’ll have an easier time, but don’t get discouraged.

Even if you’re in a rural town, there are usually literary events (even just once a month or so) if you look hard enough.

Wrapping up:

Hitting a writer’s block is truly inevitable — even for the most experienced of authors.

But don’t let the experience dampen your spirits.

Try one of these tips to help you get inspired and back to writing.

_

As always, be sure to hit Follow if you enjoyed this post.

New blog posts are up every Friday and centre around the theme of Writing Advice.

You can also reach me at services@mercedeskilleen.com with any questions, or to inquire about quotes for my writing & editing services.

Happy writing!

Why Reading Poetry Is Just as Important as Writing It: The Key to Creating Great Work

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” — Stephen King

In King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he explains how important it is to be continually reading if you want to get serious about writing.

I couldn’t agree more.

The bulk of my education about the English language came from the act of reading.

And I’m not talking about assigned school-work. I’m talking about round-the-clock reading for fun.

When I was a young child, my mom would endlessly read books to me from the local library. She was a teacher in her home country, and is a trained early childhood educator here in Canada, so she’s always appreciated the value of learning.

As soon as I could read independently, I inhaled books to no end.

In elementary school, I’d bring home a backpack full of books I’d borrowed from the classroom — every single night.

At six years old, my teacher remarked that I was already reading at a fifth-grade level. And I didn’t stop there.

I entered and won my local library’s creative writing contests as soon as I was old enough to enter.

By the age of thirteen, I had already won a national youth literary contest, given a paid poetry reading at the reception, and gotten a publishing credit out of the whole thing.

None of this happened by accident.

Why reading is your secret weapon as a creative writer

Fast-forward to today, and I’ve won more literary contests, been published widely in magazines/journals, and written two books for my publisher.

All of these accomplishments started from one habit: regularly reading for fun.

So if you want to embark on a creative writing career, it’s crucial that you start reading.

Read whatever you can get your hands on: poetry, novels, non-fiction.

Every genre has something different to teach you; poetry teaches brevity and emotion; fiction teaches world-building; non-fiction teaches research skills.

And you don’t need to spend a ton of money. Check out your local library (or college’s library) to start.

Used book stores are also gold-mines for finding affordable new reads.

If you have the cash to buy lots of new books, go for it — but don’t feel obligated.

Writing poetry in particular

The bulk of my career has been as a professional poet. Although I dabble in creative non-fiction and do plenty of client work, poetry is my niche.

For poetry especially, you really need to expose yourself to different styles. Read the classics. Read new poetry. Read formal poetry. Read experimental poetry.

Poetry is so incredibly open-ended — unlike fiction, there really aren’t any rigid guidelines for writing it.

You can write a poem that’s one word long, or you can write a poem that’s 1,000 words long. You can have a title or not. Poets have the freedom to basically do whatever we want.

But how can you find your unique style if you’re not a seasoned pro? Just keep reading.

Eventually, you’ll stumble upon poets that change your life. (For me, those include authors like Sylvia Plath and Charles Bukowski.)

You’ll find poets that write about things you care about. You’ll find poets that have incredible styles the kind you’d like to emulate.

But you’ll also find authors whose work you really hate (for me, that includes ‘Instagram poets’ like Rupi Kaur). And that’s good, too! It’s all part of the process.

You need to dip your toes into many different types of writing — otherwise, you won’t know what you like and dislike.

Reading is a constant process of learning new things about the world (and about your personal taste).

Get inspired, but don’t copy

It’s great to read other poets to get inspired. But don’t try to outright copy another writer’s style. That’s pointless and uninteresting.

There’s no use trying to be the next Shakespeare — because you aren’t Shakespeare.

Embrace who you are: your identity, your life experiences, your preferences, and your thoughts. Look to other writers for influence, but don’t try to imitate them.

Keep reading and keep writing new work. The two practices will feed into each other.

Conclusion

So, always keep a new book on your bedside table.

Constantly seek new literature to read.

And think of reading as a prerequisite for creating great work.

___

As always, thanks for reading my Writing Advice column here on my blog.

Be sure to hit the Follow button to get notified every week when I post new articles.

Happy writing!