Writing Is…For Tough Times*

These are strange times. I could probably just end that right there, and it would about sum up the last several weeks for most of us. But knowing times are strange and knowing what to do with times that are strange are very different things.

And I keep coming back to writing. Writing is For Tough Times. I know that I would be better off to say that writing can be helpful in tough times, because I’m sure we all have experiences where writing was anything but calming and cathartic, but writing at its core is a wonderful tool for helping us to negotiate difficult times.

Right now, unless you have unplugged your computer and turned off your TV and not answered your phone, you are most likely on overload. There is so much information to take in and in all honestly, most of us cannot process this fire-hose amount of highly-charged, often conflicting material in a positive way. When we are overloaded, we want to make sense of things, and we are prone to have the information that we collect circling through out brains until we can find a place to file it. We sort and dissect and compare, running the new information past our old knowledge, and we search for previous information that can give us a place to hang the new news in a way that makes sense.

But if you are like most people, that circling and sorting and making sense of too much is exhausting and stressful. As the information continues to pour in and as it becomes increasingly charged with emotions and anxiety, we begin to be frazzled.

Thoughts have a way a getting trapped in the eddies of our minds until their circling can make us emotionally dizzy, but writing is a wonderful way to gather all those thoughts up and set them down so that we can rest.  Just like talking to a good friend during a difficult time can calm you, putting pen to paper and scribbling out the thoughts in your head can provide some space too.

If you are home alone, writing can be a wonderful addition to talking with friends.

If you are in the middle of a full, crazy house, writing can be a wonderful practice that gives you space to think and process on your own.

If you are running a business right now and your employees are scattered, writing can be a great exercise for you to provide support and foster conversations during this difficult time. 

If you are stressed out with caregiving or loss or all the demands that this new experience has brought your way, writing can be a way to calm and soothe your tired spirit.

If you need writing prompts or ideas about how to write during these times, click ToughTimesWritingPrompts for a FREE downloadable sheet of ideas to get you and the people in your life writing a little more. And hopefully through words, we can sort out some of our experiences and feelings in this tough time, and we can be a little more settled in our souls.


* If you are having a difficult time and need to talk to someone, please reach out to a qualified therapist or health professional for help.


Writing Is…

On this morning that has surreptitiously slid on into early afternoon, I am clutching a cup of coffee and letting the warmth through the thick mug make my hands hot and thereby my body warm, while I wait for the words to come. They come in fits and starts…ideas that seem good and look wan on the page until I backspace them into almost having never been and wait quietly for the new, good things to emerge. I reach for the mug again, suspecting that perhaps it is the heat of the muddy water that will fuel the words, and if the past is any indication, my suspicions are probably on to something.

This is one of those days that has emerged from a tunnel of crazy intensity and obligations in all its nubile simplicity. I don’t have to get anything done today, and the lightness of the day disarms me a little after the onslaught of days rife with heaviness and requirements. In a strange way it is welcomingly unsettling, and I am prone to put requirements on it myself so that it doesn’t just float away, lost.

But I am tired, and stacking weights of purpose onto the center of the moments is in and of itself more than I can do today. And I have to remind myself to be grateful for the lightness. To remember that these days are just as good and right as the ones when I am hustlin’. In fact, maybe they are better.

These are the days I used to wander in and out of with ease, when they were my norm, the heavy and purposeful days standouts in a sea of easy being. I take a moment to remember, to feel my legs on the chair, my breathe in this space, my soul not running, but resting.

I recently read an article about burnout and it resonated with me and reverberated along the back of a life I have built of hustlin’ like sabre tooth tigers are casing my retirement account and the sun seems to only sit in the sky for 23 minutes out of every day.

It is on these days that I turn to writing. And I find that kind of funny because I write for work. I teach writing for work. I work with writers for work. And yet, when I am tired or I am trying to remind myself to sit with the quiet or breathe, I write.

There are rows and rows of book on the topic of writing, but I think it is interesting to think about what writing does—at least it is for me.

There is a part of me that wants to do one of those 30 days of thinking about writing things or 15 days of tweeting or sharing my creative process on instagram in order to create a buzz and something to follow.

I, however, am not one of those people. I consider it a win when I brush my teeth twice in one day and even that necessary regularity is a bit much for me sometimes.

That being said, I do want to investigate what writing means for me and what the act of writing does, but I think it would work better for me to do it when I feel inclined. Maybe I’ll post three days in a row and then maybe not for a week or two. But I will post. And I can commit to using a consistent hashtag. You have to know what you can do and honor that.

So here’s to a mishmash series of writing about writing whenever I want to, outside of temporal bounds, and organized only by two consistent hashtags #writingis and #bawriter.

I hope you follow along, and if you’d like to talk about what writing is for you too, then please, by all means, join in, and hashtag away.

Writing Adventure: How to Encourage Writing for Fun and Self-Reflection

As a writer, it’s always a fun day when I get to announce that I have a new book out.

Writing Adventure: How to Encourage Writing for Fun and Self-Reflection

is now available for sale as an ebook here on Amazon.

I’m excited because this short book takes on a topic that is near and dear to my heart. For those of you who may not be familiar with my story, I used to be a middle school language arts teacher. That experience was transformative and immersed me in the ways that young people engage with words. I am so thankful to those students for bearing with me as I was a young teacher learning right along with them.

Through the years, I have continued to spend a lot of time teaching, tutoring, editing, and working with people to create writing that they are proud of. In my experience, however, I have found that while there are a few people who really love writing, many approach the experience with hesitancy, at best, and often more likely dread.

As a writing teacher, I got to thinking about our cultural narratives around the process of writing, and I realized that writing is almost always contextualized as an assignment or a task or something that needs to be done.

But writing is so much more. Writing is an expressive experience, and one that I think is important to the development of young and old alike. I began to ask myself what it would look like if we changed our talk around the concept of writing, and we began to think of it as something that is fun and fulfilling.

This topic is an enormous conversation and one that could fill volumes because it is personal and expansive and rooted in educational theory and self-awareness and the entire lexicon of the place that words hold in the human experience. So this book, well it is truly just a starting point. It is a short collection of my thoughts around the idea of writing as more than a task and the ways that adults can encourage young people and peers to engaging in a more personal writing practice.

There are no concrete answers here, but there are ideas and questions and things to think about as we work to redefine the role that writing has in a world where, in my opinion, it is as important as it has always been.

If you have young children or teens, I hope that this book gives you a place to begin new conversations around writing. If you are an adult, I hope that the ideas and examples are rooted in enough truth to translate into the adult experience.

Life is certainly an adventure, and I believe that writing is a great way to experience that adventure.

Here’s to your own Writing Adventure!

You can buy Writing Adventure here.







What Laura Ingalls Wilder Can Teach Us About Writing

This is the house that Laura built—Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband Almanzo. Last week I had the privilege of visiting Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homestead in the Ozarks of southern Missouri. This pastoral white home set on a knoll in green fields is a writer’s paradise.

Almanzo and Laura built this house after moving to Missouri when they were just starting out. The house was built in sections, each room added as the couple had the time and money they needed to create their home.

Times were tough in those days and farming and survival consumed them.


I have to admit that I do not have a childhood connection to Laura’s books. I knew about her stories from the TV show, but I hadn’t read her writing. I think my nose was pretty stuck in LM Montgomery’s tales of Anne during those years. What can I say? Sometimes you just fall in love.

My lack of knowledge, however, certainly didn’t deter me from having assumptions about the writer.

I assumed that Laura was a writer for her whole life and that she lived in her childhood town even after she grew up.

But I was wrong.


Laura had moved from North Dakota to Missouri after she and Almanzo had their daughter Rose, and they lived in the little town of Mansfield for the rest of their lives.

Laura didn’t write her first book until she was in her 60’s. While she had written pieces for the local paper, it was Laura’s daughter who encouraged her to write her stories. Rose Wilder Lane had lived all over the country and become a rather well-known writer at the time. She moved home and during those years worked with her mother to create the Little House books. How much Rose was involved is a question surrounded by mystery and much speculation. While some surmise that Rose was a creative partner with her mother, Rose firmly insisted until her death that she had simply been the catalyst who encouraged her mother to get her words down on the page.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Rose Wilder Lane

No matter how the Little House books were born, there is no doubt that their stories have become a beloved feature in our canon of children’s literature.

Laura talked about writing these books as she watched the world changing and losing those things she had loved about her childhood. She wrote to remind us of the simpler times and to paint a picture of a world that she valued and thought had something to teach us.

Her stories are simple, but in their simplicity, they are profound because they are about real people living real lives, and nothing is more profound than life. Her accounts wrestle with the human experience from the perspective of a child, a perspective that is not easily captured.

But perhaps most importantly, Laura wrote what she knew.

As a writer I often think about that scene in Little Women when Jo is trying to write fantastical romances and Professor Bear kindly encourages her to write what she knows. I understand Jo’s disappointment in that dramatic scene. I want to think that my stories will be more than my life.

But over the years, I have learned that Professor Bear’s sage advice does not limit me to only telling what I have lived, but it does help me ground my writing and characters in emotions and truths that I can connect with and hopefully my readers can too.

I think that is what Laura did remarkably well. Her childhood during those years was not unique, and it could have been easy for her to dismiss her own life as usual or mundane. But it was the way that she used stories to create a world and share her understanding of those years that readers have engaged with for years.

Original Book Cover for the First Edition of Little House on the Prairie

The visit to Laura’s house was about Laura and her adorable writing room with a fainting couch and a living room with the best window seat ever, but there was no escaping the concurrent story of Rose and her encouragement.

Without that part of the story, we may have never had the opportunity to reflect on a child’s life on the plains all these years later.

Laura teaches us that writing what we know can be precious and insightful and allow readers to connect to truths across time and geography.

She also is a great example that writing can be wonderful at any age.

And Rose, well, she is a reminder to thank those who have encouraged us to write and to encourage those around us.  It was kind of an amazing thought that without someone I never heard of, there might not be the Little House books.

Laura’s homestead is definitely worth a visit.  The home is beautiful, and learning about the way that the stories came to be is inspiring.  Go here for more information about how to visit her home.  http://lauraingallswilderhome.com

If you can’t make it to Mansfield, I also really enjoyed the video Beyond the Prairie with lots of great stories about Laura’s life.

Here’s to writers who write their truth and the people who encourage them along the way.


Have you visited Laura’s homestead?  What motivates you to write?   Where do your stories come from? Who has been instrumental in your writing life?