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…A Whole Lot of Getting Ready

It might be easy to think that writing is just about waking up to birds singing sweetly outside your window, grabbing a cup of organic coffee, reading the paper, and then sitting down in a pristine, perfectly decorated office and writing.  Dreamy, really.

Sometimes it can seem easier to do absolutely anything other than what you know you need to be doing.  Most of us have probably been at the “I have a project due” and “Boy, do I love cleaning toilets” corner once or twice.

Sometimes when I am putting off writing, it’s because I’m just stalling.  But I actually think that there may be some method in the madness.


We have very full lives and minds.

There is a lot going on in this modern world. I find that I am regularly juggling emails, projects, work, cleaning, business paperwork, exercise, feeding myself, making sure to check in with people, travel plans, and everything else that gets thrown in to a busy life. You have your own list, and I’m sure it’s quite full as well. All of those things hang out in our heads, reminding us to make sure we don’t miss paying bills on time, getting to doctor’s appointments, picking up kiddos from school, or meeting a friend for a much needed coffee.

But if you’ve ever tried to write or do serious creative work and thinking while all the things you need to do are swirling up in your brain, then you know that it can be very hard to even hear yourself think.

So what is a writer (or really any creative) to do?

You wouldn’t try to cook without a kitchen or the ingredients you need for a meal, and you wouldn’t train for a marathon without good shoes.

And I don’t think you should try to write without getting ready either.

You will never have everything done

and a perfect moment to sit down and write.

Just in case that’s what you are waiting for to get started writing, let me say that again…

You will never have everything done.

That’s ok.

Writing is not about having nothing else going on, but it is an endeavor worth taking seriously enough to prepare for.

What are the things on your list that are nagging at your brain that you could easily finish?

Could you get those done in predictable set amount of time and then have time to write?

If so, get the nagging things off your plate first.

What other steps could you take to create a calm thinking space?

For me, I have a tendency to pile up documents on my desktop until they are six deep, messy, and completely impossible to see and use. There is never a deadline for cleaning these up, but at some point, the mess gets so bad that it begins to bug me, and I want it clean.

If that desktop is bothering me to the point that I am thinking about it, then it might be worth taking some time to pick it up.

This is not time taken away from writing.

This is time spent creating a space and life to be a writer.


What are the things that you can actively and intentionally shelve?

Like I said before, you will always have things to do, but some are nagging and disruptive and others are all in a day’s work.

  • Make a list of the swirling to-dos in your head.
  • Read over them and come to peace with knowing that you have a list and you can reference it instead of keeping it all in your head.
  • Decide to let the list hold the busy space for you while you write.

This requires intention, and along those lines, perhaps it is helpful to be realistic and realize that you cannot pop a cone of silence over your head and your brain. New things may come to mind as you write, but keep your list handy and jot the things down, knowing that the list is there for you.

There is no doubt that physical space is another important part of getting ready to write which I will address later, but creating open mental spaces to think expansive, uncluttered thoughts is a good first step.

Now…off to clean my desktop.



Project WritingIs…Grounding

Life is a little crazier than it’s normal brand of crazy this week, and this morning I got that itchy need-to-write feeling creep up in my chest which made me remember my #WRITINGIS project that, as promised, I have left hanging in the wind, forgotten in only one short week. But it’s nice to have it out there to come back to, so here I am with my ruminations on the page and my desire to write defining my morning while I let some tasks go unfinished for a little while longer.

And why? Why do I need to hastily untangle my ear buds to shove them in my ears and get typing? Why do I need to write right now? Why am I ignoring my phone and my email? And anyone trying to talk to me?

Because WRITING IS grounding.

In this moment, I need to remember who I am and what I am doing. I need to feel the careful pressure of the keys beneath my fingers while I breathe in deeply and remind myself that life swirls all around us and has a way of getting piled up and messy and as unmanageable as a toddlers curls are apt to be, and I need time to sit with it.

Sometimes in the crazy-busy, breathing is a healthy act of resistance, and writing reminds me to breathe.

It makes me stop.

It creates space.

You can only type so fast. You can only think so fast.

And when you write, you have to write something.

For me that something is sometimes

A word-laced root from my heart to the ground beneath my feet.

I watch the words emerge on the page, my breath fueling their creation, my mind settling into the rhythm of creating, my body feeling itself in this moment.

All the distractions and requests and lists pinging into my tired body are held at bay in this brief moment that I have carved out with the practice of putting words on the page.

It is a tiny reprieve, but it is a necessary one that reminds me about the rhythm of life and the need to be intentional about creating space and time and a connection to who I am and to what matters.

Writing does that for me. It lets me own my moment. It lets me use words to remember to feel my feet on the earth underneath me and to breath because #WRITINGIS so much, but for today WRITING IS grounding.


What is writing for you today?  Do you find writing to be grounding?  Follow along and let me know here and on instagram and twitter @bawriting with #writingis.


Hockey Puck Monkey Brain: AKA When You’ve Got Nothing

I write a lot of different things in a day.

On any given day, I might write

  • Emails
  • Feedback for student papers
  • Social media posts
  • To-do lists
  • Reminders
  • A blog post
  • Product copy
  • A section of book that I’m working on
  • Notes for class

And the list goes on.

Some of these are because I am a writer, and some are just the writing that everyone does in a day.

As a writer, the lines between work and non-work can get a little blurry.

Is this post for fun? Work? What about these notes I’m jotting down? Are they for a future book project or just random ruminations that will go nowhere? Wait a second, this to-do list is half work and half “stop the mail” and “clean the toilet.”

There are some times though when the writing is clearly work.  When you have to produce because someone is waiting for it and they will pay you if only you will send them some words on a page, it’s easy to choke and realize that just like Lorelei Gilmore of the famed Gilmore Girls, the only thing in your head is “hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey, monkey, underpants.”

When Hockey Puck Monkey Brain happens, how do you overcome it?

How do you get it together and make real sentences come out? And not just ones people can understand, but ones that are relevant to the project people are going to pay you for?

I’m sure there are a lot of ways, but for me, there are a few tried and true.

  • I reread the information that I have about the project. In detail. Multiple times.  This helps to focus me and remind me of the desired outcome.
  • I also get out an old school piece of paper…like the kind made from wood pulp or bamboo. There is just something for me about the scratchiness of a pencil on paper that jogs the mind.
  • I give myself permission to not get it right the first time, and I dive headlong into brainstorming.
  • I also reflect back on other times when I was in this situation, and I remind myself that the project always gets done.

I’ve felt this way before, and I was successful, so I can stop freaking out and let the pressure off a little.

It’s amazing what that can do for the creative process.

Of course there are always all the other things that your mom would tell you like

  • Don’t wait until the last minute
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a vegetable
  • Walk outside

But really…who does those things?

I know that this is not just for writers, and anyone can have days where focus, motivation, and creativity are running low.

How do you overcome HPM brain? Share your tips below so that we can all get more done and quit earlier on Fridays. 

















Trusting Yourself on Days You Can’t Write

Sometimes when I try to write, it feels like this grey, stormy sky.  It feels like there should be a lot going on, like words should  be raining down around me, but in reality I have a head full of cloudy quiet.

In those moments, I am tempted to make myself write…to just get the words out on the page.  And sometimes, I think that works fine.

But there are other moments when I give myself permission to sit in the quiet and wait.

I know that I can’t always force the words to come.

I can write and see if they begin to flow, but if they don’t, then maybe it’s not a day to write.

Maybe I need to get out and eat an amazing salad or see a beautiful tree or listen to an awesome song.  Perhaps I need some sleep or a little caffeine.  There is a chance I need a break.  Or some inspiration.

But what I always need is trust.

That is hard when the sky is quiet and the words are held up in the clouds.

Creativity is not a mechanism or a machine.  It is not something I can push and pull and contort to my own will. While it takes dedication and focus and practice, it also takes quiet and listening and feeling and being.

I have learned on those days when the words seem a little further away, that I need to let myself enjoy life, breathe, listen, and wait patiently for their return.

Do you ever have a hard time writing?  What do you do on those days when the words do not flow?  What are some things you do to get the juices flowing?  Let us know below.  







8 Essentials for A Day of Writing

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

Or tea masquerading as coffee

@chromeyellowtradingco in the ATL

Technology (with a side of coffee)

Sometimes I want to write on my computer, but there are certainly days when I really need paper and an awesome pencil to get my ideas down.  And then there are those days, where an iPad is perfect for jotting notes and creating images.  It also helps to have a sturdy bag to carry it all, and my Patagonia backpack is comfy with the right organization inside.  And the charging cords, never forget the charging cords.



These little guys get their own category.  You can always write on a random napkin with a borrowed pen if you forget everything else, but your earbuds, they are a lifesaver when your chatty coffee shop partners feel the urge to utilize speaker phone or the music is not your jam or you need to drown out the world to hear yourself think.

Writing Space

Where I write can make all the difference in the world.  This is why I can often be found traipsing around the greater Los Angeles area in search of the perfect coffee shop or writing space.  And then there are the spaces that we create in our homes.  Comfy chairs are always nice, and it never hurts to have a trendy giraffe looking over your shoulder.


A Nice View

This might be superfluous, but I do think that having nice views and nature and beauty help the creative juices flow.  Some days my nice views are spectacular, and sometimes they are just a little flower outside a window in the city.  They don’t have to be grand to be beautiful.


Writing is a creative process, and in that process, inspiration is always welcome.  Wether it be art or going for a bike ride or the perfect quote to remind you of your dreams, find inspiration that speaks to you and fuels your creative drive.


found @shophemingway in Silver Lake


There are times that silence is golden for life and writing, but plenty of times, tunes focus me and help me feel my words.  I have different playlists for different types of writing.  Some are for deadlines. Others are for dreams.


There is no doubt when I write that I can get lost in the words, but it’s important to remember to feed that brain and those fingers.  Snacks and meals can be a source of healthy nutrients, and if they are tasty and beautiful, they can also be inspiration.



What do you need when you write?  How do you stay focused and inspired?  Where do you enjoy letting the words flow?  Tell us in the comments what makes your writing day perfect.  























Accidental Writer: Debunking Myths of How Writers are Made

I used to think that I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t have a childhood full of notebook scribbling and books illustrated with crayons. I didn’t write stories until I was in college, and those certainly left something to be desired.

I’m also not one of those people who reads books all the way straight through. I have books strung out behind me in varying degrees of unfinishedness and many stay that way forever.

And I’m not an exceptionally adept grammarian, so there’s that.

So imagine my surprise when one day I woke up and realized that I was a writer. There were none of the signs, and yet, here I am.

It was important for me to let go of all of those ideas that I had about what it means to be a real writer. I hadn’t been training since childhood under my covers with a flashlight, and I wasn’t going to stumble into the field as a journalist or accomplished line editor. I love to read, but rarely in a straight line.

But I do love words—not so much vocabulary and lists and spelling—but the power locked up in unuttered words to describe the ways that we live and feel our lives.

And writing, it found me.

During a particularly turbid bout of change, I started thinking about an experience, one that challenged what I thought I knew and left me a little unglued at the edges. Every night when I laid my head on the pillow, I’d string those words together into blurry sentences and gauzy paragraphs until I fell asleep only to repeat the next night.

All this brain writing led to excessive tossing and a husband who lovingly encouraged me to go write everything down so that we could both get some sleep.

That was my first book. It’s still on my shelf. It’s personal and waiting.

But it was the push that I needed to know that I could write.

And the rest, as they don’t say, is my present and hopefully my future.

I write and teach writing and think about writing pretty much everyday. And people pay me to do it, which is pretty cool. But there are plenty of days when I still wonder how the words find me. Maybe that is the point. Maybe we write when we are ready, when we give up.   When we let our experiences leak out in black and white. I’m still not quite sure how it works, and despite all the mystery and a complete inability to correctly use a relative pronoun, I am, for the most part, one happy writer.

When did you know that you were a writer?  Did you have all the signs from childhood or was it an unexpected journey?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.