Bite-Sized Goals and Mousey Nibbles: Managing Lengthy Projects

Working your way through large, lengthy projects, like . . . oh, writing a novel, for instance, can be overwhelming, can’t it? First you have to write down the words, then you have to fix the words, then you have to fix them a second time, and possibly a third or fourth or fifth time. Then you have to figure out how to get those words out into the world, whether via traditional methods or indie. And while you’re trying to accomplish all of this, you have everyday life stuff to deal with too: jobs, family, chores—as well as non-everyday stuff, such as illnesses, vacations, bad mental health days, holidays . . . I could go on and on.

Of course, it helps to get organized by setting goals and deadlines—to mark on your calendar in bold when you want your first draft to be finished by, when you need to be done with the first round of edits, and so on. But when setting these longer deadlines, it’s easy to underestimate how long you’re really going to need.

I’ve made this mistake many times. I’ve tried to prevent it by calculating out how many words I need to write each day leading up to my deadline in order to reach it—making room for days when I know I’ll have less time to write. As long as I write the prescribed number of words each day, I’ll be perfectly fine, right? But then, life throws obstacles in my path, and soon I’m failing to meet my word counts and falling behind. The farther behind I fall, the more frustrated I get. I move my deadline out. I recalculate my word counts. Then I fall behind again. I get discouraged and overwhelmed over, and over, and I start to think I’ll never finish this darn thing.

Does this sound familiar?

Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you do well with large goals and a daily word count system. Maybe that’s all you need in order to get things done. If so, that’s fantastic! It’s common advice, so it must work for a lot of writers, right? But if it’s not working for you, just as it hasn’t been working for me, I’d like to suggest a few things that have been working for me lately, in the hopes that you, too, will find them helpful.

Make 2-3 Bite-Sized Goals At A Time

I still plan out the large goals (finish draft, revise draft, edit draft.) But I’ve lessened their importance in favor of smaller, bite-sized goals (that, I must stress, aren’t word counts,) and I only plan out a few of these goals at a time. For instance, my goal this weekend was to re-examine my outline, because I’ve discovered I need to throw out some scenes and replace them with brand new ones. I wasn’t writing the scenes this weekend—just taking a look and deciding what I need those scenes to do. My next bite-sized goal will be to outline those scenes. The bite-sized goal after that will be to finally draft those scenes. And . . . that’s it. That’s as far ahead as I’ve planned. Obviously, I have an idea of what I’ll need to do after that, because I know that my ultimate goal is to finish revising this entire draft. But for now, I’m not going to worry about anything further than getting through these next few scenes.

Keeping my goals small and few in number helps me feel like I’m actually making progress. If I look at it in respect to the larger goal of finishing my revisions, it won’t feel like I’ve done much at all. I’ll feel like I’m moving at a snail’s pace, and I’ll get frustrated. So I don’t do that.

Only Work Under Your Best Working Conditions

Pay close attention to when and where you do your best work. Do you get more done in the morning? Then work in the morning and don’t try to squeeze more work out of yourself past that time (unless you absolutely must.) Do you have specific days when you’re less likely to be able to focus? Keep your expectations low on those days. I have a standing appointment every Tuesday morning that tends to throw off my concentration for the rest of the day. I’ve come to accept that if I do get any writing done on Tuesdays, it’s a bonus. I’m better off using Tuesdays to catch up on chores or other things that don’t require me to think too much. I’m having a harder time convincing myself that writing post-children’s bedtimes is also a lost cause. But it’s a fact that I’m usually too tired and brain-drained to do much of anything by then. My best times for focusing are late morning and early afternoon when the kids are at school, so that’s when I make myself sit down and work. I also pay attention to my energy level. If I try to work with my laptop on the couch, am I more likely to nap instead? If so, I’ll make myself a cup of coffee or tea, and work sitting up at my desk. Is my back bothering me to the point where sitting at my desk will make the pain worse and/or distract me? Then maybe the couch would be better after all.

Just Take a Mousey Nibble

Okay, this one probably needs some background. My oldest son is a very picky eater. Always has been. He has texture issues and we suspect he may also be a super taster, because he will often complain about things tasting “too strong.” There was a period when he was younger where he was so anxious about trying new foods, that he would burst into tears at the mere suggestion. That is until one day, he told us that maybe . . . maybe he could just try a mouse-sized bite. A little mousey nibble. A nearly microscopic taste that, like sticking a toe in the water, would help to alleviate some of his fear of the unknown. This still works with him. “Just take a mousey nibble, and if you don’t like it, that’s okay,” we tell him. And so he does. And then sometimes, all on his own, he will decide to take a larger taste afterward.

If, even with your bite-sized goals, you’re still feeling anxious about sitting down to work, or you’re not sure how to get started, or you’re just plain unmotivated, tell yourself that you only have to take a mousey nibble. Open your document and commit to five minutes. You don’t even have to type anything. You can use those five minutes to look over your last paragraph, or glance through your outline, or heck, just stare at the blank screen. Chances are though, once your timer goes off, you’ll be able to settle yourself into your task. And if you still can’t, that’s ok. Take a break and try another mousey nibble later. Maybe it’ll taste different next time.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you. Do you have any other tricks up your sleeve that help you get through large projects? Please share them with us in the comments.



When she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard, Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele, knitting, or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys and three mischievous cats. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.


We are delighted to welcome our newest contributor, Veeda Bybee! 
In a TED talk given last June, poet, educator and author Kwame Alexander opened his speech referencing a 2013 study by the University of Wisconsin confirming that language has the power to alter our perceptions. Alexander says, “Scientists believe that a single word has the power to change our reality. And that word is, ‘yes.'”
He goes on to explain how when we say yes to ourselves, we alter perceptions. We create our own reality instead of allowing someone else to do it for us.
For 2018, I want it to be a Yes time. I’ve seen people post on social media about their word for the year and this will be mine: Yes
I love it’s optimism, the way the word lingers on the lips. For me, it connotes positivity, like there is something to hope for.
Here are three things I’ve decided to say ‘Yes’ to this year:

1. Yes to being brave.

In small and big things. Example, I am going to find the courage to commit to my alarm clock. For months, I have contemplated a Kate DiCamillo writing schedule. This children’s book author wakes up at 5 a.m., writes a few pages and is done for the day before nine. She starts off her day doing the thing she wants to accomplish the most. 2018 is the year my alarm rings and I wake up not feeling negative, but excited to get to work.

2. Yes to self-care.

For writers, this can often mean saying no. In her book, The Year of Yes, television producer, screenwriter and author  Shonda Rhimes writes of the importance of making this boundary for yourself. Rhimes writes,
“Everyone knows how difficult it is to say no. It’s one of the reasons why people seem to be comfortable asking you for favors they have no business asking you for.”
When you understand that you deserve good things, saying ‘yes’ to using ‘no’ becomes easier. This year, I will make time for myself by saying yes to not doing things that don’t work for me.

3. Yes to service.

On the flip side, I also recognize the importance of helping others. I’m at the point in my life where my youngest child is in preschool and I can finally volunteer at my children’s school more. One of my favorite things to do is reading with the first grade class.
As someone who writes for children, being with this age group is prime research. I see what books they gravitate toward and feel their joy (or frustrations) with reading. It’s also a lot of fun to be with my own kid and this service has made me a better parent and writer. I’m going to continue to say yes in the classroom when the time works for me.
Yes doesn’t have to be your word for 2018. However, what are some things you would say ‘Yes’ too?
For me, I am excited for the possibilities of the next twelve months. Will this be the year where I create my own reality?
The answer: Yes.
veedaVeeda Bybee grew up in a military household, collecting passport stamps and dreaming of castles in far off places. A daughter of Asian immigrants, she has been writing and drawing pictures since she was seven years old. She is currently working on an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. A former journalist, she lives with her family in the Mountain West where she reads, writes and bakes.


The Lie We Write On Ourselves

You are a story.

You are a human-shaped piece of paper. There are doodled facts on your elbows, and virtues and vices have been etched into your finger bones. There are blazing truths rattling echoes through your ribcage, and fragments of about-to-be-told story lodged in your lung tissue.

People have written on you without your permission, and you’ve erased some of the scribbles you’ve realized aren’t true. But there’s this itchy spot between your shoulder blades where people carve hard-to-reach lies sometimes, and you can’t find an eraser big enough to scour yourself all the way clean.

  • You’ll never be as good as [insert name].
  • Writing is just a hobby.
  • Books are entertaining, but don’t you want to do something that really matters?
  • You need a thick skin to make it. You’re not tough enough.

On and on the lies go. Some are just scratches that heal over after hours or days. Some dig deep, clawing through skin and sinew till they’re so far inside you it’s hard to know where they end and you begin. Some are written by others, but the most heartache and hurting ones are in handwriting you recognize all too well.

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The only antidote to a lie is the truth, to write over the falsehoods till they disappear altogether. So pick up your pen and write those blazing truths down. Write them deep, and write them true.

  • You are finding newer and truer words. You are building worlds and breathing life. You are pulling magic out of the sheer white nothing of the empty page. You are a creator. You are the pop-sizzle-crackle of the new and the now. You are enough.
  • Creating brings you a measure of joy you can’t find anywhere else. You are meant for this. Whether you devote zero minutes or hundreds each day, this is a part of the entirety of who you are.
  • Stories inspire empathy—they help us learn compassion. Stories inspire imagination—they help us see the legion of possibilities stretching out before us. They matter. Oh, how they matter.
  • You are a human, not a dragon. Your skin is beautifully vulnerable. You are allowed to hurt. You are allowed to struggle. You’re allowed to stop for a while and start again when you’re ready. You’re allowed all the human qualities those itchy lies between your shoulder blades want you to shun.

Your words are the answer to the itch and the etch. Use them to tell yourself all the truths the paper of your soul is hungry for. Tell yourself who and what you are. Tell yourself who and what you have it in you to be. Don’t give lies co-author credit for the story of your life. Don’t let small minds and small words steal the wide and the stretch of your aspirations.

2018 is coming, an infinite blank canvas, waiting for words and stories only you can tell. Sometimes they’ll come in dribbles, sometimes in monsoon-level pourings, but whenever and however they come, they’ll be yours. They’ll be you.

You are a story. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be written.


kimKimberly VanderHorst is a YA author who cherishes a love for all things quirky and strange. Claims to fame include running Prism Editing, co-hosting the annual Pitch Slam contest, and serving on the committees for the annual LDStorymakers Conference and The Whitney Awards program. Despite being a city girl with a tendency to cuss a lot, Kimberly is married to an LDS minister and lives in rural northern Canada. There, she helps raise their four lovely daughters while pretending not to be afraid of the neighbour’s chickens.


The Key to Rediscovering Your Enthusiasm For Your Story

We are thrilled to welcome back former contributor Jamie Raintree as today’s guest! 

This year has been a crazy year. When I signed my first book contract, I knew I was signing up for deadlines, more responsibilities, more time spent on promotion, and more focus on my career in general. And I was–and am–100% in. The author life is everything I’ve dreamed it would be and I’m so grateful to have made it to this stage in my career and my life.

What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was how it would impact my creativity.

Up until that point, writing alone had taken up the majority of the time and energy I dedicated toward my career. I’ve been a regular blogger for many years, but otherwise, the best thing I could do was put as much effort into writing a great story as possible. It was almost never easy, but it was rewarding in a way that nothing else in my life was at that time. I loved it. I loved–and still do–watching my characters grow, immersing myself in their story, and the aha moments that hit at all hours.

And then things got busy. Really busy.

The thing about managing a publishing career is that: 1) there are deadlines and often, the things that aren’t as pressing have to get put on the back burner to take care of the things that are pressing. While writing Book 2 has been in the works since I first signed my book deal, the distant deadline meant that it was easy to put it aside to take care of production and promotion items for the more looming release of my debut novel.

And 2) most of those pressing items are left-brained activities and when you spend most of your day in left-brain mode, it becomes all the more difficult to switch into right-brain mode to write.

At first, it wasn’t a big deal. The deadline for Book 2 seemed like a lifetime away. And I was excited to watch my debut turn into a tangible thing. I wrote when I could but many days, I was too depleted to get myself in the headspace to write.

Eventually, though, months passed and that distant deadline wasn’t so distant anymore. I began to feel the pressure to produce, which only added to the difficulty of getting the words to flow. And the more days that passed without writing anything, the sicker I felt when I thought about opening my document back up to write. This book that I’ve been working on is actually the first novel I ever tried to write so it holds a special place in my heart, but I was coming to despise it. It seemed to represent this haunting sense of failure I couldn’t shake.

How was I ever going get it written–in a publishable shape, no less–when I could hardly bring myself to look at it?

This is not an uncommon feeling, I know. I’ve heard many authors talk about how publishing changes their writing processes. I’ve even experienced the struggle myself, during early editing phases when I was spending all my time focusing on what was wrong with my story, forgetting completely everything I once loved about it. Like a scorned lover, I just wanted some space, but deadlines make this impossible.

And thank goodness for that, because without a looming deadline, I may have forgotten what makes us fall in love with our stories:

Consistent progress.

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I know it’s not sexy. It’s not very poetic or artistic in any way, actually, but while we may adore our characters and look forward to writing certain scenes, it’s easy to lose track of that when we go days, weeks, or months without looking at our projects. Distance does not make the heart grow fonder.

It really does come down to Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard. I hate to beat a dead horse here, but I think it bears repeating. I think we’re always looking for that magic tip that is going to suddenly make writing easy (heaven knows I’ve searched for them all). We think that once we sign that contract, then we’ll be able to take our writing more seriously. We’ll have more support and we’ll really make the time to get it done.

There is no magic tip. Writing will never be easy. Life does not get more manageable once you sign the contract.

We must simply ignore the voice inside our heads that says we’re too tired, that we don’t have time, that this story isn’t going anywhere, our writing sucks, and we are complete hacks. That voice is pretty incessant for about the first couple of minutes of each writing session, but if you can work through that–and you can!–on the other side you will find all the reasons you started writing your story in the first place.

I am happy to report that I’ve since resumed my love affair with my story. I think about it all day and plan ways to sneak a little extra time with it when I can, and that is THE. BEST. FEELING. It’s the kind of relationship I always want to have with my writing. It is difficult to make this kind of consistent commitment my stories because the deadlines, they keep on coming. But like with any relationship, when it’s important to you, you just find a way.


Jamie Raintree Book Cover Photo Square.jpg

Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, was released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips and tools, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree Cover.jpgSet among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.

“Raintree’s lead characters are vividly realized, and readers will be moved…” – Publisher’s Weekly

“The most sensational, emotionally raw, and satisfying debut of fall.” – Redbook Magazine

Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound | Kobo



Thinking Through Your Brain … and Then Your Fingers

Last week, an author I follow on Facebook (Larry Correia, best-selling author of the “Monster Hunter International” books, among other awesomeness) made an interesting observation about his writing process:

Ten years ago when I was starting out, I wrote my first book while I had two jobs. I had to write super late at night, or marathon weekends. So I beat myself up trying to crank out as many words in one sitting as possible. I’d often write until 3:00 in the morning.

But I wrote a ton of stuff that wound up not being that good, which got thrown away. After the first couple years I learned to never bother writing past 1 in the morning, because there was a 90% chance anything past that, no matter how awesome I thought it was at the time writing it, was going to suck.

Then when I only had one job, but my career was taking off, and I was writing less crazy hours every night, and then shooting for 5,000 word days over the weekend. It made for a ton of really late nights and long ass Saturdays and Sundays.

And I still ended up throwing out a bunch, or spending a lot of time editing and cleaning.

For the last few years I’ve written full time, I do about 2,000-3,000 a day consistent, and I usually wrap up around 4;00 in the afternoon or so because my creativity is worn out by then and my mind is starting to wander.

But now, I seldom have to throw away much, and the editing time is a lot shorter. Because when I’m not pushing as hard, the first pass is far cleaner.

So even though I was cranking out more words in shorter amounts of time back then, the overall productivity is better because when I’m not pushing crazy hard, there is less clean up time later.

As Howard Tayler would say (for those of you who listen to the Writing Excuses podcast): “LUXURY!” It would be great to be able to quit my job and write full time. But I have this weird addiction to food, clothing and shelter, so I still haven’t quite made that jump. Someday, I hope. But not today—not yet.

I imagine there are more TTOF readers who are in the “starting out” phase, as opposed to writing full-time like Larry Correia. We have no option but to write when we can, always during the times when our day jobs and other responsibilities aren’t commanding our attention. For some, that means getting up early and cranking out words. For others (like one of my writing group friends), that means arranging our schedules for long lunchtime writing sessions. For me, that means blocking out the last several hours of the night for writing time.

Discovering your most productive time of day is just smart. Some other important considerations include location (kitchen table, home office, coffee shop, public library?) and auditory stimulus (this music, that music, silence?). Timing and environment can have a profound impact both on how quickly we write and on the quality of what we produce. But I suggest you can become more productive as a writer by paying attention to the length and frequency of your writing sessions.

Brain-Writing vs. Finger-Writing

In general, I believe that “trying to crank out as many words in one sitting as possible” can be counterproductive. I have a non-scientific explanation for this. Your brain may work differently (or maybe mine is defective), so all of the standard caveats apply. I’m basing this on my own experience, and of course your mileage may vary.

I think writers have two brains. We have a normal one that allows us to walk, do our jobs, recognize our spouses and progeny, tie our shoes and make it to dentist appointments on time. Deep inside our skulls, we also have a “writer’s brain” that generates story ideas, dreams up characters and conflicts, makes connections between plot points, and generally does all of those other things related to the weird stories that pop into our heads.

During the “brain-writing” phase, our writer’s brains spin like crazy to queue up ideas for us to put on paper. Then we sit at the keyboard and do the “finger-writing,” during which we transfer those ideas onto paper (literally or figuratively) so they can be revised, edited, and cherished forever. (Or thrown out—that’s always an option.) While finger-writing only happens when we’re actually at our keyboards, brain-writing happens all the time—while we work, play, and even sleep.

(The only time brain-writing might actually shut down is when we watch television. I could be wrong on that, though. Remember: I said this was non-scientific.)

The concept of brain-writing explains why we sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a current or future project. Our ever-restless writer’s brains tend to spit things out on their own schedule. We have to write down those ideas immediately or they can be lost forever.

I don’t know about everyone else, but it seems there might be a practical limit to how much stuff my brain can queue up at one time. When I try to finger-write beyond the point in a story where my writer’s brain has brain-written, the quality of my prose (and my storytelling) tends to suffer. In Larry’s parlance, I can always tell when I’m “pushing crazy hard,” meaning that I’ll end up with stuff that either gets tossed out or requires a lot more work to hammer into shape.


Guessing at Larry’s Schedule

The idea of brain-writing and finger-writing helps explain the pattern of production (both in quantity and quality) that Larry described in his post. What it sounds like is that, when he was writing part time, he was trying to cram his finger-writing into a few long sessions. Today, as a full-time author, he’s producing fewer words, most likely in shorter bursts.

Based on what I know about Larry as an author and a guy, if he’s producing between 2,000 and 3,000 words per day, he probably has a schedule that goes something like this:

8:00: Get up. Scratch. Eat something manly.
8:15: Shoot a moose using ammo he crimped with his own teeth.
8:30: Personal hygiene activities of various kinds.
9:00: Sit down at computer. Destroy Internet trolls. Drink the tears of his enemies.
10:30: Write stuff.
12:00: Eat a manly lunch. More scratching.
1:00: Wrestle a bear or blow something up. Whatevs.
1:30: Destroy a few more haters. Twerk on their disemboweled arguments.
2:00: Write more stuff.
4:00: Done. Go out and fell trees with karate. Bench-press a Camry. More scratching.

My point is that he’s probably writing his 2,000 or 3,000 words in a couple of sessions per day, with some time in between for his writer’s brain to front-load more content for his afternoon session. And then, of course, he has all evening and overnight (while his regular brain is fighting ninjas, plotting the overthrow of a small South American country, and possibly even sleeping) to do the brain-writing ahead of his finger-writing the next morning.

Personal Writing Retreats

Two Novembers ago, I did something that I’d always wanted to try during NaNoWriMo: a personal writer’s retreat. Since I live relatively close to Las Vegas, I threw some clothes in a bag and drove to Sin City for a veritable orgy of word-cranking. My goal was to see if I could produce 15,000 words in a single long weekend. I managed to do exactly that, but only by spreading my production across multiple short sessions.

On Thursday, I wrote for about two hours as soon as I got to town. Then I had some dinner, saw a show, and wrote for a couple more hours. Boom: 3,000 words my first night.

Friday morning, I went to Einstein’s for a bagel, caffeine, and another thousand words. I returned to my hotel, where I showered and watched a little TV, then cranked out another 1,000 words before the housekeepers knocked on the door. I went out and did some shopping, then camped out at a public library for a while, pounding my keyboard like a rented mule. I was able to generate over 6,000 words that day in six sessions. I did essentially the same thing on Saturday, slept the sleep of the dead and drove home on Sunday with a draft that was 15,000 words longer. And doggone it if many of those words didn’t turn out to be pretty good ones.

I guess I could’ve tried it a different way, chaining myself to the hotel desk first thing in the morning and saying, “You’re not allowed to eat, sleep, or do anything else until you produce 6,000 words.” Would that have worked? I don’t know. But that’s not how I work. And that’s the point.

By the way, I repeated the experiment again in 2016, with similar results.

Add Sessions, Not Hours

What I’m trying to say here is that it is possible to increase your production, but if your fingers get too far ahead of your brain, the stuff you produce might not be the best.

If you want to produce more, instead of adding hours to a single regular writing session, try adding another session to your schedule. If you’re a morning writer, tack on an hour at lunchtime and see if that helps. If you’re a night writer, try pounding out some words right after work, then returning to the keyboard after your writer’s brain has had time to get ahead of the story again. If you want a high-production weekend, you might do better with four sessions spaced out rather than a single marathon of frustration.

Your brain might be totally different from mine, but maybe not. Who knows? It never hurts to try.
David-Profile-PicDavid Baker is an author, playwright, marketing professional, blogger and freelance editor. He has ghost-written several books and authored dozens of published articles on such topics as business technology, the insurance industry, marketing and data security. He writes both YA and “grown-up” fiction and is actively querying several projects. He also edits the monthly journal of a national trade organization. In his spare time, he runs marathons, volunteers with young people, cooks curries, paints shoes and builds things. He has an A.A. in theater, a B.A. in English and an M.A. in linguistics. Born in Arizona, raised in Hawaii, currently living in Utah, David is actively involved in theater. His stage play, Inside Al, won the Henry Fonda Young Playwright Award and premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The play was subsequently published by Samuel French and has been in near-continuous production for more than two decades, with hundreds of performances across the US and Canada. You can find his personal blog at

Getting Your Wishful Writing Couch Potato Off the Couch

I hover happily where I am in my writing world. I write so many hours a week, maintain a blog, attend writing conferences (sometimes), journal, network with other writers, and spend way too long on a simple thank you note (you know, it has to be all the right words). I’m happy where I am.

The problem is I’m flat lining. Yep. I’m experiencing this cushy comfortable lifestyle of writer riding where I do nothing but drive the same highway of writing. And that’s why the perk of writing is falling flat.

I’ve got a disease. I suffer from fear of the next step syndrome.

Instead my wishful writing dreams lounge out on a couch somewhere. And, really looking at it all, where I am is not a bad place to be. It’s just that where I am is not taking me anywhere. Scratch that. I still get somewhere I just end up ignoring places I could go. I’m in my comfort zone with writing. And let’s face it, it’s hard to progress when you don’t push yourself to explore new territories.

Maybe it’s just me. I don’t know. But, I know that the next step will be good for me I just don’t make time for it. The next step requires research, planning, failing, and reworking the already comfortable schedule.

But, what I really want from my writing begs for my attention. My wishful writing parks its long legs on the back couch and reminds me of its presence and stares me down.

Hey girl. You ignoring me!


So I go back to my comfortable writing world and my wishful writing couch potato continues to invade my living room. I can’t ignore it. It munches on crunchy chips while I write. It sits in the presence of company, it tucks me into bed at night, plays boogie man, and it greets me every morning. And  it especially makes its presence known  when I witness other people mastering “their thing.” The reminder of my next step quietly makes its presence known.

So, um… you just gonna sit there?

It’s time to give it some attention so it will go away.

I know I’m not the only one that has these nagging feelings. I love the line in the movie, Babe. The narrator says, “Farmer Hoggett knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to away should never be ignored, for in them lie the seeds of destiny.”

Hm. Destiny, eh?

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4 Tips To Get That Wishful Writing Couch Potato Working Out:

My wishful writing couch potato is getting fat. I need to put it to work because the longer I wait the harder it is to get momentum. I have always discovered that something grand is on the outside of a little extra effort.

The next step is like getting back into exercise after a long haul of couch potato writing. Here’s a few of my favorite exercising tips that apply to writing as well. It’s time to get your wishful writing couch potato off the couch and start feeding him your little seeds of destiny. Here’s how to get started without baking the potato in the first week. Don’t get ambitious and burned on your first week. A perfect baked potato takes time.

Start Slow

It’s easy to get overambitious on the first attempt of the next step. If you plan to get too much done you will be disappointed that things aren’t moving quicker for you. You have to ease into it and do simple steps. Be very specific. Maybe today I will research how to write a proposal or how to design a web page. Give yourself small, achievable deadlines. By Friday I will begin my proposal, completing at least the hook or the marketing plan. Whatever your next step is, go slow but the point is to go.

Go Hard Enough You Can Carry On a Conversation

So yes, it is possible to take it too slow. That won’t give your dreams their proper attention. In the exercise world you need to be working out hard enough that you can still carry on a conversation while you exercise. Stressing a little is good, it shows growth. So you need to push yourself hard enough that you are sweating it out (or stressing) a little but that you are also able to attend to your other needs. I’m a big believer people connections. So for me this is a necessary element to being successful in writing. That’s just my personal opinion. Take if for whatever you want. New, big, steps can take a lot of time but I think that proper balance keeps you happy in your writing. Make it a goal to squeeze in meaningful conversation even amid working out your couch potato dreams. Of course I write then talk (I rarely mix the two). I simply do this by setting a timer and tell my midget genetic counterparts that I will be with them when the timer goes off. I work hard now, and then later I am still able to carry on a conversation. I have to have this goal because it is very easy for me to work hard and neglect meaningful conversations. Writing makes me happy but so do my little people.

Log Your Writing Time

Seems pointless right? But, if you are having a difficult time seeing your progress then monitor it. People use tools all the time to measure their success. Fitbits or ancient yesterday pedometers measure how active you are. Or you can simply take a slice of the clock instead (that’s my method). Log your success and feel an instant reward for not creating a to-do list, but for creating a log of successful writing moments. You’re creating a backward to-do list. It feels much more satisfying tracking what was done rather than gawking at what wasn’t done.

Track three main areas of writing:

1-Writing time. Count words, pages, time, whatever you want to track.

2-Planning and Research Time. Studying things out sometimes feels like you aren’t getting writing done but it is an important element in being successful. Simply track what you spent your time on and how long. You will feel better knowing you were moving when it appears you weren’t.

3-Business and Marketing Time. This has always been my biggest beef with writing. I just want to write so it feels like this takes away from what I could be doing. But, this is a very important element that keeps your writing up. Take a regular time to connect and keep the business side of writing in balance. Track your connections. Use these methods of logging and see yourself inch along as a writer but be miles ahead of the wishful writing couch potato friends.

Enjoy It

This is the biggest measure of success as a writer and new ambitious exercisers. Over and over you will find that those who have stuck with an exercise regimen are those who enjoy what they are doing. The same is true of writers. If you find satisfaction with writing then you will most likely stick with it. Satisfaction doesn’t always equate to being the star player. Most of my delight in exercise and writing comes from learning and applying new techniques or breaking new norms. Simply find one thing you love in your new push to get that wishful writing couch potato up.  Yes, there will be hard days, but if you consistently look for one perk in your efforts you will continue to find joy in writing.

Do you suffer from the next step syndrome? What nags and begs for your attention? It’s time to get that wishful writing couch potato up and moving. Today’s your day to start feeding your “destiny.” Take that next step. What are you going to do?



Christie Perkins is a survivor of boy humor, chemo, and faulty recipes. She loves freelance writing, blogging, and is a nonfiction junkie. Her stage 4 cancer doesn’t knock down her passion for life and writing. Not a chance. A couple of magazines have published her work but her biggest paycheck is her incredible family. Christie hates spiders, the dark, and Shepherd’s Pie. Bleh. Mood boosters: white daisies, playing basketball, and peanut butter M&M’s. You can find out more about her on her blog at
















Perfectly Imperfect

We are thrilled to welcome Kimberly VanderHorst to the Thinking Through Our Fingers family.


I’m going to make a possibly radical statement:

Technically perfect writing is not always the most compelling writing.

That’s a claim one could easily pick apart, but I think it holds a kernel of truth worthy of exploration.

Are you familiar with 
spoon theory? It’s a concept applied to those with chronic energy deficits due to physical or mental health issues. The idea is that you only get so many “spoons” every day, and that every action you take costs you precious spoons.


The same can be applied to writing. You only have so many writing spoons per day. You can spend your spoons on pouring new words onto the blank page, revising (which costs more spoons for some and less for others). You can spend a spoon trying to deepen your prose or strengthen characterization, or you could spend that same spoon (and a couple more besides) fussing over every, single, word, on every, single, page. 

I’m not saying meticulous revisions aren’t spoon-worthy. Line-by-line editing is my happy place. But I’m putting forward the hopefully-not-too-crazy notion that in striving to spread a shiny veneer of “perfect” over our writing, we sometimes pass up the opportunity to make our writing BETTER. 

It can be easier to tinker till everything is technically perfect, than to push deeper into our characters’ points of view and wring raw, wrecking prose from those depths. Leveling up our writing is hard, soul-wearying work, but personally, I prefer technically imperfect LEVEL 73 writing to polished-till-it-glows LEVEL 14 writing. 

That said, if I have a choice between LEVEL 73 riddled with typos and grammatical errors and technically perfect LEVEL 52 . . . Well, that gets a little tricky, doesn’t it? Just keep in mind that readers are looking for stories to live in, not frame behind glass. Strive to writer better, deeper, stronger. Don’t fuss with your semi-colons and em-dashes when you have a one-dimensional villain to develop. It’s worth the spoons. Promise.

Technical perfection is the icing on the cake, and man oh man do I LOVE icing. But make sure that cake has more than one layer and plenty of filling before you frost it.

And if you have a spoon left over, use it to eat your cake.


kimKimberly VanderHorst is a YA author who cherishes a love for all things quirky and strange. Claims to fame include running Prism Editing, co-hosting the annual Pitch Slam contest, and serving on the committees for the annual LDStorymakers Conference and The Whitney Awards program. Despite being a city girl with a tendency to cuss a lot, Kimberly is married to an LDS minister and lives in rural northern Canada. There, she helps raise their four lovely daughters while pretending not to be afraid of the neighbour’s chickens.