You don’t suck. You just haven’t practiced enough.

I want you to do something for me.

Think about something you really suck at. I mean, something that you are 100 percent sure you were born without the gene for.

Got it?

Here’s mine: dancing.

Now ask yourself this question.

How much time have you spent as an adult doing that thing?

My answer: Maybe ten hours. Total. And four of those were last month in Nashville. One hundred percent of them were after I’d had a drink or three.

Now, think about something you’re really good at. Something you’re confident you just were born to do.

Here’s mine: cooking.

Now ask yourself the same question.

How much time have you spent as an adult doing that thing?

My answer: An average of at least an hour every single day. That’s very close to 10,000 hours in the years between 18 and 45.

Do you see where I’m going here?

It’s ridiculous to judge how good you are at something without taking into consideration the amount of practice you have doing it.

Every month I release a digital product or program for the people who support the Ninja Writers on Patreon at the $3 level or more.

In May 2017, that thing is a Medium Post-a-Day Challenge. There’s a Facebook Group where people who take up the challenge can share links to their daily posts, ask questions, connect with each other.

My plan is to just keep it going. Anyone who wants to can become a patron and join us, anytime. We don’t all have to be at the same place in our challenge.

I’m pretty excited about this whole thing. Really, as excited as I’ve been about anything for a long time. (And trust me, I get excited a lot. Ninja Writers is an exciting thing, all around, so that’s saying something.)

Here’s why: I love that I’m going to be able to be part of watching a whole bunch of awesome writers bloom.

A Post-a-Day Challenge is one of those things that is such a stretch that you won’t be able to help but see progress as it happens. Like when I go to the gym with my husband and his friend and lift weights. Every time I do it, I can tell I’ve gotten stronger, because I can lift more than I could before.

I’m always operating at close to capacity when I lift weights, so there is zero doubt when progress happens.

That’s the same with this challenge.

Also, it’ll be at least thirty hours of practice writing for an audience.

I told you. Exciting!

True Story

No one is born good at anything but bodily functions. And some of us even have to learn how to be good at those.

Obviously, someone who writes for an hour a day is going to be a better writer than someone who spends an hour a day really thinking hard about being a writer.

One wasn’t born proficient and the other born a loser.

Don’t write one book, then decide you suck if it doesn’t light the world on fire. Write ten books. And keep learning with each one. You’ll become a better writer. You won’t have any choice. It’ll just happen.

And then keep writing.

You don’t get to say “I’m a crap writer” if you haven’t put 10,000 hours into it. You haven’t given yourself the opportunity to know.

You can say that you don’t want to put 10,000 hours into it. That’s something else entirely.

I’d like to be a musician, but I’m not willing to put in the time. I’d like to learn to speak Spanish fluently, but I’m not willing to put in the time. Or at least, so far, I haven’t been willing.

Know what?

I’ve said, “I’m just not a musician.”(Maybe 10 total hours practice since age 18.)

Also, “I suck at languages. My brain doesn’t work that way.” (Maybe 50 total hours practice since age 18.)

I’m totally confident in my writing ability. (At least 10,000 total hours practice time. Probably closer to 30,000.)

It’s time to retrain my thinking. No more deciding I’m not good at something that I’ve never learned to do.

You, too.

Write every single day. Just do it. You’ll see, quickly, what I’m talking about.

Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. — Ray Bradbury (My life’s motto.)

You’ll get faster. You’ll get better. You’ll start to enjoy it more.

And your confidence will grow.

You’ll believe you’re a better writer. BECAUSE YOU WILL BE.

Ready? Join the Post-a-Day Challenge here.

Or you can get started for free with the Anti-Blogging for Creatives mini-course.

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Want this? Free Anti-Blogging for Creatives Course.

sketch drawing UX creative highlighter pens pencils iphone mobile technology mac business office desk mouse hands working

After I wrote this post about why I think that most bloggers come at it backward, a bunch of people emailed me and asked for help figuring it out.

So . . .I’ve created a little five-email course. It’s a mini version of a much larger Anti-Blogging for Creatives (ABC) thing I’m working on that will be ready this summer.

I was planning on making it a reward for my Patreon patrons.

What I’ve decided to do, though, is give it free to any of you who are interested. And then the May patron reward will be access to a private Facebook group in May for a Medium Post-a-Day Challenge.

Posting everyday for 30 days worked so well for me, that I’ve extended my own experiment to 90 days. And I’m beyond excited to have you join me.

So, I created this free course.

Mostly because I don’t want anyone who wants that little course to miss it.

And because ABC is all about putting your effort and funds into a decent email list, and writing here on Medium, instead of into designing and hosting a website.

And because a big part of it is how to use ConvertKit to start to grow your email list and ConvertKit is offering a free month right now, which is pretty rare for them.

It’s part of a free course they’re hosting, which is all about creating a digital product. If you’re interested in that, the course looks awesome. And I just got an email today that says that they’ll feature any finished product on their site, which is awesome.

But, even if you’re not into product creation…

Go ahead and sign up so you can get the free month of ConvertKit.

And then sign up for Anti-Blogging for Creatives. You’ll get the first email on April 24. It’ll show up in your email inbox. (Don’t forget this step!)

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Blogging is the new Blockbuster Video. Do this instead.

Remember 2002?

One Friday in 2002, you went into Little Caesars for a $5 Hot and Ready pepperoni pizza, then headed next door to Blockbuster and spent a twenty renting$20 a few movies for the weekend.

Cost: $25 for a pizza and three movies.

And then the next Friday, you skipped Blockbuster because there was a little red box in front of Little Caesar’s and it spit out a movie for $1 a night. And you never looked back.

Cost: $8 for a pizza and three movies.

Not only that, but you were a laggard. Because your friends were already getting little red envelopes in the mail with their movies — as many as they could watch for something like $7 a month. Plus streaming.

Cost: $5.25-ish for a pizza and a night of Netflix (and chill, if you’re feeling it.)

Literally, one day movie rentals were a huge part of your life. The next they weren’t even on your radar anymore. And then next the storefronts were empty. And now, I bet you don’t even use Red Box anymore.

I haven’t even used my DVD player in at least three years.

Blogging is doing that kind of jump-the-shark dance.

I mean — you COULD spend a bunch of money designing a website and getting your blog all pretty before you launch it into the world. Plenty of people are still cramming your email inbox full of sales messages for expensive classes teaching you how to do what worked for them in 2012.

But the reality is that you don’t have to anymore.

Blockbuster died because someone came along and offered a better user experience. And then someone came along and offered an EVEN BETTER user experience.

I really think that the Netflix of the blogging world is the vast improvement in email servers and publication platforms over the last couple of years.

Seriously: even two years ago, your only real choice was to spend your blog start-up funds on hosting and designing a self-hosted blog.

Now? You can spend $29 a month on ConvertKit and get a service that is multitudes sleeker and more robust than the clunky, confusing free MailChimp account most bloggers start with.

ConvertKit will let you build a landing page, if you need one in the beginning. A single page to point people to when you have something you need to tell them. Or sell them. Or sign them up for.

And you can host your content right here on Medium. For free. Right here, where there are already readers. Where there are publications searching for good content to promote. Where you aren’t throwing out blog posts like messages in the bottle, hoping for lightening to strike.

Okay, that was a mixed metaphor, but if you’ve tried to do this for any length of time, you know what I’m talking about.

Here’s what happened when I blogged every day for 30 days on Medium.

Check it out. Some pretty awesome stuff happened. You wouldn’t want to read what happens when I blog every day for 30 days on my blog. Because it’s nothing. Nothing happens. If I don’t drive my own traffic to my blog, via my email list or Facebook ads, nothing happens.

Pretty much, nothing happens anyway. My blog is a silent receptacle for my work. Like a warehouse hardly anyone ventures to, unless I send them there.

I wrote that post two weeks ago. There’s a screenshot of my Medium stats, showing about 36,000 page views and my blog stats showing about 18,000 page views.

Here’s a screenshot from right this minute.

My views on Medium quadrupled with two weeks of daily writing here.

That’s not something you’ll see after six weeks of blogging on WordPress.

Okay. Let’s talk about how to use Medium and ConvertKit together.

Use Upscribe, integrated with ConvertKit, to make a pretty little form to add to your Medium posts, and you’ll start building the only thing that really matters today when it comes to blogging: an email list.

Host that lovely list on ConvertKit and you’ll never be sorry. You can set up a drip course, automate your list to tag your followers in a thousand different ways, and easily send out broadcasts to just the people you want to reach.

Once you have a nice little following, and maybe you have some income coming in, then head over to Bluehost and get that self-hosted WordPress blog. Repost your Medium work over there. Write fresh stuff and cross-post it to Medium. Send your email list there when you have something new to show them.

But you don’t have to.

If you only have a little money to spend your new online enterprise, spend it on the best email server you can. Today, that’s ConvertKit.

And if you have plenty of money? Start a blog. But still use ConvertKit and Medium — go back and look at my screenshots if you need a reminder of why.

They’re offering a free class starting April 24 that I’m really looking forward to. It’s all about how to build that thing that will get your enterprise making a little money. You can sign up here. Participants get a free month to give ConvertKit a try.

I’ll be offering a thing in May all about Not Blogging. Want me to let you know when it’s live? Leave your email in the form below.

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2 Free Things You Should Sign Up For Right Now

I’ve thought lately that the whole ‘launch’ model of getting your work out into the world has jumped the shark. It’s still happening, it’s probably still working for some people, but it just seems on it’s way out. Over. Done. Kaput.

There seems to be a pretty incredible trend right now of creators of all stripes offering super high-quality content for free. Like, crazy high quality, high value content.

The kind of thing that not very long ago would have cost a good chunk of money. After you got roughly three dozen emails from three dozen different affiliate folks about the thing.

As someone who creates things, I’m really excited about this trend toward generosity. It flies in the face of the idea that people won’t value something they don’t pay for or that you’re devaluing yourself if you don’t charge for every single thing you do.

I thought I’d share two things that I signed up for recently, that I think are completely mind blowing. And free.

ConvertKit’s Product Creation Masterclass

In early 2016 I decided to start a new blog. I’m a fiction writer who had a less than perfect experience with traditional publishing. I was ready to write again and I knew that this time I needed to work toward building an audience for my next book.

I also had this idea for a class to teach other people who to write novels.

And I had a day job I hated, bone deep.

I started with ConvertKit. They made it easy to manage my list as it grew (very quickly. I had 800 people by the end of month one.) And they gave me a way to release my class, even though I had no idea what I was doing.

I earned $80,000 last year. And I quit that day job.

ConvertKit’s class is four weeks long and starts April 24. Here’s how they describe it:

What is the Product Creation Masterclass?

  • A four week long project walking you through every step it takes to create a successful product from scratch.
  • Daily lessons sent straight to the registrants inbox, Monday through Friday running April 24th through May 19th
  • Weekly live trainings led by the ConvertKit team walking through the lessons and answering questions
  • Expert interviews from Melyssa Griffin, Jeff Goins, Chris Guillebeau, and Maya Elious where they share their experience in building online products
  • Free trials to Samcart, Thinkific, Meet Edgar, and Teachable for all registrants, including a 30 day free trial of ConvertKit for new customers.

I’m in. If you want to be, too, you can sign up here.

Sean McCabe’s List Building Class

Last fall I went to Jeff Goins’ Tribe Writer’s Conference in Nashville. While I was there, I met Sean McCabe.

He is seriously one of the most talented, generous people I’ve ever come in contact with. He spent more than an hour talking to me at the Frothy Monkey in downtown Franklin, TN about membership sites and how they work and whether or not one would work for me.

I was pretty excited when I saw that he’d put together a class all about audience building. Because Sean doesn’t do ANYTHING halfway, it’s full of great information. If you’re just getting started with email list building, you should definitely sign up right here.

This one is ongoing, as far as I can tell. No deadlines.

Okay, three things.

I figure, if I’m going to talk about free stuff, I might as well give my own free thing away.

If you’re a fiction writer, you can sign up for my class: How to Develop + Test a Story Idea. It’ll take you through the steps for building a road map through your story, then testing the idea to make sure it will hold up a whole novel.

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Ninja Writers Book Club: 4/7/2017

ninja-writer-book-club-1

Here are some books that Ninja Writers are reading this week. Take a look, add some books to your TBR list. Next Tuesday, come on over to our Facebook group and let us know what you’re reading.

(The links here are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, you’re supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!)

My contribution to this list is Susan Kaye Quinn’s Indie Author Survival Guide. My friend Tracy recommended it to me, and it’s very good. If you have any ideas about being self-published, I’d call it a must read. I’ll be breaking it down more for you guys soon.

Non-Fiction

Classic + Literary

Historical

Humor

Mystery + Thriller

Romance

Speculative

Spiritual

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How to Use a Notebook to Reach Your Writing Goals

First let me introduce you to my friend. FRED is the Folder for Reaching the End of your Draft. It’s an analog tool I use to keep track of my daily writing. It’s been downloaded thousands of times and is the best accountability tool I’ve ever used.

So, when I found this notebook and realized that it was essentially not only a full year FRED, but could also hold the story notes for a novel, I bought it. And it’s awesome!

The notebook is the Erin Condren Monthly Planner. It’s a lined notebook with a monthly calendar in the front.

I made you this quick video showing you how I have my annual FRED set up.

The notebook is available here.

When you get to the site, first sign up to get your $10 discount.

Then click “Planners & Books” and then “Monthly Planners.”

As I’m writing this, this notebook is HALF OFF, so hurry and jump on that.

Here are some pictures:

Very writerly cover!

Monthly calendar. To use it like a FRED, just give yourself a sticker everyday that you meet your writing goal. These boxes are big enough to make note of things like goals and deadlines if you want to.

The rest of the planner is just a lined notebook. I have the first few pages set up as a log, which is the second part of the FRED. There’s one page per month. Every day I can just write the date and what work I did that day. It helps me to feel professional. It’s visual proof of how hard I’m working, which frankly, sometimes I really need.

And then the rest of the lined pages, I’m really excited about. It’s just the right size to use to plan a novel using The Plotting Workshop. The story I’m writing right now, I already plotted in another notebook, but in a month or two I’ll be ready to start working on the next story and I’m going to just plan it right in here.

The paper is high quality and nice to write on, by the way.

Okay, also, I made this little printable PDF thing for you. You can print it, use double-sided tape to stick the two sides together, then laminate it. I tell my printer to print it in A5 size. The lamination makes it so that you can use a dry erase marker (or wet erase, so it won’t smear. That’s what I do.) to keep track of your writing progress.

I use mine as a bookmark.

One side has a sort of bar chart thing you can fill in for a week. (Make sure the plastic is totally dry after you clean it before you write on it, or you get wonky letters!)

And the other side has a chart where you can write down your word count everyday for a month. And a space for notes.

If you’d like the PDF, leave me your email address below. I’ll get it right to you.

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: Character Super Power

hump-day-writing-prompt-charater-super-powerMy work-in-progress is about a 12-year-old girl who believes she has super powers.

Her super power is problem solving. When she becomes Wonder Roo, she can figure things out at the speed of light, leap any obstacle with a single bound.

Yesterday I was thinking about how we all have our super powers. Maybe you’re really good making other people feel good about themselves. Or you make perfect hard boiled eggs (seriously, this is one of my son’s super powers. Perfect eggs, every single time.) Or you can sing like an angel. Whatever it is, it’s part of what makes you, you.

So, think about your main character and write a little today about their super power. Bonus points for figuring out your antagonist’s super power, too.

My Turn

I’ve already told you about Roona’s super power. She’s a kick-ass problem solver.

The other main character in my story is Roona’s friend and next door neighbor, Gideon.

Gideon’s super power is his ability to be rational in just about any situation. He’s the guy you want with you when you’re twelve and you decide that you have no choice but to buy a bus ticket to Las Vegas and go find your dad, who’s been missing since you were a baby. Because he’s the guy who will make sure you save enough money for the cab ride back to the bus station.

Where Roona is a doer, Gideon is a thinker.

The antagonist in Wonder Roo is Roona’s mother. She’s not bad or evil or mean. She’s sick. Roona for sure believes that her mom’s super power is her ability to bake her emotions into her cakes and pies. Her real super power is her free spirit. Miranda Mulroney knows how to have fun. She is fun.

Your Turn

Spend some time today thinking about your main character’s super power. How does their super power affect your story? Do the work, then come share it on Facebook if you want some feedback.

***

Did you know that there’s an ebook full of all the Hump Day Writing Prompts from 2016? Every Patreon Patron gets a copy–even at the $1 level! Check out the $10 level for The 100 Day MFA.

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How to be a good writer with a good life: The WRITER Framework

I have a thing about teeny, tiny goals.

They’ve changed my life, more than once.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been kicking around the idea of stacking teeny, tiny goals. I can (obviously) fit six in an hour. So, I started thinking about the things that might help me to become a more well-rounded writer and generally happy human being.

Writing and reading, of course. But also physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Here’s what I came up with: The WRITER Framework.

WRITER stands for Writing, Reading, Ideation, Talking, Exercising, and Regrouping.

Everyday, for at least ten minutes a day, I do these things.

I write fiction.

I read fiction.

I make a list of ten ideas. (Thanks James Altucher!)

I talk to someone I don’t live with.

I exercise.

I review my day and plan for tomorrow.

The first two are all about being a writer. They’re the building blocks of your craft and if you do them everyday, even for a few minutes, you won’t be able to help improving.

The rest about the good life part of the equation.

The secret sauce.

The best thing about teeny, tiny goals is that they’re so small — it’s easier to just do them than it is to skip them. Psychologically.

An hour long goal? Not so much. You can skip an hour. No problem. So, the key is to keep the goals separate in your head. That way, if you skip your walk, or have a recluse day, you might not skip everything else.

Also, for everything on this list, ten minutes is a guilt-free minimum. Hit ten minutes and you can stop. You’re a rock star! You’ve hit your goal. Give yourself a gold star. (I mean it. Get a calendar and some star stickers. Do it up.)

But, I can almost guarantee that one day you’ll find yourself writing for an hour or you’ll take a nice long walk or fall into a great conversation with someone.

I followed the Framework everyday for a month. Here’s what happened.

I wrote nearly 19,000 words toward my new novel. (Incidentally, I also wrote on Medium everyday.)

I clearly write more than ten minutes a day. What this little goal does for me is simple. It keeps me writing every single days. There was at least one day a week over the last month where I would have just skipped writing. But, because I had this goal, I didn’t. Which is good, because I know from long experience that skipping one day leads so easily into skipping two.

I read eleven books.

I’m in an MFA program and I have to read a lot. Ten books a month. Plus, I read a poem, an essay, and a short story every day for the 1000 Day MFA program I run through Ninja Writers. So, the ten minutes a day? That represents the extra book. I read that one just for pure pleasure. In ten minutes a day. It was Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig.

I had 300 ideas! A couple of them were even good.

I came up with ideas for friends. Ideas for silly apps I’d love to have. Books I want to write. Fairy tale tropes. Ideas for a new newsletter. Ten people I want to meet and how I can do that.

One of them was James Altucher, who writes a lot about the power of writing down ten ideas a day. I asked him if he minded if I included it as the I in WRITER. He didn’t. (This counts for T, too!)

I reached out to people and some of them reached back. That was huge fun.

See above about James Altucher.

I also had coffee with Jonas Ellison. And lunch with my friend Tracy. I talked to the lady who works at the fabric counter at Wal-mart about her grandchildren. I called my sister. I talked a couple of times to my friend Amy. I talked to my ex-husband’s sister, who is also called Amy. I spoke to the other soccer moms, instead of sitting by myself feeling awkward.

I lost seven pounds.

This is about 100 percent because exercising everyday made me more mindful of what I was eating.

I started a new note keeping system and set up a writing accountability tool that I love.

I can’t believe that I’ve never heard of a Commonplace Book before. This feels like a pivotal moment. Before and after my Commonplace Book.

I wrote an ebook about this thing.

It’s the reward for patrons at the $3 level and above on the Ninja Writer Patreon account. It goes into much greater detail about each aspect of the WRITER framework and there are a couple of printables, too.

You can get it here. The past $3 awards were The Writing Planner, The Plotting Workshop eBook, and an eBook called 31 Days of Ninja Writing. You’ll get all of those, too.

Here’s a sneak peak at the printables:

If you enjoyed this post, you can:

>>Sign up for the Ninja Writers Newsletter here. (I’m on a mission!)
>>Or come hang out with the Ninjas on Facebook.
>>There are some pretty kickass rewards on our Patreon page.

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Ninja Writers Book Club: 3/31/2017

ninja-writer-book-club-1

Here are some books that Ninja Writers are reading this week. Take a look, add some books to your TBR list. Next Tuesday, come on over to our Facebook group and let us know what you’re reading.

(The links here are affiliate links. If you click one and buy something, you’re supporting Ninja Writers. Thank you!)

My contribution this week is Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. It’s pretty spectacular. If you’re at all interested in indie publishing, it’s a must read.

I’m also working on The Indie Author Survival Guide by SK Quinn. Another great read by an author who is doing well for herself without traditional publishing.

And I read The Dip by Seth Godin this week. It’s a tiny book, about 60 pages and I read it in an hour. So good, too. If you’re feeling stuck or wondering if you should quit writing, this is a good resource.

On the fiction side, I’m reading Matilda by Roald Dahl. Total classic.

Non-Fiction

Classics + Literary

Mystery + Thriller

Romance

Speculative

YA

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Hump Day Writing Prompt: The Name on the Sign

the-name-on-the-sign

I don’t think we’ve ever done a writing prompt that dealt with a minor character.

Minor is, of course, a relative term. There are characters in literature who aren’t the protagonist or the antagonist who absolutely make the story. Here are some classics:

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Professor Dumbledore
  • The Mad Hatter
  • Tinkerbell
  • Mr. Tumnus

So, last night I was driving my daughter to soccer practice and I passed a sign that I see practically everyday, but never really notice. There’s an apartment (or maybe condo?) complex with a small golf course attached to it. The Trent Jones golf course.

For the first time I wondered . . . who is Trent Jones?

Here’s your challenge today. Think of a street or building or . . . golf course in your town that’s named after someone you don’t know. Then write about who that person is. Try to make them someone who might have a place in your current work-in-progress, even if you never put them in your story.

My Turn

In my story, Wonder Roo, the two main characters (Gideon and Roona) rush to a local Old Folks Home to try to retrieve a blueberry pie that Roona’s mother made while she was very sad. Roona believes that her mother bakes her emotions into her cakes and pies. When they arrive at the Old Folks Home, everyone is crying. They’re too late

#

Trent Jones is eighty-six years old. He used to be so strong. An athlete. He was a champion golfer once. The city even named a municipal golf course after him. But, he’s more frail than he used to be, since his heart attack on his eightieth birthday.

He had to move to a nursing home. It was the lowest point of his life. He’d been married for fifty-three years. He didn’t want to leave his home or his wife or his life. And then Sarah came with him. Like it wasn’t even a question. She put their house up for sale and they moved into assisted living.

He thought she probably wouldn’t have to live in the nursing home long. He went to bed every night sure that he wouldn’t wake up again. But he did. And he got better. Stronger, although he never got back to where he had been.

And then one morning, six years later, it was Sarah who didn’t wake up. His Sarah was gone.

Your Turn

Pick a person a street or building or whatever in your town is named after and write about them. But them into your story somehow, then come share it on Facebook if you want some feedback.

***

Did you know that there’s an ebook full of all the Hump Day Writing Prompts from 2016? Every Patreon Patron gets a copy–even at the $1 level! Check out the $10 level for The 100 Day MFA.

 

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