How Writers Write

By Hosted by Brian Murphy

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A show focused on decoding the tips, routines, and motivations of your favorite authors, as well as a weekly dose of writing inspiration.

Episode Date
Episode 31 - How Catherine Bybee Writes
3027

Welcome to Episode 31 – How Catherine Bybee Writes 

 

For those die-hard How Writers Write fans, do you remember how I intro’d last week’s episode? I said it doesn’t matter how you write, just so long as you get the work done. This interview with Catherine is the juxtaposition of the highly organized Andrew-Mayne method. Catherine highlights the “pantser” side of the pantser/plotter spectrum.  

And you know what? It works.  

I am so happy to have these interviews back to back, both because Catherine was an absolute blast to interview, but also because you’ll see how Catherine approaches the writing life in her unique style, from a non-writer background, and she gets her work. This interview is seeped the stuff that How Writers Write is all about. 

And so now, without any further ado, here is the interview with Catherine Bybee.  

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Jun 04, 2020
Monday Motivation - What vs How
338

Monday Motivation – What vs How

 

This is a special Monday Motivation for me. I’ve been working a lot a lot a lot behind the scenes to define what is this thing called How Writers Write. When I launched this project six months ago, I really had no idea what would happen.  I’ve said this before, but I had no clue if anyone would listen to this podcast or be into my message. But listen they have, and it feels as if I’ve hit on something in the writing life that is both under served and super important.

What is that?

Well, it took like six months for me to really wrap my arms around it. But, it is the difference between what to write vs how to write. Let me know explain.

The big problem in how we learn to write is that we really focus solely on what to write… so things like plot, character, meter, dialogue, etc. More or less the mechanics of how to write a story. Every writing program or book or even my MFA heavily emphasized the ‘what’ and for good reason. There is an entire world of technique hidden in the what. 

But, here’s the thing, the what is not nearly as important as the how. Said another way, learning how to write is a critical and underserved part of this writing adventure that we are on. How to write means learning discipline, routine, beliefs, goals, energy. It is the skills we need to literally take all of that head knowledge of what to write and actually make something of it on the page. 

The how of writing, though, isn’t just about production. The how is also the path to the joy of storytelling, when we are in the flow of writing and the words just pour out of us. 

For a long time, I wondered why I met writers who were 10x more talented than I was. Like, they could write sentences with a skill I couldn’t even imagine. But, these same people couldn’t get their stories onto the page. They’d have a drawer filled of half-finished manuscripts, which is just another way of saying half-finished dreams. By all accounts, these were the phenoms who should be the next Shakespeare, yet they were stuck. I can think of a few now who never ever went on to finish their work, publish, anything.

These people had the what of writing down pat. Signed, sealed, delivered. 

But, they didn’t know how to write. 

How Writers Write is now and forever more in the business of teaching writers how to write. Not that the what isn’t important—it is critically important—but you better believe it is worthless to know how to plot if you aren’t putting words down on the page and loving the journey. 

Here’s some good news. I believe some people are born with a special gift for the what. Truly. I’m not one of them. But, I believe that. But, I also believe 100% of people can learn how to write. And, in the long run, learning how to write will pay 10x dividends than any inborn talent. Many of your favorite writers—I’ve interviewed some of them on the podcast—will tell you the biggest struggle they had was just learning how to write, and then once they learned their process, the pieces fell into place. 

And so now we come full circle, now I can see that this entire thing is all about. The mission of How Writers Write is to empower and inspire 1M writers to tell their story. Yes. 1M. I told that number to a consultant and he laughed, and then I told him to expletive off.  

The world needs your story and you need to tell it. It is a double entendre. You may not have been born with every writing gift, you may not have been taught the what of writing until later in your life (like me)… but dammit you can learn how to write. I’ll go to my grave believing that. 

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Jun 01, 2020
Episode 30 - How Andrew Mayne Writes
3642

Welcome to Episode 30 – How Andrew Mayne Writes 

 

One of my favorite parts of this podcast is highlighting the different ways that writers write. The takeaway is so critical FOR ANYONE in the writing life: how you do your work doesn’t really matter. Doing the work is what matters. 

 

This interview with Andrew highlights his unique style on writing novels. I had played around in this intro with highlighting some of my favorite parts, but I think it is best to just experience it with me.  

 

I want to say a special thank you to Andrew for his time.       

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May 28, 2020
Monday Motivation - The Willful Disregard of Rationality
305

Now, that is a really fancy title for a simple yet profound decision. It is a cornerstone of being a writer. Not just writing a book or working a project, but becoming someone who is a writer from the inside out. 

 

The willful disregard of rationality is the way in which, as a writer, you look at a project that by all measurements should be impossible for you to complete, and yet… you decide to do it anyway. 

 

As writers, we feel this impossibility at the onset of each new project. When you first start writing, the idea of taking a short story or novel seems irrational. There is a mountain of things you don’t know how to do. There is a technique you don’t have.

 

Later, taking on complex plots and dynamic characters, you might feel as if you aren’t smart enough or capable. 

 

At each new step, there is a perfectly rational reason why you shouldn’t be able to work on a project.

 

And yet, as writers, we must find a way to willfully disregard the rationality of what we do. We must stop asking, “is it probable,” and instead ask a new, insanely powerful question, “is it possible?”

 

I’ve yet to coach a single person who after a long, heartfelt monologue about the logical reasons of why I will not complete a project are more or less ground to a pulp when I ask, “yes, those are all true, but is it possible?”

 

The two most common responses are a long pause, and I mean sometimes 20-30 seconds of silence. Or, a deep sigh, as if I’ve voiced exactly what the person already knows. Because spoiler, I’m just reminding here of you of what you already know.

 

Here is my own flow of thoughts to pivot from rationality to possibility:

1.       Is the project that I want to take on possible? Yes.

2.       Am I capable today of writing it today? No. 

3.       Am I capable of learning how to become the writer who can write it? Yes.

4.       Who is the writer who can write it? That’s the answer of who I must become.

 

You’ll find when you leave out the question of whether something makes sense, and instead turn your focus the story you want to tell, the entire world opens up to you. 

 

Thank you for listening, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

 

Before we go, I want to share my gratitude for this amazing community. You know, when I launched How Writers Write last year, I had so many questions that I knew I could only answer by actually doing this thing. I had no idea if anyone would listen to this podcast. I had no idea if the message would resonate. I am so honored and floored that I get to do this each week and share what is on my heart with you. So, I just want to say thank you. A lot you I don’t know, but by engaging with HWW, you’ve given my life new purpose, in that I now serve a community I love. 

 

Thank you again for listening, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

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May 25, 2020
Episode 29 - How Jennifer Probst Writes
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I’ve had this series of interviews where we get started with our warm-up questions and then poof, all of a sudden we are at the end of our recording time. I felt this way with Jennifer. This is a special interview where we dive into some of my favorite writing topics. It really was such a blast to interview Jennifer.

And so now, without any further ado, here is the interview with Jennifer Probst.  

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May 21, 2020
Monday Motivation - The Inner Critic, Part 3
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 To take steps towards your imagined future, there are some questions to ponder:

1.         What do you imagine as your ideal self? What are all of the good things you want from your life? From your writing? From your relationships? Body? 

2.         Now, in the same way you’d create a character for a story, how do you construct the person who you’ve imagined in step one? Here are some additional question:

a.         What does this person do every single morning?

b.        And before bed?

c.         How does this person deal with failure?

d.        What does this person say to themselves when they are sad? Lonely? Depressed? Overjoyed? In love?

e.          How does this person act in the world? 

f.          How does this person work? 

In the end, you’ll find you’ll live your way out of the story of your inner critic and into the story of your ideal self.  

 This is a lot to deliver in a podcast. I know a lot of you will reach out with questions, but I’d also encourage you to dig deeper. Reach out to a coach or therapist if you need it. Read books on your inner critic. This is such a huge topic that my hope here is not to give you the game plan. I can’t do that via a podcast, but my hope is to open up your mind to possibilities. Awareness that change is possible is always the first step.

 Thank you so much for listening, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

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May 18, 2020
Episode 28 - How Amy Sue Nathan Writes
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Welcome to episode 28 – How Amy Sue Nathan Writes   

 

If you could learn just one skill that would be the backbone of your writing life, more than learning how to plot or build characters… more than any specific craft skill, it would be learn how to work. I’ve said this so many times. You can be the best writer in the world, but if you aren’t putting your story onto the page, it doesn’t matter. 

So, if you need help putting the wheels on a writing routine, TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT. I’m hosting a live workshop at 8 pm ET. It is free to attend. To register, go to howwriterswrite.com/prolific  

  

I hope to see you there! 

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May 14, 2020
Monday Motivation - The Inner Critic, Part 2
489

Last week, I discussed the overall concept of the inner critic. If you missed that podcast, I’d highly recommend going back and getting the basics down. But, if you are too lazy or you need a refresher, here are a few important points. 1) Your inner critic is trying to keep you “safe” by keeping you from doing anything that is risky or has the chance of failure 2) Everyone has an inner critic and 3) to write, you’re going to need to learn how to write through or around the inner critic. The tag line from last week was, “your relationship with your inner critic defines the limits of your writing life.”

 

We ended last week with a call for you just to awareness to your inner critic. What came up for you? What did you notice about when your inner critic speaks up? Here are some of mine:

1.         My inner critic comes up when I try to start writing

2.         When I want to exercise 

3.         Try to improve myself in any way possible

4.         Lean into something where I’ve already failed and the failure hurt. The worse the hurt, the more subtle and powerful my inner critic’s attempts to shut me down.

 

So, I’ve come to realize that often these Monday Motivations somehow wind up being my subconscious speaking on a topic before I become aware that the topic is important to me. Oddly, I get tattoos in the exact same way. Which may sound like an awful idea. But, I find I get obsessed about a obsess about a tattoo and then until I finally get it, and then it is about a year before I realize just how important the tattoo is to my story. It is as if I live my way into the tattoo. 

 

In the same way, I’ve lived my way into this talk. My inner critic has been so sly and powerful it has been almost imperceptible. This highlights just how challenging it can be to “see” your inner critic. I mean, I am coach. That is my livelihood. And I STILL COULDN’T SEE IT. 

 

So, what am I afraid of? 

I’m afraid of my message. Of THE MESSAGE of How Writers Write. I’m afraid to “market” my stuff and even myself, because I don’t want to look like a snake oil salesman. I’m afraid of people making fun of me. I’m afraid of selling transformation and delivering mediocrity. 

My fears are suffocating me. My fear keeps my story and my message locked inside my ribs. 

 

Who is saved by me living by my fear and NOT living by my inner guidance? That little light that people call all sorts of things from a soul to God to whatever.

 

It is my future, failed self. 

 

NOT my future, successful self. It is the Brian of six months from now when I shout from the rooftops my message and it falls flat and I end in financial failure and existential crisis. 

 

What does your failed self look like? What is it you so afraid of failing into that it keeps you from your life’s work? 

 

Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Write down your answers to a few questions.

1.         What does the future failed you look like? What has happened to you? What does it feel like? 

2.         Now, flip it on its head. What if it all worked out exactly how you dreamed it would happen? How would that feel in the future self of success?

3.         Now, meditate for the next week on what separates your failed future and your successful feature. There are two really important questions to ask in living to your .

a.         What do you have to “say yes” to live into your successful future self? 

b.&n

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May 11, 2020
Episode 27 - How Barbara O'Neal Writes
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 I want to make a special announcement that I have been WAITING to tell you. On June 1st, I’ll be launching a new program called “the 21-day MFA.” This new program is a series of online courses that teach writers one MFA-level skill in 21 days. This is a brand-new way to learn how to write. I’m packing literally ten years of study, an MFA from NYU, and thousands of hours of tinkering to offer hyper-specific, experiential learning courses. Now, instead of going through a two-year MFA program and spending tens of thousands of dollars, you can learn one, MFA-level skill in just 21-days. 

The first course will launch June 1 and it’s all about building a prolific writing routine, no matter what kind of life and schedule you’re coming from. To kick off this new program and give you a taste of the course, I’m hosting a live one-hour workshop called “How To Create A Prolific Writing Routine, Even If You Are Stressed, Short Of Time, And Unsure If You Are A Writer.” 

To me, if you can learn one thing, one skill that will have the single biggest impact on your writing life, it is building a routine to produce work.  If you’re ready to start creating a life-changing writing routine then register for the free workshop at HowWritersWrite.com/Prolific. 

The first workshop is Thursday, May 14th at 8pm ET. 

I hope to see you there!

_____ 

 

Okay, so, this episode with Barbara O’Neal is everything How Writers Write is all about. Barbara shares so much practical, useful information. As the author of dozens of incredible best-selling books, Barbara is an absolute authority on the writing life. I don’t want to wait any longer, and so without any further ado, here is the interview with Barbara O’Neal. 

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May 07, 2020
Monday Motivation - Your Inner Critic, Part 1
478

Welcome to Monday Motivation – Your Inner Critic, Part 1

 Hello and welcome my friends. I hope everyone is having a wonderful week of writing. 

By far, the most common thing I coach writers – and this is writers from all backgrounds, projects, and level of accomplish (I’m talking brand new to #1 NYT people) – is their relationship with their inner critic. 

We have ALL heard this term – the inner critic – and like a lot of really important things, we’ve heard about that inner critic so much that it just doesn’t register as something that impacts our lives. But, here’s the thing: your relationship with your inner critic defines the limits of your writing life. Let me say that again: your relationship with your inner critic defines the limits of your writing life. 

So what is the inner critic and why is it so important? In coaching, we call the inner critic “the saboteur…” coaching just loves those kind of mysterious names. But, in essence, your inner critic is the tiny voice in your head that tells you what you can and cannot do. Calling it a voice is really generous. Generally, the inner critic manifests in writers when they hear themselves saying things like, I can’t I won’t I’m not able to… 

The inner critic is around to keep you safe. It is an ancient system that keeps you from taking a risk… especially when you can remember a time when that risk didn’t pay off. And, on the balance, it is has been great for humanity. It has kept us safe, kept us in tribes, kept us close to the fire and away from dangerous animals, and kept us believing the same thing… all of the good stuff needed for the survival of a species. But, while the inner critic has helped the human race survive, it will not help you thrive. 

Here’s the thing, inherent in writing is risk. And, more than that, failure. To write is to fail 9 times, only to get it almost right on the tenth. In writing, we are inundated by rejection, by criticism veiled as feedback, by naysayers, by people who tell us that we’ll never writing a thing – and that is probably because they have unrealized dreams. 

You see, your inner critic wants to keep you safe from all those reasons above. When you’ve been rejected, your inner critic says, “I’ve got you,” and shuts down any attempt at what might lead to a similar failure.

But the writing life is a life of failure, criticism and risk. It is impossible to learn to write and not flub sentences, miswrite characters, have flat dialogue. It is actually impossible because the skills to be a writer are not born into anyone. Even if you don’t show your writing to a single soul… we still place expectations on ourselves. And those expectations come with the risk of meeting them or not. 

And so we have two forces who are diametrically opposed. The inner critic, who wants to keep you from writing, and your desire to write, which is rife with failure. The two are in a constant battle. 

This is a battle that will never ever go away. I’ve learned through coaching and interviewing some of the most successful writers on the planet that the professional writer does not ever shed the inner critic. The professional writer learns how to write through or around it.
Said another way, it does not matter if you are a #1 NYT bestseller or a writer attempting your first story, the inner critic is going to be there, doing its best to keep you safe, aka keep you from taking a risk, aka stop you from writing. 

And so what in the world can we do? For this first week, don’t want try to silence or suppress the inner critic. This might sound harsh, but you will not have the awareness to even make a dent. It’ll be like playing whack-a-mole where you are always swinging too slow. 

I’ve this a m

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May 04, 2020
Episode 26 - How Kelly Harms Writes
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Welcome to Episode 26 – How Kelly Harms Writes 

 

I knew I was onto something good when I did my research on Kelly. On her website, she has this great section on books for writers, and one of the books she lists is one of my all-time-favorites, a book I’ve referenced a zillion times—Deep Work.  

 

For me, Kelly is a model of what a writer can be. She has built an inner game along with her skill, so that she writes from the inside-out. It was such a pleasure to interview her and try to parse out some of her secrets and working habits. This is an incredibly practical episode, especially since Kelly had a decade as an editor and agent in the publishing industry.  

 

I am so excited to share this episode with you. Please enjoy this interview with Kelly Harms.  

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Apr 30, 2020
Monday Motivation - Lean Into Your Fears
449

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Apr 27, 2020
Episode 25 - How Luanne Rice Writes
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Welcome to Episode 25 – How Luanne Rice Writes

 

Today’s interview is a special one, but before we get started, I need your help. I am working on a new program called the 21-Day MFA Series. The program will teach one MFA-level skill over the course of 21 days… things like “How to Build a Writing Routine” and “How to Plot.” But, I want to make sure this program is 10 times better than any other writing programs out there, so I am asking for input from this amazing community by taking a 2-minute survey. In exchange for your input, I’ll send you a 50% off coupon for any 21-Day MFA course you’d like. Check out www.howwriterswrite.com/21day to be directed to the survey. THANK YOU.

 

This week’s episode is with Luanne Rice. Luanne and I recorded this episode the day after I left New York for my parent's house in Michigan, and meeting with her, talking about writing and her process was like a balm for my soul. I really think it “straightened me out.” 

 

I think you’ll find Luanne is a model for writers. I know I scribbled down notes the entire time we spoke. I felt as if I was learning the entire time, while also feeling as if I had known Luanne all my life. 

 

I cannot wait to share this episode with you. And so without further ado, here is the episode with Luanne Rice. 

 

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Apr 23, 2020
Monday Motivation - Say Nice Things
260

Monday Motivation – Say Nice Things 

 

For this Monday Motivation, you’ll need a piece of paper and a pen. Your computer or phone will work fine, but ideally you are writing this out by hand. I’ll do the “pause until you get this” notice that I always heard as a kid. 

Got your writing piece? Good.

Now, in this order, this is what I want you to do.

1.       Write just one thing that makes you incredibly excited about the story you are working on or want to work on. So, this can be a theme about the story, a main character who has captured your heart, or the setting. Anything that just fills you with deep, creative energy. Maybe it is the reason you kicked off this project in the first place.

2.       Write one amazing thing about your relationship with your story. Said another way, what does the story mean to you personally? What makes this story so important for you to tell? Let’s imagine this story is out in the world, and someone reads it, calls you up, and says... “wow your story deeply moved me, and here is why...” what is the why? 

3.       Write one thing about you as a writer. What is your superpower? What do you uniquely bring to the table that no one else in this world can bring? It isn’t arrogant to say this, it is beautiful and special. 

 

Okay, if you haven’t done this, take a moment to really dig into these answers. Feel free to take a moment if you need.  There is no rush.

 

Now that you do have these answers beautifully written out, hopefully in your own hand, read them to yourself three times each day. But don’t skim them. Let the words you just wrote sink down into you. Let them be your north star about yourself and your work. Feel free to add to them as you’d like. Make them more robust, let the language swell as the words more deeply connect with you. 

 

Read these three answers next two weeks and see what happens. I challenge anyone... I mean anyone... to do this exercise with gusto and focus and not see a dramatic improvement in their relationship with their self, their writing, and those around them. Sometimes, what we need most, is just to reconnect with our own hearts.

 

Thank you for listening, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing. 

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Apr 20, 2020
Episode 24 - How Joel C. Rosenberg Writes
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Welcome to Episode 24 – How Joel C. Rosenberg Writes 

 

I have two announcements of happenings around How Writers Write. The first one is a call to check out our online reading series. As you know, book events are all canceled, and as readers, we are stuck in social isolation. I wanted to bring together those two groups to weather this pandemic storm. So, be sure to register for a free reading with some amazing authors. Go to howwriterswrite.com/onlinereading to see this week’s line up and watch the previous recordings.  

 

Okay, so second thing, last month I opened up a free one-on-one coaching session per day. We booked the entire month of March, and it was an absolute blast to connect with a new writer each day. And so, I’m offering a free session per day for the month of April! Anyone can book an hour to work on any issue they’d like. Maybe it is deciding on which project to start, dealing with self-doubt, or how to keep writing during a pandemic. To schedule your free call, go to howwriterswrite.com/freeapril  

 

This week’s episode is with Joel Rosenberg. Joel has an uncanny ability to read the tea leaves of the world and write compelling, gripping fiction that always seems to be one step in front of the headlines. I loved interviewing Joel and learning about his journey from political consultant to best-selling fiction author.  

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Apr 16, 2020
Monday Motivation - Childlike Goals
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Welcome to Monday Motivation – Childlike Goals

 I know I’ve said this before, but so many of these talks start from the question, “what is heaviest on my heart?” I try to let these talks come from the inside out, which mirrors the way I taught myself to write: starting with what is in my heart, and trying my best to translate that feeling into words. 

 I say this because this topic is a straight-from-Brian’s-heart-onto-the-page type talk. 

 You see, I am an expert at setting a limiter on myself. I’ve developed a kind of governor for how fast I can go with my life, much in the same way a car’s governor won’t let the car go past 100mph. Even though I have an entire course on setting powerful goals, I still struggle with stepping into my full potential.

 In my life, this shows up as limiting beliefs. If you haven’t heard the term before, a limiting belief is a belief that places an artificial constraint on our lives. We all have them, and they show up when we say things like, “I don’t, I can’t, I’m supposed to, I am not, That is the way it is…” Fill in the blank there and see how they come out for you. Here are a few of mine:

“I’m not supposed to want to write a best selling novel.” Getting better. 

“I will never make a comfortable living from writing.” Good. 

Let’s keep going. “I am not original enough. I am not smart enough. There is not enough time, enough money, enough space.”

“It is not possible that Barack Obama (one of my heroes) will list my novel as one of his top reads.” That’s what I want. Truly. My hands are sweating as I say it because it is absolutely ridiculous to say it out loud. But that is how bad I want it... AND how powerful limiting beliefs can be in our lives. 

 That took me all of 20 seconds to write. That goals. That dream… it is always bubbling right below the surface, in a place where I can imagine it, but a place where it is never exposed. A perfect safety...

 

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Apr 13, 2020
Episode 23 - How Emma Chase Writes
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Welcome to Episode 23 – How Emma Chase Writes 

 

I have two announcements of happenings around How Writers Write. The first one is a call to check out our online reading series. As you know book events are all cancelled, and as readers, we are stuck in social isolation. I wanted to bring together those two groups to weather this pandemic storm. And, that looks like nightly online readings with a new author. The week of April 10th features Lisa See, Honor Moore in conversation with Claire Messud, Zack Jordan, and L. Penelope in conversation with Cerece Rennie Murphy. These events have been so much fun, so be sure to register for a reading at howwriterswrite.com/onlinereading  

 

Okay so second thing, last month I opened up a free one-on-one coaching session per day. We booked the entire month of March and it was an absolute blast to connect with a new writer each day. And so, I’m offering a free session per day for the month of April! Basically, anyone can book an hour to work on any issue they’d like. Maybe it is deciding on which project to start, dealing with self-doubt, or how to keep writing during a pandemic. To schedule your free call, go to howwriterswrite.com/freeapril  

 

Okay! So, now onto the interview with Emma Chase. Emma is the first romance author that I have interviewed, and I loved chatting with her. Emma shares how she produces book after book. Her spirit and generosity just flood this interview. I think I had a smile on my face the entire time.  

 

Thank you again to Emma for her time. And now, here is the interview with Emma Chase! 

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Apr 09, 2020
Monday Motivation - The Courage to Create
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Monday Motivation – The Courage to Create

 

Lately, I’ve been getting into entomology. As a writer and someone who thinks about writers and words basically all day, it seems like the natural progression on my path to the ultimate ending of linguistics. Then I will complete the writer’s circuit and die, be made into a tree, only to be cut down to make the paper of a book. Okay, I’m getting away from myself. 

 

So, in this crazy world, a word that pops up over and over again is courage. It is one of those words we use a lot. “Have courage” we like to say, almost as a throw-away. It is one of those words that winds up being used into oblivion until the meaning of the word is watered down and unimportant. 

 

But, it is word courage is filled with power. I did a deep dive into the entomology in the word courage, only to find that it is rooted in the Latin word “cor” c-o-r. Cor means heart in Latin. Later, in old French, the word courage meant “innermost feelings.” Our modern dictionaries define courage as the ability to do something that scares us.

 

To put it all together, what is the courage to create? 

It is to write from the heart, to write from your innermost feelings. To write. Courageous writing is writing that counts. It is writing that transforms not just the reader, but the writer as well. It writing that empowers, that stretches, that is scary and yet propulsive. 

 

This courageousness manifests differently for each writer. For some, that might mean picking the pen and writing for the first time, because dear god it takes courage to start something new. For others, it might mean writing about a topic that stings. Maybe it is writing what you dream to write but don’t feel qualified. 

 

Courage is writing from the heart. 

 

All too often we get lost in the craft of writing. We want to have poetic prose that moves the reader to tears. A plot and characters who are unique and compelling. I’m not here to bash language. I am a writer. I’ve devoted my life to words. But, focusing on craft while the story lacks courage, lacks heart, will leave both the reader and writer as if something is missing from the page. 

 

Said another way, courageous writing is more than just intellectually learning and then mastering a set of rules. It takes more than a command of language to get a compelling story on the page. It takes heart. It takes emotion. Language is the way we bring our heart to the page, and it is amazing and wonderful, but it is the vehicle to communicate our writing heart. It is not less important than courage, but it is also not more important. 

 

This is one of my major gripes about how we teach writing. We focus on the brain and the how-to and not on the soul work it takes to be a writer. 

 

And so this week, as the world is crazy, as we feel so many new things, have courage. Write from your heart. Explore your feelings on the page. 

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Apr 06, 2020
Episode 22 - How Elizabeth Wetmore Writes
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Welcome to Episode 22 – How Elizabeth Wetmore Writes 

 

Before we get started, I am so excited to announce the How Writers Write Online Reading Series. Come listen to your favorite authors read from their books, have a thoughtful discussion, and answer audience questions. The schedule is already packed with incredible authors like  Amy Harmon, Lisa See, Zack Jordan and so many others. To sign up, visit www.howwriterswrite.com/onlinereading -- that is all one word. 

The first reading is Amy Harmon on April 1st at 8pm ET. You do not want to miss it.

 

This episode with Elizabeth Wetmore was such a treat to record. Elisabeth spent 14 years writing her debut novel, Valentine, and we dig into her process,  that time, and how sometimes it takes some growing before you can write the story in your heart. 

 

I want to give a special thank you to Elizabeth for her time. 

 

And now, please enjoy this interview with Elizabeth Wetmore.

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Apr 02, 2020
Monday Motivation - The Limits of Your Feelings
393

Monday Motivation – The Limits of Your Feelings

 

This talk is inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s famous quote, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” The concept is so deeply impacted me that it has reframed my understanding of what it means to grow, not just in the writing life, but in life in general. 

 A good example of this quote is a recent experience I just had. I’m teaching myself how to be more handy for some upcoming home projects. One of the things I need to do is learn how to frame, which is basically how to make a wall. For about a week I was watching all of these videos on framing and just couldn’t understand what they were saying, because I couldn’t follow the language. And then, finally, I found a YouTube video where a guy went step by step to talk through framing terminology. So, what is a header, cripple stud, plate, king stud, nailer, level, plum, and on and on. I watched the video like three times, writing down the terms and definitions, and then, went and watched a video on framing.

I’m sure you already know what happened. Boom. I understood the video. I could follow the language, and so I understood, at least intellectually, how to build a wall. Now, who knows what happens when I go to do it, but the point is I can now engage with all the training and informational videos I want. I know the language. 

 What’s the language of writing? What is to story what plum is to framing? 

 The language of writing is feeling. Not the definition or explanation of feeling on the page, but the writer herself feeling emotion and then writing that feeling. 

 Oftentimes we are afraid of feeling. We don’t want to feel hurt because it hurts. We don’t want to feel joy because soon it will fade. We are afraid to feel fear. I say those things to you and to me. I feel hurt and fear. Even though here I am, a podcast host speaking into a microphone, I am just like you. 

For a long time, I was afraid of my feelings, and so I numbed myself. I used video games, busyness, alcohol, friends, willful blindness, mindless media consumption… anything in an attempt to not touch feelings that were locked inside of me. 

This happened with my first book. The book stalled thirteen times for various reasons—plot problems, character problems, my sheer boredom while writing it. I used my head to write those first thirteen drafts and the story was soulless—like a calculation of what should or shouldn’t happen on the page. 

But, then, for whatever reason, and I wish I could remember, I made this huge switch. I excavated myself and I wrote my feelings into the page. The story flipped overnight. Instead of some lame plot, the main character came alive. I saw him as I saw myself—in 3d. To write his story, I went into the hard places—my regret, my feeling like an alien in my own life, my failures, my fears, the times people expected something from me and I didn’t deliver. I let myself feel those things that were bubbling right under the surface. And what came out onto the page was good, even though I wasn’t a good writer. 

 The point is, if I wouldn’t have let myself feel those things, I would have never grown as a writer. I’d have stalled, unable to access the emotion needed to really make have a soul.

 To rewrite Wittgenstein’s quote for writers- “The limits of my feeling are the limits of my writing. The limits of my feeling are the limits of my writing.”

 You can’t write joy without allowing yourself to experience joy. You can’t write rage without allowing yourself to experience rage. The writing will be flat, like looking at the emotion through a buffer. Powerful writing happens in and through our emotions. 

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Mar 30, 2020
Episode 21 - How Lisa See Writes
3333

Welcome to Episode 21 – How Lisa See Writes 

 

I am so excited to announce the How Writers Write Online Reading Series. There is this huge gap in live book events now that the world has more-or-less shut down. We’re stepping in to fill that void. We are scheduling as many daily readings as possible. These are live events, where the author will read from their book, answer some questions, and take questions from the audience. Your truly is hosting most of these. Come hear Amy Harmon, Lisa See, Zack Jordan. You can ask that question you’ve wanted to ask, maybe win a signed book, all for free. To sign up to attend, visit www.howwriterswrite.com/onlinereading -- that is all one word. The first reading is Amy Harmon on April 1st at 8pm ET. You do not want to miss it.

 

Okay, so this episode is Lisa See is timeless. Lisa is such a wealth of knowledge and gracious shared a lifetime of lessons about the writing life. I felt as if I could have spoke with Lisa for hours… in fact we stopped the recording only to restart it because the information she was sharing was just too good not to capture. 

 

Thank you again to Lisa for her time. 

 

And now, here is the interview with Lisa See. 

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Mar 26, 2020
Monday Motivation - Put Your Phone Down
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Welcome to Monday Motivation - Put your phone down

 

I am very rarely prescriptive in my Monday Motivations. I like to offer perspectives, thoughts, or strategies that have worked for me in my writing life, and hope that some of it lands. 

 

Today’s Monday Motivation is different, and it is super simple. It is probably going to sting a little bit.

 

Put your phone down. Turn off the TV. Go do anything else other than consume story after story about the chaos in the world.

 

There is a lot of things we cannot control in this world. I think for some, this realization is just landing. We live not outside of nature, but within it. We are part of an order, we don’t create the order. 

 

But, you control how much media you consume. 

 

I get there is a value to being connected in this time of change. I’m not saying you should go off grid. I’m saying there is a diminishing return in the value of that information. 

 

It is not easy to disconnect. I deeply struggle with this. Some days I downright fail. But, any additional moment not spent throttling my stress level is a win.  When I limit my media consumption, at the end of the day, I feel a relaxation in my neck and shoulders. My head doesn’t feel like it is going to explode. The death of myself and all my loved ones is not imminent. 

 

So give your nervous a break. Start with a small action or task and build from there. Take a bath, take a walk. Read a good book. Write a story. Write down how you feel. Cry. Run. Hug those close to you. Find a way to help. Draw, paint, watch a good movie. Clean your house. Write a letter to someone who is alone. Call an old friend. Donate to people or organizations that need aid. 

 

Here’s the thing. The world is suffering, and it will suffer for a while. There is no way around that. You and I can’t control the suffering. But we can bring light to those around us. We can show ourselves grace. And humans are tough. We survive. We adapt. Even in hard times, there is the human to create and protect. 


 We can make lemonade. 

 

Thank you for listening. Stay safe, stay isolated. And I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

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Mar 23, 2020
Episode 20 - How Jaquira Diaz Writes
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Mar 19, 2020
Monday Motivation - How to Write When the World is Crazy
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Mar 16, 2020
Episode 19- How Rhys Bowen Writes
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Welcome to Episode 19 – How Rhys Bowen Writes

 

Before we start the interview, I am offering free daily coaching session. But only one appointment can be scheduled each day, so once that day is gone… its gone. You can sign up for the day that works for you and bring any topic you want to the table. If you are dealing with doubt or struggling to write in what is turning out to be a crazy world… whatever it might be, I’d love to connect with you. We’ll spend 60 minutes driving towards a plan to help you out. Right now, there are like 60% of the days taken, so if you are on the fence, hop on go to www.howwriterswrite.com/30days to book your appointment. 

  

And now, here is the interview with Rhys Bowen. 

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Mar 12, 2020
Monday Motivation - Play Offense, Not Defense
263

Welcome to Monday Motivation – Play Offense, Not Defense

 

I grew up playing football and sports in general, so I tend to see parts of the writing life through an athletic lens. “Play offense, not defense” is a football term that was adopted in the business world. In business, the point is that it’s easy to look over at a competitor and try and do what they are doing. In defensive mode, you are always reacting, always trying to catch up to a good idea from someone else. Businesses like this are fearful, they look at the world as a zero-sum game, where only a few win and many others most lose. 

 

We play a lot of defense in the writing life. It is just so easy to compare ourselves to others. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Who is publishing before me?
  2. Who is writing more than me?
  3. Who seems to be writing in a happier mood than me?
  4. Who is just a plain better writer than me? 

And on and on and on. 

 

Writing is a risky, solitary activity. There aren’t a lot of other things we do where we sit by ourselves for long periods of time and then expose our heart for the world to see. Oh, and along the way we get little to no feedback.

 

And so it is natural that we look at what others are doing and ask the question, “am I okay?” 

 

And what happens? Oftentimes, we see the success of those around us. We don’t see the struggle, and so we think we are doing something wrong. If this person is a publishing monster and here I can’t seem to get through a manuscript, something must be wrong with me… right? 

 

No.

 

I’m not here to absolve you of personal growth, but to point out that you are on your own path, and there is so little to gain from comparing yourself to someone else.

 

Playing offense means you keep your eyes on your writing journey. You wake up to tell your story on the timeframe that works for you. You write with your heart. You publish when it is time. You play your own offense, not defense. 

 

This is hard as hell, but releasing yourself from the comparison game is a powerful gift. And it is free, to give to yourself. 

 

Before we go, I am offering a month of daily free coaching sessions. Basically, each day there is a 60-minute slot open. If we haven’t had a coaching call before, you can sign up for the day that works for you and bring any topic you want to the table. Stuck on a manuscript? Dealing with doubt? Writers block? We’ll spend 60 minutes driving towards a plan to help you out. To sign up, go to www.howwriterswrite.com/30days

 

Thank you for listening, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

 

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Mar 09, 2020
Episode 18 - How Robert Dugoni Writes
2621

I’ve been a spree of interviewing authors who produce 1-2, sometimes even three books per year, and Robert has been doing just that for years. I love showing that there is more than one way to write, produce, and publish. In this interview with Robert, we dig into his writing habits, routines, and some of the magic that has helped him sell over 5,000,000 books since 2012. 

 

I want to say a special thanks to Robert for his time. 

 

Before we get started, this episode is sponsored by… me! How Writers Write is a platform to help writers tell their story. One way I do that is through one-on-one coaching. I help writers move from where they are, to where they want to be. That can mean getting started on a writing project, conquering their self-doubt, or building the discipline to see their story come to life. I invite you to schedule a free, 45-minute introduction call with me. You'll be able to determine both if coaching is for you, and if I am the coach you want to work with. Visit www.howwriterswrite.com/coaching to read more and schedule time with me. 

 

And now, here is the interview with Robert Dugoni. 

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Mar 05, 2020
Monday Motivation - Another Story Must Begin
289

Monday Motivation – Another Story Must Begin 

 

For those of you who have listened to this podcast, you know that I absolutely love Les Misérables. And I don’t just love the book, I love the musical as well. In fact, I love the musical so much that I know every single word to every single song. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife, who will tell you the painful, painful truth, because I love to sing it and I am completely tone-deaf. 

 

Anyways, one of the reasons why I love Les Mis is the story of Jean Valjean. I discussed the impact this story has had on me on the “How Goals Saved my Life” Monday Motivation episode. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, so much from Valjean. 

 

To dive in even deeper, what I really love is Valjean’s transformation. The book, as is common for the style, spends dozens of pages on the passage when Valjean steals the silver from the priest, is caught, is shown grace by the priest, and then ultimately changes his life. (cue music) But the musical, while different in some ways from the book, does an incredible job of summing up Valjean’s internal turmoil with a single line when Valjean is confirming the metamorphosis that he must go through. He sings, “Another Story Must Begin.”

 

The point hits home because Valjean realizes he has to change, and that in order to change, he needs to end one story and start another. 

 

For some of you out there, just like Valjean, its time for a new story to begin.

 

At any given time, you are only living a draft of your life story. If it is your early draft, and you haven’t done the hard work of editing, it might be a really rough draft. It may not work, just in the way that the first draft of a story is often problematic. Maybe you have the wrong characters in your life, the wrong storyline, dialogue. 

 

But, with time and hard work, you can make edits. You can write a new story. You can change. 

 

In coaching, I am always asked if people can change. To me, everything I believe about the human condition, about the possibility of people as a species, rests on the question of whether you can create a new story of your life. My answer is a resounding, shout it from the mountain-tops hell yes. The entire platform of How Writers Write is solidly based on this belief. 

 

Think about it, as writers, we rip entire sections out of manuscripts. We rebuild characters. I just did this with one of my main characters, in the middle of my second rewrite, 300 pages into my manuscript. We do these things because we realize that those extra words just weight the story down, it keeps the story from being what it wants to be.  

 

There’s no difference in your life.

 

For some of you, its time for a new story to begin. Maybe the current version of you is a rough draft. Maybe you’ve gone through some edits, but to get to where you want to be, you’re going to have to rewrite yourself. If that’s you, sharpen your pencils and get to work. 

 

By the end of the book, what happens to Valjean? He goes on to live a new life where he is a good man. He cares for those around him. He clothes the poor, feeds the hungry. He begins a new story. 

 

Thank you for listening. If it is time for your new story to begin, but you don’t know where to start, I’m here to talk. Send me a note at brian@howwriterswrite.com 

 

Thank you again, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

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Mar 02, 2020
Episode 17 - How Libbie Hawker Writes
3202

Welcome to Episode 17 – How Libbie Hawker Writes

 

This episode is packed with information and insights about what is takes to make a living through writing. For me, since recording this episode, I’ve had days and days and days of thinking about my writing strategy and goals. Libbie just gave me so many things to think about, from writing commercial vs literary fiction, to transitions, to how to think about writing as a job. This is a good one. 

 

I am so grateful to Libbie for sharing her time and wisdom with this podcast. 

 

And so, here is the episode with Libbie Hawker.

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Feb 27, 2020
Monday Motivation - Experience Your Story
284

Monday Motivation – Experience Your Story 

 

I’m in a season right now with young kids where traveling is a challenge. But that doesn’t keep me from wanting to travel and experience new places. And so to scratch the itch, I do what we all do—I watch the exotic travel shows, I read books, and study maps –god I am such a dad. I can really get into a place that way. There’s a texture that comes from that level of detail and attention.

 

But, take a moment with me, and imagine the first time you set foot in a really special new location. For me, I’ll pick the first night out in New York. I had just driven in as a young young young man with my soon-to-be wife and her family. 

 

After getting our bags into the shared hotel room, my wife asked me if I wanted to go out to grab something to eat. It was maybe 10 pm, I told her sure, but like, what would even be open at 10 pm? She laughed, and without saying a word she took my hand. A few moments later, I stood on a bustling corner in midtown. Even at 10 pm there were more people than I’d ever seen in my entire life. I’ll never forget the feeling on that corner, being sandwiched in a sea of humanity, with the heavy smell of street meat—hot dogs, kabobs, roasted nuts in the air. Even at night, it was as if it was the middle of the day. I think I fell in love with New York in that moment and I’ve never quite gotten it out of my system. 

 

Now, I could have read about New York all I wanted, I could have watched any video about that insane city, but until I walked the streets at 10 pm, I would have never understood New York like I did in that moment.

 

The same experience vs study mentality applies to writing. Yes, of course, there is value in knowing the map of your story, of getting the history down, but as soon as you can, you need to get out on the street at 10 pm to see the people, smell the smells, and just feel the air. This means you leave the world of thinking and planning about writing into the world of writing. Experience your story by putting words on the page. It does not matter if you are putting down good words, or the right words, it really doesn’t, because what you are after is not a good sentence, but an experience of your story. Have fun, take in the sights and talk to people. Notice the things you notice when you are in awe in a new place.

 

Once you’ve experienced your story, you can edit that experience into a working draft. But you can’t edit a blank page, or a bunch of research, or good intentions.  

 

The practical next step here is to put words on the page, but do it not with the expectation and anxiety of having to tell your story, but through the lens of arriving in a new destination for the first time. Your only goal is to “get a sense” of your world and people, to see them in a variety of environments and challenges. Release yourself of the expectation of having to get it right, and you can just have fun.  

 

Thank you for listening, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

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Feb 24, 2020
Episode 16 - How Brian Freeman Writes
3273

This episode with Brian Freeman was a treat to record. Filled with practical and inspirational advice, Brian shares his working habits and gives an insight into how he produced two best selling novels each year. I’m going to keep this intro short and sweet because I can’t wait to share this episode.

 

And so now, without any further ado, here is the episode with Brian Freeman.  

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Feb 20, 2020
Monday Motivation - The Paleontologist
388

In this episode, I detail the overlap between a paleontologist finding and extracting a dinosaur with the writing life. I hope you enjoy.


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Feb 17, 2020
Episode 15 - How Whitney Terrell Writes
2920

Welcome to Episode 15 – How Whitney Terrel Writes

 

I first heard Whitney speak during a lecture for my MFA. I remember being captivated by the amount of practical, meaty information Whitney shared with the class. My pen was catching fire as I tried to keep up.

 

This episode with Whitney follows that same trajectory. Whitney shares so many usable ideas—from how to write from the other, to tips on pacing, and story structure. I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed speaking with Whitney. I could have gone on and on with him.

 

So, I made THREE error in my intro of Whitney. Even though I do a healthy amount of research on all of my guests, I managed to not pronounce Whitney’s last name right in his intro. It is not Ter-rell, but Terrell. Correcting that for the record now. Also, Whitney is the co-host of the Fiction nonfiction podcast with the novelist V.V. Ganeshananthan. Last, Whitney is an Associate Professor, not an Assistant Professor. Please forgive me.

 

Before we get started, this episode is sponsored by… me! How Writers Write is a platform to help writers tell their story. One way I do that is through one-on-one coaching. I help writers move from where they are, to where they want to be. That can mean getting started on a writing project, conquering their self-doubt, or building the discipline to see their story come to life. I invite you to schedule a free, 45-minute introduction call with me. You'll be able to determine both if coaching is for you, and if I am the coach you want to work with. Visit www.howwriterswrite.com/coaching to read more and schedule time with me. 

 

Without any  further ado… here is the episode with Whitney Terrel 

 

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Feb 13, 2020
Monday Motivation - Massive Action
302

Welcome to Monday Motivation –Massive Action 

 

I touched on this topic a few weeks ago in an Instagram post and the idea has been rolling around in my head a lot. The term Massive Action comes from Tony Robbins who is one of my earliest inspirations. I love the guy, as tacky as he’s been on late night TV, his books and events have absolutely changed my life.

 

The premise of this platform is to provide encouragement and inspiration to write. And to do that, oftentimes we talk about tools, tips, insights, routines, motivations. I do this believe I believe in the power of learning not just information but learning how to work. 

 

Sometimes the hardest part of learning to write is learning how you write. I used to get really frustrated when people would say, “just write.” It felt empty and cheap, like some platitude that person didn’t even believe. I subscribe to the Abe Lincoln quote when he says, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the ax.” 

 

That said, sooner or later, it is time to chop down the tree. Yes, learning is good. Yes, sharpening your ax is good. But, really, the job is not to sharpen the ax, it is to cut down the tree. And so that means once your ax is sharp enough, you need to start taking your swings. 

 

So many times, we make our writing problems to be more complex than what they actually are. You may not know how to technically write at the skill of a pro. That’s true. I don’t. And that’s okay. The answer to that problem is massive action. 

 

Plot doesn’t work? Massive action.

Don’t know how to write dialogue? Massive action.

No motivation? Massive action.

 

What is massive action? It means an outsized amount of writing. Yes, sharpen that ax. Learn how to write dialogue. But dammit don’t sit on the sidelines waiting for enough information to write. Just start making two characters talk to each other and do that over and over and over and at a certain point, you’ll see you’ve worked your way into competency. 

I hope you take this as encouragement because it is good news that there isn’t some magic formula you need to know. There isn’t some guy that controls what you write. Whatever you are missing is found through putting in the work. Your writing problems are solvable. They just require a massive amount of action from you.  

 

Thank you for listening, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

 

 

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Feb 10, 2020
Episode 14 - How Trisha Thomas Writes
2056

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Feb 06, 2020
Monday Motivation - Bouldering the Writing Life
332

Welcome to Monday Motivation – Bouldering the Writing Life

 

Last week I was rock wall climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, an indoor gym in Gowanus. Rock wall climbing is one of my favorite activities in the entire world. Specifically bouldering, which is essentially the same as rock wall climbing, except instead of climbing up a wall with the safety of ropes, in bouldering you climbing walls that are about 15 feet high. The moves in bouldering are generally more dynamic, and more challenging because the routes are so much shorter. Because the moves are tough, it isn’t uncommon to work on a single route for an hour or more. I’ve sometimes worked on a route for weeks. On each attempt, you learn a little more about where to press your body, how to position your toe just right—I’m talking within millimeters—and along the way you gain the strength in your grip. 

 

And so it was on the like 15th failed attempt to finish a route that I realized just how similar bouldering is to writing. Here are a few ways:

1.       Before you climb, you study the route. You look at the holds, the distance, and where there might be trouble. But, ultimately you have to just get on the wall to see what happens. You have to actually feel the holds, the strain in your body, and then through sometimes multiple attempts, you’ll finally get it. It’s the same thing with writing, isn’t it? You can study and think about a story, but sooner or later, you have to just start writing. And as you write, the story unfolds to you. There are parts of the story you won’t know until you are writing it. Characters, plots, events, and even words just like holds, become clear. Just like climbing, you learn to write through writing, in the action itself, not the sidelines.

 

2.       Next, to boulder is to be comfortable with copious amounts of failure. As I said, it isn’t uncommon for me to fall and fall and fall (and just to note, I’m falling onto a padded floor, not like hard concrete or rock). Part of the fun of climbing is that it isn’t easy. It takes commitment and sometimes just pig-headed determinism.  I’ve talked about this a lot in the writing life. Sometimes you’re going to just have to work on one scene or sentence or book over and over and over. Sometimes it is going to take an “I will not quit until this is right” attitude. You're going to fail and need to find a way to pick yourself up and get back onto the wall to give it another shot. 

 

3.       Third, no one—and I mean no one—would try to climb a route once, fall, and then say, “well I guess I can’t do it.” Failing is part of the culture of climbing. It is okay to fall. It is okay to need time to work on a route. You might need time to gain experience. You might need to strengthen your grip, you fitness. You might need the ability to see complex moves. Oftentimes, you need the courage to push yourself past your comfort zone, especially when you are fifteen feet in the air, upside down, with your fingers holding onto a grip the width of a pencil. 

 

But, how often do we try something in writing, just to fall off the wall once and say, “well, I guess I can’t do that.” 

 

If you had that response in climbing, you’d never ever climb, and maybe that is why so many people just dabble at writing, fail once, and then say, “well, I guess I’m not a writer.” 

 

No no no, you just need to increase your grip strength, your confidence, fitness, vision. You need to put in the work and climb over and over and over and eventually, you’ll get to the top. You have to expect and prepare to fall, and so when you find yourself on your back, the only thing to do is to get back up and try the rout

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Feb 03, 2020
Episode 13 - How Marlon James Writes
3332

Welcome to Episode to 13 – How Marlon James Writes

 

This episode is sponsored by… me! How Writers Write is a platform to help writers tell their story. One way I do that is through one-on-one coaching. I help writers move from where they are, to where they want to be. That can mean getting started on a writing project, conquering their self-doubt, or building the discipline to see their story come to life. I invite you to schedule a free, 45-minute introduction call with me. You'll be able to determine both if coaching is for you, and if I am the coach you want to work with. Visit www.howwriterswrite.com/coaching to read more and schedule time with me. 

 

Throughout this podcast, one lesson that has bubbled up over and over is the hustle and deep well of self-belief needed to be a writer. This message has been echoed so many times, from so many writers. To see your work come to life is going to take grit, self-belief, and an ability to push forward through tremendous obstacles.

 

Today’s interview with Marlon James hits those points. For Marlon to become a literary household name, it took tremendous discipline, grit, enthusiasm, and self-belief. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I trust that this interview will challenge and inspire you.

 

Thank you again to Marlon James. Without any further ado, here is the interview.

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Jan 30, 2020
Monday Motivation - A Blue-Collar Work Ethic
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Welcome to Monday Motivation – A blue-collar work ethic

 

This week I traveled to Detroit Michigan to attend my grandfather’s funeral. Yes, it has been quite the season for me and my family. The night after the funeral, I sat on the couch with my grandmother. We talked a lot about life and my grandfather. She told me stories I had never heard. One of them I want to share with you.

 

When my grandfather was a young man with a young family, money was tight. My grandfather, to make ends meet, worked two eight-hour jobs. So, he’d wake up early in the morning, work a full day, come home to change clothes and eat a solid meal, and then set out again to work an eight-hour shift at another job. At the end of the day, he’d come home, collapse, and do it all over again. 

 

The story made me think about the writing life because there are many times when you are going to need the same work ethic to make your writing ends meet. You might work a full-time job, have a family, friends, a spouse—all of the fixings of life.  

 

And yet, writing is going to have to be the second job to go to.

 

For many of us, working while writing is the norm.  We aren’t best-selling authors yet, and so we need to find a way to put food on the table, yet often the way we support ourselves is not as satisfying as writing. I’ve lived that way, it was a huge reason why I jumped out of my corporate life and started How Writers Write. But regardless, I’m not making rent with the money from selling my unpublished books. 

 

So what does that mean? It means to go to your job to support your life, but if you want to write, you’re going to have to change into clean clothes, get a meal in your belly, and get back to work each day at your second job—chasing your writing dreams. You’re going to have to get at it as if you needed this second job to live, just like my grandpa did. If you don’t show up for this second job of writing, you’ll get fired. You show up and do the work, each day. That’s it. 

 

Thank you for listening, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing. 

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Jan 27, 2020
Episode 12 - How Jeffrey Colvin Writes
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Welcome to Episode 12 – How Jeffrey Colvin Writes

 

Today’s interview is with Jeffrey Colvin. I was drawn to Jeffrey’s work by a tweet by Victor LaValle. In the tweet, Victor said to check out Jeffrey’s new novel, Africaville, which Jeffrey had published after working on it for twenty years. And so I did. And the more I dug about Jeffrey and the more I read his novel, the more I had to know about Jeffrey and his process for writing.

 

Jeffrey shares so much in this interview, from his process for organizing and research his novel to stick with a project for decades. I am so excited to share this interview, and Jeffrey’s work with the How Writers Write listeners.

 

Without any further ado, here is the interview with Jeffrey Colvin.

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Jan 23, 2020
Monday Motivation - You can do it
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Welcome to Monday Motivation – You can do it

 

I learned a lesson with this last series. I’m not a huge fan of the practical, nuts and bolts Monday Motivations. It feels like work to me, and so I’m going to pivot. 

 

Today, I’m still going to post on Instagram about tools to help you improve your concentration, which was supposed to be the topic of this podcast. But, from now on, we’re going back to the well, to the thing that fills up my bucket and I hope fills up yours: good old-fashioned short motivations. The entire point of How Writers Write is to be an expression of my heart in a way that inspires and empowers people to tell their story. And this is my heart, in audio form.

 

Today’s motivation is going to be simple. It’s the message I need to hear, as I stare down the barrel of running out of money to birth the dream that is How Writers Write and as I go into year four with a book that still feels as if I just started it. It’s the message that is sometimes so hard to believe.

It’s this… you and I can do it, regardless of what the “it” is. It might be to write a novel, a poem, or a screenplay. It might be to get going or to finish. You might be afraid. You might be untrained. Maybe you just started writing, or maybe you have been writing for decades. Maybe you got a degree in English from a top university. Or maybe you didn’t. 

It truly does not matter.

You can do it.

But there is one condition. The “it” must be the thing you’ve been called to do. I’m not sure who or what is calling you. Some people say God or the “universe.” He or she... I don’t. That answer is way above my pay grade, but I do know your “it” is special to you. It’s the gift you’ve been given to share with the world. Your “it” is not someone else’s. It doesn’t work if your “it” is what you think you should write. Your “it” isn’t around to make you famous. Or rich, or respected. 

Your “it” is your story. 

By virtue of it being your story, you can do it. You aren’t given an “it” you can’t do. It isn’t more complex than that.

Now, it might take years. It might take more work than you can imagine. It might cost you a lot. It might hurt, you might fail over and over and over. Again, I don’t understand why this is the way things break when it comes to creation, but creation is rarely clean. Creation is always messy. 

So the call is to do the “it” this week. Sometimes it’s the first step, sometimes it is the last step. The key is progress. Keep moving. Keep working. But, no matter what, believe in your “it,” and believe in your ability to do “it.” 

Thank you for listening. I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.

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Jan 20, 2020
Episode 11 - How Madeline Miller Writes
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Welcome to Episode 11 – How Madeline Miller Writes

 

Let me ask you a quick question. Are you struggling to write with a full-time life? I’ve been there, trying to get down good pages with the demands of work, family, friends, and so much more can feel downright impossible. If you are shaking your head in agreement, I want you to know there is hope. If you want to learn some tips and strategies to write with a full-time life, I’m hosting a free webinar next Thursday, January 23rd at 7 pm. Be sure to register right away. I’m capped at only 100 attendees and I expect it to fill up fast. Go to www.howwriterswrite.com/webinars to register. 

 

Anytime I get to talk about Greek mythology for an hour is a win in my book. When the conversation is with the author of one of my favorite books of the past decade, it’s even better. This week’s interview is with Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles and Circe. 

 

Madeline shares so much in this interview. From how she got her start writing to how she wrote Circe—one of 2018’s biggest novels. Thank you again to Madeline. It was an absolute delight to interview her. 

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Jan 16, 2020
Monday Motivation - How I Organize My Writing Projects
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Last week I discussed different kinds of composing tools, and how you can use them to get your work done. This week, I’m going to review the tools and tactics I use to organize my long novel in progress. I hope this talk can spark some organizational ideas for you. I, though, have only experimented with a small possibility of how a writer can organize a project. I’d love to hear from you! What are some of the ways you organize your work? What are the organizational tools you just have to use? Head over to the How Writers Write Instagram to share your organization tools. 

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Jan 13, 2020
Episode 10 - How Eleanor Henderson Writes
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Today’s interview is with Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints and The Twelve-Mile Straight. I loved my talk with Eleanor, especially for the number of practical, useful ideas she gave me. In the podcast, you’ll hear me react live to an exercise she has her writing students run through that I had to work on staying present in the interview because I just wanted to think about how I could apply it to my book. Do you know that feeling? Where you hear something so good it steals your attention? There are tons of moments like this during the interview.

 

Thank you again to Eleanor for her time and wisdom. And now, here is the interview with Eleanor Henderson.

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Jan 09, 2020
(Rerun) Monday Motivation - The Waiting Place
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This Monday I'm out sick because my wonderful daughters got me sick (again). Just listen to my voice in the intro!

I'm rerunning one of my favorite Monday Motivations -- The Waiting Place. Please enjoy and I'll be back next week with my normal schedule.

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Jan 06, 2020
Episode 9 - How Amy Harmon Writes
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Today’s interview is with Amy Harmon. I was introduced to her work when I picked up her book What the Wind Knows. I loved the book and her style, especially for someone who loves historical fiction.

 

What I did not know is how Amy is a complete baller. I’m not going to give anything away in this interview, but Amy’s writing journey, her grit, and spirit are incredibly inspiring. In fact, when we ended recording for the interview, I asked if I could call her each week for a pep talk. 

 

In this interview we cover the muscle it takes to write, we talk about Amy’s self-publishing journey and highlight one of the most important traits for a writer to have to be successful. I know you will love this interview as much as I do.

 

Without delay, here is the interview with Amy Harmon.

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Jan 02, 2020
Monday Motivation - Composing and Editing Tools
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Welcome to Monday Motivation – Composing and Editing Tools


We are just a few days from 2020. New year, new decade. Boy oh boy, I am so excited I can hardly contain myself. To celebrate, on this Thursday, January 2nd at 7 pm I am hosting a free webinar on crushing your writing goals. The content is like the lite-lite version of the online course, but without the workbook and the full deep dive. If you want some quick pointers on setting your writing goals in 2020, if you want to ask some questions and get inspired, I’d love to have you join me. Check out my Instagram or Facebook page for the link to join. I’ll also add the link to the show notes.


Okay so coming off the heels of last week’s Monday Motivation, which was pretty intense, I’m going to do a series that is just super practical—aka the writing tools. These tools can be like cool software, mental models, little cheats, or just time-proven ways of doing things. I’ve been thinking about how to organize these talks, and I’m going to break up the tools into four buckets: composing and editing tools, organizational tools, concentration tools, and some ideas if you are a novelist, poet, screenwriter, or short-story writer. Now, I haven’t recorded all of these yet, so who knows how this change before it is all said and done. We’re all on this journey together.


 Talking about being on this journey together, I’d love to do a kind of podcast hive mind on this series. I only use a fraction of these tools, so comment on our Instagram and Facebook posts to share your favorite tools, and I’ll pull them all together in a post for everyone to review. And just to say it, I am not sponsored or supported by anyway with any of the companies or tools I’m going to discuss. Just trying to give my honest reviews and opinions.


So, let’s talk about composing and editing tools. The bedrock of writing. We don’t need much to write, and tools are great until they aren’t, basically when the lack of the tool becomes an excuse why you don’t write. I do this so much. I don’t have the right pencil, or paper, or chair, or whatever. It’s all bullshit. No excuses. You gotta write with what you have.


Okay so when I think of composing tools, I think of a long line. On the left side of the line are the simplest tools. On the right side of the line are the most robust. As you move from left to right, you get more power, but also more complexity and a potentially steeper learning curve. There’s a tradeoff.


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Dec 30, 2019
Monday Motivation - How Goals Saved My Life
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Welcome to Monday Motivation – How Goals Saved My Life

 

Before I get started, I want to thank all of the people who reached out with kind words about Marlowe. I am so touched by your support and stories. I recorded that episode barely a day after Marlowe died, and I was really, really raw. So, I want to say thank you for letting me share that moment and those emotions with you.

 

Today is the last of the Monday Motivations on goals, and I’ve been working myself up to this one. There’s a reason why I so deeply believe in the power of goals, and more than that in the ability for goals to help people recreate themselves.

 

I want to do a warning. In this Monday Motivation, I will talk about mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, please get support and help. Mental illness is no joke. What I talk about is my story and you shouldn’t it take as advise. It is my experience and my experience only. Get help if you need it.

 

My story starts on November 11th, 2011. I was working at an ad agency in Denver, CO. I was a miserable, awful employee. I didn’t want to work in advertising, but I had no other options at the time. Strapped with loads of credit card bills and student debt, it was best the best check I could get.

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Dec 23, 2019
Episode 8 - How John Freeman Writes
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Welcome to Episode 8 – How John Freeman Writes

 

We are now just a week and a half away from the beginning of not just a new year, but a new decade. That means goal planning. For some of you, maybe you’ve set goals and haven’t been able to achieve them. Maybe you’ve dropped your goals, or not felt as if you had the right tools to accomplish them. If that is you, I’ve designed an entire online course just for writers on how to set and achieve writing goals. It is the first training I’ve published because, to me, setting and achieving your writing is so central to the writing journey. If you want to blast into 2020 and into the next decade if you want to take your writing practice to the next level, consider taking the course. Through December, the course is only $39. Use the code “podcast” at checkout to get that price through December. 

 

I am so excited for this interview with John. As you can see, John has such a unique vantage point of the writing world, from writing his own non-fiction and poetry, as the executive editor of Lit Hub, as a professor at NYU, and so much more. John shares so much wisdom about his own writing process and about the writing life. As I produced this interview, I couldn’t help but smile at John’s burning passion for books and writing. 

 

Thank you to John for hosting me in his apartment in Chelsea, which is a tribute to books. Bookshelves line all of the walls and trust me when I say they are completely packed. 

 

This will be the last author interview of 2019. I’m taking a week off to celebrate the holidays with my family, but we’ll be back with an incredible line up in 2020. 

 

And here is the interview with John Freeman. 

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Dec 19, 2019
Monday Motivation - A Tribute to My Dog
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I had originally planned to do today’s Monday motivation, the last in the series on goals, on the redemptive power of affirming goals, but I have to pivot. I just don’t have it in me to dive into such a huge topic. Sometimes life gets in the way. 

 

Early last week, my almost ten-year-old-dog Marlowe started to breathe as if she had a small doggy cold. After a few days, we called the vet and they told us if she didn’t get better to bring her in the next day.

 

That next day was Thursday. I walked Marlowe to the vet, she got some tests and x-rays, and the vet told me that she had late-stage lung cancer, and at the most had a week to live before her lungs gave out. I took her home it complete and total shock, hoping to have a few days to love on her, take her to the park, make her as much bacon as she could eat, but her breathing got worse almost immediately, as if as soon as the news came out, as soon as we knew how sick she was, she let go of her charade. She didn’t make through the night on Thursday before we had to help her cross the rainbow bridge. 

 

And so I’m going to wait a week to do the final episode on goals, because the topic is as emotional and important to me as anything I’ll ever discuss, and I just can’t record it when I am so raw and sad from losing my best friend. I wouldn’t do it justice. 

 

So I’m going to take a moment to say thank you to Marlowe. She never left my side as I stayed up late starting this podcast, making the website, designing training materials. She was pure love, pure joy. She was my protector, my companion. I already miss hearing her snore as I work. I miss her checking in with me when it had been too long since I last pet her. 

 

Life’s short guys. Seasons change so fast. You wake up with a dog who has a cold, you go to bed and she’s passed on. I guess in that way this motivation is not to wait. Take it from Brian in as raw of shape as you’ll ever hear me, pet your dog, kiss your partner, hug your kids, write your sentences. Because I’d already do almost anything to throw her ball and watch her dumb, happy face as she brings it back. But some doors when they shut, they shut. We can’t stop tragedy or pain, but we can live our short lives in a way that when those doors shut, we won’t look back with regret. 

 

Thank you for letting me share a little about Marlowe. I’ll be back next week with the final Monday Motivation of the year. I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.  

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Dec 16, 2019
Episode 7 - How Deborah Landau Writes
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Welcome to Episode7  – How Deborah Landau Writes!

 

It’d be hard for me to imagine someone who sits in a more unique spot in the creative writing world than Deborah Landau. As I say in the interview, she sees an incoming crop of incredibly talented writers as undergrad and MFA students for NYU, but she also manages a world-class team of authors as faculty. Deborah sees the entire spectrum, from those of us who are starting the writing journey, to those further down the path. This perspective is far-reaching and rare.

 

Like a lot of lessons in life, Deborah’s advice to writers –especially writers who are early in their journey-- is simple and yet profound. I won’t spoil it now, and I’ll let her share it in the interview. But, at the end of the interview, take a moment to also think of all the things she didn’t mention as well. There is always wisdom in the things we don’t say.

 

Thank you to Deborah for hosting me in her office at the NYU Townhouse and carving out time for me in her incredibly busy schedule.  

 

Here is the interview with Deborah Landau

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Dec 12, 2019
Monday Motivation- Six Reasons to Set Writing Goals
406

Welcome to Monday Motivation – Six Reasons to Set Writing Goals

 

My experience with writers is that we generally look at things like structure, process, and goals as being antithetical to the writing life. And to some people, maybe they are. Writing is so deeply personal, that to try and do a one-size fits all approach to how, when, or why you write would be laughable… at best. Some people need goals, some don’t. 

 

That said, I believe that the wonky, underbelly parts of writing like structure and goals can be tremendously helpful to many—maybe even most—writers. Yes, some people can sit down and just write rainbows, but for many writers, myself included, we need a bit more structure to get our work done. 

 

Without writing goals, I spin. I’ll have a half-dozen, half-finished projects, none of which achieve the level I want from them. It’s frustrating, and taken to the extreme, has sometimes even challenged me to ask if I am a writer at all. I mean, if I can’t finish a project, if I can’t get something done, why am I spending so much time alone in the early morning to write? What’s the point? 

 

All that to say, writing goals fill a huge gap for me, because goals put guardrails over what, when, and why I write. Yes, goals constrict my creative freedom, but I am comfortable with this tradeoff because, ultimately, I want to see projects finished at their highest potential. I’m willing to say no to the one thousand ideas that pop into my head each day in order to push towards the goal of creative completion. 

 

There are tons of reasons to set writing goals, but if you are on the fence and wonder if you should set writing goals in 2020, I want to talk through six reasons of not having a writing goal. 



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Dec 09, 2019
Episode 6 - How Darin Strauss Writes
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Welcome to Episode 6 – How Darin Strauss Writes!

 

Over the first month of publishing this podcast, I’ve learned that so many of the authors I’ve interviewed have taken their life story and fused it with the stories they put down on the page. This combination of real and imagined creates something powerful and timeless. I think this combination is what we love in the best of stories; the part of the storytelling that breaks from pure entertainment and into something deeper, more human.

 

That was the thought I was left with as I prepared to publish this interview with Darin. Darin and I discuss a tragic car accident that happened when he was 18, and how that event has rippled through his life. He writes about this event directly in his memoir “Half a Life,” but we also discuss how this event has woven itself into all of his fiction. If I had to describe this interview with Darin in a single, inarticulate sentence, it’d be to “write from your emotional core.”

 

But, like always, we also cover off on Darin’s working habits, on how he learned to write, and so much more.

 

This is a fun episode for me because Darin was my thesis advisor for my MFA at NYU. This is the first of what is coincidently shaping up to be NYU month. The next two interviews after Darin are all NYU faculty that I met in the program that I deeply admire.

 

Thank you so much to Darin for hosting me at his office in the NYU Creative Writing Townhouse in Greenwich Village. If you are in the New York area, there are always readings and public events at the townhouse that I could not recommend more. It is a place for writers. Through and through.

 

Okay, without any further ado, here is the interview with Darin Strauss!



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Dec 05, 2019
Monday Motivation - Setting Unrealistic Goals
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There are a couple of big buckets to think about when setting a writing goal for this coming year. If you didn’t catch the webinar I hosted last week, I’ll be releasing the content really really soon, but in the meantime, let’s talk about what level of excitement to use when setting your writing goals in the new year.

 

Now, I know you’ve heard it said a million times that it is best to set “realistic” goals. I’m putting realistic in air quotes over here. But, let me tell you right now, that the last thing a goal needs is reality. 

 

A goal is a dream put into action, and dreams are not meant to be rooted in reality. If your reality was your dream, by definition it would cease being a dream. That is what makes goal setting and dreaming so powerful. It takes you out of your current realistic reality, and it places you into the sphere of possibility. The place where anything can happen.

 

People say that we should set realistic goals because our dreams are so good, and sometimes so huge, that we fear the goal. We pre-emptively cap our possibilities, because sometimes it is safer not to believe that thing we dream about is not even possible.  To accept a realistic dream is to accept a limiter on our life. It is saying the future we see when we close our eyes and dream is too good for us.  

 

I say... Fuck. That. 

 

Your future is not determined. It isn’t set in stone. The future isn’t even real yet, and so your goals shouldn’t reflect a realistic future. You only sell yourself short with realistic goals. We don’t know what is realistic. We don’t know what is possible. Think about it. What could you do with a big dream and a plan and a few years of insane work?

 

Instead, as we come into the New Year, set a goal that sets you on fire. Set a goal that sends crazy electrical energy through your body, a goal that is so so good, so truly aligned to your heart and soul that to achieve it will forever change your life. A pillar of your goal should be that it makes you feel so excited that you can’t help but move. You can’t help but work on it. But, don’t fall into the trap of making the amount you work on your goal the goal itself. So, don’t set a goal to write for two hours. Writing for two hours is a measurement, and you could crush that goal next year and maybe be no closer to what you really, really want. 

 

I believe goals are powerful, and if you are planning to set a goal in 2020, make it something to amazing, so exciting, that to achieve it would be a dream. And then design a plan against it and get to work.

 

Thank you for joining me on this Monday. I hope you have an incredible week of writing. 



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Dec 02, 2019
Episode 5 - How Brian Platzer Writes
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 Welcome to Episode 5 – How Brian Platzer Writes 

 

As I’m sure you can see, my goal in these first interviews is to show how authors have worked through the ups and downs of life to create. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone’s journey is unique and at times challenging and at times wonderful; but, the goal for writers is to write through all of it. This interview with Brian spans the distance of challenge, joy, and so much in between.

 

I spent a few hours with Brian in his home office and we discussed the writing life, but also about working through challenges. Brian has an undiagnosed neurological disorder which limits the amount he can write, but he has responsibilities like a family, job, and a second job, and yet Brian still finds time to write and tell his story. 

 

Some things I really loved from this interview is Brian’s candid humor. I found myself laughing through so much of the interview. The topic—and I see now how this has come up on the past few interviews—of writing current events, especially from outside perspectives, just organically came into the conversation. Brian shares his techniques to do research and understand people’s stories, there is just so much to learn from Brian in this interview.

 

Thank you to Brian for his time and for hosting me. And now here is the interview with Brian Platzer.

 

 

Thank you for listening!  



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Nov 28, 2019
Monday Motivation - Maximize Your Energy
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Welcome to Monday Motivation – Maximize Your Energy

 

Have you heard it said that “Time is your most valuable asset?” I won’t argue that maximizing your time on this Earth is critical, but I wouldn’t say that time is the most valuable. You have all the time in the world, but if you don’t have the energy to write, if you are physically, emotionally, and creatively depleted, you’ll show up to the desk with nothing to give.  

 

As we come into the holiday season, I want to share a framework of how you can maximize your writing energy. Self-care, when there are parties, family obligations, and work, is so critically important. In your self-care toolkit, balancing your energy is one of the most powerful tools. 

 

What do I mean by balancing your energy? First, let’s define energy as usable power. It is the vitality and resources you bring to writing. We use and replenish energy. An easy example is sleep. You wake up in the morning (hopefully) feeling awake and full of physical energy, and then by the end of the day, you are tired and need to replenish that energy bucket. There is a constant flow of energy. We use energy, and then we need to add that energy back. 

 

When you are writing, I believe there are five energy centers: physical energy, emotional energy, creative energy, intellectual energy, and spiritual energy. Let’s unpack this a little bit more.

 

Physical Energy is the backbone of your energy buckets. Without physical energy, you can’t do your work, because you are not awake enough to focus and feel as if you need to nap or rest. When you are low on physical energy, you feel slugging and tired. When you are filled with physical energy you feel alive, vital, and full of excitement. 

Emotional Energy is the balance between positive and negative feelings in relation to your work. Positive emotional energy powers your work. You feel as if your writing has purpose and meaning, whereas negative emotional energy leaves you feeling as if you either cannot complete your work or if you do, it won’t be important. 

Creative Energy is the source you draw upon to power your imaginary worlds. When you are full of creative energy, you find creative inspiration in your life. You are full of ideas. The universe speaks to you with story direction. 

Intellectual Energy is used to focus and do the “thinking work” of writing, such as ironing out character details, heavy research, or intense plotting. The brain-intensive work of writing. 

Spiritual Energy is the belief that your work fits within a broader tapestry of art. When you are filled with spiritual energy, you see yourself as a vessel for art. While Emotional Energy is cultivated within the self, Spiritual Energy exists outside of the self.

 

We use all five of these energy buckets when we write, and yet we don’t always intentionally fill them up. What happens? When one of these buckets is empty, we get to the page and feel exhausted and we need to fill it up.

 

The motivation this week is to take care of yourself by taking care of your energy. I’ve built a tool to help with this. I call it an energy audit—side note, if you can think of a better name, please send it across—but the audit is a way to evaluate your current energy level, and identify ways to fill your energy buckets when they get low. The audit has a key question to ask to query your energy level—such as with your physical energy, “Am I physically and mentally alert when I sit down to do my work?” a scoring on how much energy you have, how it feels, and a place to brainstorm ways to fill up each energy bucket when it gets low.

 

But, even if you don’t download the energy audit, focus on keeping t

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Nov 25, 2019
Episode 4 - How Omar el Akkad Writes
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Before we get started, have you signed up for the free webinar this evening, November 21st on how to crush your 2020 writing goals? If not, it isn’t too late. The webinar is at 7:30 pm ET tonight, and I will run through how you can set meaningful writing goals in 2020, how to stay motivated, and how to love your work along the way. I also have a few templates to download along with the webinar. Registration is open! Go to www.howwriterswrite.com/crush2020 to reserve your spot.

 

I love this interview with Omar. He is such a wealth of knowledge, he is so encouraging, and down to Earth. We met digitally over a video conference and Omar shares his insights into the writing life. This interview is packed, but here are a few of the things that stuck out to me.

 

1.       Omar describes how he overcame shelving three novels. We dig into this point because as you know, writing one novel takes a lot. But I wanted to know how he shelved three novels before American War and didn’t quit or pull out all of his hair. There are some incredible lessons he shares for anyone in the middle of the writing journey. 

2.       Omar also details how he wrote American War while he was working as a journalist while covering stories about the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, and Guantanamo Bay. 

3.       Last, Omar talks about how he worked through the ups and downs of the writing life. My favorite quote from this section is “don’t rage delete your manuscript.” I’ve been there, and Omar offers some wonderful writing advice on how to work through it.

 

Thank you to Omar for his time and for sharing so much insight. 



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Nov 21, 2019
Monday Motivation- The Waiting Place
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Today, I’m inspired by a few pages of “Oh the places you’ll go!” by Dr. Suess. Anyone with at least one child has this book on their shelf. 

I’ll read the pages… 

You can get so confused

That you’ll start in to race

Down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace

And grind on for miles across weirdish wild space

Headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The waiting place…

… for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go

Or a bus to come, or a plane to go

Or the mail to come, or the rain to go

Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

Or waiting around for a Yes or No

Or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

 

Waiting for the fish to bite

Or waiting for wind to fly a kite

Or waiting around for a Friday night

Or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

Or a pot to boil, or a better break

Or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

Or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.

 

 ------------------------------------

 

Six months ago, I read these pages to my daughters. At the time, I was in the waiting place. I wanted to jump out of my corporate life and into this project, but I was waiting for more money, I was waiting for more experience speaking into a microphone, waiting to get the right skills. I was waiting for something, and if you would have asked me at the time, I doubt I could have even told you what I was waiting for. 

 

The waiting place felt like I owed someone a debt that could I never repay; but until I paid in full, I’d never get out. I was convinced. CONVINCED! That there was a good reason why I should just keep waiting. 

There wasn’t.


I was waiting because I was afraid. Of course I was. I was afraid of failure. Maybe of success. I was afraid of losing more time, of making a complete and total fool of myself in public. I was afraid of financial collapse and having to again, for the third time as an adult, live in a relative’s basement. I was afraid that what I didn’t know would cripple me. I was in the waiting place, and the waiting place felt safe. It is warm. I was in a line with people in front and behind me, and it felt good to know I was in line. The line was going somewhere important. It would end somewhere. 

 

Who else is waiting for more time to write? Or waiting to learn how to write? OR how to plot, for a writing group, for more inspiration, for a little more energy? 

 

So many times we want to write when the time is perfect, and so we wait for perfection. But, to move forward, you have to write through the imperfection of your life. You will have imperfect time, imperfect skill. You will make mistakes. 

But, your imperfection is what the work needs. Writing doesn’t need perfect, writing needs human. It needs fear and hope and disappointment and hurt. It needs things you have, not the things you think you need to get started. Your story is not perfect. Your writing life won’t be either. 

 

What are you waiting for? What are the things you think you need to write? 99% of the time, the things we are waiting for are just excuses. They are the sanction word for excuses- pragmatism. But, pragmatism is just fear in disguise. 

 

Take a step today. It can be anything. You can write for 15 minutes. You can share your dream with a loved one. You can edit that manuscript that has sat in your desk for years. &n

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Nov 18, 2019
Episode 3 - How Michel Stone Writes
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Hello and welcome to Episode #3– How Michel Stone Writes! I am your host Brian, and If you’ve ever thought about giving up, just throwing the towel in, this Michel Stone interview is for you. 

But, before we get to the interview, I want to talk about setting writing goals. Those who know me will confirm that I am a big goal setter, especially my writing goals, especially in fall. Wasn’t it Fitzgerald who said, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall?” It is just the perfect time to reevaluate what has worked, what didn’t work, and what I’m aiming for in the coming year. As fun as that is for me each year, I thought, why not ask a bunch of people to join me?  

So, I am going to host a free webinar on how to crush your 2020 writing goals next Thursday, November 21st at 7:30 pm ET. It’ll work like this: I’ll run through how you can set meaningful writing goals in 2020, how to stay motivated, and just love your work along the way. I also have a few templates to download along with the webinar. Registration is open! Go to www.howwriterswrite.com/crush2020 to reserve your spot. If you can’t make the webinar, I’ll make all of the content available afterward for a small fee, but If you attend live, the content will be free to you forever. One more time… next Thursday at 7:30 pm ET. To register, go to www.howwriterswrite.com/crush2020. I hope to see you there!

Now, for an interview that is going to pump grade-A inspiration straight into your writing veins. Michel Stone shares the playbook for thriving as a writer. From how to survive enough rejection letters to paper a few walls in a bathroom to how to interview people from other backgrounds and experiences. I felt as if I could have spoken with Michel all day about writing and life. There is just so much in this interview.

With that said, I want to take a quick moment to thank Michel for her time. If you haven’t checked them out yet, Border Child and The Iguana Tree are stunning books that are beautifully written and highly relevant to our time.

Okay, here is the interview with Michel.  



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Nov 14, 2019
Monday Motivation- Ming Lo Moves the Mountain
351

Have you read the story Ming Lo Moves a Mountain by Arnold Lobel? The story goes like this… 

Ming Lo and his wife live in a shack right next to a mountain. The roof has holes from falling rocks from the mountain, vegetables don’t grow because the mountain is always blocking the sun. One day his wife has finally had enough, and she tells Ming Lo to go to a wise man and ask him how to move the mountain. The wise man tells Ming Lo and his wife to try all kinds of things, like ramming a tree into the side of the mountain, banging pots and pans to scare it, and finally bringing cakes up to the spirit who lives on the top of the mountain. Nothing works. 

So finally, after Ming Lo has tried to push the mountain, scare the mountain, and ask/bribe the mountain to move, the wise man tells Ming Lo to do the special mountain dance. Pack up your house stick by stick, and all your possessions, the wise man says, and then close your eyes and then put one foot forward, and then take two steps back. Do this for many hours without opening your eyes. 

Ming Lo and his wife immediately pack up their shack and follow the special mountain dance for many hours. When they open their eyes, they are in a beautiful valley with warm sunshine. The mountain is far, far away.

 

What are the mountains in your writing life? The things that no matter what you throw at them, they will never ever move? 

 

The Stoic philosophers understood mountains to be anything outside of our inner lives. The things that happen in the external world and therefore completely out of our control.

 

Oftentimes, the mountain in the writing life is the validation we seek from other people...




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Nov 11, 2019
Episode 2- How Victor LaValle Writes
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I am soooooo excited to share some news! 

This week, the How Writers Write Podcast broke into the top 50 Fiction Podcasts on iTunes! We hit as high as #26! We are closing in on 1000 listens in just a few short days. Thank you to everyone who is supporting this podcast. I am out of my mind excited! But, I still need your help. If you haven't yet, be sure to rate, subscribe, and share this podcast. We're just getting started!

Today's interview is with an author who I have admired and widely read, Victor LaValle. 

As I was preparing for this intro, I found it so hard to pick a few highlights from this episode. Victor is a wealth of knowledge and a model of what it is to be a writer. This guy is a true professional. I loved my time with him and before we go any further, I want to send a huge thanks to Victor for his time. 

That said, here are a few things that really stuck out to me. 

At the beginning of our talk, Victor details his development as a writer, and how he started writing stories. There are so many moments of wisdom in this section. I actually had to edit out all of my “yups and uh-huhs” because I was lost in what he was saying.

We also discussed how his writing life changed with the birth of his first child, and how that changed his routine and focus. You know, I think a lot of times we see the addition of big responsibilities like a child as a negative to the freedom we want to write, but Victor shares how he learned to be more productive and write EVEN MORE after he became a father. 

Victor and I also dive into what it means to write thought the emotional pain of our lives. We both shared personal stories about how writing has allowed us to engage with the hurt we’ve experienced. There is so much insight that Victor shares about getting your heart onto the page and loving your work. 

There is so much in this episode. I know you’ll love listening as much as I loved spending time with Victor.



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Nov 07, 2019
Episode 1- How Ann Hood Writes
3740

Hello and welcome, this is Show #1! TODAY IS LAUNCH DAY!! Huzzah! I am so excited and thrilled and out of my mind.

I’m kicking off the podcast with a really special interview. I spent the afternoon recording with the one and only Ann Hood in her Greenwich Village apartment. From the moment I met Ann, her warmth was so apparent. Ann has had times of great joy and great sadness in her life, and we talk about all of it in this interview. 

We dive into Ann’s working habits. How she wakes up. When she writes. How she comes up with ideas for her work. Ann’s written 14 novels. She is just a true powerhouse. And she just drops so much wisdom.

Ann also discusses her research method that left me nearly speechless. It seems as if the more authors I interview, the more I see how unique each writing process is to the writer.

We talk about Ann’s journey after the death of her five-year-old daughter, and how it impacted her writing. I was so moved by her story and her deep courage to share it with me.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed speaking with Ann.

Okay, without any further ado, here is episode one with Ann Hood. 



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Nov 04, 2019
Monday Motivation - Five Core Beliefs
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Welcome to Monday Motivation #1. Today is launch day! I am so excited! I cannot believe the How Writers Write podcast is finally live. Thank you so much for joining me on the journey. 

 

One of the reasons I decided to start the How Writers Write platform is because I’ve struggled so much with limiting beliefs, and I felt as if the writing world just wasn’t talking about the emotional, mental, and spiritual strength it takes to write. I said this in episode 0 and I believe it… most people quit writing because they lack the inner strength to keep going, not because they lack the ability to write.

 

On this first Monday Motivation, I want to talk about five core beliefs about writers and the writing process. 

These beliefs are the bedrock of not just this podcast, but the entire How Writers Write platform.  

These are words I’ve spoken to myself when I’ve felt beat up and needed to dig just a little deeper to get my story onto the page. 

 

Belief number… 

 

1.       You have a seat at the storytelling table because you have a story to tell. I believe that our stories are gifts from the gods, but even if you don’t believe that, the story in your heart is yours to bring to life. It means you are part of a tradition of storytelling and writing.  Boiled down, this means your story is unique and it counts. 

 

 2.       You are exactly where you should be to tell your story, regardless of your age, experience, or education. All writers start somewhere. While some people are born into writing families, others not. It doesn’t matter if you had every advantage, every pedigree. You are a combination of brains, natural talent, experiences, a body, and countless other factors. How those things arrange themselves are unique to you and will deeply reflect the story you are here to tell. But, those things should never be a reason not to write. They are fuel, not excuses.

 

3.       The difference between someone who writes and doesn’t write is discipline. 

 

4.       There are always going to be excuses not to write, and you’re going to have to write through them. You have the time. You may not have much time, but you can find some. You are smart enough to write. You can fill in your excuses, but they will always boil down to a binary decision to either listen to the excuse and not write or blow through the excuse to write anyway. Just keep writing.

 

5.       Process counts. I know writers and creative people hate the “P” word, but a process is simply a tool that enables you to consistently create good results. Process is a combination of a bunch of little things, that when you do them over and over again, they add up to make you a more effective and joyful writer. Like little shortcuts through the mechanical parts of writing. The key elements to my own process are to write early in the morning after a good night’s sleep, lots of hot coffee, and I already know what I’m going to work on. It doesn’t matter how these individual things look for you, only that they consistently help you get your story onto the page.

 

I hope as you go about your week, some of these beliefs will inspire you to move closer to your writing goals. Remember, 

1.       You have a seat at the story telling table

2.       You are exactly where you should be to tell your story

3.       The difference between someone who writes and doesn’t write is discipline

4.       There are always going to be excuses not to write, and you’re going to have to write through them anyway.

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Nov 04, 2019
Episode 0- Why do we need another writing podcast?!?
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Before we kick off the show on November 4th, I wanted to take a moment and explain why I decided to start another writing podcast in the first place. 



Oct 30, 2019