Friday Fun – Biggest Writing Fear

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Halloween is only three days away, but we’re not scared of ghosts or bogeymen. That’s nothing. We do, however, each have our own worst nightmare scenarios when it comes to our writing …

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Oh, yeah. Writing fears. Creative fears. Life fears. I have all the usual fears about rejection, but I’d have to say that my absolute worst nightmare is reaching the end of my life and knowing that I didn’t do everything I could … everything I wanted to, that I didn’t put myself out there, express my ideas, share my inner world, let my freak flag fly. And yet, that fear isn’t always enough to motivate me to DO the things I need/want to do. I guess maybe I should let myself taste that fear a little more deeply … really put myself in that place and believe that there isn’t any more time. Ugh. Chills just went up my spine. For real.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: Pushing out of the comfort zone and trying something totally new is always scary, but so rewarding. Like Jamie, I don’t do it enough — even though I’ve done it in the past and know how great the results can be! For instance, with writing, I belong to a great writing group for years where you’d show up weekly, decide as a group on a prompt, write to that prompt for an agreed-upon amount of time, and then read your result out loud. “Reading a first draft out loud!?” ACK! Who would want to do that? But it was a great exercise – even got my heart rate up. But the terror of reading first-draft-crap was the most wonderful feeling in the world after a while. I mean, everyone knew it was a first draft; everyone had individual fears and dislikes about what they wrote — the “act of” writing and reading, though, that was the inspiration.

Arrive at the group with nothing, leave with something. Face a creative fear and come out on the other side with a happy muse.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas – I’m not so much afraid of rejection as I get angry at myself (yeah I know) for not being able to figure out *exactly* what was expected. For some reason I’m always disappointed when I don’t have the super-power of mind reading.

But my biggest fear is similar to one of Jamie’s – that I will have ended my life without having put forth all that I can do. Acting like a true monster, this fear goads me, it keeps me up at night, and no matter what I accomplish in order to feed it, it still taunts me by wanting more.


Friday Fun – Writerly Halloween Costumes

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Halloween is only ten days away. Will you be dressing up, and – if so – who will you be this All Hallows’ Eve? For bonus points, if time and money were no object, which favorite character (of your own devising or one you’ve read about) would you like to become for the evening?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I love getting dressed up, but, sadly I haven’t spent any thought or money on a costume for this year. Though my daughter and I have enjoyed two trips to Salem, MA and she has invested a great deal of effort and funds in her own costume, I just haven’t gotten around to it. So, I will doubtless be scrambling on the afternoon of the thirty-first to throw together some kind of hodgepodge creation to wear as I stroll with my daughter, her friends, and myriad parents up and down the main trick-or-treating thoroughfare in town. Luckily, I have a collection of beautiful masks, some miscellaneous items of costume-y clothing, and a number of props to choose from.

As for who I would be if time and money were no object, I’m going to go with the Disney version of Maleficent, complete with animatronic wings. I was impressed by this costume,  and this one, and this one, and … well, you get the idea. Maybe next year.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I haven’t dressed up in years! But I enjoy seeing how creative people can be with costumes. I’ve actually never lived in a place conducive to trick-or-treating, so haven’t seen a lot of costumes over the years as kids go door to door. I’d love to get to Salem, MA, as Jamie has – maybe this is the year for me.

As for who I’d be, no particular person or character comes to mind. The rational side of me says it would be a functional costume – one I could easily sit in and move around in and that fits in the car. Edgar Allen Poe comes to mind, as do some characters from books I love, but those aren’t very conducive to ‘costumes’ as they are people and it’s more personal characteristics than outerwear that makes them stand out.


Friday Fun: How many hours do you write in a day?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: People often assume that professional writers clock in at 9AM each day for a full eight hours of hammering diligently on the keyboard, but usually that’s not even close to the reality of the working writer’s typical day.  In your real-life experience, how many hours do you actually spend writing each day (on average), and what do you spend the rest of your working time doing?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: So, I’ve been freelancing full time for about the last nine years, and I’d say that – on average – I typically spend about three to four hours each day either working on a first draft or revising my work. Don’t get too excited. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my share of days when I’m cranking at the keyboard for six, eight, or even ten hours (I do), but most days, my actual writing time doesn’t add up to more than half a day. This is, in my humble opinion, a reasonable target for any writer, whether it’s someone who is writing fiction or someone who – like me – is primarily working on copywriting and content marketing assignments. Writing is hard work, both physically and mentally.

I will clarify, however, that just because I’m only writing for three or four hours a day does not mean I’m done at noon. Not at all. I routinely work a longer day because there are lots of other, non-writing tasks that are a very real part of my writing business: interviewing subject matter experts, intake calls with clients, research, outlining, client correspondence, general project management, meeting documentation, schedule development, and (everyone’s favorite): administration (e.g., answering emails, tracking my time, preparing invoices, following up on payments, etc.). In addition, most freelancers will tell you that a sustainable business depends in great part on your ability and willingness to invest time and effort in prospecting for new clients and projects. I probably spend two to three hours each week following up with leads, networking, doing introductory calls, and preparing proposals.

Though some of my non-writing tasks can be tedious, I’m actually grateful for the variety in my day. I don’t honestly think I could hack more than my three to four hours of writing each day. Sitting in front of the screen is pretty taxing, and I’m usually relieved when my Big Writing Task for the day is finished and I can switch gears into something less intense.

Deborah Lee Luskin at the US-Canadian border marker 592.

The end of the Long Trail a the US-Canadian border.

Deborah Lee Luskin: Like Jamie, I do my hardest, best, writing work in the morning, between eight and noon, though I write my Morning Pages earlier than that. Since returning from the Long Trail, however, I’ve developed routines and often write in the afternoons as well: drafting posts, commentaries and editorials. These are often very rough drafts and extremely useful guides for later. Depending on what else is on the docket, I’ll spend some of the afternoon doing research, reading, staring out the window or walking the dog.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: As a part-time writer, I only spend a half day writing once or twice a week. The rest of the time I’m coaching clients, parenting, daughter-ing, and snatching writing time in short periods like waiting in the car pool line to pick up my son and in the hour before he wakes up in the morning. I also head to the library in the evenings to get some writing done if I don’t have a meeting or a client (and my husband is home.) I dream of spending all morning writing every day, but that’s not the reality of my life right now and that’s the way I want it. My family and my work are priorities and my writing comes in a very close third.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: My days are so varied with different client work and bouncing between writing and editing, I can’t really say how much is writing – although as a business owner that is one metric I should absolutely have a handle on! 3-4 hours is a minimum. As for my own personal writing, that’s not on the radar at the moment because of my focus on business. But I plan to do NaNoWriMo next month and get my fiction kicked back into gear!


Friday Fun – Get-To-Know-You Questions

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Please answer the following questions, with as many or as few words as you like:

  • What’s your favorite color?
  • What’s your favorite writing utensil?
  • What’s your favorite kind of journal/writing paper?
  • What’s your favorite writing magazine?
  • What’s your favorite writing prompt?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon:  

  • My favorite color is blue (See my picture?)
  • My favorite writing utensil is a Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen, Fine.
  • My favorite kind of journal/writing paper is anything by clairefontaine.
  • My favorite writing magazine is Writer’s Digest. I love grabbing an issue for a plane ride because there’s always some fun writing exercise I can do then and there.
  • My favorite writing prompt is just to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and open my eyes. Whatever my eyes see first, I start writing about. This kind of freewriting is calming and I always end up somewhere interesting, even if I start by describing a lamp!

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin:

  • Today, my favorite color is purple.
  • My favorite pen is whichever one is at hand.
  • For the past few years, I’ve been using EcoEasy spiral-bound notebooks made from sugarcane, from Staples, but I’ll use the back of an envelope, if necessary.
  • I read The New Yorker, both for style and content, and I pick up writing magazines here and again, but have no brand loyalty.
  • I start my day with N.A.M.S.

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace:  What fun! 🙂

  • Favorite Color: Can’t pick. Changes depending on what I’m looking at. However, based on my Instagram feed, it looks like I favor blues, purples, and greens with the occasional dash of red or orange.
  • Favorite Pen: No question on this one – my go-to pen is the uni-ball Vision Elite, usually in black, though I admit to having their full range of jewel-toned pens in my secret pen cache.
  • Favorite Notebook: I’m with Deborah on this one. I love the eco-friendly sugarcane notebooks from Staples. They are a little pricey, but a) I feel more environmentally responsible using them, and b) I love the super hard covers – they make writing with the notebook in my lap very easy and comfortable. I use the standard 8.5 x 11 size for journaling, and also love the smaller 6.5 x 9.5 size for note taking and just carrying around with me.
  • Favorite Writing Magazine: I used to get Poets & Writers and Writer’s Digest, but I’ve found that I rarely have time to actually read them. I have loads of back copies in my personal archives, but I haven’t resubscribed. I figure I can read them at my local library if I want to. Though I don’t regularly manage to read print magazines, I do read a TON of writing blogs. You can always catch my weekly list of favorite posts on the weekend editions: The Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy.
  • Favorite Writing Prompt: Time and quiet.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson:

  • What’s your favorite color? green
  • What’s your favorite writing utensil?  pen with purple ink
  • What’s your favorite kind of journal/writing paper? composition notebook
  • What’s your favorite writing magazine? don’t have one
  • What’s your favorite writing prompt? I enjoy photo prompts the most.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas:

What’s your favorite color? Mauvey and dusty pinks, please don’t ever confuse them with “Barbie Pink.”

What’s your favorite writing utensil? I prefer writing at my computer but if writing by hand I use EnerGel Metal 0.7 Tip pens.

What’s your favorite kind of journal/writing paper? Although I also like ClaireFontaine notebooks, sometime the sizes are awkward. As a rule, I can never go wrong with a Rhodia notebook.

What’s your favorite writing magazine? These days I’m really enjoying Writer’s Forum published in the UK. Because it’s an import I pay close to $10 an issue, but even so I’ve found it to be worth the price.

What’s your favorite writing prompt? Life. Pure and simple, life.


Friday Fun – Writers and Animals

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about writers and animals. Do you think there’s one particular animal who is best-suited to life with a writer? Do you think any particular animal makes a better writing companion/coach/muse? Do you have any favorite literary animals – either characters or real-life writers’ companions?

JME5670V2smCROP Jamie Wallace: This is a tough one because I love all animals. Many of the books I fell in love with as a child featured heroines who had a special connection with animals: Julie of the Wolves, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books (Oh, how I wished I could have my own fire lizard!), and a book I’ve never been able to rediscover that featured a forest-dwelling girl named Kira who could talk to animals. I love the idea of having a “familiar” – a magical animal companion most closely associated with witches. I also loved Philip Pullman’s concept of animal daemons from the His Dark Materials trilogy.

In real life, I have had the pleasure of sharing my home with both dogs and cats as well as a beta fish named Benny. At present, my writing companions are feline – Cinder and Bella, daughter and mother respectively. You can see them in the header of my business website, and also here and there in my Instagram feed. While I love the way dogs get me away from my desk for healthy walk breaks (something I get to enjoy even though I don’t have a dog since I do some dog walking), I have always felt like there’s a particular connection between cats and literature. On the other hand, my dog Spencer used to love it when I read aloud to him; and the essay collection, E.B. White On Dogs, is one of my favorite books. I guess there’s no one species of animal that’s particularly adept at helping a writer write. I think it just depends on the particular animal’s disposition. Luckily for me, all of my four-legged friends seem to have developed a knack for inspiring and encouraging me at my work.

wendy-shotWendy E.N. Thomas:

As for me give me a dog or a chicken as a writer’s companion.

For years I have had trusty dogs who have accompanied me to work (in my home office.) Over time there have been at most three companions and now with the recent addition of my mother’s dog I currently have two who sit and wait for me to write, never passing judgement when I daydream. I have found dogs to be loyal, patient, and most excellent listeners.


At one point however, when we had a chicken living in our house for 6 months (long story) she would nest on the corner of my desk while I wrote.  She’d jump into a nest I had set up for her when I sat at my desk and stayed there keeping an ever watchful eye as I worked. Alas despite my efforts I could never get her housebroken and blobs of chicken poo would be indiscreetly strewn around our house. She was a lovely bird and I was nothing but sad the day we turned her out to the coop due to the very difficult ultimatum finally given to me by my husband that I make a choice between my beautiful chicken and he.


Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: For me, it’s cats. Right now, just one cat. But what’s better than having a furry companion sleeping next to me (after we wrestle about who gets control of the keyboard, that is!)

Elmo with his summer hair cutMost of the time, Elmo leaves me alone when I’m typing. When I pull out a notebook and pen and pillow to use as a lap desk, however, he suddenly has an urge to be on my lap. Being to the side is not an option – especially when there’s a pillow involved!

Dogs may be better at reminding a writer to stand up and move, however, a cat with a food schedule can be just as good. Elmo likes treats for lunch and dinner, and lets me know when it’s time for those special treats. And he won’t drink water from a bowl. So when he’s in the mood to drink water from the bathroom faucet, you can bet that I’m not able to ignore him for long!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Cats seem to me to be ideal writing companions. Right now my cat, George, is sleeping on the coffee table next to my feet as I type. He settled there after he got enough scratches behind the ears. I have two cats, Fred and George, fredandgeorgesmalland they appear on either side of me whenever I sit down on the couch with my laptop or my journal. I enjoy the silent, comforting companionship of my cats, along with their lack of judgement. All they ask is that I pet them  few times before they settle down near me.  I think a dog would be a great companion as well, with the additional benefit of walk breaks. My cats are very dog-like in their friendliness, but they have yet to join me on a brisk walk!



Friday Fun – Favorite Thing About Back-to-School

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite thing about the back-to-school season?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: Ahhh … it’s that time of year again – pristine notebooks, sharpened pencils, crisp folders, and a new learning adventure opening up like the stiff and shiny cover of a brand new textbook.

Of course, the kids don’t use many text books these days. Most of my daughter’s seventh-grade curriculum will be online. And much of her homework and classwork will also be digital. But, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t make a trip to the office store to indulge in some new supplies (including a few treats that weren’t on the official class list).

But, apart from my writer’s joy at having an excuse to acquire new pens and notebooks, my favorite part of the back-to-school season is how it always feels to me like a kind of unofficial New Year. While this summer feels to me like the summer-that-wasn’t, and  I won’t be catching any R&R any time soon, September still feels a little like a fresh start. As my daughter and I fall back into a regular routine and the weather starts to shift into an autumn gear, I always feel like I’ve got a chance at rebalancing my world. And that always feels good.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: My favorite part of back-to-school-season is that it’s September and that feels more like the start of a new year than Jan 1. When in school, I used to love going back to school, I loved learning – still do! And what’s not to like about new clothes! And all the new notebooks and pencils and pens! It was all so fun and exciting for me. I’ll spend this month reviewing my business goals and setting myself up for a successful 2017.

Reading Jamie’s reply — wow, really? Everything is digital? I loved making book covers out of paper shopping bags and being able to doodle all over them. And reading pages of books. I’m even still old school in that I prefer reading paper pages versus digital. Do kids even need pens or pencils any more?


Friday Fun – Staying Motivated When the Weather Has You Dragging

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Be it long stretches of hot or cold weather, sometimes it’s hard to keep your writing mojo on track. What do you do to keep your writing on track?

LL HeadshotLee Laughlin: I am not built for the heat and humidity. I live in the Northeast for a reason! Typically we only have a handful of miserable hazy, hot and humid days and I am a planner by nature, so, I follow the forecast and plan my week accordingly. If I know it’s going to be miserable, I make plans to be someplace where I can stay cool, be it a waterpark with the kids or an air conditioned library.  I love winter and I love snow, to me it’s an excuse to stay locked away in my writing cocoon!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: Like Lee, I’m not very productive when dealing with high levels of humidity. I need cool and comfortable to keep my brain from feeling like mush. And iced coffee. So a cafe is a great place for me to keep my writing muse inspired and active during the hot and humid summer days.

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I see a trend developing here … I also abhor hot and humid weather. For this reason (although I feel guilty about the environmental impact), I do run my central air as soon as the temps and dew point reach a certain point. As a full-time freelancer working from home, comfort is critical. If I’m feeling sweaty or sticky, my concentration goes right out the window. In the winter, cold is less of an issue. As a born New Englander, I can handle pretty chilly temps, and I’m also not above donning a pair of fingerless gloves. I also warm myself from the inside out with endless mugs of tea. 🙂

Friday Fun – Full Moon Writing

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Do you find that the full moon affects your creativity, focus, or some other aspect of your writing practice?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I’m not all that big into astrology, but there are two celestial influences I definitely believe in: the full moon and Mercury retrograde.  As far as the full moon is concerned, I do think that it tends to add a little, shall we say, element of devil-may-care attitude to my creative process. It’s not that I suffer from actual lunacy, but more that I feel like the energy of the full moon helps me see the bigger picture so that I can gain some perspective. For instance, if I’ve been obsessing over a particular project and letting my inner demons whittle away at my confidence, a full moon can help me get out of my head so I can move forward. A full moon is good like that.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I haven’t noticed any difference between the phases of the moon and my creativity, but I also don’t follow the moon phases – other than noticing when it’s a clear night and the moonlight is like a spotlight in my window! I think it’d be bad to know I could be more creative on a full moon – then I might want to put aside that night for a writing frenzy every time it happened! And then blame the moon for lack of creativity at other times. 🙂



Friday Fun – Summer books

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We’re well into summer with its warm breezes and cold beers. Things are a little more relaxed. Time to take our collective pulse and find out what warm weather books we’ve been reading.

Wendy Thomas – part of my job is to review books for a publication, so I read a lot. (The fact that you can rarely find me without a book – I even take them when I go to the movies, because you never know –  means that I go through many books.  Here are some of my most recent –

  • The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer – you read about that one yesterday in my post.
  • The Summer before the War by Helen Simonson – fantastic for those of us going through Downton Abbey withdrawal
  • The Nest  by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney – broken families and blue blood
  • The Fireman  by Joe Hill – classic King horror
  • You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero – How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life – a good kick in the pants.
  • How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams (the Dilbert guy) – funny and motivational

On my list to read are Atonement  (recently saw the movie and now I want to read the book) and New York in a Dozen Dishes.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: I haven’t read much for personal enjoyment this summer. All I’ve managed, that I can recall (have given a lot of books away as I pack to move), are Jessica Andersen’s Lord of the Wolfyn, Rob Smales’ Echoes of Darkness (compilation of short stories), and Jim Benson’s and Tonianne DeMaria Barry’s Personal Kanban (reading still in process).

I usually read in the evenings and weekends, but not this summer!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction this summer, but my son and I just finished listening to The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan and immediately started on the second book in the series, The Throne of Fire. I’ve always loved mythology of every culture, so it’s been really fun to read (listen to) stories about the Egyptian gods and goddesses. I also recently bought The Hobbit on CD for us to listen to on a long car trip coming up in August. I bought it rather than get it from the library because it’s one I read many times as a child and I know we will listen to it many times over the next few years.

Deborah headshotDeborah Lee Luskin: I am currently and completely engrossed in Jeffery Lent’s A Slant of Light. Before that, The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. For me, the warm weather doesn’t really change what I read, just where: I have an Adirondack Chair in the shade outside my studio where I like to decompress in the late afternoon, when my brain’s fried from writing and it’s too hot to do anything else.