I don’t just watch tv, tips for writing reviews part two

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Last week we talked about my job as a horror critic for Haunted MTL. And it turned out that I had more to say about the topic than one post alone could hold. So I’m back today with more advice for any aspiring critics. 

Whereas last week we talked about the writing of reviews themselves, today I want to talk about building a career as a critic. Because there are things to consider that I never thought of before I started writing reviews. Some are pretty common sense. Some, I wish I’d understood sooner. 

What are you going to write about?

When writing reviews, what you write about is as important as how you write about it. I can write the best review you ever read in your life, complete with witty quips, background information, and a detailed explanation of the content. And it doesn’t matter at all if it’s for a story nobody gave a damn about in the first place.

I find it’s worked well for me to specialize, but not strictly. I review just about all of the works of Ryan Murphy, for example. This allows me to compare and contrast his work, with a greater understanding of his career as a whole. Sometimes that means I’m hit with a massive load of work at once, like late in 2022 when The Watcher, American Horror Story, Dahmer, and Mr. Harrington’s phone all came out at once. Sometimes I have nothing Murphy-related to review, though. So I have a few sub-specialties. I review horror podcasts and true crime content.

However, this doesn’t stop me from reviewing other work. It’s based on what is trending, what is coming out soon, and what I think people might be interested in. 

(By the way, if you are a horror writer and you have a book you’d like me to review, hit me up. I am currently accepting arcs.)

Keeping a professional relationship with creators

In the last post, I talked about reviewing bad works. I mean, really bad. And yes, it is my job as a critic to talk about bad work. It’s my job to explain why it’s bad. It is not my job, nor is it a good idea, to tell the creator that their work was bad.

Occasionally, I am sent arcs and screeners for upcoming works. These are always met with a heartfelt thank you. I do not care if the work is bad. I am happy they thought enough of my reviews to send their work to me. And, as a creator myself, I always want to treat them as I’d want to be treated. 

If I don’t have the time, I’ll respectfully decline and suggest another critic from the site. If I do accept their work to review, I always make sure to send a follow-up email after the review is posted, thanking them again and providing them a link. 

I never give a creator unsolicited notes on their work. I certainly would never tell them that their work was bad. That is rude, unprofessional, and frankly uncalled for.

You’ll notice that I’m also not badmouthing any of the work here. That’s just in poor taste. I did my review, I don’t need to drag a piece all over the internet. 

The point is that I’m a professional. It’s important to keep a professional relationship with creators. 

Creating trust with your readers

More important than my relationship with creators is my relationship with my readers. People who read reviews are doing so for one reason. They want to know if a book, movie, tv show, or podcast is any good. Is it worth their time? Should they read or watch or listen to this one over another one? And I always want to give the most honest answer I can for that.

This is why I am upfront when I get an arc or screener. This doesn’t impact whether or not I like something, of course. And I’ll never lie and say I like a show that I don’t. 

I want people to know that I’m going to be honest with them. Even if I love a creator, I’m going to say if their work is trash. There have been some shining examples of bad work from good creators. There has been some work that I wanted to like, that I just didn’t. I am always honest about that. Integrity is essential for a critic. If you lose that, you lose your career.

I also don’t get into arguments online with people about content. Art is subjective as hell. Just because I liked something, even though I have very good reasons to like it, doesn’t mean everyone is going to. Just because I thought something was hot garbage, and I sure have very good reasons for that too, doesn’t mean someone’s wrong for liking it. Again, I am a professional. I need to act like one. Besides, arguing about art online is like getting into a shit-ball fight. No one has fun, no one wins, and everyone stinks. 

If you have any questions about critic work, please feel free to ask them below. I’ll be happy to answer them as best as I can. 

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I don’t just watch tv. Tips for writing reviews, part 1

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As some of you may know, I write reviews for a site called Haunted MTL. And yes, being a critic has always been a dream of mine. I think it’s probably a dream a lot of people have. I won’t lie, it’s pretty awesome. I get free books and foreign screeners. And I get to do my favorite thing, talk about fiction work that I love. 

That being said, it’s not always easy. I’ve turned a relaxing activity into work. Because a lot more goes into writing a review and cultivating a career around reviews, than one might assume. So today I thought I’d talk about how I do it. How I write reviews, the work that goes into them, and how I manage my critical career.

It starts with a fresh watch or read

When I review something, I like to read or watch it myself and get my first impressions down before I let the opinions of others pollute my own. I’ll watch the content with a notebook in hand, making notes about scenes or actors as I go. This scene went on too long, this was gross in a good way, and this was gross in a bad way. That sort of thing.

Research

Once I’ve consumed the content, I’ll go into research mode. Who was in this piece? What else have they done that my readers might have seen? What Easter Eggs were hidden in the content? What references might a casual viewer have missed? These are all things to consider in writing an entertaining and informative review. 

This is not, of course, the main focus of the review. So it’s best not to get lost in the research too much. But it’s fun, especially for nerds like me. 

Making stylistic choices

In any form of writing, you’re going to make some stylistic choices. Some of those will depend on genre, others on your personal preference. For instance, I write for an audience of horror fans. So I tend to write using more adult language and about adult subjects. For instance, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word boobies here on PBW. It comes up often on Haunted. 

The important thing here is to pick a style and stick with it. Yes, your style is going to change over time, but you want to avoid any dramatic switches.

Conveying information about the content, without giving too much away.

Spoilers suck. I will never get over having the death of Rita ruined for me in Dexter. And if you as a critic are spoiling the endings of things all over the place, you’re not going to be a popular critic. So you’ll have to learn how to tell part of the story, without telling it all. 

The way I do this is by focusing more on my opinion of the story, rather than explaining what happened. 

Now, there are some situations where it’s really hard to avoid. For instance, when I wrote a review of The Mist. A big reason why I hated that movie was the twist ending. But I didn’t want to give the ending away in case anyone still wanted to see that piece of shit film after reading my review. (The book was way better.) So, I had to sort of dance around it. I let on that the ending was different than in the book. I called it intentionally mean, and unsatisfying. And I mentioned at the start of the review that it might be spoiler-esq. It’s tricky, I’m not going to lie. But it’s vital. 

Knowing why something works or doesn’t work.

What’s the difference between a critical review and asking a buddy if they liked a movie? While your buddy might tell you a movie sucked, a critic will tell you why from a professional standpoint it sucked.

Many critics are professionally trained in film school, or deeply involved in content creation like myself. The reason is that it’s not enough to say that something is good or bad. Why was it good? Why was it bad? 

I do this in part here, with my Why It Works series. But while that series is aimed at teaching you how to write better, a review is aimed at telling a fan exactly why I wanted to pitch my remote at the screen in disgust. 

This is something that is best learned by watching a lot and reading a lot, then considering why you liked or didn’t like what you consumed. Was that film really hard to see because the lighting was bad? Was the dialog realistic? Were the characters likable? It requires an understanding of good writing and good film work that you only develop over time and practice.

But there are worst ways to spend your time.

Watching and reviewing bad content

Speaking of worse ways to spend your time, I want to end off with this. Sometimes I have to review stuff that is just terrible. And I have to watch the whole thing, to explain to other people exactly how terrible it was.

Several times, this has meant I have had to watch a movie that I pray no one ever knows I watched. There was one whose title I will not mention that emotionally scarred me. Sometimes it means I have to finish a tv series that I would have given up on long before the end.

There is an upside, though. Bad content is often really fun to review because you can use some of your most colorful languages. I despised the ending of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and enjoyed explaining in detail how lazy and damaging it was. It made me feel like watching the ending hadn’t been a complete waste of time.

There’s a lot more to be said about writing reviews, but as we’re nearing a thousand words here I’m going to stop for now and continue next week. But I want to hear from you. Do you enjoy reviews? Who is your favorite go-to critic? Have you ever dreamed of being a critic? Let us know in the comments. 

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Personal Writing

I have a secret. The writing that you see from me here, on Haunted MTL, and in my novels, is not everything that I write. If I were being generous, I’d say maybe half of the writing I do is ever seen by another human being. 

That’s something to consider, isn’t it? I’m not exactly Stephen King, but I do put out a considerable amount of work every year. Usually one new book or podcast season, at least 52 blog posts, and just under 100 critical reviews. Then there are all the short stories, poetry, and micro-fiction I post on Instagram and Mastodon.

So, what is all this other writing? Am I holding out on you? Well, no, not really. Most of the writing isn’t all that interesting. It’s the compost, as Natalie Goldberg would say. It’s the freewriting and writing exercises that are to a writer what a practice sketch is to a painter. These are vital pages, even if they’re mostly nonsensical, out-of-context work. I have been practicing a lot of description writing recently because I realize my descriptions suck.

In my sketchbooks, you’ll find bad poetry that I wrote just because it was fun. You’ll find story ideas that went nowhere, little things that stuck out to me through the day, and little angry notes from things that piss me off at my day job. I also talk a great deal about things that are worrying me in my sketchbook. A lot of things worry me, and there are just only so many ears that care to hear my woes over and over again.

My personal writing falls into three categories. Writing that is practice, writing that is memory keeping, and writing that is therapy. 

Writing practice happens every day. I try to start my day with ten minutes of freewriting, kind of like stretching. Later, usually in the afternoon, I’ll try to do a writing exercise. This doesn’t always happen, of course. But I try to make it happen most days. 

My memory keeping is much smaller. There are little notes jotted in my bullet journal, my sketchbook, and my grimoire. I also keep a dream journal and a gratitude journal. As if that wasn’t enough, I’ll write one line about the day each day on my perpetual desk calendar. All of this takes maybe five to ten minutes in the morning. I just want a few snapshots. Later, I want to be able to visit with who I am now. 

Finally, of course, I do a lot of therapeutic writing. I’m no stranger to negative emotions, of course. I’m often angry, sad, depressed, and stressed out. These emotions aren’t bad, and they need space to be expressed. They need to have space to exist. There are reasons why we feel how we feel.

The healthiest place I’ve found, to let these negative emotions have the space they need, is on the page. 

Whether you’re a writer or not, these forms of writing can be great for you. Writing is fun, frankly. It can be fun to write a little poem or story idea, even if it never goes anywhere. Memory keeping is a wonderful thing to do, both for your future self and your loved ones. And of course, I think we all have emotions that we need to get out of our heads and give another space to live. If you want to get a little witchy with it, you can burn the paper afterward. It’s therapeutic.

So, I want to hear what you think. What sort of writing do you do that is just for you? Let us know in the comments. 

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My review of Shut Up And Write The Book

I received an arc of this book in return for a fair and honest review. And that’s exactly what you’re getting today. 

Jenna Moreci’s Youtube channel is one of my favorites for smart, sweary writing advice. So, when she announced that she was publishing a book about writing, I had to get my hands on it. When I found out she was offering arcs to select reviewers, I jumped on that like a rat on a pizza slice. 

Shut Up And Write The Book is essentially a step-by-step manual to, obviously, writing a book. It is specifically tailored for fiction authors, so if you’re writing nonfiction, this one might not be for you. But as I don’t write nonfiction, it was delightful for me.

I will say that, as an experienced author, some of the information was redundant. I did find myself skimming some of the early chapters especially, because of course I’ve read a ton of writing advice books. I’ve also written writing advice for writers since 2014. And watched the vast majority of Jenna’s Youtube videos. 

But if you feel like you know everything in this book, you are wrong. It’s an egotistical fool who dismisses advice because they think they know everything already. So I always do my best to come to every bit of writing education as a novice. I never regret this.

The first thing I loved about Shut Up And Write The Book was that Jenna writes how she talks. I can hear her voice as I’m reading, which is delightful. She has a quick, supportive way of talking about writing that makes it feel more like a small business project instead of an ethereal endeavor that we mere mortals have no sort of control over. 

If you are one of those people who feel like writing a book is overwhelming, this is a book you need. It walks you through every step of the novel writing process. And I mean every single step. If you have nothing but a desire to write a book, but not a single damn idea for that book, that is perfect. The first chapters start with brainstorming in a realistic and accessible way. Then, it continues to walk you through each step of the process.

Now, I did think that the outline and brainstorming section of the book was a bit heavy. I don’t generally go into as much detail as Jenna does with her character creation and world-building. But, to be honest, maybe I should consider trying this out for my next book. It can only help.

Each chapter ends with a summary of the information that the chapter included. At first, I thought this was a little irritating. I mean, I just finished reading all this content. I don’t need a summing up. And yes, while doing a read through there’s not any value in that summary.

However, as I go through the book again and use it as it’s intended, as a workbook, I find that summary to be really helpful. Because I can check in with the summary and see if I need to re-read this chapter, or if I have the basics down.

I found that as I got closer to the end of the book, I found it more and more useful. I certainly have my writing weaknesses, and one of them is finding beta readers. I learned just a ton about that process, which I’m looking forward to utilizing as my current novels come closer and closer to completion.

If you’re a writer, this is a book to grab. It’s full of smart advice that’s easy to use. Here’s a link to pre-order it now. This is not an affiliate link.

How Nickelodeon made me a better adult

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I was born in the mid-eighties. That means that I need aspirin for my back most days, I will never own a house, and I grew up in the golden age of Nickelodeon. I can recall the premiers of the first three Nick-toons.

Probably I’m biased, but I think people my age are pretty cool. We have twisted senses of humor, a love of horror stories, and are more politically active than generations before us. Some of that’s because the internet became more and more prevalent as we got older. But I think some of the credit goes to Nickelodeon.

Or, without making sweeping generalizations, I am at least convinced that I am the funny, horror-loving socially aware person that I am at least in part because I grew up with these five shows.

Pete & Pete

This stands as one of the weirdest shows I have ever seen. It’s the adventures of two brothers who were for some strange reason given the same name. And their world just gets weirder from there. They exist in a world with adults who take their jobs far too seriously. The bus driver who nearly runs Big Pete off the road. The school principal who makes the whole school attend an assembly on ear hygiene. A quality inspection agent who inspects everything and demands perfection. A mail woman who keeps careful verbal notes on her route every day. And Artie! The strongest man… in the world!

The show certainly gave me a taste for the quirky, with a slight touch of darkness. It also taught me that grownups are just big kids. No matter what we might tell ourselves.

Are you afraid of the dark

Maybe one of my favorite shows from childhood, Are You Afraid of the Dark was a creepy anthology series. In each episode, a group called the Midnight Society came together to scare the hell out of each other around a campfire. There were stories of ghosts coming back for a visit, demons that came out of comic books, killer clowns, and hypnotic music boxes.

My love of anthology horror was sparked by this show. But something else was sparked. These kids were telling decent stories, stories they wrote themselves. It led me to think that maybe I could write a story.

Maybe. 

All That

I’ve always considered All That to be kind of like a farm league for Saturday Night Live. Long-running cast member Kenan Thompson got his start on All That.

All That was funny. Sometimes it was smart funny, and sometimes it was just dumb funny. But it was always a good time. 

I was, sadly, a pretty serious child. All That was one way I got a little bit of much-needed funny in my life. It was also my introduction to some iconic musical artists. It was the first time I saw TLC, Coolio, Brandy, and Outkast. It was an important musical education for me.

Nick News with Linda Ellerbee

I didn’t grow up in a very politically aware house. I’ve never seen my mother with a newspaper. She never turned the news on, and never seemed aware of world events. Whenever we talked about ‘current events’ in school, I was largely lost.

So watching Nick News was instrumental in me realizing two things. One, there was a big world out there where people were living very different lives than I was. And two, I might be able to understand it.

Nick News talked about some topics that were amazing to hear about. I remember when Magic Johnson was on for a special episode to talk about his HIV diagnosis. I remember kids my age asking him honest, intelligent questions, and getting real answers. Wars, politics, and environmental issues were laid out in a way that was attainable for a kid, but not condescending.

Kids Pick The President

After everything I just told you, it should come as no surprise that voting wasn’t a huge thing in my house growing up. I can’t remember Mom voting for anything but American Idol. 

And yet, I have never missed an election. Not presidential, not local. I have voted every year since I turned eighteen. And I was able to do that because of the education I got from Kids Pick The President. It seemed fun as a kid to vote, which led to me being ready to register to vote as soon as I was old enough. For kids who don’t get that education at home, Kids Pick The President was a blessing.

The point of this post isn’t just to take a self-indulgent trip down memory lane. Though, that is a perk. No, I told you all that to tell you this.

Some of you reading this, I assume, write for children or young adults. I write young and new adult fiction, at least some of the time.

If you’re writing for kids, teens, and young adults, I feel like you’ve got an obligation to give them something real.

I’m not saying you’ve got to teach them the state capitols or some great moral lesson. But I am saying that you should give them something good. Something that will help shape the kind of human being that you want to have around. And if you want to do that, you could do worse than emulate the qualities of these classic Nickelodeon shows. 

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My 2023 goals

The holidays are over, the new year is upon us, and it’s time to start making goals! 

I mean, technically you can make goals anytime and I as a creative small business owner reevaluate my goals every three months to make sure they still work for me, but hey! It’s January and we’re all making goals now! It’s fun! It’s peer pressure for good, encouraging us all to be better people. Or at least, make some better choices.

So in the spirit of positive peer pressure, I’m sharing my list of 2023 goals today. And I’m hoping that you’ll share your goals in the comments sections. In this way, we can hold each other up, and reach for better things in 2023.

This year, I’m focusing on just five goals. While there are smaller goals I’m reaching for, they all feed into these main five things. While in the past I had very specific goals and used the SMART goal planning to achieve them, these are a little more nondescript. But I think they’re still going to help me. Because these five goals will instruct everything that’s going to end up on my to-do list. If the item doesn’t move me closer to one of these five goals, then it doesn’t belong there.

Goal one, paying off debt. 

We have a mess of debt we need to pay off. I honestly don’t think we’re going to get it paid off this year. But I’d like to take a big dent out of it. 

Goal two, finally learning Spanish

I think I say this every year. But more and more, I feel like I need to learn Spanish so that I can communicate with people in the countries around me.

Goal three, creating good stories

This, of course, is for you. It’s also for me because creating stories is still the best thing I can do with my time. So, it’s really for us. 

We’re launching season two of AA on Haunted MTL soonish, heavy on the ish. I’m also working on the final Station 86 book.

That’s right, I said the final Station 86 book. Everything’s coming to a thrilling conclusion either quite late this year or early next year. Depending on how much hustle I can manage, of course.

I also want to make more for you all on Instagram and Mastodon. I want to make more poetry and word art, so keep an eye out for that. 

Goal four, taking better care of myself

My word for 2023 is self, so I’m working on taking care of myself. I’m making doctor’s appointments, drinking tea, and exercising more. I’m getting towards that age where if I’m going to make any improvement in my health, it should probably start now.

Goal five, make some significant progress on a political topic

I can’t go into much detail here, but there’s one cause I’m particularly interested in. And I’ve decided to get active about it. No, I’m not running for any office. But I am stepping up more. Writing letters, showing up at politicians’ offices to ask questions, and organizing people. 

This is something I encourage all of you to do as well. I am absolutely sure that there’s something you care about enough to want to make a change. So do it. Make your voice heard in your neighborhood. Make the changes you can make, and make sure your local politicians remember that they work for you. 

Now, it’s your turn. What are your major goals for 2023? Let us know in the comments. 

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The top ten posts of 2022

Today will be the last post of 2022. And, like we do every year, I’m finishing up by taking a look at the most popular posts. These are the ones that were read the most by you, some of my favorite people in the world.

I’m always a little surprised by what makes the list each year. Which is probably not great for me from a marketing perspective. 

But at any rate, here are the top ten most popular posts of 2022. Did your favorite make the list?

10. Beginning and ending rituals

9. An open letter to the teacher who changed my life

8. The top ten banned books in 2022

7. Why Only Murders in The Building works

6. Writing medicine in fantasy books

5. Keeping a poetry journal 

4. Life audit with me, week one

3. Writing dark poetry

2. Holiday books that aren’t romance

1. How to start writing dark fantasy

I hope you have a wonderful new year. Here’s hoping 2023 is full of good stories for all of us. 

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My favorite books of 2022

We find ourselves now at the end of 2022. It’s time to reflect on the year we’ve just survived. To celebrate the wins, to mourn the losses. And, of course, to consider the best of the year. 

Today I’m sharing my top ten favorite books of 2022. These are books that I read for the first time in 2022. I didn’t restrict any genres, this is just purely the ones I enjoyed the most. You’ll find fiction, nonfiction, and speculative fiction. What you won’t find, in my opinion, is a boring book.

10. Savage Bounty by Matt Wallace

The follow-up to Savage Legion, this book was a worthy part two. Normally the second book in a trilogy is kind of meh. Needed for the series as a whole, but rather boring. Not so with this. (Part three is coming out in June, by the way.)

9. Manson by Jeff Gunn

This book was an absolute unit. It was also the most in-depth and detailed depiction of Manson’s life that I have ever read. Not what I’d call comforting reading, but incredibly educational. 

8. How to be a Christian Witch by Valerie Love

Most of you know that I’ve been a practicing witch for several years now. This book was a beautiful explanation of living one’s life as a witch who believes in God and Jesus. And Reverend Love is an incredible person.

7. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

This book wasn’t very much like the iconic movie of the same name. But it was still an amazing book about sisterhood and motherhood. It’s about how we as women share our lives.

6. City Magick by Christopher Penczak

Being a city lover who is also a witch is hard. Most of the witchcraft books and media are centered around the woods and nature and having a garden bigger than your house. It’s nice to have books like this that teach magic designed for the city.

5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Yes, I know it’s a children’s book. No, I don’t care. The story of Nobody was delightful, whimsical, and dark. If you haven’t read it, you absolutely should no matter how old you are.

4. City Witchery by Lisa Marie Basile

This is a more modern witchcraft book that is designed for the city witch. It also happens to be by a witchcraft author that has written some amazing books in the past. 

3. A Song Flung Up To Heaven by Maya Angelou

All of Maya Angelou’s work is just amazing. This book was about first the death of Dr. King, and then the death of Malcome X. And it was, without a doubt, powerful. 

2. This is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This book was on my list for so long, and I finished it in a day. If you haven’t read it yet, make the time to read it now. It was superb. 

1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Finally, we have easily the best book I read in 2022. The Haunting of Hill House was creepy and touching. I am so thankful that I was able to experience it. 

That is it for my list this year. I can’t wait to get started on a stack of books for 2023. Are there any I should add to my TBR pile? Let me know in the comments. 

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I didn’t win Nanowrimo

I hate that I have to write this post. This is something that hasn’t happened to me in years. I mean, honestly years. 

I did not win Nanowrimo, 2022. And that really sucks. 

On paper, it looked like I did everything right. I had a plan in place for my novel. I had an outline. I had a plan. I had the will. I was ready. 

But somewhere around the middle of the month, things just started to fall apart. I had a few days when I couldn’t hit my word count, and it just snowballed from there. For about a week, I did my damndest to get back on track. And I did get back on track, only to fall right back off track again.

Finally, with over a week left, I decided to give up for the year. I just didn’t see myself getting caught up, I was too far behind. 

I can’t say there was any one reason I didn’t make it to 50,000 words this year. Certainly, I’ve had busier years and still achieved the goal. I even went on a Thanksgiving vacation one year and still hit 50,000 words. 

It wasn’t because I didn’t like the story. I actually think this might be the best book I’ve ever written. I say that about every new book. 

It wasn’t because the story was particularly difficult. Last year I wrote a season of AA, and it is a hell of a lot harder to hit a word count when you’re writing scripts than when you’re writing a novel, let me tell you. 

I’m honestly a little worried that I’m slowing down. I’m in my late 30’s now. I just don’t have the same energy as I did even a few years ago. Or maybe I need to just learn how to ration my energy better. 

One way or another, I just refuse to be brought down by this. There are upsides to this, even if they’re hard to see. For one, this is a wake-up call for how I’m treating myself. I need to take better care of myself so that I have the energy to do things like this. I’m not that old, I shouldn’t be slowing down that much yet. Bernie Sanders is still running just fine, and he’s got decades on me. He could have written 50,000 words without breaking a sweat. 

(I think that’s going to be my new mantra, what would Bernie Sanders do.) 

This is part of why my word for 2023 is self. I need to take better care of myself.

I’m also glad I tried Nanowrimo, even though I failed because I still got a decent chunk of writing done. I still wrote at times I wouldn’t have. I still wrote more than I would have if I hadn’t done Nano, is what I’m saying. And that’s not a bad thing.

Of course, the biggest reward of failure is always the lessons we learn. If we’re humble and optimistic enough to take the lesson along with the loss, that is. Next year I’ll do better, and here’s how. 

– I let myself get away with too many days in a row of just barely making my word count. Especially at the beginning when excitement was high and fatigue was low. In years past I’ve written extra, knowing that sometime in the middle of the month I’d hit a wall.

-I didn’t plan any writing only days. Every day I had errands to run, a day job to go to, or a million other things to take up my time. I’d forgotten how much I relied on those days when I do nothing but work on the work in progress. 

So that’s it. I didn’t win Nanowrimo, but I will next year. Now, I want to hear from you. Did you attempt Nano this year? Did you win or lose? Let us know in the comments. 

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2022 Holiday Gift Guide

Everyone’s got a list of holiday gifts this time of year. And I’m no different. I always post a writer’s gift guide, because I know writers are hard to shop for.

I don’t know why we’re hard to shop for. I don’t think we’re any harder to shop for than anyone else. 

I think everyone’s hard to shop for. Except for witches. Witches are easy to shop for. We always need more crystals, empty jars, and candles.

This isn’t going to be a long list of cool things, though. If you want physical gift suggestions, check out Instagram. I am getting nothing but gift suggestions on there right now. 

No, this year I only have two gift suggestions. And the great thing is, they’re both guaranteed to fit anyone. 

Time

There is nothing in this world that will matter more to the people you love than spending time with them. Not even a blanket with all the words to their favorite book will take the place of time.

So get creative with your time together. Here are some things I’m doing. 

Reading in bed with the darling husband.

Watching holiday movies together.

Taking Oliver on long walks to see all the decorations. 

Going to coffee with my best friends.

Helping my grandmother decorate her house. 

Making one of those fancy spread boards for holiday meals. 

I carve out as much family and friend time as possible. I do this by putting all business writing on hold for the last two weeks of the year. I keep holiday meals on the less stressful side so I’m spending less time in the kitchen. Using my crock pot a lot. I finished all my gift shopping before Black Friday. I also dramatically decreased the gifts I bought and asked for.

Take a look at your time, and see what you can cut back on to make space for family and friend time. 

Experiences

Nice things are nice, but experiences are better. So instead of buying things, consider planning experiences. They don’t have to be expensive. Here again, are some fun suggestions.

Go to a local museum. 

Plan a potluck craft day with friends. Get everyone to bring some craft supplies. One person brings glue, one brings scrapbook paper, that sort of thing.

Do a holiday book swap. I bet you have some books around that you don’t care for anymore, and your friends probably have the same. Get together with some coffee and tea, and swap books. 

If you haven’t finished your shopping, grab some friends who are also still shopping and go together. Even better, gather at someone’s house with your laptops, take out food and do some online shopping.

My local plant shop has a make-your-own succulent bar. It’s always a good time. Check around and see what fun events you have around you. Something you always say you’re going to do, but never seem to have the time. 

Give this gift to yourself, too

For an introvert like me, time alone is a vital part of self-care. And as much as I love time with my family and friends, I have to give myself time alone as well.

So, I’m taking myself on solo coffee dates. I’m making sure to prioritize mediation time. I’m reading alone by my little electric fire. I’m making tea and having it with no one. 

My point here is this. Things are nice, I’m not trying to shame anyone who asks for physical things. I for sure asked for physical things. But don’t focus so much on those. Give your loved ones, and yourself as well, the gifts of time and experience. Those are the gifts you’ll all treasure the most. 

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