Feisty Writer Writes Feisty Characters

Flapper Wears Mile-High Pearl Tiara Inspires CharactersI’m a feisty writer who spent over ten years working on my first novel. After being an inner city educator for twenty years, I turned to writing. I thought I’d create children’s books or a memoir about my classroom experiences, but that’s not what happened at all. I had no idea I had begun to create a dual timeline trilogy!

The books are about Anne, a San Francisco artist, who discovers vintage clothes and imagines through art making the lives and experiences of young women from past eras who originally wore the clothing pieces. Through many years, coaching from wonderful editors, and grit I’ve finally learned how to weave a novel. And who knew my main theme would be about women searching to find their place in the world?

Through attending Judy Reeves weekly Brown Bag, drop-in writing group, I learned how to write intuitively, and my feisty characters began to appear out of nowhere. Sylvia, an early 1960s young heiress, led me down paths where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do. And the kernels of The Black Velvet Coat were born. Learning the craft, I spent years writing the first draft. I took it through two read and critique groups. And then hired a line editor to clean it up so I would feel comfortable enough to share it for professional feedback.

Marni Freedman read the manuscript and told me it was good and coached me that it could be so much better. For instance, she said Anne shouldn’t be a waitress to make ends meet, because that had been done before, and also that I was too nice to my characters. It was hard for me to hear. Marni was right though—I do love my characters, and I did make things easy for them. So I returned to the drawing board.

I thought about my early trips to San Francisco and considered what would be the most demeaning, difficult job Anne could have. I remembered driving up and down those hills in a stick shift and how hard it was to find a parking place. So Anne became a parking valet for a large hotel on Union Square. I brainstormed all the plot point problems that can arise for a thirty-year-old single woman trying to make it as an artist and wove those into the story too.

Sylvia, my 1960s character, falls for a scoundrel, does the unimaginable, and escapes to Northern Arizona. She experiences guilt, fear, a flash flood, howling coyotes, etc., but other characters kept saving her right away. On the next draft, I ramped up the peril to make the reader want to keep reading and had Sylvia work through many of the obstacles by herself.

As The Black Velvet Coat was at a final editor, Clair, a 1929 New York debutant, arrived on my pages. She pushes past the constraints of her controlling father to become a flapper but when the stock market crashes she becomes entwined in the world of burlesque. After I was almost finished with Clair’s story, Anne appeared on my pages and told me she wanted to be in this book too. I thought Anne’s story had ended at the conclusion of The Black Velvet Coat but it had shifted again and she had to figure out her life all over again. From the get-go, I focused on obstacles to throw in Clair and Anne’s paths.

After that first draft of my second novel, which became The Silver Shoes, I used Marni’s plot points from her book, 7 Essential Writing Tools, to guide my second draft.

In the third novel that I’m working on now, The Green Lace Corset, I’m instinctively writing in obstacles for Anne and my Midwestern, 1865, Sally Sue who is kidnapped on a train and taken to the Wild West. Both of these women are trying to find their true life’s’ purposes and the meaning of love. Haven’t all of our lives been like that? With stick-to-it-iveness, we find the strength to keep catapulting over our challenges to discover our true purpose in life. I know I have.

Six Tips for Writing Feisty Characters

  1. Develop a daily writing practice.
  2. Write from your heart, not your head.
  3. Find your fellow writing community.
  4. Keep your characters in peril until the very end.
  5. Put yourself in your character’s shoes.
  6. Consider writing play instead of work.

My Three Favorite Writer Books in My Library

A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life by Judy Reeves

7 Essential Writing Tools: That Will Absolutely Make Your Writing Better (And Enliven Your Soul) by Marni Freedman

Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing by Brooke Warner


Photo of the author with blond hair in an up-do and red shirtJill G. Hall is the author of dual timeline historical novels The Black Velvet Coat, an International Book Award Finalist and the recently released, The Silver Shoes. The Green Lace Corset, the third book of her trilogy, is scheduled for a Fall 2020 release also by She Writes Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of publications, including A Year in Ink, The Avocet, and Wild Women, Wild Voices. On her blog, Crealivity, she shares personal musings about the art of practicing a creative lifestyle. She is a seasoned presenter at seminars, readings, and community events. In addition to writing, Hall practices yoga, makes mosaics and collages, tap dances, and enjoys spending time in nature. Learn more at jillghall.com.


Photos Courtesy of Jill G. Hall

Writing Books

A drawing of a soup pot with pictures of books coming out of itMy husband, Mark, and I are writing books—he’s writing one and I’m writing two. So, our home has become a book-production factory.

By factory, I mean sweat shop.

Mark’s book is called “Serious About Retiring.” It’s a guidebook for people who are close to retiring or have just retired.

I’m juggling two books. One is a whimsical picture book about marriage—”Grow Old with Me.” The other book is a quasi-memoir about my late brother who was a war correspondent in the early years of America’s Vietnam War. I’m writing it in “collaboration” with him—so this book gives the term “ghost written” a whole new meaning.

You might think that writing is all about creativity and inspiration, that beautiful words flow off the pen (or word processor), and that when you reach 200 pages, you send it to the presses and you have a book. I wish it were so. Writing a book is hard labor.

Mark and I have been working on all three books for a very, very long time—I started the book on my brother almost three decades ago! All three books have gone through scores of incarnations.

It’s all about revising…and revising…and revising.

What if you were making a pot of soup the way you write a book? Let’s say you start out making chicken soup. You put in chicken, water, an assortment of vegetables, and various spices. But then you think—no, this isn’t quite right. So you take out the chicken and you lift out some of the vegetables. Instead, you put in potatoes and other vegetables. Then you think—no, this isn’t right, so you move those vegetables out and maybe put in some beef…

Finally you taste the soup and you say—this isn’t chicken soup, this is butternut squash soup. Should I add some chicken?

Of course, when you’re making soup, you can’t really take out and swap ingredients. But when you’re word processing a book, you can take stuff out and add stuff and do this over and over. Forever.

What this means is—when I write one book, I’m really writing 100 books.

The next time you’re reading a book, you might wonder—what happened to the 99 books that dropped out along the way?


A photo of author, Lucy Rose FischerLucy Rose Fischer is an author and artist living in Minnesota.  Her most recent book is a whimsical picture book, I’m New at Being Old, which received a Midwest Book Award and an Independent Publishers Gold Award.


Photos courtesy of Lucy Rose Fischer

The Unporridging

a whisk mixing porridgeI’m working on a newish project. I’ve got characters, most of a plot, and a few dozen thousand words down. It’s enough to hang onto and wrestle with, and oh God is it better than the blankness of waiting for a new idea.

But it’s not fully there. I want to fall in love with this book, and I haven’t yet, not the way I loved my last project. This one has been sticky, lumpy, and gray.


This month I’ve sorted out a lot of that. I could be wildly wrong (I’ve been wrong about this before), but I think I’ve found tweaks to make this a book I’m excited about.

In case you too are facing porridge where you hoped for transcendence, I will list some things helping me find the spark.

Characters I Love

Here’s what makes a character pop: A desire and a goal. Unacknowledged needs at odds with that goal. A default strategy for dealing with the world. A lesson and an arc. Vulnerabilities. And at least one pretty impressive skill.

I’d been missing the skill and I knew it, but I’ve finally (hopefully) pinned it down. That and a haziness of goal (isn’t it always a haziness of goal?) were making my protagonist lumpish.

A Vision of Plot

I found this list of novel plots online, and, guys, oh my gosh. Lists of plots are almost never as inspiring as I want them to be, but this was amazing. Picking my story off that list reminded me where I needed to focus my conflict. It reminded me why I’m writing the damned thing.

Stakes and Scale

As a writer and reader, I like intimate stakes and close relationships. I’m drawn to situations that arise when characters know each other well.

That’s a wonderful element in a story. It is not a whole story.

Think of it this way. You know the musical Hamilton? It has a really great love triangle. Really great. Sympathetic, nuanced, interesting, with a deft use of I-understand-you moments I haven’t seen elsewhere.

If you kept the Hamilton love triangle but removed the politics, the music, the cultural context, the commentary on race, the American Revolution, the building a new government, the deaths, the rivalry, and the duel, you would get the mushy porridge I keep ending up with.

You don’t literally need a war. But you need a wider world, even if it’s background. You need institutional forces, social upheavals, cataclysmic events, or just the eternal uncertainty of huge things shifting beyond our control. Otherwise, your stakes will be things like “if Jane doesn’t get what she wants, Jane will be unhappy.”


Villainy and Power

I’ve got this thing about evil villains. I find them desperately boring.

Just like with the stakes stuff, this causes trouble. I keep writing conflicts between equals who are basically nice people. Nothing escalates.

So this month, I re-read Harry Potter. (Bonus unporridging advice: read books that do well at things you do poorly.) I find Voldemort fine, if a little generic, but the terror he sows opens up room for a huge cast of more interesting characters to scramble to survive. Everything great about those books happens in the drama-charged space Voldemort creates.

Here’s my theory: I suspect the essence of a good villain isn’t evil, it’s power.

Remember: power is what turns a doddering, racist, raging, incompetent old man from somebody’s obnoxious uncle into an object of terror for (I suspect) most people currently reading this. Even with a villain a lot (a lot) more sympathetic than our forty-fifth president, a goal contrary to your protagonist’s needs combined with the power to hurt your protagonist will make them terrifying. Suddenly the world has structure, and the conflict has stakes.

Use that.


Implementing solutions is always way harder than brainstorming them, and I may come back next month still with a book full of porridge. Hopefully not. I’m hoping some of these revelations help me, and maybe help you too.

Good luck!


Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com.porridge


A Puzzling Note on Revising — By Nancy Villalobos, Guest Blogger for The Feisty Writer

a bunch of puzzle piecesJamie and Pablo are bent low over a round table in my Transitional Kindergarten class. The pieces of a complicated cardboard puzzle are spread all over the table. They’ve finished the border (because that is my Number One Rule for puzzles) and have progressed to most of the center and large chunks of the corners. Only a few spaces remain in the sky. Working quietly, the boys check their pieces for shape and color, rotating them in the air, trying to find a matching empty space inside the border.

But then the boys come upon a tricky one. They take turns pushing and pounding until the recalcitrant bit has been mashed into a spot. Their quick satisfied grins dissolve into confused and disappointed frowns as they stare at the result.

Straightening up and getting a longer view, they expel a simultaneous sigh. With the perspective of distance, they see how their triumphantly hammered-in piece does not really fit the picture. The color and the shape are close, but not quite. There’s a better place, one where that piece will fit perfectly, exactly completing the scene. With determined fingers, they pry it out and look again at the panorama on the table.

“This piece was in the box, right?”

“So it belongs somewhere in this puzzle.”

“Let’s put it over here, so we don’t lose it, and keep working.”

“Okay.” There is a pause. “Why is it so hard?”

Other children come around and offer to help. A group forms, and the children work together. The puzzle advances. With a glance at the clock (the classroom deadline enforcer), I come over and guide them to finish before the bell rings.

Jamie and Pablo are five-year-olds and not (yet) writers, but if you are a writer in the throes of revising a completed manuscript, you can feel their pain. Likewise, you can appreciate the advice and encouragement of fellow scribblers and the firm guiding hand of a writing coach.

I’ve been doing this revising for a while now. Thank goodness for my writing groups. Thank goodness for Marni Freedman, my guru

It’s still not clear to me the difference between ‘rewriting’ and ‘revising,’ but at this point, it’s all the same ball of wax for me. I take the chapters from the latest draft and consider every scene, every point of the narrative arc, each word of dialogue. And often I see where I have hammered something into the wrong place. It’s the right color, just the wrong shape. Like Jamie and Pablo, I pry it out and put it aside until my search for the perfect spot is rewarded.

But sometimes, unlike the boys, I lose pieces—whole chapters and long paragraphs. That’s when I look under the box, sift through collections of nearly discarded hard copies, rifle the dusty filing cabinets of my mind. And sometimes, I find a treasure there—a missing piece the exact shape and color of the hole in my manuscript. Then the puzzle of my writing begins to fall into place. Enough of my discouragement evaporates that I can sit down again and pound out that latest revision, because now I can see clearly where it’s going, and I think maybe I can do this, after all.

In the classroom, I always knew I could learn as much from the children as I could teach them. I just didn’t expect such a valuable lesson in revising, perspective, and perseverance to come from two five-year-olds who don’t know how to read.


Headshot of author

ABOUT NANCY: When not revising her memoir, sending out query letters, and building her blog queue, Nancy loves being on Nana duty with Lucas, her newest grandson, attending Cavalier King Charles Spaniel meet-ups with her Tri-color Coco, or traveling with family and friends. Her writing has been featured in the Memoir Writers Showcase. Her memoir, Peru, My Other Country, chronicles her twenty years there as an American married to a Peruvian in the midst of revolution, earthquakes, and her husband’s untimely death, until an extortion call during the Shining Path terrorist movement forced her to choose where her loyalties lay: in her adopted country or in the land of her birth.


Puzzle Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

How to Be a Feisty Rewriter

Woman holding sparkling orb in her handsNew writers simply do not understand rewriting (Sigh). It comes as a shock to most of them that their first draft will be far from their last draft. I get it. I’ve been there. I know it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

But once a writer has gone through the entire process of taking a first draft and making it sparkle, not only does the piece transform, but the writer transforms. They see how what was once “good,” can now become “great” or “amazing.”  And guess what? Rewriting, dare I say it, can become sort of addicting.

So, if you have completed a first draft and sent it out for feedback, we have two missions:


Keep you from falling into the dreaded Lack of Rewriting PIT.

What is this pit of which I speak? It looks something like this:

  • Not rewriting from the first draft to the second (after getting notes on how much work it needs).
  • Not rewriting as many times as the piece needs. (“Okay, I will write it again, but just once more.”)
  • Contracting “But-I-just-want-it-to-be-done-itis.”
  • Not understanding that every writer—yes, EVERY writer— rewrites.


Encourage you to embrace Feisty Rewriting.

Let’s go back to our premise for the series: Take the ego out and stay in creative motion.

Again—it may feel counterintuitive or nonsensical.

When I have discussed this idea with writers I often hear this type of thinking:

“Oh please, Marni. How on earth can I remove my ego if someone is critiquing my work? They are criticizing me!”

Let’s take a moment to look at that thought. I see writers blend the idea of “their work” with “themselves” all the time. But guess what? That is just the ego trying to lure you to the dark side of not moving forward and staying in delicious, creative motion.


If someone is criticizing you and not your work, get out, not the right place for you.

If someone doesn’t want you to succeed, get out, not the right place for you.

But if someone is critiquing your work and they want you to succeed, stick it out.

The truth is that your ego may feel bruised. After all, you tried your best, and someone is saying it can be better. It’s okay to feel that “ouch.”

But wait for a second—it’s not the end of the story for your piece! Someone is saying it can be better. Isn’t that what you want? Better? You want to stand out from the crowd. You want to make headway and move your career to the next level. So better will be easier to work with, right?

If you have come along with me this far (congrats!) it means you are ready to become a feisty rewriter.

How to Become a Feisty Rewriter:

  1. Take some time after receiving notes. Remember: you don’t have to, nor should you accept all notes. Otherwise, you will be traveling in many different directions trying to please every note giver. Time to let the notes sink in helps. (No matter what anyone says, you are not in a race.)
  2. Look for the common areas of agreement. If you had multiple readers, where did they agree?
  3. Pay attention to lateral movement. What’s that? Remember that almost every critiquer will have something to say. Some critiques will make the piece better. Some will just be different, but not better.
  4. Decide which notes feel authentic for you and the piece you are writing.
  5. Develop a plan. Work with a writing coach, trusted mentor, or writing group to create a new plan of attack.
  6. Don’t be afraid of a page one rewrite. This is where you start cursing at me. It sounds horrid, I know.  But I have seen brilliance stem from many writers who took a step back, then approached their material with a new take or slant. None of it was wasted time. You can’t get to step two without step one.
  7. Reward yourself for staying in the process. (It’s a big deal!)
  8. Utilize your writing tribe to keep you on track.
  9. Remember that the process itself is part of the reward. Enjoy every small rewriting victory.
  10. Don’t let anything stop you, get in your way, or side track you from completing your next draft. You are a train in motion. And that is creative dynamism at its finest.

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/search/sparkle?photo=iDW-R3fSuhg

Scene and Sequel, or How I Got to Know My Protagonist Two Years into Writing the Book


Doctor looking at x-rays

A couple of years ago I wrote an adventure novel full of terror, magic, romance, derring-do, etcetera. The main character wanted things, she went out and got them, and there were consequences for her—terrible ones. I figured the faster I paced it, the more exciting it would be. I rushed from exciting event to exciting event. I thought it was great.

But my lovely writing groups (to whom I am eternally grateful) kept saying the same things: “Am I supposed to feel something here?” “Does your protagonist have an emotional reaction to this?” “She seems very … calm.”

I didn’t get it. I’d blown up this character’s life. I’d wrung her heart out. Why couldn’t they tell?

The answer was that I never paused to let her think. I thought it would bog down the pacing if she sat around having feelings or wondering what to do. Instead, her lack of downtime stripped her of personality and robbed the book of impact.

In short, I needed sequels to my scenes.

First, a note: both “scenes” and “sequels” occur during scenes, which is a murderously confusing terminology problem. For more on scene and sequel, this is the blog post that helped me understand what it was. And this one looks like an excellent in-depth discussion.

Scene and sequel is a basic (the basic?) unit of storytelling.

First, there’s a SCENE:

The protagonist pursues a goal.

A conflict mucks up her plans, and she struggles to overcome it.

She achieves success, failure, or a complication.

This is followed by a SEQUEL:

The protagonist reacts to her new situation (emotional response, action, dialogue, etc.).

The protagonist considers how the situation affects her goals. She may face a dilemma.

The protagonist formulates a new plan.

The protagonist enacts her plan, beginning another SCENE.

There are large- and small-scale versions of this. A character can enact a plan, fail, react, and adapt multiple times within a single scene, but eventually she’ll reach success, failure, or complication that stops her cold and forces her to process and recalibrate.

You won’t write out all these steps every time. Sometimes sequels are short: a well-chosen action or line of dialogue can say more than pages of introspection. (Other times, you’ll likely want the introspection.) Sometimes another catastrophe hits before your protagonist can draw breath.

But this cycle of action, consequence, feeling, and planning gives solidity to a character’s personality. Because I’d been skipping it, people didn’t know who my main character was. I didn’t know who my main character was. Once I paused to let her think, she took on reality and depth. I understood her better. The book was better.

Here’s the big lesson I learned: Events can happen to anybody. What makes characters unique is how they react.

For instance:

A man catches his wife cheating …

… He’s heartbroken. He confronts her, and they have a terrible argument.

A man catches his wife cheating …

… He snaps. He sneaks out and buys a gun.

A man catches his wife cheating …

… He’s secretly pleased. He berates her, knowing that in her guilt she’ll let him get away with anything.

A man catches his wife cheating …

… He’s happy for her. She’s seemed less stressed lately, and now he knows why. He buys her flowers.

Those are very different men.

If I left out the man’s reaction (like I did to my poor protagonist), it would erase those differences. Lacking cues, we as readers would rely on stereotypes and familiar tropes to guess how the man feels. Our guesses might differ, but they’d almost certainly be less rich and varied than the reactions of fleshed-out characters or real people. This omission would impoverish both character and story.

And I believe it would do something worse. Without scene and sequel, it’s harder to talk about characters whose emotions defy expectations. It’s harder to show readers the minds of people different from themselves.

In short, it’s harder to tell the stories no one has heard before.

And I want to hear those stories.

Photo credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/138158162774

Backstroking Through Peanut Butter


I’m in the throes of a rewrite that feels like I’m backstroking through peanut butter—I can’t see for beans, but I’m kicking, stroking, kicking, stroking, and doing all the right things to muddle through. This routine is necessary if I want to get to the end of the jar and finish the sandwich, but no new ideas are bubbling to the surface because shaking loose a bubble in this muck is rough work!

I’m not sure I can hack through it. Everywhere I look, I see whirlpools forming around stale chunks of plot. Bacteria are probably festering there as well. Why is this peanut butter crunchy when the label clearly says smooth? When I get to the bottom of the jar, will it be dry and cracked, like sun-scorched mud? Or will it be pure, straight peanut oil, which is certainly easier to navigate, but only serves to sog up my sando?

This expedition is tedious and tiresome. I feel unfit. I should quit. I should drop this mess into the composter and make a burrito instead. It’s weird that I even started with peanut butter because burritos are way easier and I prefer them in every way.

I’m pretty deep in the jar, though, and I’m not sure I can extract my big sticky feet. And what if I had one more of those inspired moments, producing one last golden peanut of an idea? One final frog kick could propel me to the Dagwood at the finish line.

I haven’t had a moment like that in a while, though. It’s been too long of a dry spell. S.O.S: I’ve entered un-spreadable territory.

There was that one idea… It was a pretty good one, too, a couple of weeks ago. It felt like I grew a pair of swim fins with serrated edges to slash through the brown. I torpedoed through four chapters.

Maybe I’ll hit another bubble soon. Maybe I should wait for it…

I guess I’ll stick it out. Too much time spent in this puddle of clay to leave now, and besides, I’ve run out of room in my drawer.

If you need me, I’ll be over here, kicking, stroking, kicking, stroking…

Photo Credit: kara.allthingsd.com/files/2008/06/peanutbutter_skippy.jpg

Killing Your Darlings

Vintage photo man on old-fashioned motorcycle in desertYou’ve heard the phrase everywhere: in how-to books, at conferences, and from many notable authors throughout the years. ‘Kill your darlings’ is widespread writing advice because it’s good writing advice. But, if you’re like me, it’s also one of the hardest pieces of advice to follow. We’re told to write from a place of passion, to give it our all—and then we’re expected to go at our work with the delete button?!

The answer to that is, of course: yes. Unless you’re among the minuscule percentage of writers who never want their work to see the light of day, you’re writing for a reader. And readers can’t read your work if they’re stumbling over words, confused by phrasing or distracted by excessive simile use.

But, for all the people who preach why you should kill your darlings, none of them explain how. They are darling, after all (and not everyone can be as cruel as George R. R. Martin). I say, instead of deleting them out of cyberspace, relocate them.

Whether your go-to program is Microsoft Word, Pages, or a writing program like Scrivener, start a document meant solely for all of your darlings (I call mine, ‘Stuff I Might Use’). When a critique group member, beta reader, or even yourself (upon second or third or fourth reading), sees a problem, a ‘darling’ in your lovely writing, copy and paste that darling into that document.

Just because you have three-too-many similes in one chapter doesn’t mean you can’t recycle those into a future chapter or, for that matter, into a future project. But chances are, eventually, you’ll forget about that heart-wrenching metaphor from page forty-five that pulls the reader out of the moment, or that detailed description of light reflecting off the floorboards which contradicts your character perspective.

The more you practice writing, the more drafts you revise, and the more books and writing advice you read, the easier it’ll be to recognize and eliminate the parts of your writing that aren’t working. I barely flinch anymore when my critique group suggests I cut out a sentence, paragraph, or even an entire chapter.

That’s because killed darlings aren’t wasted words. They are vital to the writing process. Ideas build upon one another. You can’t get from point A to point C without passing through point B first. And if you hold on too dearly to point B, you’ll never progress to point C.

So the next time someone tells you to ‘kill your darlings,’ rest assured that you can always resurrect them. But you might be surprised where all the ‘killing’ takes you!

Photo credit: nos.twnsnd.co/post/150867316324/



I bet when you clicked on thefeistywriter.com, you didn’t expect the advice to STOP WRITING NOW. Yet, here it is, and here’s why: because Mercury is in retrograde, which means this is rewrite time, baby!

Astrologists tell us that when Mercury is in retrograde, most aspects of our life are less than awesome. But for the rewriter in us, c’est fantastique! We don’t start a project when that badass planet looks like it’s spinning backwards, or create fresh content for a current project when the universe is topsy-turvy, oh no we don’t. We’re already battling with our loved ones, setting fire to our laptops, getting stuck in fluke hurricanes, and making ill-advised investment choices. Yes, our sage life skills are curled around the toilet, but the rewriter in us should do a double back handspring!

Sound the alarm—it’s RE-time! Time to REvisit old projects. REword the heinous screenplay stuck in the archives. REconfigure the chapter order of an awkward middle-grade fiction. REanalyze that hate poem, and maybe soften it. Or add more flames and REpost it! RE, RE, RE!

I guess RE-time doesn’t only have to happen during noteworthy astrological moments. Maybe we should take a beat when we feel stuck in deep, stinky brain cement. Or maybe when we’re low, tired, or sad. Or maybe when our laptop is honking because we’ve run out of space again and don’t want to pay for upgraded storage because this storage nonsense is highway robbery and I’ve had enough. Whatever the reason, there are times when it’s okay to say: I refuse to climb that mud-covered mountain during a lightning storm while wearing clogs. Just no.

So stop. Cease creating new material. But don’t stop writing—that would be crazy! This is your essence we’re talking about. Don’t quit baking because you’re too grumpy for cake—make brownies instead, out of the feces in your ancient word files! When Mercury or your mind, body, or soul is in retrograde, become a human dung beetle. Mine the crap in your Scrivener, or wherever you hide your most embarrassing attempts at your craft and add sugar. I can’t advise you to eat the result—that would be gross. But make something, anything, out of the old. Go vintage for a while; it might be just the thing for you this season.

Photo Credit: www.flickr.com Riksarkivet (National Archives of Norway)