Shooting for the Moon Without Internet and Other Writing Challenges

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There used to be a motivational poster that circulated the teachers’ classrooms when I was in grade school. Like all motivational posters, it served as an attempt to inspire students before they became fully jaded by life’s injustices. Shoot for the moon, the poster read, even if you miss, you will land among the stars.

The poster made no sense, scientifically speaking. Earth’s moon is much closer to a person and their fanciful desires than any star in our universe is. However, the sentiment behind the poster is somewhat encouraging. Set big goals and even if you don’t succeed in meeting that one big goal, you may find that you have achieved smaller successes in the process.

This past month has been a prime example of the need to recognize alternate and unexpected achievements. I started out with a grand plan of keeping up with my consistent blog posting, including writing on every lunch break, listening to writing podcasts on my commute each day to and from work, and basically bleeding writing . . . Then a mishap with the Internet company occurred and during an attempt to switch Internet providers at the house, we were accidentally left completely Internet-less at our house for the past couple weeks. With no Internet connection at home, I have not been able to post in my free time as I normally would.

I told myself that despite this obstacle, I would simply write on my lunch breaks and publish the posts at a coffee shop with WiFi in the meantime. I wouldn’t give up that easily. Then, it turned out that the coffee shop near my work is a very popular place to go at lunch time. I attempted to find parking on several occasions but to no avail, and and so that plan was equally dashed.

Without a way to work on my blog, I filled my spare time with random other activities that have proven fruitful for my writing, albeit for meeting my original goal. I finished David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls which entertained me and reminded me to focus on the fun of life and its peculiarities. I am also going to post a review soon, so I am able to use the time devoted to the book for my blog as well.

I am currently working my way through The Right to Write, a writer’s handbook by Julia Cameron. The activities suggested in the book have given me some prompts to experiment with on my lunch breaks. As a result, I’ve been handwriting a few poems and short story pieces in one of my writer’s notebooks on my lunch breaks, little bits of writing that exist solely for my enjoyment.

I also found that I had enough down time to think about ways I can slowly shift into writing for a living. With this goal in mind, I searched volunteer editing opportunities, contacted an organization in regards to their post seeking a volunteer editing, and within a couple days, I am now listed as an editor with this non-profit and have the chance to edit blog posts of my choice.

While we still don’t have Internet at the house (that will change on Monday!), I am thankful for this unexpected setback as it allowed for several other writing opportunities to come to fruition.

Does this all sound too positive and cheesy? If so, you should probably consider adding some motivational posters to your decor . . .

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Writing Exercise: The Way Home

What’s the way home?

There are so many ways I’ve taken,

Countless roads that have led me here.

Some were paved and offered no resistance,

Others were arduous and left me weak.

Some days I walked with company at my side

And many I traveled alone.

What’s the way home?

It’s there,

But it’s fleeting

Found in the breath you take in the evenings,

Realizing you’ve held it all day.

What’s the way home?

My way follows the ridgeline of the Sandias

North to South

Only to come out East,

Surprised to find myself back in the humid Appalachians after all this time.

This poem was based on a writing prompt I received from an e-mail. The prompt was to write (in extensive detail) directions on how to get to your house. I didn’t connect with the prompt when I first read it, but days later, I was driving home and randomly had a thought that led to this poem.

Writing Exercise: Driving (Part 2)

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You can read Part 1 of Driving here.

I see a parking lot on one block’s corner and pull in, handing the man in the booth a five dollar bill for the twenty-four hour flat fee. The man is middle-aged with a heavy moustache, his black button up shirt tucked into his pants and showing the outline of his protruding stomach. He smiles at me, and I smile back.

“Nice day today, isn’t it?” he says, revealing a row of large, white bleached teeth. I nod.

“Beautiful,” he continues and hands me a slip of paper to put on my dashboard. He is still looking up at the sky, admiring the weather as I park.

I walk along the sidewalks, turning corners, feeling no pull in any direction, which is just what I want. Before long, I notice a set of heavy-looking doors facing the street, and above them is a sign denoting a bar stylizing itself as an Irish-style pub. I walk in. The bar is pleasantly dark and mostly empty except for a few men and women seated next to one another directly at the bar. The deeply tinted windows make the place seem underground when we are actually still street level.

I take a seat at the end of the bar, away from the group who all seem to know each other. The bartender approaches me.  He is in his early thirties and is dressed in a well-tailored black vest and white collared shirt.  As he turns to pass me the drink menu, I notice he has a large mass, some sort of tumor hanging from the side of his neck. The mass of flesh is startlingly large, and I have never seen someone in person with such a condition.  I try not to stare as he examines my ID.

“What can I get for you?”  His eyes are a soft brown and stare at me like he already knows why I am here, even as I am aware that I myself do not know. I feel the goosebumps beginning to pop up on my spine, and I order the first drink I see on the menu.

The bartender turns to get my drink, and as he leaves, someone takes a seat in the chair to my left. I look over, and see that two guys have taken seats next to me. They both look about the same age as I am. The one directly to my left has blond hair and is wearing a black t-shirt.  The t-shirt has an image of Alice from Alice in Wonderland, only she is covered in tattoos and is wearing a t-shirt for a brand of whiskey. In the chair next to him is a guy with darker hair and a blue checkered button down shirt.

“I’m Jared, and this is my friend Garrett,” the blond haired one says. As we are shaking hands, the bartender returns with my drink. Jared asks him for three shots of vodka, motioning to me and his friend. The bartender looks from them to me for a moment, and when I don’t protest, he nods and disappears again.

“Figured we would make a proper introduction,” Jared explains, smiling.  He asks what I am doing here. I motion to the space around me.

“Just this for now.” I feel he is expecting more of a response, but my brain can’t come up with any more words. There seems to be nothing else I could possibly say.  When I don’t offer a further explanation, he pauses then says, “My buddy and I are in the Air Force.  We’re just kicking back before we get deployed next week.”

His enthusiasm as he says the word “deployment” comes out in a way that makes me think he is immature, and I am reminded of a dozen other men in the military that I have met, all eager to put their training to use in a remote location overseas.

The bartender is lining up the three shot glasses in front of us.  One for Garrett, one for Jared, one for me. I am thinking of how many times a night the bartender must do this: how many times he sets down the shot glasses, each hitting the bar top with a small clink, how many times he pours the contents from vodka bottles into the glasses one by one, filling each with a splash, as hand after hand reaches for the glasses, one after another, and devours the liquid in a single gulp. I wonder then, how many times has that hand belonged to Ethan, how many times in his life has Ethan’s tanned hand touched some form of alcohol? Hundreds? A thousand? Maybe five thousand bottles of whiskey, shots of vodka, cans of stale beer, bottles of fine wine from weddings, plastic cups of punch from mysterious bowls at parties, close friends’ cheap water glasses filled with whatever alcohol was left in the refrigerator, my own cups of half-finished ciders that he wouldn’t let go to waste, beer bottles that rolled out from under the bed when I was changing the sheets, the countless growlers I had purchased full but found empty in the cabinet under the kitchen sink . . .

Writing While Working: Updates

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Today is my third day of incorporating writing into my work day (in the morning before work, during my lunch break and after work). I wanted to post an update about how this week was going and some of my feedback for trying out this schedule.

My day starts at 7:00 AM on Tuesdays, and so yesterday, I found myself walking Queso in the cold darkness of 5:00 AM, wrapped in a blue blanket while scrolling through blogs on my phone. I did have to think that this image is how an urban legend would come about – a shivering, pale woman enshrouded in blankets, calling out, “Qu-e-e-e-soooo!” is seen roaming around a country yard before dawn . . . Nonetheless, this time is perfect for both making sure I get to hang out with my dog before work and also replying to blog comments and getting new ideas for writing. These morning times are actually one of my favorite parts of the day, as everything is so quiet and peaceful. We even have roosters nearby, so it makes me feel like I am a writer in the countryside (oh wait, I am!).

Later, on the drive to work, I turned on another fifteen minute episode of the Odyssey podcast. This one was the second episode in the series and was given by Jeff VanderMeer. He mused on why fantasy is important. I really wish I would have discovered podcasts earlier in my life, as they are great ways of passing the time on long road trips, or daily commutes like my 45 minute one. If you’re interested in checking out the podcast I’m listening to this week, the link is here.

This morning (Wednesday) I pulled up podcast number three on the drive, which I enjoyed the most so far. This podcast included an excerpt from the speaker Gardner Dozois who discussed tips for sending in work to editors. He included suggestions like not giving a synopsis in your cover letter, which surprised me, but he pointed out that a work should speak for itself in terms of theme and synopsis. He also stressed the importance of remaining professional rather than falling into the idiosyncratic writer stereotype, as most people can’t pull that off well. An encouraging point he shared was that work is sometimes thrown into the “rejected” pile not necessarily because the editor doesn’t like the writing but because it doesn’t fit the current market.

It is now lunch time, and I have rushed over to the Starbucks right down the road from work to whip out my laptop and type up this post. When I hurry, I can make that hour long lunch break seem longer than it is. This week, I have definitely gotten a wake-up call in terms of how much time I spend procrastinating or not being conscious enough of timewasters.

Another exciting bit of news I did want to share is that my blog is up to 100 followers at the moment! This may not seem like a lot, but it is amazing to have any readers whatsoever out there. I am ecstatic that there are people (like you!) who have read posts of mine and shared their own writing with me as well. Even having one person read something I have written is a big deal for this formally shy writer. Thank you to everyone reading; I am learning lots through my experiences with you all and have been so encouraged to continue living my life of writing!

Working in Writing While Working this Week


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I am finding time for alliteration even while working a full-time job! I woke up this morning with a goal in mind: find as many ways to work in writing this week. I have been in training for my new job the last two weeks and while I have been able to write a little, I am far from my ideal writing habit.

I haven’t been too hard on myself, as I needed to give myself time to adjust to a new job, but as I’m starting the third week, I have decided to “buckle down” and go with a test run of some ideas I have had.

This is a brief outline of my writing plan:

Podcasts

Every morning this week, I am going to listen to a podcast on the commute to work. I downloaded enough episodes to get me through this week. The podcast I am listening to this week is The Odyssey. It appeared on a list of useful podcasts for writers, so I decided to give it a go. I listened to the first episode this morning and I am pleasantly surprised by how informative it was. The episode was an excerpt of an author’s writing workshop, and he provided lots of tips for writers. These tips included how to describe characters without their descriptions seeming too heavy-handed and the importance of setting in a story.

Re-Thinking Lunch Breaks

I am currently writing this post on my lunch break outside of a McDonald’s. I’m the type of person who needs to leave work on my lunch break just for a change of atmosphere, so I was on the lookout for public WiFi. Conveniently, there is a McDonald’s a quarter mile away from work, so I grabbed a snack from the drive-thru and set up with my laptop in the comfort of my car. There is also a Starbucks nearby, so I have another close location for quick blog posts.

It is my goal this week to do some sort of writing (blogging, journaling, creative writing, etc.), even if it is a haiku, on every lunch break.

Multi-Tasking

As I have returned to work, I am not able to go on nice, long walks during the day with my beloved dog. Instead, I walk him in the mornings and late afternoons (Alex walks him during his lunch break). I have realized that those half hour to hour long walking sessions are also a convenient time for me to check out other people’s blogs and network with other writers. Therefore, I have decided I am going to use those walking times to get inspired by all the bloggers out there. I might even try reading books at this time, although I have never been big on reading long texts electronically.


I am giving this week a trial run with these goals to see the best areas for fitting in writing and writing-related tasks into my busy schedule. I will post how this week goes and will also share any tips on what I learn.

What a Week of Reading My Friends’ Writing Taught Me


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This past week, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to read the writing of several friends. One of these friends lives across the state, one is traveling through Australia at the moment, and the two others form my local writing group that meets every other week an hour from my town. Despite these geographic differences, I am able to comment on everyone’s works through Google Docs. (FYI: This online word processor is a super easy way for writers to share documents with each other and write comments within the document!)

All four of these writers lean towards very different genres but all were looking for feedback on their works in progress this week. I have been reading one work a day for the last couple days, and today, I will finish up with the last one.

I don’t normally read over so many works in one week, but it just so happened that several requests lined up all at once. I am grateful to know such talented and creative people and while reading over each of their stories, I reflected on the mutual benefits that come with writers sharing their works in progress with fellow writers.

Sneak Peaks!

As the reader, I get to experience my friends’ writing in advance. There is something very beautiful about watching an idea evolve into a short story or novel. One of my friend’s stories has already been read over once by an agent and is being sent in again by request. It is pretty cool to think I am in the process of reading stories which may become the next bestsellers!

Sampler of Genres

I also find that as a writer myself, I am inspired by my friends’ dedication and creativity that show through in their writing. The works I read this week ranged from historical fiction to science fiction and fantasy, and I found it impossible to not want to write in every genre after reading them. One of my friends’ work was a detective story, something I wouldn’t normally read, but her plot was one that got me thinking about the genre in new ways, including her crossover into sci-fi.

A Second Opinion

When I’ve had my own writing looked over, I have found the feedback invaluable. Hearing other people’s interpretations of my work helps me determine if I have succeeded in telling a story the way that I wanted to tell it. Often, the reader will point out a weak word choice or ask for clarity about a scene in the story, a signal that I have not gotten my point across and need to revise.

I have also gotten helpful feedback on the overall structure and tone of works. For example, when I first started my blog, a writer friend suggested I forget the rule teachers pounded into my head of never using contractions in “real” writing. I am so thankful this friend brought that detail to my attention, as I hadn’t noticed how much more formal (i.e., too formal) my blog sounded without them.

The Artist at Work

Reading other people’s writing helps me learn about their own processes for developing characters and constructing plots. When a friend asks me for advice about a certain element of their story, for example, whether a character is believable or whether a sequence of scenes makes sense, it helps me to remember to pay attention to these things when I am writing stories of my own.

The on-going conversation about story craft and development is one that keeps important components of writing fresh in my mind as both a reader and writer. Both when my work is being read and when I am reviewing someone else’s story, I am continuously improving my own writing simply by closely focusing on the subtle complexities of story-building.


Sharing writing has proven to be a rich experience for me. Perhaps the best part about doing so is being reminded that I am not alone in my enthusiasm nor my struggles with writing. There is a global network of writers out there, and we are all trying to give life to the stories within us. By helping one another do so, we become stronger writers ourselves.

Do you share your work with other writers? Have you learned anything from doing so? Comment below and tell us about it!

Writing Exercise: Driving (Part 1)

Photo Credit:
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The driving is nothing for me. Years of practice have taught me to turn off whatever part of the brain is responsible for boredom, fatigue, for feeling your body’s reaction to sitting in the driver’s seat for hours. The ritual is like this: You put the keys in the ignition and you start the engine, and the resulting sound will be the sound of work, a symphony of gasoline and transmission fluid flowing from tanks through lines curling like snakes under the hood, and there is the imperceptible sound of sparks firing, all mechanical processes I don’t fully understand and I don’t care to. I only really know the sound of the engine and the relief of the car starting, which sends off a chemical reaction of endorphins and serotonin that flow within me and pump blood through my veins, as if I am a vehicle myself that is awakening. I am certain this is the same pleasure smokers get from nicotine.

Not me though, I smoked a few cigarettes when I was a kid, a little more than a teenager, and for all my nervous habits and  inclination to step outside of parties into the cold silence of the host’s doorstep, I never understood The Cigarette, or the Ritual of Smoking, although I envied those who did. I watched enviously as my friends borrowed lighters from one another and started conversations with strangers as code for a cigarette. I watched them try it the other way around, too, asking for cigarettes as an excuse to begin a conversation. I saw bulky men with strong hands delicately strike matches across auburn stripes of phosphorus, and I happily breathed in the puff of sulfur that appeared when they shook out the flame. But I myself never liked to smoke. I could not get past the violation my lungs felt as if I had betrayed them, and I felt no pleasure in it.

When I smoked, it felt like I was an actor in a play. Every time I held the cigarette in my hand I could see the stage directions in my mind – She flicks her cigarette absentmindedly and takes a deep drag, staring ahead. I don’t even wear lipstick, so the filter seems emptily used and naked afterwards, no red lip stains, no evidence of Me, and it reminds me of a one night stand that leaves no trace of emotion in your memory.

Oklahoma City is eight hours away, and really, as I said, I don’t mind the drive. I am three hours in and feel the numb high that comes with having no association with my surroundings. Everything is neutral when you are driving. No one is particularly good or bad; people are simply a blur of faces that either smile at you through their windows as you pass them or just stare blankly. I do talk with some people, mostly at rest stops or gas stations. It’s always the usual small talk that involves where are you coming from (Albuquerque), where are you from, and upon hearing I’m from North Carolina (though not mostly recently), the comments follow about visiting a very nice beach in the Outer Banks once whose name the stranger can’t remember. I find myself very cheerful during these conversations. Laughter comes easily and I never feel at a loss for words when talking with a stranger. Short exchanges, meaningless in the end, finishing once we each nod in parting and close ourselves off into our cars, our metal doors a physical end to the conversation.

The open road is a kind of meditation for me. I-40 East flows smoothly like one big black coffee spill and for the most part, I am able to empty my mind completely. Except for the intermittent thoughts of Ethan, and the memory of the blue hair-tie on the closet floor. The hair-tie that was not mine, an object so minuscule, a simple thin, elastic band, an ordinary thing that was only unusual for the fact that it had somehow manifested over the weekend while I was at my spring work conference. Of course, at the moment I discovered it, I at once realized the hair-tie had been a long time coming. It had threatened its presence with the extra work obligations, the sudden interest in texting, and most telling of all, the way Ethan seemed to lose the ability to look me in the eye.

But driving is a good anesthetic, and the memory is pushed further down into my mind with each billboard that I pass. Amarillo comes and goes; I pause there only long enough to stop at an ice cream stand, a wooden structure with thin walls against which several tumbleweeds are beginning to stack. I hold the ice cream in one hand and drive with the other, soaring out of Amarillo and further east, eventually crossing the Texas-Oklahoma border. It is a somewhat drastic change from dust and dirt to endless grass, infinite green. The Oklahoma sky seems to hang lower, its clouds more in reach, billowy tufts of cottony-grey atmosphere hovering above the stretch of highway. The low Oklahoma sky is a total contrast to the New Mexican sky which always remains distant, like the inside of a church, with its high domed ceiling.

I reach Oklahoma City eight hours and twenty-eight minutes after I left Albuquerque. The city is an expanse of typical urban buildings, a jumble of squares and rectangles arranged along sidewalks filled with meandering people: splashes of red, blue, green shirts here and there, most everyone in blue jeans. I have no other plan than to spend the night in this city, away from Ethan, away from my friends, away from anything that requires me to think or assess, make judgments. I take an exit that leads to the downtown area, and the road I am on takes me directly into the city center. I know nothing about the city, having only passed through it on occasion driving between New Mexico and North Carolina, but I have no desire for any more knowledge. I am not here for visiting or exploring. I just want to be away for a while.


The passage above is a fiction piece that I started a while back and just picked up again. I plan to post the remaining parts in the future. Thank you for reading and as always, I welcome constructive feedback!

Jobs, Dogs, and Plots: Reevaluating My Writing Schedule

Queso!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I find that life often calls for a reevaluation of my writing schedule. This week has proven to be the case and for two great reasons.

The first is that Alex and I adopted a dog from the local shelter. We have been talking about doing so for going on a year now and finally felt it was a good time. He was a stray, and even though he was brought to the shelter wearing a collar, no one claimed him after several days. The staff there called him Cheese-It because of his orange coloring, and at the suggestion of a friend, we have tweaked that name to Queso. A ridiculous name and yet also fitting for his goofy personality!

I am sure that every dog owner says this, but he is perfect (really!). He is chill, quiet, friendly with our two cats, house-trained, the smartest dog ever (he is already learning “sit” and “down”), and so on. I’m surprised my poor friends and family are even answering my texts anymore since I have bombarded them with cute pictures non-stop.

This week was my last week of unemployment (another hooray!), and so I was able to spend the whole week with Queso, helping him get adjusted to his new home. He is a huge fan of extremely squeaky toys – the squeakier the better – and loves being brushed, which is good since he is “a bit” of a shedder. Due to this influx of squeaky-toy-time in my schedule and also my new-found addiction to finding ways to remove dog hair from virtually every object in the home, I have not been able to write as much as I would like.

The second reason I need to reevaluate my writing schedule is that, as I mentioned, this week was my last week staying home. I am excited to be starting my new job on Monday which will require an interesting schedule of 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM some days and 9:30 PM – 6:30 PM other days (no weekends though, thankfully). With this new schedule, I will need to do some heavy structuring to make sure I get in enough writing in to remain sane.

I am still working on some ideas, but I am thinking of writing during my lunch break since I will be getting a solid hour every day. I will also be getting home before five three days a week, which will give me time to write in the late afternoon. I have been playing with the idea of posting segments of the same short story throughout the week as a way to divide up writing into more manageable chunks along with more posts about my writing process and experiences.

Time will tell in regards to the best way to adjust my writing schedule, and I will be sure to post updates on any revelations I come to. In the meantime, I welcome any suggestions readers may have for writing while caring for pets and/or working irregular hours.

Tips for Saving Money as a Writer

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Like many writers I know, I would love to be able to write full-time and to get paid while doing so. As of yet, however, I am still working towards that goal (though I do believe it is possible!). In the meantime, I find it necessary to work a job that provides enough income but isn’t so stressful that I’m not able to write at the end of the day. Unfortunately, “stressful” jobs often equate to the more lucrative jobs in my experience, so it is a difficult balance to maintain.

Here are some tips on how you can save money as a writer (and spend more money on coffee!).

1. DIY Writing Retreats

I see advertisements for writing retreats and residencies all over writing websites and blogs. They often show beautiful beaches and smiling writers at work on their laptops, writing in contentment hundreds of miles from the pressures of their everyday lives. My interest is always piqued until I see the price tag, which is very often in the thousands of dollars for trips such as these.

Sadly, my liberal arts degree has not yet panned out into a career in which thousand dollar trips are in my budget. With this financial obstacle, some friends and I decided to plan our own (i.e., free) writing retreat. We spent a weekend at a friend’s house, working together in the common space of her living room, and when the weather was nice, her front porch.

Some of us decided to devote the whole weekend to writing and stayed overnight in the spare rooms, whereas other writers came and went as their schedules permitted over the course of the two days. We broke up our writing sessions with food runs and meditative breaks, all of which helped keep our focus strong.

2. Low-Cost Writing Courses

If you are looking for an opportunity to consistently focus on writing, a local writing course might be of interest. Community colleges often have what are called Continuing Education courses. These are courses that basically anyone can sign up for and don’t count towards a degree. The average cost of the ones in my area are about $75-$100 for about eight weeks of classes (usually one night a week). My local community college has been offering Continuing Education courses focused on poetry, memoirs, and crafting children’s books.

If your age qualifies you as a senior citizen, you may even be able to take courses completely for free, even at the university level. Most colleges have information on their websites that will give more information about these opportunities.

3. Free Writing Groups

A quick Google search can help you find writing groups in your area. These are typically groups of people who meet together in coffee shops to either critique each other’s works or simply to share space while writing individually. Often, these groups are free, or sometimes charge a small amount for each session, around $5.

Different communities have various styles of groups, so be sure to look around the local bulletin boards and community newspapers. When I lived in Albuquerque, there was a group of poets who met together in a community building and took turns reading aloud their works. The city’s Poet Laureate even led the group! Everyone was welcome to attend, and it was a wonderful way to hear the works of local writers.

4. Find Used Books in Your Area

Writers know that reading is a great way to keep your writing ideas flowing and to get a feel for a variety of writing styles and voices. Books can be pricey, but if you know where to look, you can often find some amazing deals.

Local libraries often have book sales to supplement their budget. I’ve seen a few that have bi-weekly sales in addition to seasonal “clearance” sales, where you fill an entire shopping bag of books for only $5. Often, the selection includes newly released books and bestsellers in addition to the standard classics. These book sales can be extremely popular (think Black Friday electronics!), so wear your running shoes and your game face.

If you don’t want to brave the crowds at the book sales, remember that checking out books from the library is also an option. This is not only free but is friendly for the environment. You also don’t clutter up your home with books that you will only read once.

Facebook groups are also popular places for people to sell books or even give them away for free. People who are relocating may use these groups to post their items, as they are often looking to get rid of them quickly. Do a search for your area and see what comes up!

5. Writing Software and Apps

Scrivener is a writing software that is specifically designed for writers. I know several people who swear by it, and if you are the type of person who loves to organize your writing, it is worth a look.

The site offers a free 30 day trial, and is an exceptionally fair trial at that, as the 30 days are not necessarily consecutive (a day is only counted if you actually use Scrivener that day). The program itself is normally about $45, but Scrivener offers a huge discount during the month of November for Nanowrimo participants, so that is a great time to purchase it (and get focused on your writing!).

There are tons of free writing apps out there. I use a voice-recording app to take verbal notes when I’m not able to hand-write an idea. Mindomo is a free mind-mapping app that helps you plan plots. There are also several free apps that can help you keep track of your writing habits and time spent writing.


Do you have more tips on saving money in the writing world? Maybe you use a free app that has been invaluable for your writing, or you know of great low-cost writing courses? Feel free to leave a link in the comment section and spread the word!

Living a Life of Writing: Volunteering at the Local Library

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If you were to ask me what influenced my interest in writing the most, I would answer without hesitation – growing up within walking distance of a public library.

I lived within a block of the library for most of my childhood, and I visited it on average two or three times each week. I still remember getting my very first library card when I was a kid. It was a sleek, silver piece of plastic that represented freedom and endless hours of reading virtually any book I wanted. I carried the card in my little plastic purse, feeling important every time I reached in to take it out and check out a stack of books. Often, I would walk home with a pile of books numbering over a dozen, reading the top one while walking.

I read everything I could get my hands on. My favorite series as a kid was the Baby-sitters Club, and I read every single copy that the library had in stock (and if you are familiar with this kids’ series, you know there are hundreds of titles). These books introduced me to a diverse group of characters from all different backgrounds and interests. I read all the Harry Potters, putting my name on the library’s hold list as soon as possible so that I could be first in line to read the newest release.

I checked out non-fiction books for school projects when I needed research material. I used the internet there during the time my family didn’t own a computer. When I got to high school, I saw the library as a quiet space to complete my homework when my living situation didn’t provide that. Being surrounded by so many books in such a happy place, I realized early on that I wanted to write things that would end up in libraries. I wanted to write like all those authors I admired; I wanted someone else to pick a book with my name on it off the shelf and find happiness with it, too.

Over the years, I developed a connection with libraries that I still have today. Walking into a library instantaneously improves my mood, and I love the concept of essentially “renting” a book for free and sharing it with the community. I guess this passion shows because it is a running joke with some friends that I am constantly mistaken for the librarian in public libraries! People often come up to me and ask me to help them find certain books or ask for information about the library’s services.

With my new practice of “living a life of writing,” I recently decided to volunteer at my local library once a week to help pay back some of that goodness that libraries have provided me. It is also a chance to surround myself with books on a consistent basis. Today was my first day, and I loved being able to help the librarians shelve books, even if to most people that task sounds tedious. I’ve never thought about how long it must have taken the librarians to shelve those hundreds (probably thousands) of books I’ve checked out over the years!

I am looking forward to getting more involved in my community and learning how to share my love for libraries with others. I also like being able to basically browse books at the same time I’m volunteering, so I get to make a running list of books I want to read. Taking this opportunity to introduce more writing-related time in my life is a huge step for me, and I can’t wait to share more of what I learn while helping out there.

Do you love your local library as well, whether it be public, personal, or even a tiny, free one? Or do you have more ideas for opportunities to surround yourself with writing consistently? Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you!