This quote can make it easy to write a first draft (free printable!)

This one quote can make it easy to write a first draft, plus a free printable art print with the Anne Lamott quote about shitty first drafts from Bird by Bird.

I hunched into my laptop and clenched my teeth. I glared at the screen. I wrote a sentence, then deleted it. I wrote another one and deleted it, too. I did not want to write a first draft. Ever.

So I decided to quit my job and become a construction worker. I decided to quit my job and become a nurse. I decided to quit my job and become anything else on earth but someone who has to produce words for a living.

I plodded through a few more sentences and decided the only job I was qualified for was dog-petter. I excel at dog-petting.

I kept going, stopping to make fun of each sentence as it went down.

I did not look like this:

reading nook mistakes

(Jarrett makes sitting down to write a first draft look so relaxing.)

You see, I used to hate to sit down to write a first draft. (Do you?)

But then, a few years ago I read a quote that completely changed how I feel about first drafts. It made me realize: it can actually be easy to write a first draft.

This quote can make it easy to write a first draft

I realized that it’s painful to write a first draft because we hold onto an illusion: the illusion that our first drafts should be good. Or even adequate. Or anything but god-awful.

But that’s entirely wrong.

That illusion is chaining us to tense, boring first drafts. It’s making us turn on ourselves. It snuffs our sparkle and stomps on our fun.

So how do we make it easy to write a draft?

We let go of that illusion.

And we let go of that illusion by clinging to this one quote. I’ve heard this quote referenced hundreds of times in my career as a literary agent and editor.

I know writers who write incredibly well and make a lot of money doing it and who’ve filed this quote away in their mental pep talk archive.

This quote on how to write a first draft comes from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, one of the most beloved books on writing. As Anne writes:

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

write a first draft

When I first read that in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, it freed me.

It freed me to see the first draft as a starting point rather than as Judgment Day. It made me realize that it can be fun and easy to write a first draft. As Anne goes on to say:

“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page.

If one of the characters wants to say, ‘Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,’ you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to go into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him.

Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational means.

There may be something the in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposted to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go—but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

So, instead of wincing through our painfully bad sentences as we write a first draft, we can throw our heads back and laugh at it. Ha ha ha, that’s really bad, we’ll say. Ha ha ha, that doesn’t make a speck of sense!

And that’s great. It’s great that our first draft is terrible, because it means we’re letting loose and flowing. We’re outrunning our inner critics and we’re getting high off the thrill of going, going, going.

So, to help us all remember that the first draft is for nobody but us, I created a free printable art print with every writer’s favorite Anne Lamott quote:

write a first draft

If you need to remember this liberating quote like I do, then download this free printable art print with the Anne Lamott quote, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

I hope it keeps you from quitting to become a professional dog-petter. Because I already applied for that job.

Click here to access the literary printables archive and download this free art print!

More tips to make it easy to write a first draft:

easy stop procrastinating writing

guided meditation for writers with anxiety

How to get past writer's block

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What I’m Reading This Week

Angie Mar’s Menu: Red Meat and Respect (Tejal Rao for The New York Times): We were so proud to see Stonesong client, Angie Mar, make the front page of the Time’s food section last week! My favorite thought from the piece: “As reports of abuse and sexual harassment in the restaurant business continue to break, Ms. Mar provides an obvious reminder: It is possible — it has always been possible — for a chef to pursue excellence without creating a toxic environment.”

Women Writing about the Wild: 25 Essential Authors (Kathryn Aalto for Outside): Nature + women writers = exactly what we all need more of this year.

Say what you mean to say (Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy): This post really hit me hard. It made me think about how novels aren’t just plots wound out–they are reflections of real life, and they’re meant to remind us of what if.

14 books that will change your life in 2018 (Locke Hughes for Looky here, my author Erin’s book, How To Get Sh*t Done, is on this list! And there’s lots of other great, life-changing reads on deck here, too.

What We’re Eating This Week

We were in Miami last weekend, where I ate ten trillion stone crab legs and six peel-n-eat shrimp. A precise counter, I am.

Monday: Cava on our way home from the airport. Because I will collapse if I have to eat another Chipotle bowl.

Tuesday: Well, Jarrett meal-planned for tonight. I am actively encouraging his participation in meal-planning so I am actively not going to use the word weird about the meal we ate.

Wednesday: I know our nation is divided, but I have great news: we are not divided on how to make split pea soup!! I was Googling for a split pea soup recipe, and every single person told me to put ham in it. There is no other way, apparently. And I’m perfectly willing to fall in line for the sake of national unity. Except–I don’t have ham. I have this sausage. So please don’t tell the internet on me.

Thursday: Jarrett is at a class after work, so I’m making a leisurely giant bowl of spaghetti using a recipe from this cookbook. Ah, the single life.

Friday: Our second meeting of dinner club is tonight, and it is Mexican-themed! (This is a front for drinking margaritas all night.)


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The one word you need to stop saying to overcome perfectionism

The one word you need to stop saying to overcome perfectionism–this one word makes women feel guilty all the time, but you can choose to stop saying it to overcome perfectionism and guilt. (This post may contain affiliate links.)

A few weekends ago, Jarrett and I collapsed on the couch. It was supposed to have been a restful Sunday, but we’d just spent the day doing laundry, attending service, cleaning, grocery shopping, organizing the closet, taking Pepper to the dog park, and prepping food for the week.

We were ready for bed. It was 5:13 pm.

And we had one last thing on our list: cook Sunday dinner.

We’d already defrosted a roast, bought cauliflower and brussels for sides, and picked out a recipe from Meat. We were COMMITTED. No way out of it now.

The one word you should stop saying to overcome perfectionism

So the shoulds started.

We should cook a nice Sunday dinner. We should use the defrosted meat. We should have something healthy. We should stay on track with our meal plan for the week. We should not be slobs and lay on the couch all night like sacks of potatoes.

Apparently, only Pepper is allowed to lay around all day like a sack of potatoes.

The one word you should stop saying to overcome perfectionism

(Forget Pepper about getting a job. I want to apply for her job.)

As the shoulds piled on and yelled at me about how disappointed they would be if we didn’t execute our flawless dinner plan, another voice rung out.

“Guilt is to the spirit what pain is to the body.” — Elder David A. Bednar

I’d read that quote the week before because my author, Erin Falconer, had chosen it as the opening for her section about the word should in her book, How to Get Sh*t Done.

As Erin writes,

Should is a word that implies obligation and expectation and often comes as a box set that’s gift-wrapped in guilt and even shame. It’s also a word that implies open-endedness and the absence of a decision. It describes possibility rather than reality. ‘I should go to the gym’ is not the same as ‘I’m going to the gym.’ …

When you find yourself saying should, you’re not anticipating something great, but rather remind yourself of that never-ending to-do list you should (there it is again!) be chipping away at.”

As Erin points out, should is an energy drain because it forces us to be in two places at once. We should be cooking dinner, but we are feeling guilty about it on the couch instead. So we don’t feel good about cooking dinner, and we don’t feel good about NOT cooking dinner. Pretty miserable, right?

That’s why should is the one word you need to stop saying to overcome perfectionism. Instead, what we can do is banish should and get to the bottom of those should-tasks.

The one word you need to stop saying to overcome perfectionism, and how to stop saying it

The one word you need to stop saying to overcome perfectionism 1

As soon as you hear the word should come out of your mouth or pass through your thoughts, pause for a moment. This task you should be doing–is it really important? Here are the 3 questions you should ask yourself to overcome perfectionism and guilt that you’re not doing everything.

3 questions to help you debunk should and overcome perfectionism

Is your task essential and time-sensitive?

If your task is essential and must be done right then or truly bad things will happen, tell yourself, “I will get that done now. It will feel great to get it out of the way.” That way, you’re focusing on the good that will come out of this unexciting task, and you’ll feel more motivated to just get it done.

If your task essential and not time-sensitive?

If your task is essential but can be done later, create a reminder on your phone or add a time slot to your calendar for when you will do it. Remind yourself why you’re doing it. “I will call the insurance company because I want the peace of mind that everything is okay.” “I will edit my manuscript because I will be so proud of myself once it’s done.”

Is your task nonessential?

If it doesn’t matter and you really don’t want to do it, don’t. Think of it as saying yes to the things that matter (your family, your self-care, your creativity), and no to the things that don’t (keeping up with others, perfectionism, guilt, resentment).


That day, as I sunk into the soft couch with a sigh, I realized that I did not want to cook a complicated meal. Hell no. Not tonight.

So I remembered what I’d read in Erin’s book about the one word you need to stop saying to overcome perfectionism. And channeling Erin’s courage, I decided to kick those shoulds right out the door.

What I really should do, I decided, was respect the reality of margin. (Start with this book on margin if you want to learn more about that!) I would not start the workweek exhausted and unable to give my best to my authors and colleagues.

I was going to eat something simple so I could have more time and energy to hang out with Jarrett (marriage > fancy meals, every time.) I was going to skip cooking one night so that I’d be more excited to cook the next.

I was going to stop feeling guilty about completely silly things and let the smart advice from my badasser-than-I authors sink into my life.

So we scrapped the fancy dinner plan and boiled spaghetti. And we ate it in our jammies, on the couch, with no guilt at all.


If you want 2018 to be the year you stop feeling guilty and start getting sh*t done, pick up How to Get Sh*t Done: Why Women Need To Stop Doing Everything So They Can Achieve Anything. In it, Erin shares much more about should–the one word you need to stop saying to overcome perfectionism–as well as hundreds of other tips for achieving more while doing less.

As one Amazon reviewer wrote:

“As a multi tasking, working, single mom, I could really use insight on how to do less yet achieve more. It is like she is in my brain. I love this book! So, while everyone around me is thankful I won’t be running on empty anymore, I am thanking Erin for writing this book and sharing her stories as well as her useful system of productivity.”

Erin is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Owner of Pick the Brain, one of the most widely read and well-respected self improvement blogs on the web, and Refinery 29 named her 1 of 10 Women Changing the Digitalscape for Good.

She’s also one of the kindest, bravest, most badass women (she delivered a beautiful baby just two months before releasing her book baby!), and her advice has done a lot to help me stop feeling so darn guilty all the time. I hope you find it helpful, too!

For more productivity tips, keep reading:

how to start writing a book

how to get more writing done

how to be more productive writer

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What I’m Reading This Week

24 Books You Can Read in Basically One Sitting (Terri Pous for Buzzfeed): Binge-reading: activate!

How To Stop Being “Busy” And Start Getting Stuff Done (Erin Falconer on GirlBoss): If you want more Erin (I do!), here’s an excerpt from How To Get Sh*t Done that was excerpted on GirlBoss.

7 Ways to Make It Easy for Publishers to Offer You a Book Contract (Chad R. Allen): It’s true: every publisher (and agent) wants that easy, slam-dunk book to say yes to. While exact numbers may vary based on category and house, these are all sure-fire ways of perking up attention for your project.

Two dying memoirists wrote bestsellers about their final days. Then their spouses fell in love. (Nora Krug for The Washington Post): This story is so beautiful, it almost makes me teary.

Best Book Marketing Advice for Authors: The Best of 2017 (Jane Friedman): This article is jam-packed with incredible resources and insight for smart book marketing. This is where I’d start if you’re ready to promote a book!

What We’re Eating This Week:

Well I just told you this whole story about how I struggle with shoulding myself in the kitchen (and really, lots of other places), so be gentle as I tell you about how sad, sad, sad our meals were this week.

Monday: Don’t let Monday fool you, but we did cook a real thing: Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein. I was so proud!

Tuesday: I’m in NYC so ???

Wednesday: Street cart? Chipotle? Panic and dismay?

Thursday: Airport food. Yeah.

Friday: We’re in MIAMI! I’ll take one thousand fish tacos, please.

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How to start a writing blog in 2018: The easy, step-by-step guide

How to start a writing blog in 2018: the easy step-by-step guide to show writers how to start a writing blog and get published.

“So her job is to stay at home and write about her life, and people actually read it?”

“Yep. And now we’re going to publish her book.”

I stared at my boss.

I was an editorial assistant at a New York publisher, and we had just acquired one of the imprint’s first blog-to-book projects. But we weren’t sure whether the blog’s readers—who were used to getting content for free—would pay $22.95 for a book. The skepticism was high, and we kept asking ourselves, “Why would someone pay for something they can get for free online?”

Then the book hit the New York Times bestseller list.

That book sold thousands of copies before it even hit bookstores, and then it sold thousands more once it was published.

It turned out that the author’s readers adored her, wanted more of her writing, and wanted to support her however they could. It turned out that great writing begets great readers, and great readers are insatiable.

how to start a blog as a writer

I decided right then that blogging sounded amazing, and that I wanted to learn how to start a writing blog. (Um, work from home, write short articles, make a great living, and make friends who like the same things you do? Okay!). I lived in the world of publishing-by-committee, so it seemed exhilarating that someone could have a space where they could publish whatever they wanted.

And so I decided I wanted to join the fun & learn how to start a writing blog, too.

Well, actually I had to teach myself how to start a writing blog. I had no idea what I was doing. It took forever to get myself set up, and I spent even longer tinkering with it in my free time. Then when I became a Literary Agent, I finally got serious about it and found a focus: I wanted to talk about books with book people, and I wanted to share what I knew about publishing.

Now, I’ve been blogging for 4 years, make a handy little extra income from it, have met amazing book people, and have more creative discipline then I’ve ever had. Blogging is the hardest thing I do, and it’s also what pushes me to stay current and work harder for my authors.

Looking back on it, I still can’t believe how much blogging has transformed me.

How blogging can make you less introverted

Blogging turned introverted me into someone who, post by post, became comfortable sharing what I knew and what I thought. I pushed me to do things I would have been dead-terrified of. It taught me how the internet works (well, mostly), and it made me curious, instead of anxious, about all things tech.

Discipline + practice + pushing past discomfort? That’s also the secret formula for making it as a writer. And a blog, by its nature, builds both the skills and the readership needed to becoming a bestselling author.

In fact, nearly every single one of my authors has a blog. Their blogs got them their book deals.

I know an author who was turned away by book publishers because he didn’t have a platform. So he started a blog, built it over many years, then was scouted and wooed by book publishers. I know authors who make six and seven figures writing online about what they love, from the comfort of their homes, for millions of readers, who also eagerly buy their books.

That is why I believe it’s so important to take the first step and learn how to start a writing blog.

It’s not an easy path to learn how to start a writing blog and build it, but I still believe it to be the most reliable way to build a readership and a fanbase who will excitedly support anything you take on in your creative life. Here’s why:

Why should writers learn how to start a writing blog?

literary agent book blog

You can become a millionaire by working at home as a writer.

I know–it sounds too good to be true. But thousands of bloggers are doing it and making six and seven figure incomes by writing online. I wouldn’t believe it either, except that I know and represent some of those bloggers and authors. Some even make six-figures by working only part-time or while traveling the world.

Case in point: Lindsay and Bjork from Pinch of Yum make over $30,000 per month from their blog. Michelle from Making Sense of Cents makes nearly 1 million dollars per year from her blog.

And don’t we all want to be able to pay our bills and make a living through our writing and creative work? But you don’t need to write a bestselling book to make big bucks as a writer. Instead, think of blogging as a way to write regularly and hone your craft, all while you increase your creative discipline, build a readership and author platform, and make money.

Blogging really is one of the best ways to be paid very, very well for your writing. And as a writer, you’ll automatically have a huge advantage over other bloggers, because you already know how to write well and captivate readers.

A blog can make your writing career.

That sounds like an exaggeration, but nearly every single one of my published authors has a successful blog. Learning how to start a writing blog and then building a readership that will follow you to anything you do, like publishing a book, is the only foolproof way to succeed as a writer today.

At the end of the day, every writer and creative has to earn their audience, and sharing with that audience regularly and generously is the only way there.

Blogging is a ridiculously fun creative outlet.

reading nook mistakes

Nothing can boost your creativity like a new medium. Blogging is just that—it’s writing in a different format and place than a notebook or manuscript.

And yes, it can seem overwhelming to learn how to start a writing blog sometimes, but I do have a step-by-step guide below to get you started on your writing blog!).

Remember that blogging is a long-term project. Just like learning to write well, you’re not going to understand all the mechanics and have all the skills right away. But if you take the next right step, one day at a time, you’ll be blown away by what you can eventually accomplish and how much fun you’ll have by relaxing into the learning process.

Even if you decide you don’t want—or need—to turn your writing blog into a side hustle and make extra income from it, you’ll find that the creative energy it brings to your days is its own reward.

You’ll meet amazing, inspiring people through your writing blog.

Many writers are introverted, so the idea of putting your writing online for anyone to see can be completely terrifying.

You don’t even know how much I get that. I didn’t share my blog with anyone but Jarrett for over 6 months. And it’s my job to encourage writers to put their work out there. How’s that for goofy?

But one post at a time, I started to break down my resistance to sharing my work and started to let myself be inspired and motivated by my amazing authors, who are doing so much good in the world by stepping out in a public way.

And as I tried to stay patient and improve 1% at a time, into infinity, I started to meet sweet and generous readers like you, who shoot me emails to thank me for an article, or ask a question, or just chat.

I’ll try not to gush too much, but you guys are what makes blogging worth it. I can’t tell you how much your sweet notes and smart thoughts mean to me, and if I know one thing, it’s that I want 2018 to be a year where we get to hang out and talk books more. Can we pinky swear to that?

Okay, now that I’ve gotten completely sappy on you (forgive me?), let me walk you through exactly how to start your writing blog in 2018, the easy, step-by-step way.


How to start a writing blog in 2018, the easy, step-by-step way

how to start a blog as a writer

1. Register your domain with a hosting service.

When I learned how to start my writing blog, I spent half an afternoon researching hosting services and trying to untangle what in the heck I should do. I ultimately went with BlueHost because so many other bloggers I admired used them, and then I went straight to them when I helped Jarrett set up his portfolio site last year.

Here’s why I love them:

  1. It’s insanely easy. I knew exactly zero about tech when I started my writing blog, but Bluehost made it impossible to screw up. And with my tutorial below, you’ll see that your brand new, shiny blog is just a few clicks away.
  2. It costs just $4 per month. When I started out, I wanted to keep blog costs as low as possible, and it’s hard to find a better deal than the $3.95 per month for BlueHost. I also saw that—overwhelmingly—other bloggers I followed used and recommended BlueHost. That made it an easy, slam-dunk decision.
  3. They include a free domain name. Again, I recommend keeping costs down when you’re starting out, so getting a free, custom domain name for your site is a huge win.
  4. I definitely need good technical support. You know what’s annoying? Something going wrong with your blog, and you have no clue what it is or how to fix it. I’ve leaned on the BlueHost support live chat service many, many times, and I love that it makes you feel like you have your own tech geek on call.
  5. They have a guarantee, just in case. Let’s say you sign up for BlueHost, all excited to launch your blog, but tomorrow you wake up and realize you want to be a professional bull rider instead of a writer. That’s okay—they’ll refund you every penny within 30 days. And yeehaw for you!

A note on self-hosting, because I see this mistake all. the. time.

Some bloggers start out with a URL that has “.wordpress” ”blogspot” or another provider in their domain name, but I strongly discourage this.

First, readers are much less likely to take your blog seriously if it doesn’t have a direct URL (; second, it will drastically limit your ability to design and format your blog the way you want; third, it will make it difficult to monetize your blog.

Even when I helped Jarrett set up a simple portfolio site for his writing, I insisted he go with self-hosting on BlueHost, because I think it’s one of the best investments you can make in your career. And if I bossed him around on that point, you know it’s because I really think it makes a difference!

2. Click the green “Get Started Now” button.

Navigate to BlueHost through my link, and you’ll be able to lock in the same $3.95 per month price I get through their affiliate program. (And thank you for your support!) Once you get there, click the green “Get started now” button to start setting up your WordPress writer blog on BlueHost.

how to start a writing blog 1


3. Choose your plan.

I’ve always paid by the year, since it gets you a much, much better price, and I’m a big believer that you should give yourself time to settle into blogging and to experiment. The cheapest price, though, is for the 36 month package, so that’s the best option if you know you’ll be blogging for the long haul.

how to start a writing blog 2


4. Choose your domain name.

I love that BlueHost lets you start with the fun part: deciding what to name your site! Ideally, you’ll want to choose a website name which has that domain (the URL) available.

(Otherwise, you’ll end up like me where people don’t know whether to call your site cooks and books or cooks plus books. [For the record, the blog name is said as cooks and books. Cooksplusbooks just happened to be the only domain I could get.] But I give past-Maria an eye roll every time someone asks.)

how to start a writing blog 3

4. Enter in your account information.

This is as simple as it gets—just fill in your name, address, and the plan you’d like. I personally didn’t purchase the add-ons when I first set up my blog, but I’ll admit that I had to learn and add some of the search engine, backup, and security functionalities later on the hard way. Up to you!


how to start a writing blog 3

5. Enter your billing information.

I think we all know how to do that, right? 🙂

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6. Choose a password.

This is also as easy as it sounds. (The not-easy part is remembering all our passwords, right?)

how to start a writing blog 5

7. You did it! I’m proud of ya.

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8. Pick a theme for your writing blog.

This part is also fun: choose a theme that looks pretty to you. But don’t overthink it—you’re self-hosted, so you’ll be able to select from thousands of blog themes and fun blog customizations later on.

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9. Done! Now you’ll go to the WordPress portion of the set-up.

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10. Choose whether your writing blog will be for business or personal use.

It doesn’t matter too much, so don’t worry if you’re using it for a little bit of both.

how to start a writing blog 10

11. Next, you’ll come to a landing page, where you’ll want to click the blue “launch” button.

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12. Enter your blog name and description. Don’t worry, you can edit these later on.

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13. Congrats—you’re in! Your basic writing blog is now set up, and you can start learning your way around it and fiddling with it.

how to start a writing blog 12

Extra credit:

Now that you’ve learned how to start a writing blog, I highly recommend adding a new theme to your blog, since many of the standard themes that come with the blog look generic or cheesy. (And here are 4 other common mistakes writers and bloggers make with their blogs.)

I love Creative Market and Bloom for gorgeous, professional-looking themes. And most theme builders have excellent step-by-step guides on how to set up the theme on your blog and offer support for any questions you have about your blog, so don’t be shy about leaning on those resources!

Now that you’ve learned how to start a writing blog, here’s what to do next:

  1. Decide what to write about on your blog (includes a free workbook for brainstorming blog posts!)
  2. Make sure you have these 7 things on your blog
  3. Learn about the one thing you should do as a writer that gives you a HUGE advantage in blogging
  4. Discover how to convert blog visitors into book buyers
  5. Use these 2 steps to grow an awesome readership that is super engaged (another free printable!)
  6. Learn how you can get a book deal with your blog

And if you want more step-by-step tutorials for blogging, try a few classes through Skillshare. They have a huge archive of very affordable classes that can walk you through the step-by-step of blogging so that learning how to start a writing blog will be the easiest thing you do this year. 🙂

What I’m Reading This Week

The Book Diaries, Part 1: The Book Deal (Nik Sharma of A Brown Table): Awww. Guys, Nik is one of my authors, and he wrote the sweetest post about how much fun we had getting his book deal. This one goes in the “Keep Forever” file. It’s also very informative and shares Nik’s path from rejection to book deal and his words of advice for other authors interested in getting published. And to read the next parts in his Book Diaries series, follow along at A Brown Table!

The Simplicity Cycle: Returning to Paring Down to Find Your True Needs (Leo Babuata of Zen Habits): If “simplifying” is one of your new year’s resolutions, this is a great place to start. As Leo puts it, “Simplifying your life isn’t a single project that you can finish and be done with — it’s actually a cycle.”

The 16 Best Nonfiction Books Of January 2018 To Get You Ready For The Year (Stephanie Topacio Long for Bustle): And look who’s #1! How To Get Sh*t Done, by my author, Erin Falconer. Cue the confetti! Erin’s book is amazing and will make you kick the guilt and procrastination to the curb and start achieving more by doing less. You do have your copy already, right? 😉

Optimizing Your Books for Amazon Keyword Search (Penny Sansevieri on This is a great step-by-step tutorial for making your book more discoverable on Amazon (and what’s more important than that these days?).

The Cookbooks That Cookbook Authors Give as Gifts (Annaliese Griffin for Quartzy): Want to know what cookbooks Christophe Kimball, Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs, and Cathy Erway gift, and how they choose them? Well, here ya go. (H/T to Dianne Jacob, who first included this in her roundup.)

The Short Story Shuffle: 12 Months of Short Story Writing (E.M. Welsh): Not ready to start a blog? How about committing to writing short stories this year instead then? I love this fun challenge because it takes the scary out of writing but also teaches you so much more about story arc and mechanics than spending a whole year on one novel can.

What We’re Eating This Week

We ate so healthy and balanced over the holidays that I think we can finally indulge a little now. <–Says no one on the planet. Ugh. I am so FULL that I can probably live off my own stored-up calories for all of 2018. Instead of trying that, here’s Plan B:

Monday: Technically still a holiday, so technically we ate Chik-Fil-A, giant bowls of pasta, and 7/8ths of a tray of brownies. Technically, it doesn’t count at all, so ha ha ha.

Tuesday: Reality beckons. But so does pork fat. So we had shredded pork shoulder and black bean bowls. But with BROCCOLI. Thank you.

Wednesday: Salad. (With salami, but I think we had all agreed to overlook this last year, right?)

Thursday: I’m going to a girl’s night paint-your-own-pottery, bring-your-own-wine type of affair, which will absolutely not end in Jumbo Slice.

Friday: An exciting meal! We were generously given a moose loin from a family friend who went hunting up in Canada, so we’re taking our cues from a favorite cookbook, Buck, Buck, Moose by Hank Shaw, and turning it into Jagerschnitzel. Somewhere in here there’s a joke about cooking lean meat in 1/2 cup of lard, but I’m too full to find it.


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how to have the best writing year

Why a goal setting system is more important than the goals you set, and my favorite realistic and easy goal-setting system for writers who want to publish books. Affiliate links may be included below.

I keep looking at it in my calendar. It’s highlighted, in bold type, and has way too many exclamation points. It says:

Goal-Setting Day!!!!!

It’s the most wonderful day of the year.

We spend so much of our time in the thick of things, so busy getting everything done, that we straight forget what we are actually trying to accomplish across our whole life.

We see the immediate to-dos looming today and tomorrow. We see the tasks waiting for us at home and at work. When we look into the future, it’s a blur of vague hopes. When we look back, it’s a blur of already-forgotten days. Man, it’s stressful.

And the busier life gets, the harder it is to remember what we already accomplished and what we are trying to accomplish.

This is especially true of writers and creatives who work for ourselves or have a side hustle. There’s no boss to sit you down at the end of the year and grade your performance. And there’s no mandated time to set goals for next year and think about the big picture of your career and life.

 literary agent blog goals for writers lon

That’s why you need to take goal-setting time for yourself.

Because the truth is, no one is going to tap you on the shoulder and nag you until you schedule in goal-setting time. (I’ll nag you a little right now, but only because I love ya!)

I can’t stress enough how important this is for writers, bloggers, everyone. If you’re involved in any creative endeavor, even if it’s just a side project, then you owe it to yourself to be intentional about how you spend your time.

Even more, you owe it to yourself to celebrate your accomplishments of 2017 and get excited about the adventures of 2018.

Your creative life will feel richer and more meaningful if you can see the big picture of why you do what you do. It’s an easy way to become mindful of your strengths and weaknesses, and to be thoughtful and intentional about what you want to accomplish and what you will set aside.

Do you know how to set goals the right way?

The problem is: most of us have no idea how to set goals the right way. (And yes, there is definitely a right way.)

Yet, goals are high-stakes. We feel awful when we don’t meet them, and we feel amazing when we crush them.

So setting them at all becomes a highly emotional process. How do we know our goals aren’t too easy? How do we know if they’re unrealistic? How many goals should we be setting? And the big one: how do we actually accomplish those goals? (Because we all know it’s not as easy as making a list of things we’d like to do.)

The truth is: no one is born knowing these things. Just because you’ve successfully knocked out goals in the past doesn’t mean 2018 won’t throw you some curve balls. Just because you’ve missed some goals in the past doesn’t mean 2018 won’t be the year you hit it out of the park.

But as I talked about here, books and classes pull us off the isolated island of our own experience and immerse us in the stream of collective learning. There’s no reason we have to struggle on our own when there are hundreds of resources out there for learning important life skills. And you betchya that goal-setting should be one of them.

So this year, I highly recommend making “Set up a system for making and meeting goals” as one of your goals.

Yes, a goal about goals. It’s weird. But I promise that it’ll be fun to learn a new goal-setting process, and it’s going to lay the foundation for many, many years of accomplishments.

Personally, every year I get excited all over again about one goal-setting system: Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever. I’ve been a huge fan of all things Hyatt for many years (he was the former CEO of Thomas Nelson at HarperCollins), and he builds better resources for advancing your career and creative life than anyone out there.

The thing that really amazes me about BYE is the success stories: you hear everything from people losing 30+ pounds, to tripling their income, to finally setting things right in their relationships. This is hard stuff we deal with, and if you ask me, we can use every bit of help we can get.

I’ll let Michael tell you more about the class here (reading that makes me excited all over again!), and if you feel like it’s right for you, you can sign up here. Enrollment closes this Monday, December 19th, so check this off your to-do list now! And at least that will be one goal you’re already crushing. 😉

Click here to sign up for Best Year Ever!


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What I’m Reading

How to Land a Book Deal (Me on the Food Blogger Pro podcast): The nice folks at Food Blogger Pro (one of my favorite resources!) invited me to be on the podcast to share the inside details of how to get a book deal. As much as I find the sound of my own voice weird (are we all wired to think that?), I hope you’ll at least find it a helpful listen!

7 Crazy Successful Instagrammers You Should Pay Attention To (Deidra Romero for Platform University): I loved this list because I, for one, learn by watching. I instantly followed some of these Instagrammers so I could be inspired by the best.

How to Find and Attract Editors for Pitching Articles (Devra Ferst and Dianne Jacob): One of the best ways to build your author platform is to start building your writing portfolio and collecting bylines at top media outlets. This is a great piece with practical insider tips on how to start getting “yeses” on those pitches.

Printable bookplates for all your gifting needs (cooks & books): Here are two nice things to do this holiday: gift a book and donate a book. Either way, a nice inscription is always welcome, and I love using these free printable bookplates for it. (After all, some people are a little funny about writing directly in the book!)

A Book Launch Plan for First-Time Authors Without an Online Presence (Jane Friedman): Don’t know where to start and don’t have any online base? Well, Jane is here to walk you through what you can do, even if you don’t yet know your Instagram from your Twitter.

What We’re Eating This Week

We are hoommee! Thank you to all you sweet folks who wished us safe travels to El Salvador last week. I got a little sappy in an Instagram post about how much the trip meant to me and how grateful I am for the work Habitat for Humanity is doing in the world. I won’t prattle on about it, but if you’ve ever thought about doing a build with them, I’d love to talk your ear off about it!

nonfiction books blog

Now, let’s eat:

Monday: Well, the whole eat-less, work-more plan for El Salvador didn’t quite work out because pupusas and beer. So Monday we threw together a sheet pan dinner of brussels, mushrooms, and sausage and another one of drumsticks and cauliflower. All I could think about was pupusas.

Tuesday: Salad! We did it. A healthy thing. I’ll pat myself on the back for a month now.

Wednesday: The Stonesong team is off to celebrate two clients: Julie Gaines of Fishs Eddy who is hosting a signing for Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. We love making connections, talking food, and doing dishes.

Thursday: Please send Chicken Lo Mein and Wonton Soup to Desk #4, Stonesong Offices, NY, NY.

Friday: Home and out to dinner with friends! We’re trying Jose Andres’s China Chilcano for the first time. Methinks me will likey.


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