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 Today.com): 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.)

Cheers!

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A free John Burroughs printable art print on books

A free printable art print with the famous John Burroughs quote on books: “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”


When I was 21, I walked into the lobby of Simon & Schuster for the first time. I remember stopping to look at the lit glass displays of books lining the front hallway and thinking “Wow. This is where they make them. I’m going to be working on books.”

Books. The word still has magic for me.

I remember the first time a Senior Editor handed me a manuscript as an editorial assistant and said, “Here. You edit this one.” I thought even the word “manuscript” was amazing–here I was, a very regular girl from suburban New Jersey, working on a manuscript. For a book. Those two words were so sweet, and I loved rolling them over in my mind like a jolly rancher.

At that first editorial assistant job, I had amazing women mentoring me, and they actually let me do books–they let me acquire a big book from Animal Planet; they let me have my own list of authors; they never once put me through the phone-answering and schedule-handling years that most assistants have to go through.

I couldn’t believe how cool their jobs were. So I decided right then: I was going to be a Senior Editor by the time I was thirty. That was my goal, and I was going to get there, have that job, and do all the exciting things the editors I admired were doing.

In two weeks, I turn thirty. I’m not a Senior Editor at a publishing house–even better, I’m a Literary Agent to a whole crew of authors I get to call mine. I get to do all those exciting things that go into making a book, and I get to live a life that seems more awe-inducing by the day. It’s a little weird, honestly. It makes me sappy just thinking about how very good it all is.

Tomorrow, Jarrett and I leave for a week in El Salvador with Habitat for Humanity. I don’t have a clue what to expect–I mean, guys, I have a desk job. I’m an Olympic level sitter. With a bronze medal for lying on the couch and reading.

I’m going to be a puddle of wobbly bits by Day 1, but if I can squeegee myself back together, I’ll be back next week to catch up with you all. But in the meantime, here’s a new printable art print to tide us over and add to our collection! Last week I wrote about how much I love this John Burroughs quote:

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”

And so I turned it into an art print, so we can all stare out the window and daydream about having the gift of enough time.

john burroughs quote books printable

Click here to access the archive & download this free John Burroughs quote art printable!

 

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The c&b gift guide is here!

By the way, if you’re feeling like you don’t have enough time and the holidays are getting stressful, my 2017 Gift Guide for Writers and Book Lovers is just what you need. It shows you how to give–or ask for–the gift of time. It’s perfect for ending the year on a creative note and then starting the new year feeling replenished and reinvigorated.

Click here to check out the 2017 Gift Guide for Writers & Book Lovers!

 


We’ll be back next week with publishing links and dinner plans, but if you want to follow along on our trip to El Salvador, follow me on Instagram!

Cheers!

 

Are you a homebody? These cute & free bookmarks are for you!

These cute & free printable fall bookmarks are perfect for cozy fall book reading–download the free printable bookmark PDF here!


I squirmed and shifted in my seat. I pulled my elbows in closer to fit the 18 inches of personal space allotted to me. I turtled into my scarf and brought my book closer to my face. I thought really, really hard about what Eleanor’s apartment looked like and how really, really nice it would be to be there instead of here.

That’s the only way to survive a plane flight, isn’t it?

Especially if you’re in a tiny discount airline seat. Especially if you’re so cold you might put on every piece of clothing inside your one included personal item. Especially if the person next to you is an armrest hog and a chatterer. (Ugh, isn’t that the worst combination?

I was on a discount airline flight like that last week on our way to Ann Arbor, and it made me think long and hard about how good I have it at home. (I shared an inside peek at my reading nook recently, if you missed it!)

reading nook mistakes

I travel a lot for work and non-work, which is hilarious because I’m such a homebody. I’ve always found it supremely comical that Jarrett and I were long-distance for 5 years and that now I travel nearly every other week for work. Because if you’ve seen me, you know I’m the least graceful traveler on every plane, train, or automobile.

If there’s something to complain about (and when is there not?!) I. Am. On. It. (First of all, it’s too cold in here; second of all, I’m really thirsty; third of all…)

Are you a homebody, too?

If so, I have some hard news for you: there’s no way to see the world (and the world is great!) unless you get into a tin can hurtling through time and space every once in a while.

But, there are little things you can do to make the whole experience a bit cozier and less get-me-off-this-damn-thing-before-I-scream-y. (Now there’s an adjective for ya.)

First, figure out what comforts you during rough moments. For me, it’s yoga pants, extra warm socks, 10 or so layers of clothing, a scarf to hide in, a book to escape into, a jacket to drape like a blanket, and the largest damn cup of coffee they can legally sell me. (I wasn’t kidding about that high maintenance thing.)

Maybe you like those things, too? And want to have a reminder of them with you no matter what tiny little crevice of the world you’re reading in?

You, reader, need a cozy fall bookmark.

free printable fall bookmarks

I designed this bookmark last year to celebrate the arrival of all things cozy and fall, and this year I wanted to redesign it to make it a bit fresher and brighter.

This free printable bookmark is the perfect way to mark your spot between sips of cider, or to remind you to pack up your cozy essentials before you hit the road with your reading.

So if you love books + blankets + hot coffee + warm socks as much as I do (and I know you do!) then head on over to The Library and download this free printable bookmark.

I loaded this fall bookmark up with all the cozy fall essentials you’ll need, as well as one of my favorite John Green quotes:

“Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes place for that.” — John Green

 

This printable bookmark is also perfect if you ever find yourself in a spot with chatterers (ahem…) and want a little bit of quiet in your world. When you stick it out of your book just so, that loud person in 22B will have a subtle reminder that “Shh…I’m reading.” And it’s okay if the loud person in 22B is your husband. He needs to pipe down every once in a while, too.

I hope this fall themed bookmark helps you get lost in a book while surrounded by your favorite cozy things, no matter how tight your next airline seat might be!

free printable fall bookmarks

Click here to download this free printable bookmark!

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What I’m Reading This Week

Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman Talks Food Blogging and New Cookbook (Shay Spence for People): Stonesong’s own Deb Perelman had a lovely print feature in People this week! My favorite quote? “Though Perelman sacrifices counter space in the tiny apartment in the big city, the minimalist lifestyle fits with her brand of simplified cooking. ‘My feeling is if it’s too crowded in here, it’s not because the apartment is too small, it’s because we have too much stuff,’ she says. ‘We’re not living fancy, but I get to work for myself and raise a family in the city I love. I’m so thankful because I feel like I have a really good life.’

How Creative Subheadings Can Make or Break Your Content (Erika Fitzgerald for The Write Life): Maybe you’re tinkering with a subhead for an article; maybe you’re deciding on a subtitle for your book; maybe you want to throw up your hands and burn it all down. Well, put down the flamethrower and read this first. Subheads are extremely important, and it’s worth taking a deep breath and getting them right.

Blogger Gets Cookbook Deal With 1-Sentence Email (Dianne Jacob): An interesting piece on how trend-driven cookbooks come about…worth reading if you’ve ever been approached by a small or medium sized publisher and want to know what it might be like!

Great Writers on the Letters of the Alphabet (Maria Popova of Brain Pickings): Oo, I love this. An ode to each letter of the alphabet with drawings by David Hockney and micro-essays by Susan Sontag, Seamus Heaney, Martin Amis, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Erica Jong, Kazuo Ishiguro, and others. What’s lovelier than that?


What We’re Eating This Week

Oh, I give up. Do you ever hit 6 pm and think that? I never, ever do because I work on cookbooks and always cook out of them. (Narrator: she didn’t.) But let’s play a game called Fantasy Dinner Theater where I talk about all the things I want to cook and eat, and then you tell me how delusional I am. Okay? Let’s go!

Monday: On Monday, we’ll enjoy a fine roast duck with mashed potatoes (with all the butter and all the cream, of course), plus perfectly charred Brussels sprouts in a duck fat vinaigrette.

Tuesday: I’ll finally cook a vintage recipe from The New York Times Cookbook. Probably something with aspic, which I’ll flawlessly execute and also miraculously transform into something people want to eat.

Wednesday: I’ll take a break from excellence and order Peter Chang’s, and I won’t even ask them to make it less spicy because I’m very sophisticated like that.

Thursday: Thursday feels like a day for soufflé, yes? I’ll pop a few soufflés in after work, throw together a vegetable gratin, and we’ll sit down to eat a steaming hot and perfectly balanced meal at 6:30 on the dot.

Friday: I take it easy with a make your own pizza station with dough I hand-kneaded at 6 in the morning, mozzarella I fresh-pulled right after that, sauce made with tomatoes from my imaginary garden, and 10-12 perfectly chopped complementary toppings in 10-12 little bowls, which I won’t even complain about washing.

Saturday: Fantasy Dinner Theater is cancelled after a short and and record-settingly unsuccessful run, and now we’re back to our regular programming of panic and laziness. Enjoy the show.

Cheers!

4 unexpected ways to make your book a perennial bestseller

The 4 best takeaways and a book review of Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts by Ryan Holiday–plus a free downloadable PDF art print to inspire you to become a perennial seller!


“That book has taken on a life of its own.”

I blinked at this—what did that mean? It was 2009, and I was working at a Big 5 publisher in New York.  I had asked one of the senior editors about a backlist book that was still selling and selling, even after 10 years.

The book was a perennial seller for the publishing house. It had built momentous word-of-mouth and now needed almost no help from the author or publisher to keep it selling steadily.  You can recognize these books because they wave you down with numbers: “2 million copies sold,” “now published in 15 countries!”

how to write a perennial seller book 1

What I wanted to know was exactly how that book had become a perennial bestseller. Was it the author’s platform? Was it the idea? Had they marketed the heck out of it?

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