10 Things I Learned about Writing in 2009
Written by
Deborah Siegel
December 2009
Written by
Deborah Siegel
December 2009
I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions that are unpleasant to fulfill. I tend to opt for resolutions like “dance more,” “light more candles,” “drink more wine.” (Here’s me over at Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project blog last year, telling it straight.) Similarly, I like to go into the new year from a position of strength. So in the spirit of focusing on lessons we’ve learned during 2009—rather than dwelling on shortcomings we’d like to try to resolve in the year to come—I’m compiling a list of 10 things I learned about writing over the course of the year. I’ll post it soon! But hey let’s go viral here. I'd love to hear from the community and share everyone's wisdom. You can use your SW blog to post the 10 (or 5 or 3!) things you learned about writing this year, ping me (email me at [email protected]) and I’ll “feature” your post here on the SW Blog. Or feel free to simply post your list in comments. Bring em on!

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  • Eileen Granfors

    Three things I learned about writing this year:

    1. The rewriting takes a LONG time.

    2. I liked being in the middle of my novel more than I like beginning a new one.

    3. There's an agent out there--luck and persistence are going to pay off, I know it, I believe it, it has to be so (everybody tells me "never give up."

  • Glynis Davies

    L.C., thanks for the informative list - especially #1 - Best with Krumbuckets.

  • L.C. Mohr

    10 things I learned about children’s writing, or writing in general, in 2009

    If you’re willing to settle for THREE things, here they are:

    Kids like to see, smell, taste, feel and hear your details. What does your main character’s room look – and smell – like? Does she hate the taste of her mom’s broccoli casserole? Does petting his cat make him sneeze? Does little brother screech like a howler monkey? Short punchy details will draw your reader into the story.

    On the other hand, don’t spend a lot of time describing your main character. Let an image develop naturally in your narrative: Is he the shortest boy in his grade? Is her hair so long she sits on it in art class? Let your reader form a mental picture of her favorite character; it’ll be more satisfying than any description you give her.

    And last but not least, don’t start your sentences with cliches like “on the other hand” or “last but not least.”

    L.C. Mohr
    Author of Krumbuckets!

  • Cathy Voisard

    What have I learned?
    1. Blogging forces me to write consistantly, and writing consistantly makes me happy.
    2. I started the blog when I lost my job a year ago, but I return to work tomorrow. I have learned that I need to make time to continue the blog; it is as important as exercise or anything else I try to squeeze into my week.
    3. It's usually just a matter of getting someone to read my blog for them to enjoy it. But getting them to read it is difficult.
    4. I find that "promoting" the blog takes more time than "writing" the blog.
    5. I have realized how important it is to reciprocate. I try to read as many blogs as I can and leave thoughtful comments.
    6. My memoir vignettes are about 3 to 5 pages. Some people just don't have a very long attention span. I find it sad, but it's common in this fast food society.
    7. It is easy to spot someone that isn't genuine while blogging; I can tell when someone leaves a comment when they haven't really read the piece, or do so just so I will reciprocate. This is a huge turn off for me.
    8. The followers I have are loyal and real and enjoy being there.
    9. I have confirmed that writing is easy for me. I have known that since I was four, but blogging reminded me of it.
    10. Since my blog is a memoir, I wonder when I'll run out of good stories. :)

  • dianejwright

    Bravo Beth! Great list.

  • Glynis Davies

    Since when is heart a verb?

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    These are all such important lessons -- and thank you to everyone so far for sharing them with the rest of us at She Writes. I'm loving it. I am truly inspired by the collective wisdom here. Keep it coming!

    A tech thing: If anyone who posted their lessons in the form of a comment here would like to post them as a blog post on their profile page, I can then feature your post on the main page. If confused about how to use the blog function on your profile page, please feel free to contact our Community Manager, Wilson Sherwin, and she will set you up.

    Thanks again everyone -- I heart this community so very much.

  • Ellan Bethia Otero

    2009 was probably the first year I treated my writing as a job. I got up, worked out, showered, and then lugged my laptop and research to one of several restaurants amenable to my sitting there for hours on my computer. (They were the type of places where you ordered and picked up your own food; and they had plenty of seating for the lunch crowd also.)

    So, what did I learn?
    1. I found that I *could* put my writing first and the world would not end.
    2. Laundry, groceries, dry cleaning runs, and such could wait.
    3. I could squeeze a workout and a job into one workday.
    4. Groceries stores now have tasty and healthy takeout items for purchase. (Their roast turkey is better than mine, anyway.)
    5. Once a piece was written, I could edit my weaknesses out without losing my meaning. In fact, the meaning would be uncovered without all the excess baggage.
    6. I re-realized that I love writing.
    7. I re-realized that I love editing.
    8. I also realized that my grammar skills had rusted during my years of research.
    9. Sciatica can be induced from sitting on a bench seat for more than 3 hours.
    10. Everything I learned in 2009 is transferable to 2010.

  • Renate Stendhal

    Blogging is a balancing act... and I wish I were an acrobat!
    What I learned in my first-ever blog is that without She Writes I would not have put on my roller-blades! 25 blog posts later I can say it was/is great fun and also sad, inspiring and crushing with loneliness, a sweet connector with others and a questionable ego-trip, spontaneous and belabored, playful and dutiful, pure game and serious work... In short, everything writing is in itself, just in a different form of play. I learned that I love it and that Gertie got it right, once again: Why do something if it can be done!

  • Nancy White

    1. Everyone's blogging but there aren't many listeners out there; kind of like poetry. I learn a huge amount by remembering to spend time on the listening end. So blog on, bloggers!
    2. New forms and media come along but the same old golden rule still applies: persevere, persevere, persevere.
    3. The best thing about parenting, for writers, is that it builds up your stamina like you wouldn't believe; then they leave home and voila, only 18 years of hard work have made you a disciplined, persevering, cyber-savvy, mind-reading, mighty multi-tasker. (And now, suddenly, you actually have TIME.) Perfect training. Definitely more use than that MFA you got, right?
    4. Helping others with the writing dilemmas, writing projects, writing pursuits always bears fruit if you do it with real generosity (not in the nefarious spirit of "Hmmm, maybe networking will help me sell more stuff").
    5. Having a thick skin about rejection and a thin skin when it comes to good advice is the secret. My skin's confused, but gradually over time we are getting the hang of it, my skin and I.

  • Bridgid Gallagher

    I love this idea, Deborah. Thank you for getting this conversation going. I have enjoyed reading all of your responses. It is wonderful to hear about all of the lessons you have learned!

    2009 has been an amazing year for my writing. I went from dabbling to dedicated, and it wasn't pretty. My primary struggle was (is) with telling the truth. I have an interesting story to tell, but for some reason, I am constantly at battle with myself. The truth is so simple and yet, for me, so hard to say.

    I stumbled upon this quote from Edward Abbey, and wanted to share it with you. It summarizes all that I strive for in writing my memoir, and perhaps it will help some of you as well.

    "In recording my impressions of the natural scene I have striven above all for accuracy, since I believe that there is a kind of poetry...in simple fact."

    That has been my hardest lesson, but the most worthwhile as well.

    I wish all of you luck with remembering past lessons and facing all of the challenges the next year holds.

    Happy New Year to you all!


  • Leslie S Moon

    Being a writer is amazing; there is always something new to learn. 2009 has been a year with a huge learning curve for many of us.
    Before August, I wasn't even sure how to spell the word blog let alone know how to post one.

    I have been in my "comfort zone" of writing for so long that I kinda got my butt kicked this year. I have all these stories either in my head or in manuscript form. Why are they sitting around?
    # 1 I learned by self-publishing that the door to write and publish other works is opening.

    I hadn't written poetry since college -(ok I've written some songs does that count?). My poetry is prolific and I hope to publish in magazines more in 2010.
    #2 The opportunity to publish poetry and short stories is out there for writers- especially in on-line publications.

    The Social Networking arena is not only massive but makes getting your "stuff' out there easier. I am not a networking pro but places like She Writes, Twitter, Red Room make getting your face and name out their easier. It's still work but
    # 3 Social Networking gets your name out there and it's at your fingertips.

    There are many opportunities out there- not all of them pay
    #4 I have spent years writing for gratis ( that means no moola). I have gained experience and credibility. I am also helping others out. I still write for gratis (probably more than ever). I have a gift why not share it!

    The wonderful ladies at SHE WRITES encouraged me to BLOG!!!
    #5Last but not least - I know how to spell blog now.
    You can check out my blog htt://moondustwriter.wordpress.com

  • S. Ramos O\'Briant

    I'm responding to your email message which was about Blogging: Don't mention masturbation in a blog or you will hereinafter be plagued with every "masturbation" query on google, yahoo and now bing. I wrote a blog two years ago on Masturbation or Blogturbation, your choice. The really weird thing is that some of them roam around my site, no doubt disappointed. The best part of looking at the stats is that it gave me an idea for a new story. Working on that now.

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    Thank you to everyone who has shared their list in comments so far! It's really wonderful to read everyone's lessons -- and to learn from you all! Here's to continuing to pool our wisdom in 2010!

  • DeAnn G. Rossetti

    I agree with what everyone here has already said, especially the person who posted about brevity. That's something I struggle with on my blog and in the book reviews I write all the time. The web has become a place where people come to sample articles and blogs, and most don't seem to want to read any long form journalism.
    Another thing I've learned this year is that Twitter and Facebook have made a number of people think they can write, when a vast majority of these people can't spell to save their lives. I refuse to join Twitter because I don't really care to hear what someone I barely know had for breakfast. The quality of writing on social media sites and on blogs leaves a lot to be desired.
    The only other thing I have learned this year is that there are a number of scam web sites who are posting a lot of 'job listings' to various job sites that try to lure writers into writing for free, or for a tiny amount of money. It is disgusting and disgraceful, and I tried not to get depressed about it.
    I sincerely hope that this new year is a better one for myself and other experienced writers and journalists.

  • Katherine Jenkins

    I am about to hit the one year anniversary mark on my blog and these are 5 Things I've Learned about Blogging in 2009





    5. SUCCESS IS BLOGGING/WRITING BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT (If you like it, you will find that others do too. This energy is contagious)

    Check out my two blogs:


    PS: If you'd like to be an author on the blog Writers Rising, please contact me. Thanks!! Happy New Year!!

  • Rachel Thompson

    I've learned that there are a few things I will have to accept if I'm going to be a mother that writes. And by that I mean a mother that writes while her kids are around. Keep in mind this is probably only a partial list because I am constantly being interrupted and have to write in snippets of about thirty seconds to one minute. We've all heard of the thirty-second sound bite? Well, this is the thirty-second writing bite.

    1) TV. It's probably not what you would think (as in I can't stop watching it or some such nonsense). I write while the TV is blaring Spongebob (four-year-old boy child's favorite show on earth) or iCarly (10-year-old's favorite show though she will watch paint dry as long as it's on TV). I learned long ago not to write in a quiet atmosphere because that frankly doesn't exist in my home, even when the kids are at school. Why? Well, let me enlighten you.

    2) The Husband. JP works at home, in a nice, big room with a great big desk in front of a pretty window. He sits there for oh, fifteen-minute intervals after which he comes to find me, to discuss various and sundry stuff. My office is as follows: a netbook. Yep, that's it. I put my little HP wherever I can and write, write, write. That is, when I'm not interrupted by people interrupting me. To his credit, JP acknowledges that he has Man Disease (he is terrible at grammar and spelling), so I proofread most of his emails and help him write his scripts and design documents for his business. (I love that he can own up to being bad at all things English--there are some things you just can't fake--if you know what I mean. Oh, get your minds out of the gutter, people!)

    3) Housework. Ugh. This may surprise those of you that don't live in the OC, but not all of us have long blonde (extensions) hair, drive luxury vehicles, are Republicans, wear five-karat (minimum) rocks on our fingers, have fake boobs, a few ex-husbands, and a full-time housekeeper. Well, I guess I could amend that by saying that I DO have a full-time housekeeper: ME. Given that I'm constantly picking up after not only my family but also a puppy (if you read previous posts, you'll know I'm referring to my son, who I believe is the same as a puppy in temperament), you will understand why this presents quite a challenge in getting my thoughts down--yet somehow I still do. A messy kitchen can wait--the muse waits for no one.

    4) OMG the bickering and fighting. Do you have children? Then you know exactly to what I am referring. If not, then recall back to your experiences growing up as a child with your beloved siblings. Come on, it wasn't that long ago! If I happen upon a quiet moment among the chaos--dishes are done, children are fed and bathed--and I'm typing away in the illusion of peace, chances are Lukas will pounce with stealth upon Anya for really no reason whatsoever--to which she will respond with the shrill wail of a banshee who has been knifed in the gut with a twelve-inch serrated blade. In other words, typical hell will have broken loose in the Thompson home once again, and I will be thankful for the autosave feature on blogger that has saved my ass more than once.

    5) Patience: part of being a mother is having had to learn how to be patient. Not my biggest strength but one difficult lesson that has come with surprising ease. While I can't always get to my computer or notebooks when I want to because my little guy wants me to build a Lego with him or figure out a Tinker Toy project, I've learned, as mothers the world over have done, to put my creative needs on the back burner until his needs are taken care of. My words will wait; my children won't. And that's okay.

    Their need for me is something I created, nurtured and grew. Far be it from me to look into their beautiful little faces and see them fall. One day they will have muses of their own that will sing out to them in the middle of the night. Until then, they have me.

    And I wouldn't have it any other way.

    www.giltfree.blogspot.com and http://www.examiner.com/x-25519-LA-Hot-Moms-Examiner

  • Glynis Davies

    Never underestimate the power of a half hour. If I only have a short spell to write, it's better than not writing at all.

    Don't cheat, if you don't believe it why should they.

    JR Rowlings says: "In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I'm writing. I just write what I want to write."

    There's probably more room in our work for sensory details

  • Momtrolfreak

    1. You have to take the good with the bad. Comments aren't always supportive.
    2. And that's okay.
    2. Blogging can give you a platform for your book.
    3. And keep you from writing it.
    6. First rule of anonymous blogging: don't talk about anonymous blogging. Second rule of anonymous blogging: DON'T TALK ABOUT ANONYMOUS BLOGGING.
    7. Once you let it slip to someone that you have a blog, you can then NEVER make fun of that person on your blog. Hi, mom.
    8. No one cares what you had for lunch. Not even on Twitter.
    9. Brevity is the soul of wit.
    10. Blogging rocks. (see #9)

    Momtrolfreak: Driving Yourself and Others Insane While Raising the Perfect Child

  • Karen Burgess

    Here are five things I learned about blogging this year!
    1. Blogging can help you avoid working on your book... if you are inclined to do so. Then again, so can cleaning your refrigerator.
    2. Your first comment from someone you don't know personally is very energizing.
    3. Zero hits on your blog for two days in a row makes you wonder why you're doing it. (So come see me at www.literarylunchbox.wordpress.com)
    4. Blog posts can be short.
    5. Finding other bloggers that are fabulous is one of the best parts of blogging.

  • Maggie Kast

    1. Publishing one's first book is just the start; marketing is just as much work and just as important.
    2. Nothing is more important that the process of writing itself, and you shouldn't let marketing get in the way.
    3. Life is contradictory; that's what makes it interesting.
    4. Blogging is not just for sounding off but is an essential form of communication in the 21st century.
    5. Blogging doesn't have to be an intimidating requirement to do something non-essential at regular intervals, but an opportunity to write about what I want when I want without creating a new project each time.
    6. The blogosphere is full of people with interesting points of view who form communities and exchange ideas.
    7. The trick is to coordinate the troika: working on the novel-in-progress; marketing the memoir and developing the blog, so that all three horses pull in one direction.