Can’t Find Time for Writing? Then You’re Not Busy Enough

You have probably heard the saying that if you want something done, you should ask someone who’s busy, and I have found this to be true when it comes to my creative writing.

The last couple of months have been some of the busiest of my life. I got two new clients for my business, which both involve steep learning curves and a lot more work. Plus I was offered two amazing speaking opportunities that involved a lot of workshop development and prep work.

At the same time, an idea for a new book started pestering me. This idea was very loud and persistent, demanding it be written. The problem was that I had three unrelated manuscripts in varying stages of completion – polishing, editing and revising.

There were no specific deadlines for these manuscripts so I was just chipping away at them when I ‘could’, while simultaneously lamenting that the process was taking forever.

Goals, Targets, and Deadlines

I wasn’t prepared to put the other manuscripts on hold, so instead I set myself some ambitious goals, which were realsitic if I buckled down.

I set myself word count targets and a deadline for completing the various stages of each work-in-progress book.

For my new ‘idea’ I set myself a goal of entering the completed manuscript in a specific competition in 12 months time. Working backward I laid out a plan and a timeline that started with research while I finished off the other books.

There was the tiny issue that I was incredibly busy with my business, as well as many other parts of everyday life which include being a mum to an 8-year-old boy.

The Difference Between Being Busy & Out of Control

It didn’t take long before I was feeling overwhelmed. I’m a trained journalist and the idea of missing deadlines (even if they are self-imposed), doesn’t sit well with me.

I’m also someone who likes to feel in control of most aspects of my life.

While I know I am way more productive when I’m busy, I don’t like being the kind of busy where you feel like you are spinning multiple plates and if just one of them falls, everything will come tumbling down.

I needed to put order into my life.

Order and Routine

Deciding to ‘Marie Kondo’ my whole house at the same time may seem counterintuitive to the idea of finding time to write. But doing a massive tidy up, starting with my desk, removed not just physical clutter but mental clutter from my life.

I created a space that I love turning up to every day and it has made a world of difference to my sense of calm and productivity.

I also put in place a routine to write every day (Monday to Friday). I know this isn’t practical for everyone but what I found was that my target word count became easier to achieve each day as I had momentum from the previous day.

In the past, I had only made time a couple of times or maybe even one day a week to write, and I found I wasted time having to catch up with where I had left off.

Why Busy Is Better

There have been periods when I wasn’t as busy with my client work and I could have spent more time on my writing but for some reason, I wasn’t motivated to get on with it.

At times I dreaded it because I had left it too long between drinks and not regularly immersing myself in my fictional world had dulled my enthusiasm.

The lack of a goal with a specific timeframe also affected my motivation.

Now with so much on my plate, I feel like I am kicking goals in several areas of my life. Having small wins in other activities, gives me the lift I need to write.

And even when something isn’t going right with my creative writing, I gain strength from other parts of my life – like , don’t put too much pressure on your writing by making it the only thing to focus on.

I counter my really busy periods by not working weekends and rarely working at night. This ensures I have time for family, friends and me.

So yes I am crazy busy during the limited hours I do work, but it seems to be working.

I have learnt how to be incredibly efficient with the time I have and am more productive than ever.

Don’t take my word for it though, the science agrees. can increase motivation and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a task.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get busy.

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Why You Don’t Need a ‘Pitch’ to Successfully Pitch

I’m a writer. I’ve been writing for a living for more years than I care to remember.

At risk of sounding up myself, I aint too shabby when it comes to putting a few words together.

I can be pretty damn persuasive as well, when I want to be.

There’s one caveat though.

I may be the cat’s meow (at least that’s what I like to think on a good day) when it comes to putting together compelling messages, pitches, stories, articles, ads…pretty much anything really, as long as it’s in the written form.

But when it comes to delivering the same type of content verbally, it quickly goes pear-shaped.

Anyone who knows me, will say I have no problem talking. They’ll probably say I can talk the leg off a chair. I reckon they’ll say I’ll go up and talk to anyone – that I’m the classic extrovert.

There is definitely some truth in that. Once I’m in my comfort zone, I can, and will, chat to anybody, but initially approaching and speaking to a stranger doesn’t come so easily.

I’ll happily speak to the person next to me at the bus stop, the usher at the theatre, other clients at the hairdresser, on one condition – that I’m speaking about things I’m extremely confident about, strongly believe in, or if it’s just classic small talk.

Ask me though to pitch something important to someone verbally, whether it’s a novel or a business idea, I become crippled with verbal diarrhoea, or say nothing at all.

For me, it all comes down to having confidence in what I’m speaking about.

Believing in your writing or idea is one thing – something we’ll talk about another day – but until you can have that confidence, there’s an easy tool that will help you ‘fake it until you make it’, as they say.

Creating A Killer Pitch

I was a mess, the first time I pitched my novel to a publisher.

I’d gone to extreme effort to polish a few paragraphs with an awesome hook, and it sounded pretty darn good…on paper.

I realised too late that the pitch didn’t sound so great when read aloud. It sounded like I was reading from a script, and that’s exactly what I did. I read from the piece of paper because I was comfortable with what I’d written.

It was a brilliant lesson and reminder that I needed to work on my elevator pitch, specifically to be delivered verbally.

But where would I start?

The answer lay in all of the years of media training I had delivered to businesses and executives over the years.

 I didn’t need a ‘pitch’. I needed key messages.

The Power of Key Messages

The problem with writing a pitch and then memorising it word-for-word, is that when you go to say it, it is likely to sound like a script.

In real life we don’t speak the same way that sentences are put together on paper.

And when we do try to do that, we tend to sound unnatural or robotic.

We concentrate so much on delivering the exact words, that we lose all of the intonation and natural expression we normally use when we speak – all of the things that help to engage and keep other people interested.

The way to get around this, and take it a heck of a lot easier on yourself, is to develop key messages that you can use a guide – not a script.

Key messages are the takeaways you want your target audience to hear and remember – whether that audience is an agent, publisher, potential client, or a stranger at the shops.

Key messages – How To

  1. You want to develop three key messages based on the core themes or ideas you want to put across when pitching.
    • Why three? Three is an easy number to remember and will help keep you focused, and on point.
  2. To develop your key messages, ask yourself what are the three most important things you need to get across about the topic, novel or idea you are pitching.
  3. Write down these things and package them up into sentences.
  4. Each key message should consist of 1-2 sentences – the shorter the better – and should capture the things you think will appeal to the audience the most.
  5. Once you have written out your key messages, go through and highlight or underline keywords or phrases that represent the most critical themes or ideas you want to convey.

How To Use Your Key Messages to Pitch

The thing that stands key messages apart from a written pitch, is that they give you the freedom to adapt them as needed, at the time of use.

Key messages don’t need to be used word-for-word or remembered off-by-heart – you just want to focus on remembering the general gist of each message and the keywords or phrases you identified as most important.

Initially commit the key messages to memory, but then practise saying them out loud a few times and you will notice that you may start changing up your words, or tweaking them each time. Keep doing this until you have something that feels natural to say, and then remember it and practise it more.

But it doesn’t end there.

The beauty of key messages is that they can be tweaked depending on your audience, or even how you’re feeling on the day. They may also evolve over time.

You will most likely use slightly different language when speaking to someone at a BBQ than you would speaking to a senior executive.

Key messages enables you to ‘go off script’ without losing track of what you were trying to say and ensures you still convey the most important parts.

You’re also likely to sound more authentic, relaxed and engaging.

Trust me, I’ve done it myself and it really works.

Remember you’re not delivering a speech, your starting a conversation.

Bonus tip!

Once you nail your key messages, here’s your next challenge. Why not try and distil the three messages into one concise statement – you can call it your tagline or slogan if you like – that captures the core essence of what you’re trying to say.

And then, edit it until it is 140 characters or less – now you have an awesome little sound bite that’s made for Twitter!!

So what are you waiting for? Start working on your key messages and you’ll be pitching like a pro before you know it.

Stop Waiting for the Muse to Arrive – Just Write

‘My writing has just stalled completely. I haven’t written anything for weeks.’

I was sitting with a lovely writer, on our lunch break from a writing workshop, listening to how she didn’t know what to write next, so she’d stopped writing.

She was devastated, because she was so attached to the story and its characters, but the ‘muse’ had left her.

I nodded my head knowingly. All of us writers have been there at one time or another.

I too have sat there, paralysed at my keyboard, waiting for that temperamental little minx of a muse to appear and shower me in magical creative fairy dust. And guess what? She never showed.

The Perfect Writing Conditions Don’t Exist

I had bad news for my new writer friend. If she persisted on her current path, the Muse wasn’t going to show up for her either.

You see, many of us writers like to think that we can only channel our creativity under the exact right conditions.

And given those conditions, the Muse will appear.

Those conditions may rely on being in the exact right mood and place. Having a beautifully designed workspace. It being the right time of day. Not being too tired. Having a big stint of time to sit down and write, completely undisturbed. And possible even having the astrological planets perfectly aligned. The thing is though, I’m yet to come across any writer whose life creates these perfect conditions for them on a consistent basis, or even at all.

I’ve used every excuse under the sun for why I couldn’t finish my book. In fact I used them for the best part of 10 years.

‘I write for a living, so I have no creativity or energy left each day.’  That was my favourite one.

Excuses are merely that. They are excuses. And you have to have call them out for the BS they are.

Life will inevitably get in the way of your writing. Deal with it, and recognise understand that it isn’t the reason why the Muse won’t appear.

The Muse Doesn’t Appear on Command

Even those of us, that accept that the perfect writing conditions don’t exist, have been guilty on occasion of tapping our fingers impatiently at our desk, waiting for a burst of creativity to appear.

Guess what though. The Muse doesn’t appear on command either.

Merely sitting at your keyboard, isn’t enough to signal to the Muse that you’re ready for her.

It’s a good start, because that’s where she’ll be looking for you, but it’s not enough.

Prove You’re Serious

The Muse needs to know you’re serious about your writing.

She’s not going to waste her time and magic on someone who isn’t prepared to do the hard yards.

How do you prove you’re serious?

You show up and you just write.

As simplistic as it sounds, you just have to sit at that keyboard, or notepad, and write your way through it.

The words may be rubbish, incoherent even, but you have to give the Muse something to work with.

Write whatever comes to you.

The great thing about writing is that the more you do it, the better you get at it.

The more you make yourself available to the Muse, the more responsive she is.

And the best part about writing is, that it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.

Start with any words. You can change them later. Just get words onto a screen, or a page.

One word, after another, until you have a sentence. One sentence after another, until you have a page. You get the picture.

While I’d love to say that writing is all about being creative, the big ugly truth is that it’s not. More often than not, it’s about showing up day, after day, even when you don’t feel like it, and writing, writing, writing.

So stop waiting for the Muse, write for her.

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Just When You Think You Can’t…Ganbatte

Writing a novel may be hard work but it’s nothing compared to the gruelling task of editing…at least that’s my experience.

You see it’s possible to get on with the task of drafting a novel, even on days when the  up, you can just keep at it. If you just write, the words slowly add up and eventually you will reach your goal.

The beauty of the drafting process is that you don’t have to overanalyse your words. Most of the time, I can get in the flow and not think too much about the words I’m using.

The most important thing is just getting the words down.

When drafting a novel, I focus on having discipline and word count targets. This may not work for everyone but it does for me and ensures I stay motivated. Setting myself tangible goals, that relate to nothing else other than word counts, means I can make positive progress.

As a result, I find that completing the first draft of a novel is relatively pain-free, and dare I say it, enjoyable! – I knew there was a reason writers put themselves through this torture on a regular basis.

Things though quickly unravel when I get to the first edit or revision of my novel.

At this point, things become a little less tangible. The first edit isn’t about picking up typos and formatting errors, it’s about much more subjective components.

I have to look at my work critically and ask whether the structure, story and characters work, as well as, many other potentially soul-destroying questions.

My Own Worst Critic

Reviewing your own work requires you to embrace your inner critic, but what if you’re too critical of your writing?

If you’re anything like me, you may be your own worst critic and this can send you on a rollercoaster of emotions.

The typical editing process means you can experience any or all of the following on any given day:

  • Imposter syndrome – “I’m not a proper writer, who was I kidding?”, ” I’m a fraud”.
  • Second guessing – “should I change that?”, “I’ll just change that back”, “Was the original version better?”.
  • Negative self-talk – “I can’t believe I wrote this rubbish”, “What was I thinking?”, “I’m not good at this”, “I might as well give up now”.

Occasionally I do have moments, and sometimes days, when I feel like I’m ‘winning’ at editing. I may come across a section of prose that I may not even recall writing and I marvel at it, believing that I may actually be okay at this fiction-writing gig.

Unfortunately though the times I feel like the cat’s pyjamas and am convinced I could be the next JK Rowling, are few and far between.

All too often I feel paralysed and have multiple crises of faith when it comes to editing my novel.

When You Just Can’t

After a lot of trial and error, procrastination and excuses, I’ve found one thing that keeps my editing on track. It’s ‘Ganbatte’.

I’m a self-confessed Japanophile, having lived there for a couple of years, and I have a go-to list of Japanese words that inspire me.

‘Ganbatte’ is one of my favourites. It roughly translates as: keep at it, do your best, don’t give up and work hard.

Japanese often use the phrase ‘Ganbatte kudasai (please)’ in the same way we would wish a person good luck before an exam or performance.

Ganbatte though is less about luck and more about tenacity. As a culture, Japanese value effort and perseverance and this is a quality that I remind myself to embrace whenever I hit upon a difficult editing phase.

Just when I think I can’t keep going with my editing, or there’s no point in trying, I channel the Japanese warrior in me – yes I like to think there’s a little samurai in all us writers –  and tell myself ‘Ganbatte!’.

You never know, it may work for you too. ‘Ganbatte kudasai!’

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Guess what…I probably admire you

Admire. Out of the dozens of words I could have randomly chosen from the jar today, I chose ‘admire’. A little spooky when the last post I did was on the word ’emulate’ and I spoke about a few famous people I admire.

I’m very fortunate to have loads of role models in my life in the shape of family members, friends and some colleagues but there are others I admire too….and strangely enough I probably don’t even know them.

It may be even you! 

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time connecting with likeminded writers and business owners via social media.

It seems that while we are all truly unique, that there are loads of us that share common goals, challenges and interests.

It’s energising to see people going after the same things you are, it’s inspiring to see them kicking butt in their chosen field and it’s comforting to see that we all have our challenges and not so great days.

I’ve found that it’s not hard to find people you admire.

There’s the entrepreneurs living and breathing their dreams, the start-ups going after everything, the creators making amazing things, the mums and dads juggling life and business, the dedicated stay-at-home parents, the millennials and youngsters finding their feet in this big world, the teachers, the charity workers, the nurses, the office workers, the bus drivers, all of you getting on with your day with gusto, optimism and tenacity.

Then there’s the ones that maybe aren’t having such a great day but will do their best to just get though it….and most of all the ones that stop to give a moment of kindness to another person.

Yes I admire you.

But what value is there in me admiring you…especially if you don’t even know me?

Instead admire yourself. Admire all the things you are good at…and trust me there are plenty…we are all good at some things.

Then go out and find your community of people who you admire. The ones that you connect with and have things in common. The ones that you feel good to be around.

They may be right in your neighbourhood or in social media land, but they are out there just waiting for you to join them….just waiting to admire you and for you to admire them…a community of mutual admiration and respect…now that’s something you can really value.

‘Admire’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my . 


I have a love hate relationship with treats.

I love having them but then I don’t really like myself much afterwards.

When I think about treats, the first thing that comes to mind is food or drinks.

Having ‘kicked’ the sugar habit several years ago, I honestly don’t indulge in typical treats that often.

I know everybody says that but I mean it.

I’m sitting here right now with my coffee made with unsweetened almond milk and no sugar and my homemade coconut chia-seed pudding – yes I sound like a bit of a…something rather…but that’s my breakfast and I like it.

That all being said, a friend and I took our boys out for a ‘treat’ yesterday.

They asked for chocolate milkshakes and chocolate fondue with marshmallows and strawberries.

I knew the fondue would be huge and I would have to ‘help‘ them finish it off.

Then I ordered an iced coffee for myself.

‘Cream and ice-cream with that?’ the server asked.

I say, ‘just cream..oh no…no cream.’

‘So no to ice cream and cream?!?’ the confused server asked.

Trying to help the poor girl out I thought I’d make it easier for her and said, ‘actually I’ll have cream and ice cream.’

Yep…I wanted to ‘help’ the server out.

That though was my weekly treat.

But does wine or champagne count as treats? Because I’ll have a couple of those over the course of the week…just a couple…for sure.

A business coach recently encouraged me to identify a reward for getting a particular project completed…that didn’t involve food or drink…I came up with having quality time with Thelma my Thermomix.

Not exactly unrelated to food or drink but I do try to make super healthy stuff in it….like chia seed puddings, raw protein balls and….custard…here I go again.

Occasionally I indulge in the automatic custard setting. Chuck in some milk, eggs and a little sugar, press a button and it’s all done a few minutes later…those Thermomix geniuses I could just kiss them.

Of course I have other occasional treats, binge watching episodes of Friends, reading a good book, going to a movie, buying a good book…or cookbook…or going out to dinner…see I’m back to food again.

All jokes aside. I am pretty disciplined about treats being a treat and not an everyday thing. More like a once a week thing. And I’m no longer going to punish myself for it.

Life is way too short to not enjoy the occasional treat.

So go ahead and treat yourself today!

‘Treat’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my . 

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Brand & Marketing Myths Every (Aspiring) Author Needs to Know

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an (aspiring) author in possession of a book (idea) to sell, must be in want of an author brand or platform.”

I’ve taken some liberty with Jane Austen’s words but I’m sure she would have agreed with the sentiment.

Jane Austen lived at a time when books by women were usually published anonymously. I like to think she would have jumped, in a most lady-like manner, at the chance to promote herself as an author.  

Why then do many (aspiring) authors, who want to get their books out into the world, consider marketing a necessary evil, or just downright evil?

The answer lies in the undeniable fact that creating an author brand or platform can at times be frustrating, confusing or annoying – ‘you mean I actually have to do social media?’.

The good news is that many of the objections or challenges relating to marketing can be overcome with a little persistence and the right guidance.

Unfortunately, this does nothing to address the many misconceptions that continue to plague marketing and stop some writers from embracing their author brand.

I’m here to restore your faith in marketing by busting some of the most common myths surrounding author brand and related topics.

Branding is for Businesses Not Authors

The easiest way to clear this one up is to ask yourself whether you want to make money from selling your books.

If you answered yes, then you need to treat your writing as a business, otherwise, it’s a hobby.

Being a professional writer or author entails all of the regular activities a business owner needs to undertake, marketing being one of them.

Your author brand is the foundation of all of your marketing activities, and it is much more than having a beautiful logo and business cards.

Brand is the experience or feeling you create every time you interact with the world. It is what you say and how you say it – it is how you make people you communicate with feel.

It is about creating a consistent voice for you and your writing that resonates with readers, publishers, agents, and other people important to your success.

I Don’t Need to Worry About Brand Yet

If you haven’t published a book yet, you may think it’s okay to wait before developing your author brand.

In fact, the best time to start marketing yourself as an (aspiring) author is now!

The more time you have to build your platform, get followers and refine your messaging, the easier it will be when you are querying agents and publishers, or are ready to launch your book.

I Don’t Like Selling Myself So I Don’t Like Marketing

Guess what? Most people don’t like ‘selling’ themselves and no one likes being ‘sold’ to.

Fortunately, marketing isn’t about ‘selling’. It is about making meaningful and authentic connections with people who are interested in you and your work.

Connecting with the right people through social media and other communication channels builds a support network of people who, when the time comes, won’t just buy or invest in your book, but will do the ‘selling’ for you. They will become your brand fans and ambassadors.

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Friend or Foe: Giving and Inspiring Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships.

It’s the secret to personal connections, as well as business success.

Every day we make multiple decisions, sometimes in an instant, about whether to trust others.

We measure our hopes and aspirations against our worries and fears to determine whether someone is worthy of trust.

So how do we know whether someone is friend or foe? How do we earn other’s trust? And how do we trust ourselves?

This article in explains why some people are better at being trustworthy and judging trustworthiness.

Of course there are many factors affecting ability to trust—past experiences and betrayals, the ability to judge character, and to some extent personality, as well as whether we had a ‘secure’ or ‘insecure’ attachment and experience with our childhood caregivers.

“A child who learns the lesson that people close to her are reliable, can be trusted, and will take care of her goes out into the world with very different mental presentations and expectations about human interaction than an insecurely attached peer.”

I’m lucky enough to fit into the secure category and hope to do the same for my own son.

Fortunately there are ways for people who have had different experiences to improve their ability to trust..

“…Resolving trust issues is not about getting another person to be trustworthy. It’s about you become a trustworthy person with yourself and learning to trust yourself.”

For me it’s incredibly important for my own happiness to be a trustworthy person.

I must trust that “I have this”—that I can complete a difficult task.

I must inspire trust from my clients that I will do what I promised.

I must deliver on my commitments to my friends and family.

I must deliver on commitments made to myself: self-care; finish that novel; be kind to myself.

All of these things come down to “do what you say you were going to do”.

It involves taking responsibility for my actions and accepting blame when I’ve been wrong.

It involves giving credit to others when it’s due, and a genuine wish to help others.

I know that when I have good self-trust that I feel better about myself and more inclined to trust others.

Sure sometimes I get burnt by other people, but it comes down to this:

Do you prefer to believe that that the world is here to help you or that it’s against you?

On the most part I prefer to believe the former. That is, learn to trust and be trusted, and that leads to happiness—well at least more times than not—so I choose trust.

‘Trust’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my .  


How to Structure a Novel

How do you create a good novel structure?

  1. The hook
  2. The inciting event
  3. Progress
  4. The setbacks
  5. The midpoint
  6. The final confrontation

Let’s Get Real – Creating Authentic Connections

As a content marker and online publisher a lot of the work I do is in the digital and social media world.

We often hear (and tell people) that we need to be ‘authentic’ in our storytelling, that we should create ‘authentic’ connections with people meaningful to us and our business.

I totally agree.

The thing though that has been stumping me for some time though is exactly HOW can we create REAL, AUTHENTIC and MEANINGFUL connections with people in a digital world?

Sure we can start conversations and engage with others like we’ve never been able to before.

In many ways we are more connected than ever – in a technological sense – but is it the same type of connection we get from meeting someone in the flesh – IRL? Are we in some ways more disconnected then ever? Is social media in fact anti-social media?

How can we recapture the same feeling and instant feedback loop we get when speaking to someone who is physically in the same space as us? Is it possible?

I was determined to get to the bottom of this and speak to people who are doing this as part of their work, as well as experts in human behaviour and communication.

I decided to create My Let’s Get Real Project – to pinpoint how to create the In Real Life Feeling (IRLF) in any communication circumstances.

Then on the very day I start formulating this project I reached for my latest word – and out of the hundreds of words I could have randomly chose I picked ‘authentic’.

Spooky right!

So consider this project started.

If you have any input or ideas you’d like to add to My Let’s Get Real Project .

‘Authentic’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my