Four Hard Things (April Theme - Sarah Dooley)

I work with a kid who hates to try hard things because he doesn't want to fail. He's a smart guy with a ton of skills, but it's tricky to get him to develop new skills because he doesn't want to do anything that he's not already confident with.

What we do in that situation is this: we practice being wrong. Or, worse yet, being sometimes right and sometimes wrong, so we never know which one is coming. We take deep breaths. We gaze into a water bottle filled with glitter and we press our palms together. We get ourselves centered, ready and calm.

Then we try hard things until they aren't hard anymore.

Here are four hard things to practice in your weekly writing routine:

1. Skip a problem.

When you hit a snag in your writing, it's easy to get sucked into trying to fix the problem at all costs. Sometimes it feels like you can't move on until you've solved the riddle, patched the plot gap, or untangled the timeline. Something that's hard for me -- something I have to make myself practice -- is to skip over the snag and land where I know I want the story to go next -- then loop back later and connect the dots. I hate leaving things unresolved, but I have to trust that I can fix the problem later.

2. Reach out to a reader.

Post on your author account on social media. Answer an email. Send a pack of bookmarks to a school that might want to have you in to speak. Do something each week to reach out to your audience, no matter how far outside your comfort zone it might be to do so.

3. Write something for fun.

Working on a novel? Write a poem. Or a short story. Or even a bit of fan fiction. Something fun just for yourself. Sometimes we think of writing as a job and we forget how much fun it can be. Take a risk and remind yourself why you started writing in the first place! 

4. Own your shortcomings.

I am a procrastinator. I am terrible at meeting deadlines. The more I try to dodge this issue, the more stressful it becomes and the worse I get at being on time. So now I know that I need to allow myself my flaws and just leave myself extra time. If the deadline is June 1, May 15 is circled on my calendar.

It's uncomfortable, trying something that's hard, but you can't learn new skills without going out on a limb. A very cool kid taught me that. 


  1. Hi, Sarah. This reminds me of President Kennedy's speech where he says, "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard." I try to do those things you mentioned on a regular basis. Sometimes, if you don't watch out, you can take all the fun out of writing.

  2. Owning your shortcomings--the toughest and most important thing you'll ever do.


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