How Not to Worry About the Apocalypse

How Not to Worry About the Apocalypse

I worry a lot about the Apocalypse. I think it’s a combination of my vivid imagination and growing up in the waning days of the Cold War when nuclear annihilation felt a breath away.

I cracked up when my sister gave me the book This Won’t Help: Modest Proposals for a More Enjoyable Apocalypse by Eli Grober. Talk about hitting the nail on the doomsday bunker! Does she get me or what?

This Won’t Help: Modest Proposals for a More Enjoyable Apocalypse by Eli Grober.

This gem of a book sits on my nightstand, a beacon of absurdity in the sea of existential dread. It reminds me of the unstoppable power of imagination to create dire situations and belly laughs. We’re talking about a brain that can conjure up post-apocalyptic survival skills or imagine a world where cockroaches have evolved into our landlords.

There’s something oddly liberating about using your fears as fodder for creative projects. Next time you find yourself fretting about something, whether it’s a reasonable concern or a ‘zombie-aliens-taking-over-the-world’ level of unreasonable, try writing it down. Turn it into a story, a poem, a comic strip, or even a song. Who knows? Your next big worry might just be the muse you never knew you needed.

Welcome to my world, where the looming Apocalypse is less of a nightmare and more of a writing prompt! And that, my fellow worriers and warriors, is how you turn The End into just another chapter in your creatively chaotic life.


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Writers’ Holiday Gift Guide

Writers’ Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for a gift for the writer in your life? This list has it all – creative and brainstorming gifts, fun gadgets to help you work in bed and at your desk, craft books, and more. There is something here for every creative on your list!

Brainstorming/Inspiration

I use this cute heart shaped bulletin board to make a mood board for my creative projects. I find images that remind me of my ideas or generate images with Midjourney to create book covers, movie posters, and character portraits. Then I attach the pictures with these fun heart push pins.  

These small moveable white boards are like giant post its, perfect for outlining.  

When inspiration strikes in the shower, use these markers to jot down ideas, straight on the tile.

Channel your favorite 20th century writer with this cool keyboard looks & sounds like a typewriter.

Pick out writer themed laptop stickers from redbubble.com.

Write the Story – a journal with a writing prompt on each page. 100 storylines to spur creativity.

Creative Block – 100+ Brainstorming Ideas & Strategy Cards

The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain

Writer Emergency Pack – Idea Cards

The Storymatic – Kickstart Your creativity with storytelling cards.

Story Cubes – Roll all 9 cubes to generate 9 random images and then use these to invent a story that starts with “Once upon a time…” and uses all 9 elements as part of your narrative.

Writing Dice for story inspiration.

Audio & Video

A waterproof bluetooth speaker for listening to podcasts in the shower.

A Samson Q2U microphone and Audio-Technica headphones for podcasting and guesting on podcasts.

Some podcasts use video too. Look good on video and in your Zoom meetings with the Lumina webcam that automatically adjusts the lighting and framing.

Light your video shoots with the NEEWER 700W Equivalent Softbox Lighting Kit and look like a pro on camera.

Use this clip on microphone when you are recording videos for crisper sound.

Books on Writing Craft

Stories all have the same structure – a beginning, a middle, and an end – whether you are writing a novel or a screenplay. These books are a mix of both, but the craft of one format can be applied to the other. I have included some classics and a bunch of books I have read over the last couple of years. Enjoy!

Screenplay by Syd Field

Save the Cat: the Last Book on Screenwriting You Will Ever Need by Blake Snyder

Prewriting Your Screenplay: A Step by Step Guide to Generating Stories by Michael Tabb

Writing the Pilot by William Rabkin

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Screenwriters by Chris Vogler

The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, & Fans of Pop Culture by Gail Carriger

Write Your Hero: How to Create Fan-Favorite Protagonists, from Heroines to Anti-Heroes and More by Lewis Jorstad

Three Story Method: Foundations of Fiction by J. Thorn & Zach Bohannon

Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes

The Dialogue Doctor Will See You Now: How to Write Dialogue and Characters Readers Will Love by Jeff Elkins

Intuitive Editing: A Creative & Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing by Tiffany Yates Martin

How to Make Living with Your Writing by Joanna Penn

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Hallmark! Writing a Made-for-TV Christmas Movie: The Unofficial Guide by Heather Hughes & Kate Wharton

Reading in Bed

A comfy shredded memory foam reading pillow that supports your neck.

A Kindle so you never run out of books. The soft warm light makes it easy to read in bed without waking your partner.

The Flippy keeps your hands from getting tired when you are reading on your Kindle or working on your Ipad.  

This adjustable lap desk is perfect for reading, working, even eating in bed. If you put it on a table, you can use it as a standing desk.

A book light for those times you are reading a physical book, and don’t want to disturb your partner. The arms are adjustable so you have the light exactly where you want it.

Productivity and Organization

The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future by Ryder Carroll for starting the new year off right. This organizational system changed my life. A cool journal for your bullet journal.

A Comfortable Desk

A back support cushion makes any chair comfortable. This pillow is also a life saver on long commutes or road trips.

This Logitech ergonomic wireless keyboard protects your wrist and hands from strain.

Memory foam wrist rest protects your rest when you are using your mouse.

A second monitor increases productivity. No more clicking between windows.

A monitor riser puts your monitor at eye level to prevent eye strain. This clear one looks great on a desk.

An under desk footrest prevents lower back pain.

This adjustable laptop stand keeps your computer at a comfortable height and swivels.

This document holder props up documents and books for easy reference will you are writing.


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How the World’s Worst Writer Can Inspire You

How the World’s Worst Writer Can Inspire You

I was listening to ​an interview with Neil Gaiman​ this past week. As an encouragement to writers, he discussed a mostly forgotten 20th century American writer named ​Harry Stephen Keeler​. Keeler wrote over a hundred pulp novels (mostly detective stories) from the 1920s to the 1950s and is remembered for being a terrible writer with convoluted plots and crazy dialogue. He is an inspiration because if he can succeed as a writer, getting published and making a living, and be so bizarrely bad, then whatever your creative endeavor, ​you can succeed too.​

To give you an idea of just how crazy his writing is, here are the first two sentences from The Riddle of the Traveling Skull (1934):

He irritated me strangely and in the hope of getting a line on the source of his abnormal interest in me, I began to review the events, such as they were, which followed my exit from the big new Union Passenger Station at Randolph Street and Michigan Ave. For it must be remembered that at the time I knew quite nothing, naturally, concerning Milo Payne, the mysterious Cockney-talking Englishman with the checkered long-beaked Sherlockholmsian cap; nor of the latter’s “Barr-Bag” which was as like my own bag as one Milwaukee wienerwurst is like another; nor of Legga, the Human Spider, with her four legs and her six arms; nor of Ichabod Chang, ex-convict, and son of Dong Chang; nor of the elusive poetess, Abigail Sprigge; nor of the Great Simon, with his 2163 pearl buttons; nor of–in short, I then knew quite nothing about anything or anybody involved in the affair of which I had now become a part, unless perchance it were my Nemesis, Sophie Kratzenschneiderwümpel–or Suing Sophie!

Keeler loved storytelling so much that he created his own structure that he called a ​webwork plot​. A webwork plot is built around a sequence in which the main character intersects at least four other strands of story, one after the other, and each of these encounters causes the next one.

We are drawn to the unescapable conclusion that Mr. Keeler writes his peculiar novels merely to satisfy his own undisciplined urge for creative joy.

The New York Times, 1942

What are the takeaways from Harry Stephen Keeler?

· If he can do it, you can do it.

· Enjoy creating.

· Every kind of story has an audience, you just have to find it.

· Old stories can be rediscovered by new generations of readers and writers.

· Even bad writing can be inspirational, popular, & profitable.


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Why You Should Write at the Car Wash

Why You Should Write at the Car Wash

A couple of days ago I went to the car wash. To pass the time, I brought a hard copy of my latest project, which I was hand editing. I was there for an hour and was insanely productive. With the comfortable chair and their rocking soundtrack that was a mix of classic country, 70s rock, and 90s alternative, it was a magical creative experience.

It reminded me of a story from a few years ago about novelist Amy Daws who cured her writer’s block by writing in the waiting room of her local tire store. She became the unofficial mascot of the store with her own reserved seat. And she wrote a book, Wait With Me, about a writer who likes to write in the waiting room of a tire store and finds love there.

Sometimes when you are searching for inspiration, try changing location.

My time at the car wash prompted a creative habit I had forgotten. I like writing with noise. But with my new fancy chair and giant monitor, I had gotten out of the habit. Keep a list of habits that work for you so when your life changes, you don’t forget. It’s also good to have creative habits in rotation. When you get tired of sitting at your desk, go to the car wash.

Have you ever wondered why so many people like to write at coffee shops? There is actually science behind it. There is a noise sweet spot between too loud to be distracting and just loud enough to help you focus. Having noise that your brain has to work to block out actually makes you more creative.

There’s even an app called Coffitivity that mimics the noise of a coffee shop. I used it when I had to write at an office job that was library level quiet.

Some people use music as their ambient noise. Lots of writers like to have playlists for each project that evoke the mood and the theme of the story they’re working on.

What is your favorite kind of noise to work with?


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6 Quick Brainstorming Tricks to Find New Ideas

6 Quick Brainstorming Tricks to Find New Ideas

We’ve all been there. Staring at a blank screen or empty page, waiting for inspiration to strike. But creativity often requires a little coaxing. Finding new ideas for stories can be challenging. Here’s a guide to spark your imagination and help you discover fresh ideas.

1. Mine Your Experiences

Our personal lives are rich with stories. Think about your own experiences, the people you’ve met, the places you’ve been, and the emotions you’ve felt. Often, a simple memory can be the seed of a powerful story. Whether it’s an unforgettable trip, a childhood memory, or a fleeting moment that left an impression, your personal experiences are a treasure trove of unique perspectives.

2. News and Current Events

Myriad true stories unfold every day. Real-life events like a heroic rescue, a mysterious occurrence, or a murder, can inspire compelling fictional stories.

3. Ask What if?

Take a mundane situation and twist it. What if the world ran out of coffee? What if your dog could speak? What if you woke up in a parallel universe? The ‘what if’ game can open doors to stories you’ve never considered.

4. People Watch

Take a seat in a park, café, or a busy street, and just observe and listen. Create stories for the people you see. Where are they going? What are their dreams, fears, or secrets? This is a wonderful way to improve your character development skills.

5. Dive into History

History is brimming with fascinating events, personalities, and eras. Whether it’s ancient civilizations, significant battles, or the lives of remarkable individuals, there’s a wealth of inspiration in history. You can retell these stories with a fresh twist or use them as a backdrops.

6. Mix and Match Genres

Blend genres to create fresh story ideas. Who says a sci-fi story can’t be a romance? Or a historical drama can’t be infused with fantasy? Have fun playing with genre conventions and tropes.

Closing Thoughts

Creativity is not a finite resource. It’s like a muscle that strengthens with exercise. By actively seeking inspiration and remaining curious, you’ll find that the world around you is teeming with stories waiting to be told. So, the next time you feel stuck, take a deep breath, look around, and let the universe be your muse.


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Every Problem Has an Answer

Every Problem Has an Answer

Last week we talked ​about how being helpful ​can make you feel good, build your network, and help your career. There was one situation that I didn’t cover.

Sometimes you don’t even know you can ask for help.

When we feel that we are in an impossible situation, it doesn’t occur to us to ask for help. ​Don’t panic.​ There is always a solution. It may not be the one you hope for or the one you like, but there is always a way to make your problem a little better.

Don’t assume that you know all the answers. And secondly don’t assume you can’t ask questions. If you are in a real bind, discuss your situation with a trusted friend and brainstorm solutions.

Ask for help, brainstorm, and you will be surprised at the outcome.


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