Looking For Boredom – Taking a Break From My Writing

I’m not a professional writer. No one is paying me to blog or to write. No one is giving me deadlines.

Well, no one outside my head.

In this day and age, everyone is encouraged to have a side hustle. And to monetize that hustle. When you’re a writer, you’re always encouraged to be working on your next thing.

What Writing Projects Does Morgan Have?

I’ve got:

  • my fantasy that I’m querying
  • the rough draft of its sequel, waiting for a final version of book one before I do any more
  • my middle grade contemporary fantasy that’s in the middle of revisions
  • my genderbent Robin Hood rough draft, that doesn’t know if it’s a f-f romance or an adventure
  • my 80% drafted space fantasy
  • 3 polished short stories
  • 18 drafted short stories from my “NaNo of Shorts” — 50,000 words of short stories written two Novembers ago
  • random poetry, sometimes themed for Inktober
  • my weekly blog and vlog and podcast posts

Very little of it is in a finished state. Except, of course, these posts.

Where does this leave me?

Always feeling like there is work to be done.

That list I just went over? Doesn’t go into my writing adjacent projects — beta-reading for friends, weekly author spotlights, slush reading for The Oddville Press, volunteering at science-fiction and fantasy conventions, helping with query rewrites, and running social media for several writing groups and an SFF club. There’s a reason I use Trello to track all of my obligations. Plus, the monthly local open mic night for writers and the 2 weekly livestreams I’m usually on.

Oh! And my never-ending to-read pile. Both for fun and because you’re supposed to know what’s in your genre. And your writing is supposed to be made better by reading widely.

So. After months of making token progress on my space fantasy? I’m taking a break from my writing.

Not from the blog or the vlog or the podcast. Not from the weekly livestreams. Not from reading. Or any of the adjacent things. Not from querying novels or submitting short stories.

Just from the writing and editing.

Why am I taking a break?

And why just the writing and editing?

For starters, I like my social media followers and any missed week takes months to regain. I like having the satisfaction of an unbroken posting streak on my blog and vlog. And, most of the rest requires having an opinion, but not creating. Which is a lot less work, even if it is time-consuming.

Secondly, the writing and editing had turned into a drudge. Not in the “must-put-butt-in-seat to make it happen” sort of sense, but in the “I’m here because I blocked this time, but I’m really phoning it in.” And that’s not a mindset I need for quality work.

Thirdly, I struggle to focus on more than one personal project at a time. To be brutally honest, before I was writing, I hit the gym regularly. I lifted heavy weights. I was in the best shape of my life. I mean, in between binging World of Warcraft and Minecraft — I never wasn’t a geek. After years of working on the writing thing, though, compounded by a pandemic spent working from home, 3 steps from my kitchen, where I could easily take under 1,000 steps in a day… my fitness isn’t where I want it to be. So, I’m using my Oculus I got (myself) for “winning” NaNoWriMo to play Beat Saber, actually using the weights a friend gave me when their workout room became a nursery, and stopping with the snacking. Once my clothes start fitting again, it can be an activity and not a personal focus. But I’m not there, yet.

Finally? I fell behind on my 2021 goals. I’ve fallen behind before. But, there’s one thing I’ve learned — if I spend the next month playing catch-up, I just get further and further behind. Many of my goals are based on what I can do on a good, focused month.

You know what online quotes reminded me? If you give your best every day, it’s not your best. It’s your average.

And I can’t give my best every day.

When my writing starts to turn my everyday into this meme, that’s not sustainable.

Two identical, white forearms, in black suit jackets with white cuffs showing, shaking hands.

Hand on the left: Not writing because I'm stressed.
Hand on the right: Stressed because I'm not writing

Looking For Boredom

For now, I’m trying to catch up on my reading, my beta-reads, and my slush reading. The main convention I help with is at the end of May, so my time will be increasingly spent on activities for it. A couple family members close to me are having/had babies this year, so family visits are happening.

I am the type of person who can fill her free time with projects. House projects, gardening projects, computer projects. With reading. With endless phone games.

By taking an intentional break, I want to catch up on all the things I let pile up that aren’t writing related. I want to bask in my downtime until I start to wander around aimlessly, wondering what to do next, and not feeling like anything.

Then? When I go back to my writing, I’ll be refreshed and ready.

How often do you take a break from your writing? Have you ever needed to?

500 Blog Posts Later…

On April 22nd of 2015, the previously unheard of, Morgan Hazelwood, otherwise known as ‘me’, began blogging.

Nearly six years later, I’m still at it, and today, I’m celebrating my 500th blog post.

Thank you all for reading, for making sure I’m not shouting into the void. If you’ve been around for a while, you might know some of this, but for the rest of you, stay tuned to read about my blogging journey.

Why I Started Blogging

Back in 2015, I’d finished drafting my first full length manuscript. It wasn’t ready to be queried, or published at all. But, it was done.

And, one of the pieces of advice I kept seeing was to set up an author website. It didn’t need to be a blog, but social media platforms rise and fall, whereas a website is something that you maintain, you control, and is a way of putting your best face forward.

I’ve done web development professionally, but I knew I wanted my time at home to be spent focused on my writing, not on futzing with the backend of my website. WordPress, at the time, was free and had all the features I was interested in.

I looked at author websites and decided what I liked best.

I created an ‘about’ page, a ‘contact’ page… but then what? I didn’t want an empty website just aggrandizing myself. Of course, not being published, I didn’t have a page about where to buy my stuff.

So, I decided I’d write a few blog posts. Not regularly, of course not! My writing time was for my NOVELS, you see. But, I couldn’t just leave the site empty.

When I Caught the Blogging Bug

My first ‘real’ blogpost wasn’t until May 1st. I figured I’d post about my writing experience, the questions my friends and family had asked me. And then, May 26th, I decided to attend Balticon 49, the day before the local science-fiction and fantasy convention began. Luckily, my dad had already intended to go and offered up crash space, so all it cost me was some food and the price of a badge.

I’d attended conventions before, but now that I was a writer, I wanted to do research. Before May of 2015, I believe I’d attended maybe five panels in my life, despite attending in the ballpark of 20 conventions. Many as a child, a few as a college student. And I’d begun working as staff at a local anime convention. But, not actually attending anything.

That first year, I hit 17 panels, but wrote only eight blog posts about the year, covering 15 of the panels and workshops.

I kept up my near weekly blogging until that September, when my now-ex-husband and I separated and I started a new job. And then I moved. I still blogged at least once a month, mostly 2-3 times a month. And I have yet to miss a week since February 25th 2016. Every Thursday, like clockwork, you could find my blog posts.

A year later, I started turning my blog posts into vlog posts. As I’ve mentioned before, just because I *hate* email and would rather get my writing tips in a blog conglomerator, called an RSS feed, doesn’t mean I don’t understand that other ways work better for other people. And, if by recording my talking head and sharing the article in an auditory manner helped me reach more people, I was willing to add that time to my process…

Why I Keep Blogging

I can’t say that blogging never gets in the way of my writing. Because of the self-imposed deadline, I often — no. I DO prioritize the blog over my own fiction writing.

But why? You ask.

There are always a multitude of reasons someone does a thing. For me, let’s see…

  1. It’s a way to track — and to share my journey to becoming a published author (and hopefully, one day, beyond)
  2. It’s a way to review my panel notes and put them in a form that makes the take-aways obvious to me.
  3. It’s a way to share my panel notes to those who cannot or prefer not to attend writing panels (panels aren’t the best way for many people to absorb information)
  4. It’s a way to give back to the community — with query corners, author spotlights (well, maybe more effective once I become a famous author, but you’ve gotta start somewhere), writing tips, and writerly musings
  5. It keeps me focused on my own writing. When you talk about your writing every week, it’s hard to forget your dream. It stops me from deprioritizing it.
  6. Can I say, momentum? I hate breaking a streak! Once I’d gone 3 months without missing a Thursday, it became harder to tell myself to take a week off. If I’d managed to keep blogging when things were harder, what’s my excuse now? And, that’s carried over to my videos. Since I started Vlogging in 2017, I’ve never missed a week there.

Should You Start/Continue Blogging?

Note: if you write non-fiction — being an established expert and having a strong following is seen as a positive. For fiction writers, it can be a bonus, but it’s not required.

If you enjoy writing blog posts — or at least, find some satisfaction out of it, do it. Otherwise, you can skip it.

You don’t have to write essays. You can share pictures, quotes, whatever content makes you happy, as long as you keep a consistent tone/theme.

My Blogging Stats!

I’ve published 113 write-ups of convention panels and conventions themselves, 38 Query Corners, 66 Author Spotlights, 11 weeks in review. I’ve done 21 posts about the querying process. There have been 4 stories and 6 posts of my poetry, although I’m saving first publication rights for most of those, so you don’t see a lot. 39 musings that I called “essays”.

Only 3 guests posts. I’ve realized I don’t like having another voice on my page in ways not tightly controlled. I’ve posted 11 times about #PitchWars and 27 times about NaNoWriMo.

Confession: 20 of my 500 posts were just the reshare of the video version, before I started linking the vlog post IN the blog post.

My all time stats are: 42,399 views and 1,822 comments. My best day was 155 views.

But, I do promote my posts as “Writing Tips and Writerly Musings.” Hopefully, it will encourage you to learn that, including the convention panels, 244 blog posts, or nearly half of mine, have been specifically about the writing process.

I’m pretty sure that means I’m staying on topic.

My Most Popular Posts!

At 2,986 lifetime views, more than 8 times more popular than any other post is: 10 Questions To Ask Your Beta-Reader

Next up? So You’ve Decided To Write A Novel — Here Are 7 Tips To Get Started with 366 views.

Top 10 Tricks For Writing A Better Query Letter comes in third at 360 views.

Filling out the top 10 are:

I Can’t Read My Own Writing

The 5 Stages of a #PitchWars Hopeful

5 Big Things I’ve Learned About Editing

Agents and Editors Share — Pitches We’re Sick Of

Introduction to Hopepunk

“Coming of Age” versus YA

Morgan’s Complete Guide For Attending A Convention

My Future Plans

I do like to remind myself that the blog (and the vlog (and the podcast)), exist to support my writing and not the other way around. Although, my blog and the tips I share here have helped me get a couple speaking gigs, and I wouldn’t say no to more.

I’m not sure that I will continue to hit so many convention panels, though, because there’s only so many new panels or fresh takes out there. Plus, I’ve been pulled in to start working more conventions, so it’s harder to attend them.

But? I’d like to keep blogging for the foreseeable future.

Have you ever blogged or vlogged? Have you thought about it?

If you do, what do you like about it. If you don’t, or stopped, what’s stopping you from picking it back up?

Life Happens

They say consistency is key. That you need to set a schedule and keep to it if you’re ever going to reach your goals.


Remember how I’m always talking about being kind to yourself? Understanding and respecting your own limits? Plus. Beating yourself up for failing to meet every goal perfectly is a great way to destroy your emotional health.

I almost posted something about picking point of view characters and carried on like a normal week. But? It’s not.

Since Friday, my dad got his first book deal, had a birthday, and failed a stress test. His outpatient procedure on Tuesday turned into a “you’re staying here and having a triple bypass on Thursday morning.” Other than the obvious, he’s in great shape, good spirits, and has a 99% chance of a perfect outcome.

This clearly was not on the schedule for this week.

On the other hand, my twin sister’s second daughter is due Friday and, along with her husband, I’m her support person. I’ve been quarantining since two weeks before the due date.

So. That’s where I’m at. I’m acknowledging my coping limits and probably gonna go hide my head in a book — in between watching my phone for notifications.

When life happens, sometimes, all you can do is acknowledge it and ride it out.

Have you had life interrupt your plans? Feel free to share your experiences for better or worse.

If You’re Not Making Progress, Change Direction

There was an inauguration yesterday. The United States of America swore in a new president.

But. This is a writing blog, so let’s talk about writing.

I may have complained some about how my space fantasy story that I started during NaNoWriMo went off the rails and I wasn’t sure where it was going. I might have been getting words in, but I have been struggling to advance the plot.

This weekend, I took a drive, thought about my story, and realized the problem.

When a story is fighting you, the problem just might be that you’re going the wrong direction. Sometimes, you’re writing the wrong story.

Types of Stories

We’re all familiar with the different types of stories, even if we don’t have the lists memorized. While different people split them up differently, let’s go with this subset of six categories of stories.

  1. “Human versus human” – Someone is standing in your way, blocking you from achieving your goals.
  2. “Human versus nature” – A survival tale.
  3. “Human versus machine” – Technology, at whatever level, might be your undoing.
  4. “Human versus fate” – Can you fight the gods and/or destiny?
  5. “Human versus society” – Where you’re fighting ‘the man’, the system, the government, the corporation…
  6. “Human versus self” – When you really are your own worst enemy

What Was Wrong In Morgan’s Story

For me, I typically write “human versus society”, where the problem is social expectations, or a corrupt government, that sort of thing. That’s my – for lack of a better term – comfort zone.

Which is a bit silly, because in my personal life, I’m the sort that is comfortable being a cog in the wheel. I can rationalize a lot, and I typically go along with authority unless I have a clear reason to fight back. Which doesn’t happen often.

With my space fantasy, I was trying to base the story structure on classic fairy tales… while still having the enemy be a nebulous corporation — or at least a debt to them.

But fairytales thrive on conflict. Well, all stories do. But fairytales thrive specifically on interpersonal conflict.

I was driving down that tree-lined highway in the mountains, thinking about my story and how to get it from where it was to the ending I needed, when the solution dawned on me.

I need an enemy, one close at hand, with motivations and reasons all their own. And I knew exactly who it was, who I’d been trying to reform since the very beginning. That was my mistake.

Not all antagonists can be swayed to the side of the main character. Some are just in it for themselves.

I’ve attended panels on writing villains before, but I’ve never written one. Let’s see how this turns out.

Have you ever been writing the wrong story?

Have you ever read a story that you thought was going to be one type, but ended up being another? Did you like the shift?

Morgan’s 2021 Resolutions

Now that we’re firmly into January, it’s time to determine what my goals for the year are.

Last year was intended to be a year of querying/submitting, revision, and networking.

Thusly, I listed my goals:

  1. Revising
  2. Querying and submitting
  3. Blogging/Vlogging
  4. Reading
  5. Writing
  6. Beta-reading
  7. Conventions

As I shared last week, I did great on everything on that list — except my revisions and querying — you know, the parts of the list that actually get me closer to publication. Does anyone else see the problem here?

This year? This year my focus is on writing, revisions, and querying/submitting.

As always, I like to set SMART goals –

  • Specific – you’ll see numbers and dates!
  • Measurable – you’ll still see numbers and dates
  • Achievable – I set goals for things I have influence over. I’m aiming for an agent, getting something published, but unless I self-pub, I have no control over that.
  • Relevant – I’m keeping my exercise goals and healthy eating off this post. These are all about my writing, the relevance should be clear.
  • Time-sensitive – Obviously, these are intended to be completed in 2021, but some items may have specific dates associated.

So? Let’s take last year’s list and put it in a new priority order.

Morgan, a long-haired brunette, is laying on a carpet, legs in slippers kicked up behind her, writing in a notebook.

Behind her is a table and a bookshelf.

1. Writing

Finish my NaNoWriMo space fantasy! Preferably by April. At least the rough draft.

I’m not sure if I want to do OctPoWriMo again — writing a poem a day for all of October. I skipped it last year. But, I really like participating in NaNoWriMo — writing 50,000 words in November. If I’m really stumped in November, I’ll rebel and revise either 5 shorts or a full manuscript. But, knowing me, I’ll probably make new words.

2. Revising

I managed last year’s goals to finish my revisions before Balticon! And then was query-shy in the wake of the 2020 querying climate. And I managed to at least edit my middle grade fantasy.

Remembering, of course, that rewriting IS writing, this makes revision half of my writing goals. But? The final goal is publication and I’ve got 4 manuscripts, 21+ short stories, and 30+ poems just waiting for a home.

So much to polish!

This year’s goals? Revise three of the short stories I drafted during my NaNo-Of-Shorts back in 2019.

3. Querying & Submitting

I’ve talked a lot about the differences between querying and submitting, but basically — one is to get an agent to sell your book, and one is to publishers to buy your stories. Typically, writers submit their own short stories, but publishers usually want agents to submit full length manuscripts.

Querying is a intro-letter and first chapter or so that you send to a literary agent. Once you have an agent, they often make you do revisions, before submitting your work to a publishing house.

Submitting a manuscript/short story/poem is what you can do to any editor/publisher who is open to it: publishers (who are open to unagented work), literary magazines, anthologies, etc.

This year, for my short stories and poetry, I’m going to try to actively submit at least 6 short stories to at least 3 markets each markets. Plus? At least the first round of the submissions needs to be by March (for the stories that are already prepped). And query my YA fantasy 3 times a month, unless revising.

4. Blogging/Vlogging/Podcast

You are my supporters, my community, my friends. You cheer me on and watch me learn and grow. As always, blogging helps keep me out there, keeps me accountable, and gives me a way to give back to the community.

Plus? I haven’t missed a week on my blog since February of 2016 (although, I have done reruns) nor a vlog-post since I started vlogging on June 27, 2017. Since we all know how much I hate ending a streak, I’m going to keep at it. You’ll be seeing my a new blog/vlog every Thursday with writing tips or writerly musings.

I’ve also started a podcast and weekly live-stream. I plan on taking a week or so off between seasons, and no more than one live-stream off a quarter (unless double-booked with a convention).

Morgan taking a selfie while sitting near the front of a room full of chairs. (She's at a writing panel at a convention)

5. Conventions | Writer Groups

My goals here are: to panel at 3+ conventions, attend 6+ open mic nights, 4+ monthly writer meetings, and 3 NaNoWriMo events (kickoff, 1 write in, and the all-nighter till 11pm). Plus? Staff Balticon and maybe another virtual con..

Ravencon pushed out my panelists dates from last year to this, I’m staff and panelist for Balticon again (May), and — if everything works out — WorldCon (August) in Washington DC. My panels were well received last year, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be accepted back. (All of my panels were topics from this blog that I feel I can talk competently on, where my unpublished perspective won’t be a detriment to my authority on the subject).

Plus, I’m running social media for Balticon’s parent group. So… there’s another time suck!

What does being on panels net me? Why do I want to do this?

First, it’s a greater reach for my blog/vlog/podcast that’s supposed to lead to a larger audience when I do get published. It’s a great way to network and meet more writers and readers who like the same stuff I do. Plus, a chance to talk about all the stuff I obsess over on my blog and on my vlog in person with actual people.

But how does attending conventions count as a writing goal? Isn’t it just fun? Or part of your social media addiction?

Well, if you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably noticed that over half the content is actually write ups from notes at convention panels! I attend the panels, for those who can’t (or don’t). Also? My sister teases me that I act like a teacher, trying to get her recertification credits, all in one weekend.

And? Well, I talked about it in my post on attending conventions, but, of course, there’s the networking aspect. The science-fiction and fantasy conventions I prefer are full of readers, writers, and even some publishers and agents!

Quote on a grey board on a brown shelf with books behind it.
“And to think, some of life’s best stories haven’t even begun”

6. Reading

Thanks to this year being what it was, I managed to read 46 books, with 35 of them being physical and nearly all of the physical books being from the pile that moved into the house with me.

So? I’m upping my goal from last year of reading 26 books – to 36 books! Three a month is less than I’ve achieved the last couple years. Plus, half of them should be physical and already on my to-read bookcase.

7. Beta Readers

This year, again, I’m going to try not to beta-read more than 3 full manuscripts for others.

I will need the short stories I’m preparing for publication beta read. As always, I like to keep my beta reader pool to no more than 8 readers, typically from different backgrounds. I usually give them separate copies, so that their feedback won’t influence each other.

I’m still a contributing editor to The Oddville Press, an online literary magazine of odd, but not really fantastical tales.

In Summary

This year, I’m starting off with my focus on drafting, not my usual revision, but plan to do a lot of querying and submitting. The middle of my year will be rather convention heavy, but by October/November, I should be back in the writer’s seat. Plus, I’ll be reading and blogging and vlogging and podcasting throughout the year.

Except December. I’m not a writer in December — everyone needs a chance to breath.

We’ll have to wait until next January to see if I had 2021 foresight.

What does your plan look like for 2021

Did you build in flexibility?

And, how SMART are your goals?

See my previous years resolutions and reflections:
2017 Resolutions | 2017 Retrospective
2018 Resolutions | 2018 Retrospective
2019 Resolutions | 2019 Retrospective

2020 Resolutions | 2020 Retrospective