Five Tips for Getting a Personal Essay Published



In March 2013, I sent a personal essay to an editor at MARIE CLAIRE. She expressed interest in it and asked to see a draft. We went back and forth, and then she brought it to her executive editor. She and the executive editor found one sentence in my draft that they were interested in turning into an entirely new essay. So I wrote that. Unfortunately, the essay didn’t go anywhere after that. The drafts I turned in just weren’t working for my original editor. She was extremely helpful and nice—giving me feedback when I hadn’t even landed a proper assignment.

Downtrodden, I tried to take the personal essay to other editors who also passed on it. But I knew it was an interesting story about what happens when two writers—myself and my husband—gain success while the other doesn’t.

I ended up taking an online Mediabistro advanced personal essays class with Paula Derrow, a freelance writer and editor, who was the former articles director at SELF. Paula’s lectures and feedback, along with the feedback from my classmates, helped me to revise the essay a few more times.

I finally sold it to THE WRITER magazine for the “Off the Cuff” section, and it’ll be published in September 2014.

That’s right—September 2014. More than a year later, I really see how much the essay changed and how hard it is to nail down everything in one 1,200-word essay that conveys my personal story to an audience.

Of course, some writers sell their personal essays much quicker than that! But it was a great lesson in the art of patience, revision, and how to make a personal story work for a larger audience.

Here are my tips for making a personal essay work:

1. Get your essay read by people who don’t know you.

Your husband and your best friend are wonderful people, but they aren’t the best at perspective on your life. Have someone who doesn’t know you well read your essay. What’s confusing to them? What information are they missing? Is your premise coming across? For me, people were confused by dates and what exactly happened when. If someone knows you well, they might not question certain things about your life that strangers find confounding.

2. Take a Mediabistro personal essays class.

The online Mediabistro personal essays classes are helpful because your instructor has often published many personal essays in places like the NEW YORK TIMES Modern Love column, GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, SELF, etc. Use their knowledge, experience, and contacts. Your fellow classmates are perfect readers to give you feedback because they don’t know you.

3. Hire an editor.

Often, the story is so personal to you (hence why it’s called a personal essay) that you have trouble seeing what’s working and what’s not. An outside perspective like an eagle-eyed professional editor can help you. Paula Derrow, the instructor who I took a Mediabistro class with, offers one-on-one personal essay editing. Check out her services here.

4. Read lots of personal essays.

Read a ton of personal essays and take down notes about what you liked about them. How did the writer tell his or her story? What details stood out to you? What made the essay good? Paula made a good point that the juiciest part of your essay is usually later in the piece after you’ve rambled on in the beginning. Read the beginnings of several published essays—how does the writer grab you?

5. Research the market for personal essays, and make your wish list.

Hopefully, the first time you send out your personal essay it sells. But making a list of your top choices to send it helps when you get rejected. Just keep sending it out to your list—one at a time. Every editor wants a chance to review your work and if you submit it to multiple places at the same time, you risk pissing off someone if more than one editor is interested.

My personal essay in the September 2014 issue of The Writer magazine. Yeah!

My personal essay in the September 2014 issue of The Writer magazine. Yeah!


Even More Great Vegan Products at Costco

A few months ago, I wrote about great vegan products I found at Costco. I thought it was time to feature some new stuff. I can’t get enough of Costco. I am obsessed. The wholesale store’s gas prices are the best (a major bonus in LA), fantastic deals on everything, AND they pay their employees a fair wage. I used to think that a vegan wouldn’t find anything at Costco—isn’t it just meat and giant croissants? I couldn’t have been more wrong.

So here some of my new favorite finds. Of course, products vary from store to store so what I found in my Burbank location might not be in your store. BUT I HOPE YOU CAN GET EVERYTHING.

1. Kirkland Signature Shampoo & Conditioner

Costco Shampoo

Dude, it’s 100% vegan and clearly states that it wasn’t tested on animals. Also, it’s a gigantic bottle that is seemingly endless. The shampoo and conditioner are sold separately for $19.99. They smell great too.

2. Victoria’s Marinara Sauce


I’m from Jersey, and so I’m really picky about my Italian food. In Los Angeles, I miss bagels, real Italian food, and Italian ice the most. ONLY Elizabeth Castoria‘s dad’s marinara sauce with vegan meatballs cuts the mustard for me. But I have to say that this Victoria Marinara Sauce is a good substitute for when I don’t have Elizabeth’s dad’s sauce. You get two giant jars, which can tide me over until I see Elizabeth next.

This company also makes a line of vegan sauces like a vodka sauce and alfredo that are hella good too.

3. Kirkland Almond Butter


I am an almond butter fiend, but the stuff is expensive elsewhere. This giant jar is less than $10, and lets me feed my addiction.

4. Hail Merry Meyer Lemon Mini Tarts


When I saw these tarts at Costco, I freaked out. I love Hail Merry‘s miracle tarts—the Chocolate Raw Almond Butter is my fave (see above), but the Meyer Lemon one is a close second. It’s so cool to see this company at Costco.

5. Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water


Yes, coconut water is everywhere, but the Harmless Harvest brand is the real deal. Costco sells a big pack of four for less than you’ll find for the smaller bottles at Whole Foods. And if you get a pink bottle of coconut water, don’t freak out. It’s natural.

6. Gardein Meatless Breaded Cutlets


I just spotted these bad boys recently. Brendan and I like to douse the breaded cutlets in Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce (accidentally vegan) for buffalo chicken. I cut up a cutlet into slices to put on a salad. I’m going to pair the cutlet with Victoria Marinara Sauce and vegan mozzarella for chicken parm. I’ve also found the Gardein Mandarin Crispy Chick’n and the Chick’n Sliders too.

What great vegan items have you found at Costco?



In the TV Writers’ Room: An Interview with Theo Travers

I’ve interviewed quite a few lady TV writers so I thought it was time to interview a guy. Not just any guy. Theo Travers is a writer on Showtime’s House of Lies and all-around nice dude. Theo and I went to NYU together, and I swear that he hasn’t aged at all. Theo was kind enough to share his thoughts on breaking into TV, advice on diversity in television, and great networking advice.

1. We both went to the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and studied dramatic writing. How did your schooling help you in your career today?

Tisch gave me a high bar to clear and a mountain of debt, both excellent motivators for following through on my bright-eyed aspirations. The Dramatic Writing Program as it was called in my day, now rebranded as DDW (Department of Dramatic Writing), was in every sense a think-tank of creativity spearheaded by pros who didn’t shy away from sharing the brutal reality of making a living at the craft. They encouraged us to search inward, and equipped us with a platform to share our voices however we felt best. In my case, the results yielded potential, but not a portfolio strong enough to attract an overall deal. It’s a good thing I knew how to make coffee and eat humble pie with my mouth closed. Tisch lived up to its reputation of being a world-class film program. And while my time there was a transformative experience, I often find in an industry built primarily on relationships that the true value of the degree yielded years later in the association with the program and the friends I made while there. When I moved to Los Angeles 5 years ago, the NYU recent alumni association was my lifeline. The board was made up of folks who knew me before my late-teen complexion cleared. They pointed the way, gave me a lay of the land, connected me with resources and, most importantly, a strong tug back from the ledge when I was ready to clear it.

2. You currently write on the Showtime series, House of Lies. How did you land the gig? What do you enjoy about writing on the show?

I get that question often. Along with it, a variety of mixed responses when I tell the answer. The abbreviated version begins with a chance meeting of the show’s creator and executive producer, Matthew Carnahan, in an Irish bar in Santa Monica. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance that worked on the show. We talked for a bit, mostly about life in NYC, and what followed was the thing that almost never happens in that kind of situation: Matthew offered to read something of mine. Correspondences over email in the months after led to the most surreal, creatively challenging and life-altering experience of my life. I caution though, there’s an inherent flaw in taking too much stock in the truncated, romanticized version of my “breaking in” story. No one cares or has time to hear about all the shitty scripts I wrote in the 12-plus years before that night. At best, some of my more exciting assignments as TV news reporter in Memphis make for good icebreakers, but the dull truth is I cut my teeth on hundreds of not-so-exciting stories before I ever moved to Los Angeles. I learned how to approach people in awkward situations, how to get to the point quickly and read a person’s face to gauge how badly I’m offending or boring them. I worked for years as an assistant to busy production executives, learning the business and politics of the industry. I was vetted by several of the professional writing programs housed at the networks (more on that in a bit). And yes, over time, I’ve also learned how to drink in public without getting naked or throwing up on myself. It’s harder than it looks. And all of those combined experiences were the wind in my sails in that moment.

I’m now back in the room on Season 4 of House of Lies. This part of the creative team includes Matthew Carnahan; veteran comedy writer David Walpert; executive producer Jessika Borsiczky; my fellow NYU pal and Entourage alum, Wes Nickerson; Taii Austin; and yours truly. There are so many things I enjoy about writing for this show. Our sandbox gets messy as we attempt to break narrative conventions and tell honest stories in ways we haven’t seen before on screen. It helps that we’re writing for one of the best actors of our generation, Don Cheadle, who is also an executive producer. Cheadle brings a hurbis to the character of Marty Kaan, a scrupulous management consultant who feeds his own greed with the blubber of corporate whales deserving of being gutted. Marty’s most redeeming quality is the love he has for his son. He rises to the challenge of being a single father in spite of his other insipid qualities. He’s a very complex character inhabiting a very complex ecosystem. This gives us some much latitude as storytellers. We also have the support of a premium cable network (Showtime) that encourages us to push the limits. The end result hopefully speaks for itself. We have as much fun making this show as the characters are having on screen. It’s an ideal creative workspace.

3. For minority TV writers who are trying to break into the industry, what suggestions would you have for them? What are some great programs that writers should apply to if they are just starting out?

Good questions. I have numerous thoughts on this topic. Some based in fact, others opinions I’ve adopted over time. I’m happy to distinguish between the two. Gone are the days (hopefully for good) where widespread exclusionary practices tied to discrimination were so blatant there was no mistaking them for anything but what they were and no recourse to correct. Our thinking as a society has evolved and continues to evolve. The demographic landscape of the viewing audience for film and TV is growing, and getting browner by the day. So too are technological advances that are giving consumers a burdensome amount of choices. It’s a perfect storm of change that makes inviting a diversity of voices into the halls of power and decision-making not just the fair thing to do, but plainly smart business. It should come as no surprise to anyone that institutionalized racism, sexism, and homophobia is only a problem when it hurts the bottom line. But the less cynical way of thinking about it is this: one could argue there’s never been a better time to be a writer, especially if you’re someone who feels your worldview has been underrepresented in Hollywood.

In TV, CBS, Disney/ABC, Fox, NBC, Nickelodeon, and WB offer the most reputable programs for writing, largely due to the direct access they offer to executives who oversee development and production, as well as additional money to shows for staffing writers. These programs are the closest thing to the apprenticeships that existed before the fall of the old studio system. Getting into one of these programs is often viewed like winning the lottery. The impression is if your name is pulled out of the hat, you’re on the fast track to stardom. While the programs all have bolstered successful records for participants staffing, it’s a misnomer that you’re guaranteed work. I went through three of them without landing a writing gig. Another myth is that these programs have created a reverse-discriminatory policy that excludes white men, making it harder for them to break in. Also, not true. First off, there’s no shortage of white men getting work in Hollywood. Some writing programs don’t have strict diversity background requirements. And the money allocated for staffing through the programs only adds seats at the table, doesn’t take any away. Smaller rooms are now the results of shrinking budgets and a struggling economy.

My advice for any writer is come with strong material, a great attitude, and a willingness to work and you will find a job eventually. If you get bogged down with concerns of discrimination, real or perceived, you’ll adopt an offense based on defense, which over time creates an aura around you that doesn’t inspire confidence in your abilities nor the desire to work with you. Pursue all avenues. Be patient. Constantly work on your craft. Create and launch your own projects. Network and collaborate. Don’t wait for someone else’s permission to tell the stories you want to tell.

4. Before making the transition into TV writing, you had a different career in journalism. Can you tell me what you learned as a journalist that you can apply to your TV writing?

Everyone lies, especially to themselves. No one’s an expert. All good stories, regardless of the medium you’re writing in, have the same elements: a central character with a problem and the drive to do something about it. Writing is like any craft, it requires a lot of work and discipline to master. Brevity is king.

5. I’ve joked that you look exactly the same as you did in college. What’s your secret? You are ageless!

I have a cucumber and charcoal scrub that works wonders. ;)

You can follow Theo on Twitter at @knifepartynikos.


4 Practical Tips for Women Writers Who Want to Break into TV Writing

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A few weeks ago, I interviewed my friend Heather Flanders about being a TV writer (check it out here) and she had a lot of great advice. She had even more fantastic advice for women writers who are trying to break into the industry. Her tips are invaluable. Enjoy!

1. Be Nice.

Be nice to people. Most of us have to work less than amazing jobs for a long time before breaking in. I made Starbucks runs for people who were more deserving of a grande frothy cup of urine than an afternoon caffeine treat. But I did it, and with a smile. You never know who will be in a position to hire you down the road. I just spoke with a writer friend who got her last gig because her writing partner had been nice to a production assistant on one of their earlier jobs… and now that production assistant has his own show and wanted them on his staff. It happens. I can’t believe when I see someone being a butthole to someone who is essentially there to support them. I hear a lot of excuses for this behavior like, “They were treated like shit when they were an assistant or PA, so now they treat people like that. Payback.” I disagree wholly. Say hi, say please and thank you, and be nice. If someone’s a jerk to you, cry in your car, shake it off, and know that one day it will come full circle. Always does. Another thing I recommend is finding fun outlets so you can continue to be nice. I once had a dartboard custom made with a photo of my terrible boss as the bullseye. The amount of things I hurled at “him” over the course of a year was obscene. And cathartic.

2. Write Something You’d Want to Write For.

You need a kick-ass sample. Really. It needs to kick ass. But before you write that kick-ass sample, I think it’s helpful to pick a show you like and write that sample in a similar tone. There is so much content out there and knowing exactly what you want to do can be very helpful. People are quick to brand you. After writing on Blue Mountain State, executives assumed I was a raunchy female writer who knew a lot about sports. While my out-of-office language is quite colorful, my writing isn’t that raunchy and the only thing I know about sports is my fiancé likes them. A lot. Obviously, starting out you’ll take whatever writing job you can. But coming off Blue Mountain State, and taking all of those meetings, I realized I needed a sample to show a little more of “me” as a writer. So I wrote a dark dysfunctional family comedy and used that as my next calling card. And keep writing. I’m so much better than I was a few years ago and it’s not just because of working in a room—it’s because I’m always working on my own stuff as well. I read everything I can, too. New pilots, old pilots, features, comedy, drama… all of it. Good writing is good writing. Plus every time I read something awesome I want to run to my computer and start writing. It’s fuel for the writing fire.

3. Ask for help.

I’m always scared someone’s going to think I’m bothering them if I ask for help. There are many times I failed to follow up with a possible contact or was too scared to ask someone to lunch or coffee or for five minutes of advice. Now that I’m a working writer, I know there’s nothing more flattering than someone asking for your wisdom. In general, people want to help other people. No, I’m not going to read your script and give it to my agent. But asking that random friend of a friend to lunch, or even writing a complimentary email to someone you have met or whose work you admire, can be valuable. And if someone says no or ignores you, so be it. But I bet more often than not, people will be willing to help. If someone does agree to read you, please, please, please, please make sure your sample is ready. You have one chance to make an impression. And if your Tuesday night writing group still can’t figure out what genre they’d classify your spec as, you aren’t ready to show it to a professional. Period. Also, tell people you’re a writer—no matter what your day job is. When I worked for that director/producer, he knew my goals and often asked me to be the writer’s assistant on huge feature punch-ups. Being a “secret writer,” how’s that helpful?! You’ll only feel like a fraud calling yourself a writer if you’re NOT writing. And like I said, people like to help people. If you are nice, hard working, and have samples, put yourself out there. Which leads me to:

4. Sell yourself with confidence.

This is for the ladies. Confidence. You have your sample, and that gets you in the door. But then you have to physically walk in a door and sell yourself to get on a writing staff. It IS a boys club. Many times a room will be nearly staffed and then it’s “okay, now we need a girl.” One female. Maybe two. Sure there are exceptions to this. But I’ve worked on five shows and I’ve never worked with more than one other woman on a staff of 8 to 12 people. It’s wrong and backwards. I mean, do all women have the same voice? Is the female point of view that singular? Of course not. On the shows I’ve been lucky enough to have a female peer, we couldn’t have been more different in perspective and voice. It’s sad and frustrating that there isn’t more balance there. Not to mention daunting. I used to fret over coming across as too girlie in meetings. Especially when I’m told “they need a girl. One girl.”  So, if I’m going to be that one girl, if I wear bright colored nail polish and blowout my hair, will the guys think I can’t “get dirty” and hang with the boys?  Should I only discuss the female characters on the show? A writer once told me that every meeting she has, she casually works into conversation that she’s in a relationship (so bosses won’t worry about dating drama) and she doesn’t plan on having kids for at least a few years (so no maternity leave on the horizon there). Another writer friend told me she’s worked with women who get their makeup professionally done before pitch meetings because “people want to work with pretty people.” Wow, right? It’s a lot of pressure to be the “one female” a bunch of male writers are choosing to have in a small room with them 40–70 hours a week. And that pressure can slowly chip away at your confidence.

A while back, I had a show meeting (job interview) that began with being escorted into a glass conference room where six men were already sitting on an L-shaped sofa. They had me sit in the center of the L, like I was a guest on The View: Testosterone Version. Making things more awkward, one of the six men is a huge movie star who I had no clue was going to be there. So, here I am, sitting in the middle of 5 men and 1 movie star. And the first thing the showrunner says is: “So, tell us a little bit about you…” My face was a blend of 47 shades of red. My heart was beating so loud my chest rocked back and forth. I was “pitting out” (thank god for patterned shirts). I finally pulled myself together and eased into the meeting because, by that point, I have this amazing thing that I work really hard at: confidence. And if I’m not feeling it, I’ve trained myself into faking it. And then eventually I’ll feel it.

It’s a tough business. It’s maddening. But, confidence is key amidst all the uncertainty and doubt. Being confident means you are comfortable. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m comfortable, I am WAY FUNNIER. If I get in my head or start shame spiraling, I just suck so hard. So hard. So for ladies especially, I say find your confidence. Everyone started somewhere. I’ve seen some hugely successful and super talented writers pitch the worst ideas and jokes—because they’re human and it happens. My worst enemy is telling myself I suck, or someone’s better than me, or I’ll never be good enough, or what I get has nothing to do with really deserving it. I spiral with the best of them. But figuring out a way to be a confident woman and confident writer has made such a difference in me personally and professionally. Some of us wear Converse, some of us wear heels, some of us (and I really am sad about this) are trying to bring back Birkenstocks. Be yourself. Wear your nail polish or don’t. Just do what you do with confidence. Because you rock.

And ladies, support each other. There’s enough room for all of us. The more women working on TV staffs, the more room we’re making for women in the future. I love nothing more than reading about a woman selling something or succeeding in some way. In fact, I hope anyone reading this is next.

You can follow Heather on Twitter at @hegapoo.

Building a Full-Time Freelance Writing Career

For almost a year now, I’ve been freelance writing and editing. When I worked full-time as a magazine editor, I often pitched and wrote freelance writing assignments because I’m obsessed with magazines. People often ask me how I land assignments so I wanted to share some ideas of what I do to keep working.

1. Subscribe to Next Issue and read Mediabistro.

Next Issue is a great app that’s basically the Netflix of magazines. You pay a monthly fee ($9.99 for a basic plan) and have digital access to a whole slew of publications. I love that everything is in one place and greatly cuts down on the amount of paper magazines I receive. Also, Next Issue continually adds mags so the library keeps growing. I subscribe to Mediabistro’s daily email so I know what’s happening in the media world. Also, Mediabistro’s How to Pitch articles are super helpful for the correct editorial contacts.

2. Send handwritten notes.

After finishing an article with an editor, I almost always send a handwritten note. Yes, you can send an email, but I like to take the time to write a note of thanks and mention that I loved working with my editor. Why? Emails are a dime a dozen to an editor and a handwritten acknowledgement of their work is nice.

3. Set up in-person meetings, if you can.

As a writer in LA, most of my editors are in NYC. When I’m visiting NYC, I like to set up in-person meetings to say hello, talk about what they need, and generally get some face time. I used to be nervous that editors would think I was crazy for asking, but I’ve found that most say yes. I usually ask for coffee and let me know that I’ll meet them when it’s best in their schedule. I keep the meeting short and simple, and some times I bring treats (if I’ve worked with an editor before).

4. Create a spreadsheet to track pitches.

I pitch way more than I publish so I keep a simple Excel spreadsheet with what magazine, who I pitched, what I pitched, and when I plan to follow up. It keeps me organized. Plus, editors move to different publications so this helps me remember and track them down to their new magazine.

5. Keep your portfolio up to date.

As soon as a piece I wrote is published—whether online or print—I publish it on my blog to keep my work up-to-date. It’s a great way to say this is what I’ve just done and to show the topics I’ve covered. Don’t let it lag and have an article from 2004 as your latest piece. Even though it can be a pain to upkeep, it’s worth it.

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

In the TV Writers Room: An Interview With Heather Flanders

Graphic copyright © Jessie Sanfilippo. Click the photo to go to her site.

My friend Darren Belitsky is a funny dude. He’s the head writer at the hilarious Comedy Central show @midnight, which if you haven’t seen, you need to right now. But really, I’ve been impressed with his fiancée Heather Flanders, a talented writer herself, who wrote on the new sitcom, Undateable. I’ll be honest. I’m very picky about who my friends date, let alone marry, and Heather is not only talented, funny, and nice—she’s the only lady I think is worthy of Darren. I asked Heather about her work in TV and she shared her invaluable advice and expertise. Thanks Heather!

1. You’re a writer on the new NBC show, Undateable. What do you love about working on the show? What can we look forward to on the show?

What I love most about writing on Undateable is working with the other writers. We have such an eclectic, hysterical room. Good people and good laughs make the work really fun. Our cast is also insanely talented and energetic. There’s nothing more encouraging than watching actors crush a joke that we maybe didn’t even know WAS a joke. They discover the funny and that is so rewarding and makes my job easier. I also love that Undateable is a traditional sitcom. In the best way, these characters begin to feel like a real group of friends that you want to laugh with each week.

2. How did you get started in TV writing?

I studied writing in college. Playwriting, poetry, short stories—pretty much anything but TV and film writing. I didn’t know “TV writer” was an actual job. I thought the Seinfeld cast showed up on a sound stage and just blindly went for it. My big plan was to move to LA and goof around for a year, then move to New York and become the first billionaire Off-Off-Broadway playwright. Somewhere in there I stumbled into a job working for a TV and Film producer/director and read every script that passed through his office. I discovered “TV Writer” was an actual job, and one that I wanted. Although I don’t consider myself a comedian at all, the stuff I found myself writing was comedic-ish… and one of those writing samples was comedic-ish enough to land me my first staff job on a comedy.

3. What advice would you give fellow lady comedy writers for breaking into the industry? (Want more? Heather shares 4 tips for breaking in.)

I don’t have any particular advice for lady writers that isn’t the same for gent writers. For any aspiring writer, I think it’s important to pick a show you like and write a sample in a similar tone. There is so much content out there and knowing exactly what you want to do can be very helpful. People are quick to brand you. After writing on Blue Mountain State, executives assumed I was a raunchy female writer who knew a lot about sports. While my out-of-office language is quite colorful, my writing isn’t that raunchy and the only thing I know about sports is my fiancé likes them. A lot. Obviously, starting out you’ll take whatever writing job you can. But coming off Blue Mountain State, and taking all of those meetings, I realized I needed a sample to show a little more of “me” as a writer. So I wrote a dark dysfunctional family comedy and used that as my next calling card. Another thing is keep writing. I’m so much better than I was a few years ago and it’s not just because of working in a room—it’s because I’m always working on my own stuff as well. I read everything I can, too. New pilots, old pilots, features, comedy, drama… all of it. Good writing is good writing. Plus every time I read something awesome I want to run to my computer and start writing. It’s fuel for the writing fire.

4. What’s your favorite TV show currently on the air and why?

Orphan Black. Major girl crush on the lead. She’s like the Meryl Streep of soapy sci-fi.

5. You and my friend Darren (head writer on Comedy Central’s @midnight) are engaged. Congrats! What do you like about dating a fellow TV writer?

Thanks! Darren is awesome. I have a boy crush on him. He’s like the Paul Reiser/Stanley Tucci of late night game shows. I like that he is a better joke writer than I am. I also like that we have the same philosophy about work and life. Work is work, life is life. Work is not our life, and that’s some times a rarity in this business. Also he helps me beat out story when we hike sometimes. But I verrrrry casually work that into conversation so it doesn’t feel like we’re working on the weekends. Don’t tell him.

Heather Flanders

The wonderful writer Heather Flanders

You can follow Heather on Twitter at @hegapoo.

How to Keep Writing

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Ah, Ira Glass. You are one of my favorite storytellers. This American Life has made me laugh, cry, and wonder. His beautiful summation of the trickiness of creativity is exactly the reminder I need to keep going.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been writing since I was in second grade. I’ve had success and a lot of failures in that time. The one thing that I know for sure is that I’m still learning as a writer. Whenever I approach a new draft or have to rewrite, I’m always faced with the nagging doubt that I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING.

I was talking to my friend Yin about writing since we’re both in the same class with Claudette Sutherland. I encouraged her to keep writing, get the mess onto the paper, and then look at it, and take another stab at it.

People often email me about being a writer. Should they get an MFA? Should they quit their day job? How do they become a TV writer? I don’t mean to sound trite—these are all valid questions—but write, then write some more. Understand that some days you want to quit. Quitting sounds so nice. You don’t have to deal with the doubts or sitting your butt down to write some crappy pages. There are plenty of excuses you can tell yourself not to write, but if you really want it, then do it.

Let yourself be messy, terrible at it, and scared.

Slowly, as Ira says, you’ll close the gap.