find your way around

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Most years, I have big plans for January. It’s that whole idea of a fresh start, a clean slate. That this year, big things are in store. So I put together a list of goals, broken down into tasks, ready to go when the new year dawns. Usually, establishing a solid writing routine figures in that list. Some years I do pretty well, other years I find myself at the end of January with a list of uncompleted tasks, overwhelmed by guilt and frustration. It is some consolation to know I’m not alone. Studies have shown that as many as 80% of New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned by February. Still, it’s hard to arrive at the end of the year’s first month already feeling like a failure.

This January has been a little different. The past few years have been incredibly difficult. Again, I know I’m not alone in this. And while there are certainly things I’d like to accomplish this year, I knew that I just wasn’t able to jump headfirst into goal setting. I recently started reading Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May, and found myself drawn to the idea of rest and retreat. January and February are the darkest, coldest months where I live, and they can be brutal for those of us who suffer from mood disorders. I decided that instead of pressuring myself to dive into 2024, I would ease in, taking things slowly and using the entire month of January to make a plan for the rest of the year. Because, as Rosalie Muller Wright points out—

The image of a winter garden, seemingly dead and dormant, but with so much happening just below the surface, really appeals to me. Without the winter, there could be no spring. So I have arrived at the end of another January, focusing on hope rather than frustration, because I know that the seeds I’ve been planting are still there, patiently biding their time.

Among those seeds is my desire to develop a consistent writing habit. I’ve gathered a few tips to help set me up for success in that attempt, and I’m sharing them here in the hope that they might help you, too.

Whether you’re easing into the new year or you’ve already checked off an impressive number of items on your to-do list, these ten tips will help you create a writing routine that you will stick with throughout the year.

1 | Shift your mindset

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that each action we take is a vote for the kind of person we want to be. How do you vote for your inner writer? By shifting your mindset.

Instead of I want to be a writer, start saying (and thinking) I am a writer. And what do writers do? Writers write. So show up and write.

Write spellbinding prose or trash, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the more you write, the more you’ll hone your craft and begin to accept that you are, in fact, a writer.

2 | Lower your expectations

But aren’t goals supposed to challenge you? Not necessarily. As Elizabeth Spann Craig suggests, sometimes the best approach is to make your goal small. Ridiculously small.

At first, the goal might just be opening your manuscript or sitting down at your desk. Remember, you’re training yourself to show up because you’re a writer.

Once you are showing up consistently, raise the bar, but do it incrementally. The goal should always feel within reach. It’s much more intimidating to sit down to “write my novel” or to “write a chapter” than it is to “write 100 words” or “write for 5 minutes.”

Consistently meeting a goal, even a small one, strengthens the habit of sitting down to write. And remember, it’s a goal, not a limit. You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll continue writing after you’ve met your goal, but even when you don’t, you’ll have another win to check off.

3 | Find your peak creative time

We each have a certain time of day when we are more productive at specific tasks. Many of the writers I follow prefer to write in the early morning hours. As in, before the sun comes up. That’s definitely not going to work for me. I just can’t see myself feeling creative at 4 a.m., although I kind of wish I could.

Try out some different times. Make a note of how you feel when you sit down, how many words you’re able to write, and how many of those words you end up keeping. All of that information will give you a better sense of when your most productive writing time is.

4 | Schedule your writing time

Once you’ve figured out your peak creative time, schedule it.

Actually schedule it—write it in your planner, just like anything else you want to be sure to get done. This appointment with yourself is just as important as the appointment with your dentist or with your friend for coffee. And when you’ve shifted to the I am a writer mindset, scheduling your writing time will feel more legitimate.

Finding a planner with a habit tracker has been really beneficial for me. There’s something about seeing the checkmarks lining up that is surprisingly motivating. I’ve included a free printable writing tracker for you to download at the end of this post.

5 | Minimize distractions and obstacles

The key to developing a new habit is to make it easy by removing as many stumbling blocks as you can ahead of time. If you’re working on developing a morning run routine, you’re more likely to succeed if you lay your running clothes out the night before. Removing obstacles ahead of time is equally important in developing a writing routine.

We all face different obstacles, but here are a few ideas for minimizing some common ones:

  • Be clear with those you live with. Let them know they are only allowed to disturb you if the house is on fire. It may be hard at first to get them to abide by the rules, but remember that I am a writer mindset—the more consistently you stick to your writing schedule, the more those around you will respect your writing time.
  • Turn off your phone, if possible. If not, put it out of reach and make sure it’s set to only alert you in case of emergencies, like an imminent tornado or a call from someone you can’t ignore.
  • Keep everything you need for your writing sessions in the place where you intend to write. If you’re anything like me, a side trip to retrieve a favorite pencil will turn into washing the lone dish in the sink, realizing you have no clean dish towels, throwing the dish towels into the washer, seeing that you’re low on laundry soap, adding laundry soap to the grocery list app, skipping over to check Instagram . . .

6 | Create a ritual

Our brains are amazing. They are wired to make connections. When you repeatedly follow one action with another, your brain will form a link between the two. Your ritual should be simple and quick, such as:

  • Picking up a special pen
  • Donning a certain item of clothing
  • Lighting a scented candle
  • Listening to music or nature sounds
  • Making a cup of tea or coffee

My current work in progress is set in the fall, so part of my ritual is lighting a fall scented candle and making a cup of Harney & Sons pumpkin spice tea. Whatever ritual you choose, you’ll find that, over time, your ritual signals to your brain that it’s time to write, making it easier to get started.

7 | Stop while you’re still excited

It may seem as if you should keep writing until you come to a natural stopping point, but most writers find it’s better to stop mid-scene or even mid-sentence. Stopping while you still know what happens next gives you a natural jumping off point for the next day’s work. And even though you know what is going to happen next, maybe jot down a few notes to jog your memory if you’re as forgetful as I am.

Now, when you sit down for your next writing session, you won’t be staring at an empty page. Your future self will thank you.

8 | Tell someone

Having an accountability partner greatly increases the chances that you’ll show up regularly for your writing sessions. Knowing that you’re going to have to check in with a friend and compare word counts might be just what you need to get you into your writing chair.

Don’t have any writer friends? Join a writer’s group. Online groups, such as Sisters in Crime, often have word sprints or other group writing activities that can give you that extra push to get some words down.

Are you active on social media? Post about your writing goals and promise your followers an update each day. It doesn’t get any more accountable than posting your word count for the whole world to see.

Your accountability partner doesn’t have to be a fellow writer. It can be your mom or your spouse or anyone who supports you in reaching your goals. When I told my family I was writing a book, my teenage son took it upon himself to ask me multiple times a day if the book was finished yet, and if not, why wasn’t I writing.

You know that cliché of the writer scribbling away all alone in a garret? Forget that—go tell someone and make yourself accountable.

9 | Write when you don’t feel like it

If you are reading this post, I suspect you know from experience that there will be days—lots of them—when you don’t feel like it.

Most days, I will put off writing by any means possible. But when I sit down and force myself to write something—just a sentence, a paragraph—it puts me into the I am a writer mindset, and I find that maybe I do feel like it after all.

On days when you’d rather clean toilets than write, make a deal with yourself that you can stop as soon as you meet your goal. While there will be days when you don’t want to stop once you get going, there will also be days when it’s a struggle to reach even your ridiculously small goal and you stop as soon as you hit it. That’s okay. You still showed up.

Which leads us to #10 . . .

10 | Be flexible

One of the many things the past few years have taught us is the value of flexibility. When the world shut down, writers who could only write in cafés were in trouble. So were the ones who could only write at home in the silence that fell after their families left for school and work.

Try to find a way to pivot your writing routine when life demands it, or when you just need a bit of change. I prefer writing at home, but I’ve also spent a lot of time writing in coffee shops while waiting for my one of my kids to get out of class. Luckily I can bring some of my rituals along—hot tea and thunderstorm sounds are portable.

Sometimes you’ll be able to pivot, and sometimes you won’t. Some days you just won’t be able to stick to your routine. That’s okay. Don’t let one missed session throw you off your game.

Just remember to show up the next day.

Ready to get started on that routine?

Like most things of value, establishing a writing routine that works for you will take time. You’ll need to experiment to find the routine that’s right for you, but that writer inside you is worth the vote.

Do you have a writing routine?
What is your favorite time to write?
Let me know in the comments!

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When we think of hair-raising quotes, horror movies are often the first thing that come to mind. There’s no denying the spine-tingling effect that lines like “Now I want to play with yoooouuuu” still have after all these years. But horror movies don’t have a monopoly on creepy. Literature has quite a few chill-inducing quotes to offer. Here are 13 for you to enjoy this Halloween.

One night when my daughter was in kindergarten, we were sitting in the living room after dinner, TV off, everyone reading or playing quietly. Then she started to sing something softly to herself as she colored with her crayons. My husband and I both looked at her.

“What’s that she’s singing?” he asked uneasily.

I don’t actually remember now what she was singing. Something they’d learned at school that day. What I do remember is that it was to the tune of “One, two, Freddie’s coming for you . . . ”

The creepiest lines (and tunes) stick with us long after the rest of the story is forgotten. Sometimes they pop into your head at 3 a.m. when you suddenly wake up for no reason. Or is that just me?

Just in case you’ve been sleeping too well lately, here are some of literature’s spookiest quotes:

(and don’t forget to scroll all the way to the bottom for some free literary Halloween printables!)

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away!

— William Hughes Mearns, Antigonish

Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!

― Bram Stoker, Dracula

All hope abandon, ye who enter here.

― Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

— Shakespeare, The Tempest

We ask only to be reassured
About the noises in the cellar
And the window that should not have been open.

— T.S. Eliot, The Family Reunion

Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of
Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

Free Halloween Printables!

And to get you into the Halloween spirit, here are some free printables of my two favorite Halloween quotes from the list.

What are your favorite creepy quotes from literature
and movies? Are there any that keep you up at night?

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I’ve been a little bit obsessed with all things Irish for . . . well, pretty much always. But since I visited in 2016, it’s reached a whole new level of madness. I absolutely cannot wait until I’m able to go back to see more of the country, but until then I relive my visit through the many, many pictures I took while I was there. (And through all the Irish products I can find locally—Guinness, Jameson, Barry’s Tea, Bewley’s Coffee . Not to mention the Butler’s White Chocolate I order direct from Dublin. If you haven’t tried it, you must. It doesn’t really taste like white chocolate to me. It’s like Eagle Brand Condensed Milk in candy form.)

It’s no secret that I love all things Irish. So to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I’m giving away an Irish Blessing wallpaper & a free printable.

The beauty of the Irish countryside is simply breathtaking.

This photo was taken from the Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir—The Great Blasket Centre, in Dingle, Co. Kerry, which is a fascinating history museum. I mean, seriously. Can you imagine having that view all the time? I think I spent about 75% of my trip with my camera glued to my face because everywhere I looked was just beautiful. For instance . . . 

This was our view when we stopped at a petrol station. Yep. A gas station. You know what my local gas station has a view of? A Rite Aid & another gas station.

The Irish have quite a way with words.

Kissing the Blarney Stone (which I did—my fear of heights & the ick factor did not stop me) is supposed to grant you the gift of gab. While I can’t say I’ve become much more loquacious, the Irish are certainly known for their way with words. They gave us Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Jonathon Swift, Bram Stoker, C.S. Lewis. The list goes on and on. Oh, and one of my favorite poets, W. B. Yeats. His The Second Coming is just chilling.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
. . .

— W. B. Yeats

If those words aren’t prescient, I don’t know what is.

And then there is the Irish blessing, which can admittedly be a bit of a mixed blessing.

Sure, there are the blessings like the one I chose for this post, but there’s also this . . .

May those who love us, love us;
And for those who don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we will know them by their limping!

— Irish Proverb

I like to think my slightly twisted sense of humor comes from my Irish ancestors.

Oh, & if printables are more your thing, visit
this post to download my Irish blessing printable.

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Merry Christmas Eve! I hope you’re spending today relaxing by a twinkling tree, sipping hot cocoa while admiring your beautifully wrapped gifts and clean house, as your perfectly dressed children play quietly on the hearth. Because that’s totally what I’m doing—in some alternate universe. In reality, I’ll be doing some last-minute baking, cleaning, and gift wrapping. Oh, except for that one gift that still. hasn’t. shipped.

There’s always one. Either I waited too long to order it (not me! never!), or the gift that I ordered weeks ago in spite of a sketchy shipping projection is still sitting in a warehouse somewhere gathering dust. This year that gift is for my dad, and my brother and I have been anxiously waiting for a shipping notification that never came. Best case scenario now looks like a December 27 arrival. Perfect.

My dad is impossible to surprise. The man can pick up any package under the tree that has his name on it, look at it for a second, then tell you exactly what’s in it. It’s infuriating. This year, we were sure we had him. He would never guess this one. But as the 25th got closer and closer, we started to suspect we needed a plan B.

While debating on whether or not to wrap a picture of the soon-to-be-here-I-promise gift, and thereby ruin the surprise, I decided that what we really needed was a rain check. Or a reindeer check. Because really, it’s the reindeer delivery system that’s at fault here.

So I came up with something to print out for those times when Santa’s elves are hopelessly behind, and that gift just isn’t going to make it under the tree. Just in case you ever find yourself in the same predicament (but you won’t, because you are always organized and on top of these things, right?), here’s a free download for you.

If you want, you could even include a hint about what the gift might be. But not us. This year we are going to surprise you, Dad! Well, beyond the fact that your Christmas gift is, in fact, not going to be here on Christmas. Surprise!

Red and White certificate that reads Reindeer Check

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and
Happy New Year full of only the best kind of surprises!

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Is it just me, or has this winter seemed like THE WINTER THAT WOULD NEVER END? I’m excited to see March for lots of reasons, but these top the list.

1 | Daylight Savings Time

Because even though I’m going to lose an hour of sleep (oh the humanity!), I’ll finally be able to walk again in the evenings when my husband gets home from work. I can’t overstate how much I need that hour of solitude every day.

2 | Shamrock Shakes

I feel like I should preface this with I don’t normally eat at McDonalds. I haven’t enjoyed their food since I was a small child and thought that Chicken McNuggets were the best. thing. ever. But y’all—Shamrock Shakes? They are the best. thing. ever. I break my McDonalds ban every year in March so I can have them at least once.

3 | January and February are over, baby!

I struggle with a Seasonal Affective Disorder, which means that January and February are always varying degrees of miserable, but this year those two months were brutal. I have a surprisingly strong hibernation instinct for a human—I must have been a bear in a previous life. But that March sunshine makes us all a little brighter.

4 | St. Patrick’s Day

I ♥ all things Irish. I have Irish roots on both sides of my family, but WAY back. Like 18th century way back. So I’ve always had a little fascination with the Emerald Isle and it’s been #1 on my Places I Want To See Someday list for as long as I can remember. This year, my brother and his fiancée will be getting married there, so our whole family will be going! It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying. I don’t love to fly and I’ve never been out of the country, but I finally get to visit Ireland! I can. not. wait. And what an amazing adventure for the kids! I’ll be spending a lot of time on one of my favorite blogs to prepare for the trip. If you haven’t checked out the Irish American Mom blog, do yourself a favor and hop over there today. She’s an Irish-born Kentuckian who blogs about all things Ireland, including recipes! Try her roasties—I promise you’ll thank me!

Free Printable

In honor of our upcoming trip and St. Patrick’s Day, I’m sharing a free printable of one my favorite Irish blessings.

Free Irish Blessing Printable on quillandglass.com

How about you—what are your favorite things about March?

Fueled by equal parts sweet tea and passion, I spend my days capturing the kinds of images that make you stop, smile and ask time to please slow down. 

Your story, your love, is beautiful and I can’t wait to capture it in images you will treasure for years to come. I believe in real moments and heartfelt conversations on the front porch. In the kinds of images that remind you of the joy that can be found in the simplest of moments together. 

mystery writer & editor

I’m Amanda

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Writing Routine

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