Category Archives: writing life

Reminder of Danika’s New Site

Hello Writing to Support My Teaching Habit Fans and Subscribers!

This is just a reminder that if you were subscribed to my old blog (meaning this one), I have now fully moved over to my sparkly new blog at:

At some point over the summer, this old site will disappear and the url will be forwarded to my new site (if that’s possible, I’m actually not sure with free wordpress sites, lol).

If you would like to keep getting my writing workouts, creative essays, giveaway news, and various tidbits about writing/life, you can subscribe in the righthand sidebar of my new site. I do hope you’ll join me over there and share your own views.



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We’re Launching . . . and We’re Moving!


Ondelle hardcover copy

Exciting times around here as we launch BOOK THREE in the Faerie Tales from the White Forest series (April 15) AND rebrand with a spanking new website. Coming soon to

How can you help? So glad you asked!

REVIEWS! Yes, we love reviews. On blogs. On GoodReads. On Amazon. If you’d like to review an ebook copy of Book Three, contact me through my new CONTACT PAGE on my soon-so-be-fully-functional website. If you haven’t read the first two books, we can arrange for you to acquire them as well.

BLOG TOURS! If you have space on your blog this month for an interview, guest post, or giveaway, let me know through my CONTACT PAGE and I’d be happy to oblige. I love touring, virtual and otherwise.


For you: There’s something like 12 hours left to enter the GOODREADS giveaway for a FREE signed print book.

For your classroom/school/library: 

    Win a signed class set of ALL THREE books PLUS a White Forest MAP to hang in your classroom.

    How to play?

  • Invite your students to draw pictures of their favorite WINGED FANTASY CREATURES. Send Danika any of the photos you’d like and she, an artist, and her publisher will pick a winner.

    Open to grades 1-6.  DEADLINE: APRIL 15th.

    Send photos to info(at)danikadinsmore(dot)com with the SUBJECT LINE: Creature Contest

    The winner will be posted on her new blog at







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Filed under Book Launch, Ondelle of Grioth, writing life

Rethinking Social Media Part Two


As mentioned in a previous post, I have been rethinking how I use social media to meet my my professional goals. To that end I am relaunching (and rebranding) this blog to match my other social media platforms.

I had a bout of the creeping crud and was down for the count for several days, so I’ve pushed my blog relaunch. I will send out official invitations next week. Wahoo.


hors d’ oeuvres, giveaways, special guests, party games


wooden hashtags brought to you by Pine Nuts


I was recently in a panel/roundtable discussion for CWILL BC about social media for writers. I was asked to type up some of my notes. A bit of what I shared is below, plus I’ve added a few things I’ve thought about since that discussion:


A few years ago I read Jeff Vandemeer’s excellent book Book Life: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer. One of the things I took away from it is that I DON’T have to do it all! When I streamlined my marketing and social media efforts to keep from getting overwhelmed, I asked myself, what few tools can I focus on and do WELL? I picked blogging and Tweeting. I’d rather have fun and use fewer tools than juggle so many that I can’t keep up. Find what works for you and do that.



Not so many years ago, THREE was the magic number when it came to how many blog posts to write per week. Everywhere I turned bloggers were telling me that if I wanted repeat readers, I had to post 3 times per week. But the blogway is over-congested these days and who can come up with that much interesting material? If you can write one good post per week, you’re keeping up.

I think one really interesting posts is worth 3 mediocre ones. I also think it’s more important to be consistent then to post frequently. As a friend pointed out, the really fun blog waitbutwhy says right in the header “posts every Tuesday.” Great! Now I know to come back every Tuesday for awesome new content. (If you’ve got the goods and can post several times per week, more power to you. But don’t panic if you can’t.)

Participate in blogging communities you enjoy. Don’t expect others to hang out on your blog if you don’t take the time to hang our in theirs. USE to aggregate and organize your blogs. In a matter of minutes you can cruise down an organized list of new articles in all your favourite blogs for tidbits of interest and the latest news. Feedly has brought the joy back into my blog reading.



During the last NaNoWriMo I finally discovered the joy of hashtags. I wrote with strangers during #nanosprints as we cheered each other on. Now, when I’m at a conference and hear a great piece of advice, I #hashtag the name of the conference (#AWP2014, #GeekGirlCon) and share the info (or photos!) with others. With hashtags, you can be part of a larger conversation. For example, searching #amwriting on Twitter is a great way to meet other writers.

Also, if you ever mention anyone else’s name on twitter, USE their @name Twitter handle. That way they know you’re acknowledging them. Everyone likes to be acknowledged. For example, if you tweet this blog post, you might tweet: @danika_dinsmore nails it with her post on social media – then add a truncated link (you can use to the post and the hashtag #socialmediaforwriters. It will alert me and make me smile.

Use Hootsuite (or something like it) to manage your tweets. Use Hootsuite’s widget “hootlet” to tweet the blog posts you read on feedly! (You can also manage other social media tools on hootsuite like Facebook and linked-in)


Writers! Take advantage of the GoodReads author page and widgets. THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE! THEY READ BOOKS AND TALK ABOUT THEM! Fill out your author profile, link your blog, link any other pertinent information about yourself, enter your book for giveaways, and use their widgets to promote your giveaway and your books on your blog. Take a look at my sidebar and you will see some GoodReads widgets. It’s all really simply and not much at all to maintain.

If you’re not sure how to use the author program, START HERE.


5) FACEBOOK. Many people are grumbling about the recent changes on facebook, especially how you now need to PAY to get your page posts seen by people who have ALREADY LIKED your page. I think the lesson for companies is this: don’t give people something for free, and then make them pay for the service later. They will grumble.

I use Facebook both personally and professionally. While some writers elect to keep one Facebook profile for all their “friends,” I chose to have a personal profile, an author page, and a white forest series page. In hindsight, I might have stuck with just a professional page because it’s a little too much upkeep, I think. But I would never merge my personal profile with my professional one. Yes, it has been pointed out to me that Facebook has made it so you can target who your posts are seen by, but I want my headers and graphics to reflect different things. I put images of my family on my personal profile and book or author related ones on my professional page.



The above is just a short list of social media tips I’ve picked up. There is no way to cover it all in one post, which is why many people blog about this sort of thing every week!

There’s an overwhelming amount of advice online about how to use social media tools efficiently and effectively. But if you only have time to read one blog about how to get social media right, I recommend Anne R. Allen‘s. This week, she really nailed it with this one:

What Most Writers are Getting Wrong – where she talks about the fallacy of follower numbers

and the week before:

How to Comment on a Blog – so that you’re actually a participant in this realm


If there are any blogs on social media for writers that you use frequently and want to recommend, please do in the comment section below.

Have a Great Week and Come Back for the Party!


***NOTE on Twittering: Resist the urge to set up an “auto respond” that sends new followers a link asking them to CHECK OUT your FREE ebook. The 3 marketing consultants I asked about it said, “Just don’t.” I liken it to introducing yourself to someone at a party and the first thing they do is hand you their book. It puts people off.


Filed under Social Media, Tips for Indie Authors, writing life

Weekly Writing Workout: Get Your Purpose Straight

How many times have you heard the phrase “I have to get my priorities straight”?

I worked off of that idea for years without consistent success. I had trouble discerning through the daze of “to do” what exactly my priorities should be, especially when it came to social media. I thought maybe if I only had more discipline I would be able to prioritize action items more effectively. I was the QUEEN of To Do Lists, but every action swam in front of me with no clear purpose attached.

I eventually realized that I can’t get my priorities straight if I don’t have my purpose straight first. How can I even make priorities without purpose? I learned that getting my purpose straight practically wrote my priorities for me, and that it was perfectly fine to drop actions that didn’t serve this purpose.

For instance, this idea of “rethinking social media” came from going back to what my purpose is around social media. If my purpose is to build an audience, then I need to think of actions to build that audience. Should I hang out in online forums? Many forums are great places to exchange information, but not really audience builders. Perhaps I should limit how much time I spend in them.

If my time is really limited, it would serve me better to simply find the one thing I can do that best serves this purpose and focus my energy on that one thing rather than using a scattershot approach.


by Gizem Vural

On a grander scale, I can create purpose for my entire life. My purpose on that scale might be: to be joyful in my creative endeavors or to share my creative expression with others. If that’s the case, perhaps I decide to spend less time on social media in general and more time expressing myself creatively, since that brings more joy into my life. Or, simply become more creative in my expression thru social media.

It doesn’t matter if my purpose is to “sell books” or “have fun.” It’s MY purpose. It’s just that my actions will look different accordingly, and I can prioritize by asking myself if that action serves my purpose. Whenever I go to a conference now, for instance, I create a purpose around it. I might decide my purpose is to have fun. I might decide it’s to have meaningful dialogue. I might decide it’s simply to sit back, listen, and learn.

In the book The One Thing by Gary Keller (with Jay Papasan) “The most productive people start with purpose and use it like a compass. They allow purpose to be the guiding force in determining the priority that drives their actions . . . The prescription for extraordinary results is knowing what matters to you and taking daily doses of actions in alignment with it.”

“Purpose provides the ultimate glue that can help you stick to the path you’ve set.” ~Gary Keller, The One Thing

Note that doing something because you think it will make you happy is different than doing something because it serves your purpose, which, ironically, will help you find happiness.



Several weeks ago I wrote about what a character “needs” vs. what a character “wants.” On the other side of need is where the “better self” lies. I think the same thing goes for purpose.

When your character’s purpose becomes clear, it becomes a driving force. Through the trials and tribulations of your character doing what she “must” and going after what she “wants” her purpose eventually becomes clear.

At the beginning of your story, your character might think a specific thing will make her happy. But what she thinks will make her happy might not be what she needs to actually live a more fulfilled life. If along the way she finds purpose, this will lead to what she needs. It will also drive her actions. As her actions are thwarted and things get in her way, she reacts in order to stay on purpose.

And presto, your story moves forward.

1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line: At the beginning of my story, My Character thinks she’ll only be happy once…

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line: My Character realizes her purpose on her life journey is really…

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 12-15 minutes.

Start with the line:  Driven by this purpose, she can now confront…

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

And have a great week!

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Filed under weekly workout, writing exercises, writing life

Twitter for Writers

And, along the theme of Rethinking Social Media, here’s a great post on how to effectively use Twitter. Which equals having more fun doing it.


A few folks have asked me about Twitter over the years and how such a terse medium can be helpful for writers. What content can one even get communicated in so few characters?

The answer is: a lot. If we stop thinking about Twitter as the site of traditional content that takes eight hundred or more words to convey, and start thinking of it as a touchpoint and springboard or longer form pieces, then the possibilities open up. There are scads of great posts out there on growing followers, how to identify good accounts to follow, and so on, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Here are a few of those, as introductory Twitterverse items.

The thing for writers (or anyone, really) to do to get started on Twitter is to set up a profile, find people…

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Rethinking Social Media & Relaunch


After spinning my wheels for the past year, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not only time to rethink the way I “do” social media, it’s time to rethink the way I present myself to the world through it.

It can’t be just me who gets overwhelmed by it all and romanticizes the way it must have been for authors of yesteryear. Social media is sometimes demanding, cumbersome, time-consuming/wasting. I’ve heard it called a “necessary evil” for writers on several occasions. But I don’t want my social media to be a “necessary evil.” I want my social media to be as much fun as I want the rest of my life to be. I’m all about the fun, dammit.

But I wasn’t having much fun at it on a professional level, it didn’t feel like I’d mastered any of it (if there is a such thing!) or that I’d found my ideal community yet, though I’ve made plenty of friends along the way. Shouldn’t this all be more cohesive? Why does everyone else seem so much more organized about it than I do?

mug shot

With the help of people who know way more than I do about it, I’m renovating and relaunching with more purpose and under a cohesive brand. And I’m excited about it.  With a new book coming out (April 15!), the timing feels right. It also feels like someone has stopped that spinning wheel.

hors d’ oeuvres, giveaways, special guests, party games


What have my Social Media Renovation plans included?

-First, merge my site with this site: Why do I need a static “informational” blog ( and this “interactive” one? Why the extra upkeep? I am no longer simply the author of the White Forest series. My career extends beyond that, so my site should reflect the myriad me’s, rather than the individual books.

-Then, UPDATE the blog theme. This theme, while hot in 2010, has been replaced by a slicker set of theme options. Why not look like the professional I know I am and get with the times?

-Set up the blogs I love in an aggregator! I’ve just signed up with and it is such a relief for all my blog subscriptions to be in one place. Before I would get some subscriptions via email, check my wordpress reader, use comments on my blog to find people, etc, etc. Having them all in one place with a little “hootlet” to share snippets on Twitter is so much more enjoyable. And efficient! I love time-saving devices. Gimme.

-And speaking of Twitter… I used to detest Twitter until I figured out how to make it fun. It’s really about throwing things out to the universe and seeing who responds. And, unlike Facebook, anyone can respond in some way to what you share. I love the group tweeting and live tweeting aspects, sharing with that universe some piece of information or insight gained. If you are scratching your head over Twitter, do what I did and find someone who is really good at it. Whose eyes light up when they talk about it. Buy them a drink and have them teach you how to use it.

-My publisher and I invested in someone to create a graphic and logo that I can use across all my social media platforms in order to bring everything together visually. Brilliant! She worked collaboratively with me to build something that speaks to my personality as well as attracts the kind of people I want in my community.

Take a sneak peek at what we’ve come up with so far on my Twitter Profile. I’m really loving having graphics that are uniquely mine rather than cookie cutter images.

These are just the first steps. The branding will continue across Facebook, newsletters, and other media. There are also other resources I enjoy such as GoodReads and Pinterest. And I’ve made a promise to myself to at least give Google+ a chance.

As writers, we often turn to other writers to help hone our work and see what we can’t. If any other part of our writing career feels stagnant, perhaps it’s time to go outside of our own heads for professional assistance?

I think investing a little money in your writing career (if that’s what you want) can be a great boost. I always tell indie authors, “If you aren’t a graphic designer, do not create your own book cover. Pay a professional (or a talented art student) to do it for you.” I decided to take my own advice when it came to social media and branding.

~     ~     ~

What about you? What kinds of social media do you favour and have you been rethinking how you use it? Has anyone else been thinking about branding themselves? 


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Quick and Dirty (okay, mostly quick, but made you look) with a bonus repurposed writing workout

So, no new Writing Workout yesterday because I was here all weekend:


With people like this:



Doing things like this:

hair party












(photo credit to Sander Feinberg for all but hair shot)




And next weekend I’ll be HERE.

Doing things like this:

At the Book Signing

Going to panels like THIS.

And readings like THIS.

And parties like THIS.

So, in the meantime, here’s a recycled writing workout I think you’ll enjoy…


When you get to what I call the “sloggy” part of your story, when inspiration appears to have left the building and you are dragging yourself to the page, it’s time for some good old fashioned spontaneous writing.

(even if you’re not in the slog, you can still play along)

Pick whatever piece of writing you’re working on. See where you are and think about what comes next.

Step 1) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. At the top of your page, write the start: The scene that needs to be written is… because…

After you finish with that thought, write This scene needs to be written because… and start the next thought. Keep writing This scene needs to be written because… until you hit something, an idea, and then take off! At this point, no more punctuation. Just write in one long stream of consciousness. REMEMBER to write without stopping, without crossing out, without editing. If you get stuck, you can always start again with This scene needs to be written because


The scene that needs to be written is the scene where Mabbe confronts Croilus because it gets Mabbe outside of her burl. This scene needs to be written because it’s where Zhay learns that Brigitta was telling the truth. It needs to be written because it’s where Zhay loses it and all his anger about being abandoned by the Ancients bursts forth and he attacks Mabbe but she’s too strong for him and she strikes him down and when that happens the spell seed falls to the ground and they…

Step 2) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Pick one of the following as your start line:

In this scene my protagonist learns…
In this scene my protagonist reveals…
In this scene my protagonist proves…

You can also put in another character if that works better for you. In this scene my villain… my antagonist… my protagonist’s mother… feel free to make it work for you.

The important thing is that a character learns or reveals or proves something. This will help move your story forward.

Again, total stream of consciousness, no punctuation, no editing, no stopping. Allow yourself to write the first thing that comes out of your pen. It’s not permanent! We’re getting ideas


In this scene Brigitta proves that she can fight the force of the green zynthia and she believes it has to do with her having both air and water elements now and she discovers that she is more powerful than before and the extra element has made it easier to manipulate her environment and there is no way to give it back and maybe it was her first true element…

Step 3) Set your timer for 3-5 Minutes. It’s time for a “What if” wild flow! By wild I mean don’t discount any thought or idea. Let the What Ifs fall where they may. This is a list that you write as fast as you can. You can simply start with What if… on each line, or use any of the following prompts:

During this scene, what if…
After this scene, what if…
After my protagonist reveals ____, what if…
After my protagonist learns ____, what if…
After my protagonist proves _____, what if…


After Brigitta reveals that she can overpower the zythia…
what if Croilus realizes the prophesy is coming true?
What if Devin and Ferris attack Zhay?
What if Brigitta thinks Croilus is going to attack the White Forest?
What if Zhay tries to kill Croilus?

Usually at least one lightbulb goes on during this exercise. Just let go and allow the ideas to flow. Write as fast as you can, keeping pen on the page. Afterwards, you can go back and mark items that you like.

You should now be sufficiently pumped to write the next scene. I know I always am.

Have a great weekend!

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Filed under weekly workout, writing exercises, writing life

Weekly Writing Workout: Unconfrontable, That’s What You Are

I love to make lists. I’m kind of a compulsive list maker. One kind I make is a list of “unconfrontables.” How do things get on this list? Easy, by not doing them. If I don’t do them long enough, they are labeled “unconfrontable.”

If there is anything I have been avoiding, putting off, sitting around waiting to be fixed, mended, or in some other way taken care of, it goes on the list. Some items are easy, like sewing all the buttons on my pile of things that have lost buttons. Some are daunting tasks, like doing my taxes (an annual unconfrontable for me). Every once in a while I re-evaluate my list to see if I still care about each item. If I confirm that yes, this is something I want done (or needs to be done) and I am not any closer to doing it, it stays on my list. Sometimes I purge things from the list because a) they are no longer relevant, b) I don’t care any more, c) I’m obviously committed to not doing it.

(Eventually I do address the things on the list. Sometimes I have to prioritize them. Other times I do one a day until they are done. At the end of one year a few years ago, I went on an “unconfrontable” binge.)

Once in a while, something gets on the list that isn’t as tangible as buttons or tax paperwork. It’s a conversation that I’ve been avoiding that has possibly fermented into feelings of resentment. Could be talking to someone about quitting a gig or having a long-overdue talk with a loved one. Whatever it is, the way I play it out in my head is never how it actually happens. Darn people for not reading from my script.

Much of the time, though, doing the “unconfrontable” item takes much less time or is less dramatic than my head has made it out to be. And getting through a conversation that has been put off for days, weeks, even months is always a great relief. (But not always good for story conflict.)


by Rashin Kheiriyeh

What does your character’s “unconfrontable” list look like?
What conversation has your character been avoiding?
What is s/he afraid of?


1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line: My Character has been avoiding __________ because …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line: My character’s resentment (or anger) looks like …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 15-20 minutes.

Write a SCENE in which your character finally CONFRONTS this unconfrontable situation/person. Please don’t make it easy for him/her! Make your character sweat, worry, fret, try to manipulate the situation in their favour, fail miserable, try another tactic, etc.

As usual, don’t have him/her say exactly what he/she means (i.e. don’t be “on the nose” about it). HAVE YOUR CHARACTER ACT FROM THAT SPACE. Question, misdirect, accuse, or something else..

Start with the line: As Character X approaches Character Y …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

And have a great week!

*     *     *

If you are a blogger who would like to post your own weekly workout exercise with me every Monday, please write to info (at)


Filed under weekly workout, writing exercises, writing life

Writing Life: Present Beauty

A fellow poet once said to me that he admired another poet friend of ours, because he genuinely lived his life, and looked at life, through the eyes of a poet. Which means, he stayed in the present. Writing (and other art forms) focuses us in on the present moment.

As human beings out in the world, though, we are often inside of our heads, fretting about the past or future, rather than where we are right in the moment. I’ve been in the practice lately of trying to catch myself when I am not present, when my thoughts have carried me elsewhere. I stop and look around the room or bus or sidewalk at the other people to see where they are. I note what’s around me. The colours and shadows, the expressions and tones, the way someone moves, or how they’ve dressed. I notice what the birds are doing. And what kids are up to.

Sometimes we don’t have 2 hours, or even 1 hour, to write in a day. But we can still create in these fleeting moments. We can still make stories up, collect images, notice shapes and sounds and conversations. We can use all the time we are not writing as “research.”

Every time I walk through the cemetery, I notice the tree that looks like a wolf. Some day, that tree is going to end up in a story or poem of mine.

So, while standing in line at Starbucks, stop drafting that email in your head and look around you. There’s a little girl licking the whipped cream out of a mug while her mother yells into her cell phone. Someone is painting christmas stockings on the window and it’s not even Thanskgiving. The elderly lady in line speaks with an Eastern European accent and has a rebellious streak of pink in her hair.

All of these are useful beautiful moments. All of these make life’s background fuller and richer. They are life images you can glean from as an observer and recorder of life.

My WEEKEND WORKOUT this Friday will be about using these present images in a written piece. So, notice as much as possible this week. Not only will it keep you out of your head and in the present moment, it will be a creative database for later use.


Filed under truth and beauty, writing life

Weekend Workout: How To Be

Just because it’s NaNo month and I’m on Team Pantser this year, doesn’t mean I’ll stop doing my long-hand exercises. I’m sure a lot of people (especially Pantsers) type everything straight into their computer. During NaNo month, far more of my first draft definitely happens through my keyboard. But, I almost always warm up with a hand-written exercise and when I get stuck, I always reach for a pen. Writing by hand, for me, opens me up creatively,  frees my ideas, my blocks, and my editor.

Whether you are participating in the NaNoWriMo this month or not (and cheers to you if you are), I’ve cooked up a little exercise that you might find helpful at some point when developing a character.

A few weeks ago, the students in one of my classes read How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor. A sweet middle grade story about a girl who must live in a car with her mother and brother after their father leaves them with no money and they are evicted from their apartment. Her mother is working two low-wage jobs in order to come up with rent and deposit for a new place. The girl decides she’s going to help her mother raise money by stealing a dog. She’ll wait for the owner to post a reward and then bring the dog back for the reward.


I didn’t find anything particularly surprising or eye-opening about the story, but I did like the concept, the characters, and the voice. I think voice is one of those things that’s difficult to teach, and even to explain to writers, but you kinda know it when you see it.

In the book, the main character creates a list of instructions in her journal on how to steal a dog. The assignment I gave to my students after they read the book was to write their own instruction list for something in the form of a poem, vignette, or short story (for example, one wrote instructions for “How to Make Someone Uncomfortable When You Pass them on the Sidewalk ).

It was a great exercise, so I decided to use it another way. What if the character in your story wasn’t giving someone instructions  on how to DO something, but how to BE something. What about how to be them? This might be a great way not only to develop voice, but backstory, motivation, wound, etc. In other words: character.


Set your timer for 15-20 minutes. Put your character in a place (so we know who her audience is): a psych ward, the waiting room of a dentist office, an auditorium, school lunchroom, or maybe just home in bed writing in her diary.

Your start line is: To be me, you have to…

Write without stopping and see where that takes you.

Don’t edit, cross out, or re-read while you write. Keep the pen moving!

If you like the exercise, try it again with another character.

And have a great weekend!

NaNo NaNo!


Filed under NaNoWriMo, weekend workout, writing exercises, writing life