Learn by Doing with Write Away, Mommy’s Jewel Eliese-EP031
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who juggles multiple responsibilities, you know how difficult it can be to carve out the time each day to work on your business. And if your other responsibilities include being a mom, the struggle is even more real. With all the advice out there urging you to schedule the same time each day to move your business forward, what do you do when your days are too unpredictable to create a consistent timetable?
Jewel Eliese is a self-taught creative fiction writer and the mother of two ‘perfect little goofballs.’ She began Write Away, Mommy as a personal blog, a space where she could share her life as well as her fiction. But it didn’t take her long to realize that she wasn’t really a fan of writing about herself. Over time, the blog evolved into a community where women can get inspired to be better writers and mothers.
Beyond the blog, Jewel serves as the first reader for Grimdark Magazine, and she is currently working on a collaboration with Haley Darling to self-publish a collection of short stories. Today Jewel shares her struggle to gain traffic on her site, how she made use of Google to learn the craft, and how she finds the time to write with two kids at home. Listen in and learn how to deal with ‘mom guilt’ and make writing a part of family time!
Jewel’s secrets to becoming a better writer
- Just sit down and write
- Allow others to read your work and offer feedback
- Keep learning
- Employ Google
How to overcome the fear of critique
- Remember that it’s more fun to work with others
- View feedback as a way to make your work better
Jewel’s advice for shifting from writing practice to publishing your work
- It will never be perfect, but you have to get it out there
- Submit and forget
Jewel’s tips for time management as a mom
- Work during naps, scheduled activities, and after your kids go to bed
- Give yourself a daily word count to realize (e.g.: 500 words)
How Jewel incorporates writing into her family life
- Getting her kids involved in the process
- Encouraging her son to contribute a story to the blog each month
Jewel’s suggestions for alleviating ‘mom guilt’
- Live in the moment
- Accept that life is messy and imperfect
Jewel’s ‘ninja’ writing guidelines
- Write by hand in pen to avoid editing
- Don’t take yourself too seriously
- Embrace the fact that first drafts will be terrible
Connect with Jewel Eliese
Jewel is a self-taught creative fiction writer and first reader online magazine. She has two adorable munchkins that fill her days with crazy love and a comedic, yet serious husband. She hopes to use her blog to inspire other women like herself to become better writers and mothers.
Laura Pennington (Host): Hello everybody and welcome back to the Better Biz Academy Podcast, where I talk to inspiring people who have built careers outside the traditional day job and love what they do. And my guest tonight has done just that. My guest is Jewel Eliese. She is a self-taught creative fiction writer. She has two adorable munchkins that fill her days with crazy love and a comedic yet serious husband. She helps to use her blog to inspire other women like herself to become better writers and mothers and she is at writeawaymommy.com. Welcome to the show, Jewel.
Jewel Eliese (Guest): Thank you so much for having me.
Laura: I am excited to talk to you further and one of my first questions that I love to ask is how got into doing what you are doing now. I am sure you weren’t always a writer. So, how did you sort of explore this opportunity?
Jewel: Well, I remember being a kid, about 11 years old and I even wrote in my diary, when will I finally become a writer? And just as I was starting to get into it again, starting to really like it, I found that and I laughed out loud. I thought it was so cool that even since a child, I have always wanted to write. So, that's how I got into writing.
Laura: Wow! That's awesome and I kind of have similar story. I have not gotten into fiction, yet. But I took one of those kindergarten tests, your career tests. I wanted to be a lawyer or a writer and so, I actually write for lawyers. So, I kind of melted the two together, but it’s funny how those childhood desires will still manifest as an adult. Well, one of the biggest challenges that a lot of people experience, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, is doing that first project. So, how did you take this interest of, you know what, it’s time for me to become a writer and actually turn it into changing your daily habits or working on a project?
Jewel: Well, since I wanted to be writer, I was reading about it online and I kept hearing that you need to have a blog. And I just - I didn’t know what to write about and finally I decided one day, I will start a blog about a mom who writes and that’s me. And then later on I happened to realize that I don’t want to talk all about myself so much. I would rather inspire other women like me, other moms who have a dream to write and may be are too scared to do anything about it or don’t know where to start and so, that's kind of how I got into my blog and hoping that one day I will be able to write books and help other people write books and kind of inspire and learn together.
Laura: I love that. And it's definitely so important to reach out and to have a community with other people and a lot of times we think, hey I don’t know what to write, I don’t what someone would actually want to read from my perspective, but the truth is when you are really vulnerable and candid with your audience about the pros as well as the challenges that you face running a business or having a blog, whatever it might be, that's really where your ideal audience comes out and meets you and begins to follow you. So, you are self-taught. Now there is a big argument out there in the writing world that you need to go get a MFA, you need to go do a summer residency, you need to go do a workshop; whatever it might be. So, with the advent of the internet, obviously, probably a lot of that advice has changed; what do you recommend for somebody who is looking become a self-taught fiction writer?
Jewel: The way I self-taught myself was basically through Google, but I found a lot of great sites that I learned from and I think the biggest thing you can do to help yourself learn to write is write. As funny as that sounds, but - so then there's this site called, for example, The Write Practice. You go there and you write and people give you feedback on your work and you do the same thing for other people and it helps because when you are writing you need to get your work out there to other people. That's the way to improve; when other people read your work. So, when you are ready to take that next step in writing, I feel like that's the way you can learn best is by having other people read your work and that's one way I have been teaching myself too, obviously is with the blog. I look back at my old posts now and like, oh that’s no good. But I am learning just as everybody else is. I am still learning. Always learning.
Laura: Yeah, it’s a learning process and I think anybody who writes at all goes back and looks at their earlier stuff or even if you produce content in another format; your first YouTube videos are not great, your first podcast episodes are not great, just because you learn and you grow and you improve. But some people might be a little bit hesitant about having someone else look at their written work, right, especially if its creative. So, do you have any tips for getting over that concern of, oh this is my baby, this is like my personal story, I don’t want someone to rip it apart.
Jewel: Well, I guess it's art, but it always can be improved on. For me, I don’t have too big of a problem with that just because I really love to see my work get better. I can’t do it alone. I know writing is supposed be kind of typically a lonely job, but it’s so much more fun when you do it with somebody else. It’s so much fun when you see when they say something about your writing and it makes it better. It makes me excited. So, I guess the way to look at it is instead of it being something that you did wrong, it’s something that will make your work better. It will make your baby better. It’s like taking your child to school. You want them to be better. You shouldn’t be sad that they don’t know what they don’t know yet. It's improving.
Laura: That's such a great perspective to have on the whole process. So, at what point do you take the craft that you have been working on by practicing writing and having other people give you feedback and how do you transition that into putting it out there into the world?
Jewel: I kind of feel like I am never good enough, but I guess it’s like - oh I forget the name, I am sorry, but you had a different person talking about how it’s never going to be perfect and sometimes it’s better to just get it out there, the way it is. So, once you can only edit so much. So, once you get it to that point that you feel comfortable with, you put it, you submit it and you forget about it. You move onto next project and just hope that it’s the way it is, how good it is? It’s not ever going to be perfect and you are always going to look back and think it’s not as good, but you just have to go with what you have now; putting yourself out there as how you'll get better.
Laura: Right, and if you just think about keeping it private and working on it then all of that forever, you'll never actually put it out there and - or somebody else could have a similar idea and publish it before you and all that. So, it’s always better to take that step, but that was probably - I mean there has been a lot of people who have kind of given that advice, but one of ones that sticks out in my mind is Daphne Grey Grand, the writing coach and she was talking about like we put so much emotions into our writing and sometimes you just need to get it out there on the page. Write now, edit later. Like this is not the time to make sure that you have got all your commas placed perfectly and that you don’t have to write the great American novel the first time around; you can go back and edit it. So, I think that's great advice. So, how much of your - I am always interested in how other people structure their schedules, when they are doing writing. Do you have a particular daily schedule that you stick to as far as how many hours you are writing or particular time of the day?
Jewel: I'd like to, but with kids it does get kind of difficult. Both my kids are pretty young. My oldest is only 5 years old, not in school yet. He stays with me all day at home and my youngest is only year and half. So, they are quite a bit of the work. I find that when my daughter is napping, I can try and write and there are quiet times when I try and give them may be scheduled activities to do and then I can find time to write. Otherwise, I do find myself a lot of times, once they are in bed, writing; which means I can sometimes go to bed pretty late - may be 12 o clock or so - but I am happy because I am getting my work done. I am doing what I love and since it's hard to do a schedule, I find that trying to do about 500 words a day, really helps. It gives me at least one task done on my to-do list and it makes me feel accomplished for the day, even if it only takes may be 15 minutes, if I am having a good inspiration day or a little longer, but 500 words I feel is possible. So, that's how I try and schedule it out.
Laura: That's really smart. I think a lot of the most successful writers have either a word count or a time limit that they use, where they say I am writing 20 minutes a day, right. If I can’t find 20 minutes, there is a problem, but you are not setting the extreme expectations, oh I am going to write a chapter a day because then you just feel guilty when you are not able to live up to that. And especially having a family or other responsibilities, it's often difficult to meet a target like that. So, originally you might think, well 500 words a day, that's not going to contribute much, that’s going to take me forever to write this novel or whatever you are working on, but the truth is consistency matters a whole lot more and that can be extremely valuable. So, I love that. So, talking about your family; I would love to hear how writing has affected your family or your ability to spend time with your kids and things like that. Because that's a big reason why a lot of people go into writing?
Jewel: Well, I love that writing can kind of help me in a way with my kids. I have my son; about once a month he writes a story for my site and it’s the cutest thing and the funniest grammar. You can hear his voice, the funniest pictures and it makes me laugh. He gets to learn how to tell a story and it’s something - a project that we get to do together. Writing - I don’t see may be how much it effects my family; too much just because it’s kind of something that I have always done. The problems that you get with it are when you are may be trying to find time to write in the daytime and you feel like it’s affecting your schedule with your kids and you get the mom guilt from it. Or you're day dreaming, thinking of ideas and you can feel bad, but I do try and do writing with my kids, at least. I feel like that helps.
Laura: I love that. I have actually never heard of somebody doing that, but it’s such a good idea. Not only is it bringing your world to your children, it’s kind of allowing them to experience what you do on a regular basis, but you are sparking that creativity in them as well and you touched on this idea of mom guilt, which comes up a lot. Like with every - almost every mom, who is also a female entrepreneur that I have talked to. So, what tips do you have for, maybe not getting rid of the mom guilt, but balancing it in a way where you still feel good about what you are doing?
Jewel: I guess, yeah like you said, I don’t think there is a cure for mom guilt. I think we are going to be grandmas looking at our grandchildren going like, "I only would have taught him this, they wouldn’t have that problem", but what I kind of do to try ease the pain of mom guilt is to make sure that if I am spending the time with my kid, directly I am doing one on one with him; when I am doing writing, I am doing writing. I try and live in the moment with each thing and really feel each moment that I can and accept that nobody is perfect. I am not perfect. My kid's not perfect. We are only human. I am doing the absolute best I can and I guess that helps me sleep a little bit at night.
Laura: That's such a great perspective to have because it’s not going to be perfect. It’s going to be a little bit messy, but allowing yourself to be in that moment every single time, whether it’s with family or whether you are working on your writing endeavors, it really allows you to absorb that moment and appreciate it for what it is. So, I'd love to know what's some of the biggest challenges or obstacles that you had to overcome as it relates to your writing and blogging.
Jewel: Just learning how to do everything. Like I said, I kind of learned just from Google and then I found inspiring people like John Marrow, he has a guest blogging certification program that I love. He has serious bloggers only. Jeff Goins, I have learned a lot from him, just from his blog. So, those have really helped but just learning every day how to do something, how to make myself be past resistance and actually write, sometimes it’s difficult? And just developing my site and gaining traffic and gaining the tribe because when I started out, I didn’t have Twitter or Pinterest. I basically had Facebook and it was a small one, just for family to see our kids because we are kind of private. So, dealing with trying to build social media and find my tribe, that would be my biggest troubles that I have had so far.
Laura: That's really valuable to understand and it's important, I think, to recognize that everybody goes through these different challenges and what we are in control of is our ability to adapt to these different situations that you are facing as a business owner. So, I'd love to hear, what is next for you with your writing?
Jewel: Well, actually I do have a next, which I am excited about. Me and a friend - her name is Kalie Garbling, I'll put that out there - have decided that we want to get into the world of publishing. We are going to try and self-publish a book together; a collection of short stories in the young adult genre. I am pretty excited about that. We are working on it. We have been writing prompts together for over a year, so we are pretty confident, we can at least come up with something that we like and it's going to be nice to be able to figure out the world of publishing with somebody, to not do it alone because it can be scary alone. So, I will be having a book out one day. I hope soon.
Laura: That's awesome. It takes a lot to be able to stick with a process and to take everything you have learned and turn it into an actual published product, but it’s so cool that you have found somebody else out in the community, who has been kind of along the same journey as you and you are going to work to put something together in that way. Now a couple of minutes ago, you had kind if mentioned that one of the obstacles, and this is true for so many writers, is overcoming that resistance when you don’t want to write. So, what's your strategy for dealing with that? Do you just stop and walk away or is there a particular thing you do to switch into writing mindset?
Jewel: Well, I think what has really helped me with the beating resistance is doing the 500 words a day because when you have a writing habit, when you actually sit down and do it every day, the muse comes. It’s not as hard. the words come easier. You don’t feel like you are stuttering to get each and everything out and then you are not trying to edit as much as you write, which is a huge problem besides itself. So, sitting down and actually just doing it, knowing that resistance is going to try and kick me in the butt; really helps if I just sit down and do it.
Laura: I like that because you have to acknowledge that critical first step of you know what, resistance is going to come up, there are going to be days where I feel like writer's block, there are going to be days that I am not happy with what I am writing and you are going to stick with it anyways. One of the times when I was really successful incorporating fiction writing into my freelance schedule, I had a coach who was doing like a writing challenge for ten days and I had promised, okay I am going to write 1600 words a day and some of those were terrible. Like I felt like the scene in The Shining, where Jack Nicholson is writing the same thing over and over and I am like this is terrible and I am writing it, but I added so many more words to this novel that had just been sitting there. So, even though not all of it was useable, in the bigger picture you have got to whole lot more words than you would have added, if you wouldn’t have held yourself to that daily word count, whatever it might be. Well, it’s been supper inspiring to talk to you. Are there any last ninja tricks or tips that you have for someone who is thinking about becoming a writer?
Jewel: Well, just recently I started writing a lot of things by hand and that has helped with the not going back and editing. So, that has been my most recent ninja trick. Just writing the words with a pen by hand so you can’t erase, but other than that, just realizing that it’s not going to be perfect in the first place. The first draft is always terrible, that's what editing is for and to have fun with it. May be not take ourselves too seriously. Reading a subjective, writing a subjective. Nobody is going to always like what you do, but you should do it, if you have a passion for it. Go out and try it.
Laura: Such great words of wisdom from somebody who has been there, has done it and is doing it, every single day, sticking to that 500-word count, which I love. So, Jewel, thank you so much for coming on the show. I know I have learned a lot from you. I am sure that it’s going to be very valuable for my listeners as well.
Jewel: Thank you so much for having me. It was a lot of fun.
[End of transcript]