Staying Flexible When Life Is Uncertain

2021-01-13 Staying Flexible When Life Is Uncertain

As I write this in early in 2021, I can say that I used to have a writing schedule. It was heavily dependent on getting out of my own house to work. And then a pandemic came along, and both my routines and my schedule were torn to bits. (I know many of you can sympathize!)

But I’m big into trying to make lemonade out of lemons. (Or better, yet, lemon bars, lemon merengue pie, or even lemon cookies. Of course with powdered sugar! What kind of question is that?)

So what did my writing schedule used to look like? What’s it like now? And what have I learned from having life turned upside down?

My Ideal Writing Schedule

Before a new virus upheaved everything, my schedule was both simple and effective. Every morning, I walked to my coffee shop (the same one where I met Charles!), bought a latte, and claimed my favorite chair in front of the fire. (Sometimes I staked it out until an unwitting usurper finally left.)

Chair and fire secured, I sipped my coffee, sank down into my story world, and started to write.

I’d generally write for three or four hours, then pack up and walk home. In the afternoons, I’d transfer to my co-working space, where I would address various admin tasks such as marketing my books, answering emails, etc.

And then rumors started trickling in. A new virus had been detected in China. It was spreading at an alarming rate. It was only a matter of time until it came to the US…

My Pandemic Writing Schedule

Covid-19 arrived in Montana in March 2020. The governor ordered a state-wide shutdown. If we weren’t essential workers, we all went home.

I’ve tried working from home before. I already knew I was terrible at it! That’s why I have my coffee shops and my co-working space! It took me the better part of 2020 to refigure all my routines into something that worked again.

One of the biggest changes I made was choosing two days to be my “write-a-thon” days. These were my days to shut out all the admin tasks screaming at me and simply focus on my words.

But the other major change I made was hiring a book coach. (Yes, I’m that terrible at working from home! You can meet Jacquelyn in the blog post I wrote about her.)

Now on my writing days, Jacquelyn helps keep me on track to make sure the words get written.

What I’ve Learned

2020 was a year that challenged us all, in many different ways. (Can we even feel gratitude for such a year? I wrote a post about that during Thanksgiving 2020.)

I hated losing my schedule and routines. But 2020 really challenged my problem-solving capabilities, and in great news, I was the one who came out on top.

  • I had to learn to stay flexible and be creative. I can’t go to my coffee shop anymore? What can I do instead that would be just as effective?
  • I had to adopt new routines. My tried-and-true routines were gone. It was devastating. I had to keep innovating to find my way through.
  • I had to iterate and optimize. It was frustrating. I already knew what worked for me. (I.e., getting out of the house!) But I just kept trying different things until I found something that worked.

In great news, I feel ready for the next event of near-apocalyptic magnitude. (Because we all know life can never be boring.) 2020 tested my skills, but I came out equal to the challenge. And you know what? I’m proud of me.

Over to You!

How did 2020 challenge you? What new skills did you learn?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below! I love hearing from you.


Hey, at least we had plenty to read in 2020! Here are today’s best-sellers from my online shop:

The First Thing I Ever Wrote–And What I Learned from It

2021-01-06 The First Thing I Ever Wrote and What I Learned from It


This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting a small business! 


Sometimes, I literally roll dice to choose blog post ideas, and this time, I just had to laugh at the results! Why?

Here was the original question: “What was the first thing you ever wrote, and what did you learn from it?”

Well. The first thing I ever wrote was a series of short stories called The Brown Bears. It was a complete and total knock-off of The Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain. (Here’s one of the books I remember reading!)

Guys. I was FOUR when I started writing that fan fiction.

Yes. FOUR.

I guess the fact that I was reading and writing at such a young age is pretty impressive. But I promise you, there was absolutely no originality involved in my first stories, though I apparently had a rudimentary notion of copyright law. (Why else would I change the name of the series?)

But did I actually learn anything from that incredibly early venture into the literary world? I mean, beyond just practice holding a pencil?

Yes, actually. I think I did.

Just Follow Your Passions

When people ask me how long I’ve been writing, and I say, “Since I was four,” the reaction is always shock. Not only did I know how to read and write at an incredibly young age, I’m still doing it.

A hobby I started when I was four became “what I want to be when I grow up” by the time I was seven. And then I actually followed through on that, and now I’m the author of three published novels, a novella, six produced plays, and many published articles.

(Here’s one article I’m particularly proud of: Grant Marsh: Nautical Hero of the Plains. Also, you can shop all my available books here!)

This development of an early interest into a career choice is why I’m keenly interested in watching my nieces’ and nephews’ talents. The oldest girl buries herself in arts and crafts, her younger brother is fascinated by engineering, the next brother is our little sports hero, and their littlest sister can be found coloring all day long–inside the lines, even!

Their interests may or may not keep steady, and they may or may not choose a career based on what they liked when they were young. But regardless, they all show so much talent, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

To this day, I advocate people of all ages just following their interests. You never know where they will lead.

Know What You’re Not Good At

I was very devoted to illustrating my books when I was little. But to be honest… I’m not much better today than I was at the age of four!

At some point, I laid aside illustration. I realized I wasn’t really good at it, that my time might be better spent elsewhere, and even more importantly, that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I enjoyed writing.

Gradually, I learned that I didn’t need to draw images to create pictures. I could do it with my words. If you had known me during my teen years, you frequently would have found me in the basement of the library at the very last row, sitting on the floor and choosing out a new book to read on the craft of writing.

While I’m glad young me decided to illustrate her manuscripts, I’m also okay that older me left that interest behind to better develop what I was really good at and what I really enjoyed.

Fan Fiction Is a Great Way to Learn

I think my biggest takeaway is the understanding that my first stories–from early childhood to my mid-teens–were fan fiction. And that I’m okay with that.

Fan fiction often gets a bad rap. It’s not exactly original work. You’re maybe changing some names and details–or not–and just playing around with someone else’s story. Can you publish this kind of work? Should you? Where exactly does fan fiction belong in our literary landscape?

I’m not sure I have all the answers to those questions. But I can say this definitively: A great way to learn any art is by copying the masters.

I can look back on all the authors I emulated as a child, and I can often times tell you exactly what I learned from each one. What I write today is an amalgamation of skills learned from every writer whose shadow I walked in. And I’m proud of the things I’ve learned from them.

If nothing else, I support fan fiction for the opportunity it creates to learn.

Over to You!

Those are, I think, my three great takeaways from the first thing I ever wrote. Now here are my question for you, which you can answer in the comments below!

  • What was an early passion that you actually followed through on? Or what is one you wished you had? 

 

  • What did I talk about here that you’d like me to talk about more? Just ask! You could spark a future blog post idea. 

My early writing was kind of sketchy. But look where it’s lead! You can get any of my books autographed:

Meet Jacquelyn Scott, Book Coach

Jacquelyn Scott, Book Coach

Shipmates, I’d like you to welcome my newest crew member, Jacquelyn Scott! Her new position with me and the Mailboat Suspense Series is book coach and project manager. It’s her job to manage my writing deadlines, cheer me on, and set me sail-side up if I capsize. I’m so excited for you to meet her!

Why I Needed a Book Coach

Let’s face it, I have never been great at hitting my book release dates! There have been times when I’ve had to set back a release so I could schedule more time.

Or if my book did come out on time, I was secretly stressing out like crazy and missing a lot of sleep.

But 2020–and the life-shifting global pandemic that came with it–really threw things into sharp relief. My ability to get words down on paper depends a lot on routine. Pre-pandemic, you’d find me walking to my local coffee shop to hammer out my words every single day.

During the pandemic, I couldn’t go to my coffee shop anymore. And thus… the words literally didn’t get written.

I’d wanted to hire a book coach for a long time anyway. After postponing the release date for Mailboat IV TWICE, I knew this was the time. That’s when I found Jacquelyn!

Why Jacquelyn’s Here

But what does a book coach do? And how is this going to help Danielle get her books out more consistently?

Jacquelyn’s job is pretty simple. First of all, we work out the deadlines together. I’ve been guilty of creating unrealistic deadlines in the past, so I’ve put her under orders to keep my expectations sane!

Next, every day before I sit down to write, we get together for a Zoom meeting. During these meetings, we review everything I want to get done that day. Jacquelyn makes a list with annotations regarding how much time each task should take.

And very importantly, she asks me about my headspace. Some days, I’m on fire and I can’t wait to start writing. Other days, one of a hundred things might be off just enough to make it hard for the words to start flowing.

Either way, Jacqueline makes sure to remind me that I can do this thing! Her encouragement and enthusiasm (and sometimes a little therapy!) are just what I need to get me going.

After our video meeting, the rest of the day is filled with periodic check-ins. She’ll shoot me a text and see how things are going. If I’m hitting my goals, we celebrate! And if I’ve been swept overboard into the bottomless ocean of writer’s block, she throws me a lifeline, such as a phone call to talk about what’s going wrong and what we can do about it.

Sometimes the answer is to just keep going! Other times, it’s a good idea to take a walk or do something else to unplug. And some days I accidentally end up in a Nerf gun battle with my boyfriend Charles. Oops.

Jacquelyn and I have only just started working together, but the difference is already amazing. Last week, she coached me through 21 chapters (about 40 pages, double spaced) in a single day, helping me finish the third draft of Mailboat IV!

Mailboat IV, third draft

Without her tireless enthusiasm, I’d give up long before my potential actually ran out. Just like a good fitness coach, Jacquelyn reminds me that I actually do have a few more reps left in me! And that’s why I’m so glad to have her here to help me with my writing goals.

What Jacquelyn Can Do for You!

I know I have some other writers in my fan base! Guys, if you need a book coach, Jacquelyn is fantastic. She combines optimism and enthusiasm with just the right amount of psychology to make magic happen. And she offers other services, as well!

    • Book Coaching
    • Editing
    • Ghostwriting
    • Interior Book Design and Formatting

To learn more about Jacquelyn and what she can do for you, visit her at her website, JacquelynLScott.com.

And Finally…

We’re all family around here! I’d love it if you left Jacquelyn a warm note in the comments to help welcome her aboard.

Thanks so much for joining our adventure, Jacquelyn!


The first book Jacquelyn’s helping me with… and others that came before!