Two Ways to Look at It

photo by zachstern


1.  The World.  Jump in.  Inspiration lives out there.

2.  Caffeine and sugar.  Coffee.  Tea.  Brownies. Cake. Cookies.  And wine.  For reward and solace.

3.  Pets.  Nothing like the wuffling of a drowsy beast to make you feel less lonely as you work.  Dogs, horses, lizards, birds and rats. Cats are OK too, but they walk on computer keyboards. Bad kitty.

4.  Agents and editors who Get It.  Not the other sort.

5.  Depression, madness, disaster, elation, divorce, affairs, travel, flat tires, new friends, new lovers, ex-friends, ex-lovers, mid-life crises and children who want to drop out of school to become professional skateboarders.  (Life=Material.)

6.  The Book, for occasionally coming out right.

7.  The book you wish you’d written.  (For making you write harder.)

8.  Children.  Why else would you need to sell so many books?

9.  The career from hell that pays the bills.  So as not to starve.

10.  The film.  For making your family and friends think you might someday be famous.

11.  Family, fellow writers, loyal friends.  When they say “You can do it.”

12.  The internet.  (“What kind of shoes did they wear in France in 1780?”)

13.  Time: Writing is a long game.  It might happen next year or in a decade.  You never know.

14.  Your brain.  Listen and it will tell you what you need to know.


1.  The World.  Reject it. Procrastination lives there.

2.  The fridge.  (STOP WHISPERING AT ME.)

3.  Pets.  Why can’t they walk themselves?  Surely they know how to get to the park by now.

4.  The market.  As in, the book market.  As in, “Have you thought about writing a series about magical lesbian mermaids? Marketing thinks it’s a brilliant idea.”

5.   Depression, madness, disaster, elation, divorce, affairs, travel, flat tires, new friends, new lovers, ex-friends, ex-lovers, mid-life crises and children who want to drop out of school to become professional skateboarders.  (Life=Distraction)

6.  The book. For the days you would cheerfully chop it off at the knees and bury it in a hole.

7. The book you wish you’d written.  (“I’ll never write one that good.”)

8. Children. It’s outrageous to tell your loved ones to shut up and go away.  But necessary.

9.  Your day job.  If you have one, you know what I mean.

10.  The Film.  “When does it come out?  Oh.  You mean I missed it?”

11. Family, fellow writers, loyal friends.  When they say any of the following: “I didn’t like it as much as the last one.”  “Have you thought of writing a trilogy?”  “You know that guy you hated at school?  He’s on the New York Times best seller list.”

12.  The internet.  Twitter, Facebook, Amazon rankings, online shopping, adopt-a-dog websites, movie reviews, celebrity gossip, cute pictures of cats.  Stop. It. Now.

13.  Time.  Write it before you’re dead.

14.  Whatever you’re doing now that isn’t writing.


About Meg Rosoff

Meg Rosoff was born in Boston, educated at Harvard and worked in NYC for ten years before moving to England permanently in 1989. She wrote her first novel, How I Live Now, (released late 2013 as a feature film starring Saoirse Ronan), at age 46. Her books have won or been shortlisted for 19 international book prizes, including the Carnegie medal and the Michael J Printz award. Picture Me Gone, her sixth novel, was shortlisted for the 2013 National Book Award . She lives in London with her husband and daughter.


  1. says

    Meg, I loved the post. Loved reading your first novel came out at 46. My first novel was released yesterday and in June I turn 65. Age has nothing to do with it. Insight, love, knowledge does.


  2. says

    “Time: Writing is a long game.” I certainly know this, Meg. I had to laugh at no. 13 though: “write it before you’re dead.” I’m a late bloomer and this kind of thinking was often on my mind as a negative. I’ve since come to the enlightenment that a late bloomer has it advantages; some even consider it a badge of honor. Writing as a “long game” can be a lovely occupation if you keep it close to your heart and not make it a race. Thanks for these valuable insights. Goes good with mocha-java coffee today!
    paula cappa´s last blog post ..Phantasmagoria On the River

  3. Denise Willson says

    Wow, Meg, you made me smile big this morning. Great post…and so true.

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth and GOT

  4. says

    You made me laugh out loud. The one about telling your loved ones to shut up and go away? I needed to hear someone else say that. All of this wonderful post hit home. What I’m taking away is that we choose whether the world is going to distract or inspire us. We decide whether to wallow in regret or use all the drama as grist for the novel. I also love that you live in the UK, which has fascinated me since I was a child. I keep threatening to move to Edinburgh if my loved ones won’t shut up and go away.
    Thanks for this.
    Susan Setteducato´s last blog post ..Susan’s Blog

  5. says


    Funny and wise. As in life, success in writing isn’t the result of circumstances, breaks or others. It’s about you and the attitude you bring.

    Gratitude is good. Cranky is bad, but there’s an item on your list that I find always helps: coffee. Black. Quick to make. No calories. No guilt. It’s always your friend. Indulge.
    Donald Maass´s last blog post ..Review: Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

    • Cal Rogers says

      I too am a black coffee drinker. You probably know that coffee is rich in antioxidents, which is why it’s actually good for you. But if you add cream to it, the antioxidents bond with the cream and are never released into your system. Adding cream reduces to zero the nutritional value of coffee.

  6. says

    Meg, wry stuff but wise stuff. Thanks for the delight and the disconcerting.

    Life, and its large bag of food stains on your pants with a speaking engagement five minutes away, a forgotten curio cupboard at your grandparents’ place that reveals a shocking family secret, seeing a sea turtle lazily paddling at dawn on a Bahamas beach so blue you think someone dosed your coffee—the material piles up. Just need to slap it around so it can settle on a page.

    But man, don’t touch that magical lesbian mermaid series—it’s MINE!
    Tom Bentley´s last blog post ..Warm Applause for Writers Who Give Generously

  7. says

    Oh, how I loved this! May I print it, enlarge it, and hang it on my wall?? I’m another “late bloomer.” Just published my first book, two months ago, my memoir. Got to the Finish Line during my 60th year! Now, this year…..I’m writing The Sequel. I still have so many stories to share. Thank you, Meg!

    • says

      I always tell my students — you don’t want to peak when you’re 21. The goal is to do your best work a few minutes before you turn 100/win the nobel prize/drop dead. This way is the road to happiness. If you’re a star at 21, the rest of your life will be all downhill. You’re doing it exactly right, Becky.
      Meg Rosoff´s last blog post ..Yes, yes I know.

  8. says

    Ingenious post! Clever and true to the point of making me laugh at you mentioning my kitty who walks on my keyboard. And for mentioning the social media frustration at the end. The writing life is like a two-edged sword, and yet we who love to write wouldn’t trade it away for anything!
    Sherrey Meyer´s last blog post ..What to Do When Life Interrupts Writing

  9. Kate Williams says

    Oh Meg, how did you know??

    You can add one more to your list of enemies: mitigating the impacts of the enemies! I spend time researching apps for my PC that will limit my ability to surf the internet endlessly (StayFocused); plan my meals so I don’t endlessly graze my way through every frozen waffle in the house (thanks eMeals); spend hours managing the family calendar so I can block out an uninterrupted hour to write.

    Forest for the trees, eh?

    Writing is a long game and it changes day by day. I’ve got to finish this book before ThrillerFest – so perhaps I should spend a few hours putting together a detailed writing schedule….

    • says

      I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t waste most of his/her day on the internet. But once you really get going on a story, it becomes magically easier to resist. (That and the cookies.) I feel your pain!
      Meg Rosoff´s last blog post ..Yes, yes I know.

  10. says

    What a delightful and wise post! Thanks so much, Meg. Also so wonderful that there’s no telling here, it’s all showing.

    It’s so true that everything can be an obstacle or a help. It’s about attitude and being willing (and able) to jump through the looking-glass- though preferably not literally.
    Marialena´s last blog post ..Janus and attending the start of all things



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