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A Grab Bag of Tools and Tips


Let me be honest: I’m probably not the person you should be taking writing advice from right now. I have a toddler and an infant, which means that most days, I’m just barely hanging on.

(Thankfully, things are getting better now that the baby is sleeping through the night.)

But then again, maybe I’m exactly who you should be taking writing advice from. Because I’ve never had less time, energy, or brain power to spare — and yet here I am, still writing.

(Well, some days.)

Today what I’m offering is a hodgepodge of small, practical things that have been useful to me and my writing lately, in the hopes that you may find something to take away for yourself. There is no through-line between them — and no further preamble!


A lot of writers love Scrivener — I myself have used it and loved it, at times — but if you’re looking for something that’s slightly less intimidating, more designerly, and free, then check out Wavemaker [2].

It runs through your web browser, but can also pretend to be a program/app on most computers, if you prefer.


In a post several years back, I said that “I’m not big on podcasts.” [3] Oh how the times have changed! These days, as I spend hours each week driving my daughter to and from daycare, or just cruising around the neighborhood to ensure that my son gets a good nap, podcasts have become my jam.

Two in particular fill me with creative energy and inspiration, both featuring conversational interviews with authors (and occasionally other kinds of artists):

First Draft Podcast [4]

88 Cups of Tea [5]


The internet is full of things to read and watch, and the only way I can keep up with even the small fraction that I’m interested in, is through Pocket [6]. This website/app allows you to save items for later, and with text-based content, it can even generate a stripped-down version for you to read offline.

Twitter Lists

Twitter can be fun and funny and full of good resources and inspiration — but most of the time, you have to wade through a whole lot of junk to find the gems. The mental and emotional drain of that is sometimes overwhelming.

Unfortunately, Twitter’s content controls are not especially flexible or robust — probably because allowing us to customize our main feed would reduce their ad revenue, or something. But they do have Lists [7], which are better than nothing.

Recently I made a (private) List of people whose tweets typically charge me up, rather than bring me down, and that is the feed I now check by default. Sounds kind of trivial, but it has had a significant positive impact.

“Lesser” Writings

In this season of my life, writing a book just doesn’t feel feasible. (Some manage it with small children; I cannot.) But while novels are my greatest passion, they are not the only writings that I find worthwhile.

These days, I make it a point to use my skills in small but meaningful ways, to enrich the lives of people I love. I maintain a family blog. I send letters of encouragement to friends who are going through hard times. I write heartfelt thank you notes.

As my chunks of time grow chunkier, I’m hoping to pen — and place for publication — personal essays and short stories. To stretch my muscles, and my reach.

Writing is writing is writing. No, it’s not all the same, but yes, it all counts for something.

Non-writing bonus: Canva

If you ever need quick, simple, professional-looking graphics — blog image, party invite, e-card, poster, etc. — Canva [8] is fantastic and free.

Care to share any tricks or tools that are currently in your grab bag?

About Kristan Hoffman [9]

Originally from Houston, TX, Kristan Hoffman [10] studied creative writing at Carnegie Mellon University and later attended the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. Now she lives with her family in Cincinnati, OH, where she writes both fiction and nonfiction with a focus on feminist, multicultural stories. Her words have appeared in the New York Times, Switchback, and the Citron Review, among others. She is currently at work on a Young Adult novel, and is represented by Tina Dubois of ICM. For more, please visit her website [11].