08
Nov 17

The Marisa Mohi Shop is Open for Business!

If you’re a newsletter subscriber, then you already knew this. But it’s official. The Marisa Mohi Shop is open for business!

The Marisa Mohi Shop is open for business!

That’s right, y’all. I’m taking a moment out of my busy-as-hell NaNoWriMo scribbling to get at you with this news.

I’ve been working hard on getting into the enamel pin game for a minute now, and I’m pretty excited to finally show you my first two offerings. Know that these are just the beginning. Because coming up I have some pretty awesome enamel pins that should be here just in time for Christmas.

If you aren’t into the enamel pin craze, then congratulations. You aren’t a millennial. I bet that’s working out really well for you. Enjoy being paid the amount your worth, and eventually being able to retire. However, if you’re into the enamel pin craze, then hell yeah.

First up, we have the Book Club enamel pin.

Book Club enamel pin

Each pin is approximately 1.5 x 0.75 inches with a black rubber pin back. If you’re like me, Fight Club wasn’t really your scene, but you could absolutely imagine yourself in a nihilist group of readers. (The comments section of this post is not where you will discuss whether or not Fight Club is a nihilist work, or an existential anarchist work. DO YOU HEAR ME?!) This pin might just be the pin for you.

And honestly, you should click on over to the Etsy listing, because I’m insanely proud of the description I’ve written there.

Check out these sweet #enamelpins from The Marisa Mohi Shop! Click To Tweet

And next up we have the Bleeding Pen for all you writers out there who put everything on the page.

Bleeding Pin enamel pin

This pin was inspired by something a creative writing professor once said to me. She was truly convinced that you shouldn’t bleed it out on the page, and that when you get your story to the workshop, it should be clean and sterile.

I’m not sure why she thought this, because every published work of hers I’ve ever read was PURE BLOOD, Y’ALL.

Anyhow, the older I get, the more my writing policy tends to be a scorched earth one. By that I mean I will tear my own heart out, name names, and burn every last damn bridge if it means telling the story the way it felt to me. And thus was this pin born. Each pin is approximately 1.5 x 0.25 inches, and comes with a black rubber pin back.

Now, I mentioned earlier that I have some pins coming soon, so get ready for those. And you should totally subscribe to my newsletter, because those who are subscribed already got a discount code for these bad boys. So, if you want to know about future sales (HINT: THERE IS GOING TO BE A SALE VERY VERY SOON) you need to get your name on this email list.

And if you wanna get one of these here pins, then head on over to The Marisa Mohi Shop and make a purchase!


03
Oct 17

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo

I firmly believe that everyone should try NaNoWriMo at least once in their life. Sure, the writing elitists hate it and like to make fun of those who attempt it. But there are some legit good reasons to do it!

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo

Original photo by MJ S

If you looked at the title of this post and thought that maybe I was speaking another language, then allow me to educate you. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month — which is November. Participants spend the entire month trying to bash out 50,000 words. And you should try NaNoWriMo if you’ve ever thought about writing a novel, or if you want to make some headway on a big writing project.

In the past, I have forgone participating. November typically falls smackdab in the middle of grading season, and it’s way too hard to grade a hundred research papers as well as write a novel.

But this semester, I finagled my schedule so that I can finally participate, hopefully with a minimal amount of grading interference. (I’ll still have tests and presentations to grade. But those tend to be a lot easier.)

And because misery loves company, I think you should try NaNoWriMo too. It’s the perfect opportunity to set a goal and meet it. And by the end of the month, YOU’LL HAVE A FINISHED MANUSCRIPT. (MAYBE!)

Why should someone try NaNoWriMo? Click To Tweet

Still not convinced? Well, okay. Here are 10 reasons why you should try NaNoWriMo.

001: You owe yourself the escape.
I won’t lie when I say that it’s been hard to write lately. Politically speaking, everything is shit, and I feel such an immense amount of despair and inefficacy that it’s hard to do anything, much less build an entire world from scratch and then bleed it out on the page. But I’ve realized that not writing has contributed to that despair.

And while I can’t write a story that fixes the world, I can write a story that makes me feel good about the world again so I can be a more effective fighter when I see injustice. And I can escape into that world via writing. And hopefully, readers who need to escape can use my story for that as well.

002: So you can say you did it.
Admittedly, not everyone knows what NaNoWriMo is. So telling strangers that you completed NaNoWriMo might bring more questions than awe. But that’s okay. You ain’t here for the validation of others. Accomplishment is it’s own reward. And just think how rewarding it will feel to finish a project of this magnitude. Pretty damn good, right?

003: It’s nice to stretch your writing muscles.
One of my favorite things non-writers say is that they could write if they just had the time. WELCOME TO THE CLUB, ASSHOLES. No one really has the time to write The Next Great American Novel. And yet, writers make time every single day. What some jerks don’t realize is that they can’t bash out that word count if they haven’t built up their writing muscles by practicing every single day. It’s hard to sit still and make words happen if you aren’t in the habit of it. And NaNoWriMo is the best time to work those writing muscles! Build up the calluses on your fingertips from  hitting the keyboard! Put characters in mortal peril!

Sure, you don’t have to write fiction. You can actually use NaNoWriMo for whatever you want. And if you’re looking to get back into the writing game, November is a great time to do it. Not only do you have the support of the NaNoWriMo community, but you have the laser focus and accountability that community provides.

004: Lighting the deadline fire is good.
Are you one of those terrible people who’s always waiting for Monday so you can get started? (I sympathize with you, but like, just do what you want to do. You’re wasting so much time with a lame excuse about needing to start on Monday.) If you’re the type that needs the conditions to be set so you can get to work, you should definitely try NaNoWriMo. Not only is there a deadline looming like a sword of Damocles, but you also know exactly how many words you need to get each day to hit your goal. (It’s 1,667 a day. Totally doable!)

So if you’re the type that’s always looking for the ideal conditions, look no further. Try NaNoWriMo today!

005: Learn what you can cut out to achieve something.
So, still think you don’t have time to write? Well guess what? I don’t have time for idle TV watching. In fact, since I’ve lived in my current house, I’ve turned on the TV twice. Sure, I still watch Netflix and such on my iPad, but I don’t turn on the TV just to have the news on in the background, which also means I don’t spend Saturday mornings idly watching cooking shows on PBS.

There are plenty of ways we make time for stuff in our lives without realizing it. A commitment like NaNoWriMo makes you look at your time, and intentionally schedule it. So take a look at your day. What nonsense can you cut out? And don’t be ashamed to cut something that might be frowned upon. I fully admit that I’ll be living on Lean Cuisines for the entire month of November to cut out unnecessary food cooking time.

006: Meet other writerly types.
Writing can be a solitary thing if you let it be. I’m currently in the process of constructing a writerly mastermind group with some local ladies, if and when our schedules align. (Probably the week after never.) But if you don’t know any other local writers, NaNoWriMo is a great time to meet them.

If you sign up on NaNoWriMo.org, you can see the meet ups that are happening in your region. In some cases, there are gatherings aimed to get everyone acquainted, there are workshops to help you prepare, and there are even write-ins during the month of November to help you meet that word count!

007: You get to play around in your imagination like you haven’t done in years.
Look. I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a long time, but I didn’t know how to say it. So, I’m just going to spit it out. You’re a boring adult. So boring. You watch the news and pay bills and go to work and drink coffee and talk about your 401k. YOU’RE SO FREAKIN’ BORING. It’s about damn time you remembered the fun of being a kid.

For me, the best reason to try NaNoWriMo is to remember the fun of imagination. Sure, I use mine every day, normally to terrify myself in the bathroom. But with NaNoWriMo, you get to put your imagination to better use. Dragons! Spaceships! Pizza delivery guys! A malevolent computer system! Can you make a story with all those elements? If you use that imagination, you can.

008: Your ideas are rattling around in your brain and need to be set free.
I fully believe that if you don’t use your ideas, you lose them. So you really need to make sure that your head isn’t just full of ideas that are never going to be put to good use. The longer they sit dormant in your brain, the more likely they are to adhere to the gray matter and just really gum up the works. (I think that’s the basic premise of neuroscience. Or something. Honestly, you’re not here for science. And if you are, well, that’s the type of science you deserve.)

You should try NaNoWriMo just to get those ideas out in the open. They may not be worthwhile, but they might be. They may not create a cohesive story, but maybe they will. You really never know. You just have to get them out so you can finally see what you’re working with.

009: You can tell your inner editor to burn in hell.
My inner editor is hypercritical. She’s a popular blonde middle school girl, and she’s a real jerk. I hate her, and I hope she gets gum in her hair at a slumber party. She regularly stops me mid-creative burst to remind me that everything I do is stupid garbage and that I’ll die cold and alone. And worst of all — she prevents me from making any sort of progress in my writing because she’s always there telling me what sucks.

Well, if you try NaNoWriMo, you’ll quickly see that you don’t have time for that inner editor. You may have only blocked off 30 minutes that day, AND YOU ARE GOING TO GET THOSE 1,667 WORDS COME HELL OR HIGH WATER. So that inner editor? She’s got to go. And I’ve found that the fastest way to shut down that internal critic is to brutally bash a keyboard with your manic words.

010: It will build your writing routine.
At the end of November, you may not be left with a brilliant work. In fact, it may be total garbage. This is the proverbial roll of the dice of writing, though. You work and you work and you work, and you may not wind up with much to show for it. It’s a lot like pretty much every other aspect of life, come to think of it.

So why would anyone try NaNoWriMo if it meant that they wouldn’t wind up with solid gold? Because, my dear one, you will have built a writing routine. That’s right! After one whole month of brutally taxing your brain and creative energies, you will be in the habit of writing daily. You’ll know how to find blocks of time to get work done, and you’ll be in the mindset of putting words on paper.

And that, my little writer, is the solid gold of it.

10 Reasons You Should Try NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? Are you going to try NaNoWriMo this year? Gimme some of your NaNoWriMo hacks in the comments!


23
Aug 17

Everyday Writing Outline: How to Keep Daily Writing on Task

If you never outline your writing because you hate Roman numerals, I’ve got an everyday writing outline for you! And best of all, unlike your English teacher, I won’t be grading your final product.

This Everyday Writing Outline will help you with emails or any writing you do for your job!

Original photo by Andrew Neel

I always hated when teachers wanted us to outline our papers in a very specific way, and then they’d grade the outlines. Ultimately, what matters with an outline is that you get your ideas out there. THE FORMAT IS IMMATERIAL. But you try telling that to a middle school English teacher with a chip on her shoulder.

Today, as a teacher, I always encourage my students to outline. You need that road map that an outline provides if you want to get where you’re going. And it’s the best way for you to get your ideas organized. But most people aren’t aware of all the outlining methods available to them. Or, worse — they feel they don’t need an outline since they aren’t doing an academic paper or writing a book.

Well, here’s the thing with my everyday writing outline. There’s no format and anyone can use it.

::the sky opens up, angels sing::

That’s right. If you’ve been avoiding putting your ideas on paper just because you got burned by outlining once, I’ve come to your rescue.

And let’s be real. The sort of writing you do daily doesn’t really necessitate a beast of an outline. Really, you just want to make sure your emails are clear, or that you’ve said everything you need to say in your Facebook event invitation.

Check out this fool-proof everyday writing outline! Click To Tweet

Check out my fool-proof everyday writing outline below, and scroll to the bottom for a free download to help you outline your everyday writing.

The Everyday Writing Outline

Purpose
Think about what you hope to gain overall with the thing you’re writing. Are you trying to persuade or inform? What reaction do you want to get out of your audience? Write all these things down, and let them guide what you have to say.

Audience
Specifically name your main audience. If you’re writing to your boss, you’re going to approach it differently than you would if you were writing for your coworkers or friends. For example, when I write to my boss, I use a fairly simple email greeting that includes a salutation of some kind, and her name. However, when I write to my fellow instructors, it’s not uncommon for me to start the email with “Greetings, Earthlings.” Because we approach different audiences differently, make sure you’ve clarified who you’re writing this for so you approach it with the correct tone.

(Also, yes. I’m ridiculous, and I’m sure my fellow instructors mostly hate me.)

Main Points
Make a quick list of the things you need to cover. I’m notorious for leaving stuff out of emails, which causes me to have to send multiple replies to the same damn email. (Don’t be like Marisa. Be a functional person.) If you’re sending out an email, just make a quick list of things to include. If you’re replying to an email, make a list of all the things you need to reply to. And, to make it easy on your reader, feel free to separate those items into a bulleted list. No one wants to read a big, boxy paragraph. Those are gross.

Facts
Usually, your everyday writing won’t include much research like you did in school. However, you may have to ask questions of others before you’re able to respond. So, think of that as your facts that will back up what you have to say. And, as with a research paper, cite your sources to make it clear to your audience. You don’t have to a do a full-on APA Style citation. It could be as simple as saying “Bob says that we can’t hold the conference in room B on Thursday, but that it’s fine for Friday.” Now you’re recipient knows where the information came from, and is more likely to be satisfied with your answer.

Questions the Audience Will Have
Remember when we talked about writing for an audience? Well, almost all everyday writing has an audience. Because you’re trying to communicate with another person, you want to make sure you’re clear. So, in order to do that, you need to anticipate questions your audience will have. And then see where you can answer those questions within your writing.

Get the free everyday writing outline worksheet here! Click To Tweet

Get Your Everyday Writing Outline Worksheet Here!

It’s simple enough, right? And if you sign up for my newsletter mailing list, you can get a free downloadable worksheet to guide you through my everyday writing outline. Print it out and put it in your cubicle! Save it as your desktop background! Passive-aggressively slide it under the office doors of all the people you work with who write illogical emails! Do what you want with it!

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11
Aug 17

How to Start a Big Writing Project

One of the questions I get all the time is how to start a big writing project. Admittedly, big is a relative term, and means something different to everyone. But whether you’re a middle school student working on a five-paragraph essay or a doctoral candidate trying to crank out that thesis, getting started can be a stumbling block.

Tackling a big writing project can be tough! But I've got 5 tips to help you get through your next big writing project right here.

Original photo by Kari Shea

I feel right here is a good time for me to make a disclaimer.

If you’ve seen me on Twitter, then you know how prone I am to procrastination. There isn’t a week that goes by that I’m not putting something off by looking at all the tweets. So, if you feel that I may need to heed my own advice that I’m about to give, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Do you struggle when it comes to starting a big writing project? Click To Tweet

And while I admit that there is a fair amount of procrastination to my process, there is even more getting down to business. After all, I’ve completed more than one big writing project in my day. Whether it was my master’s thesis or books for ghost writing clients or the syllabus I’m working on now (HOW IS IT AUGUST ALREADY?!), I have a tried-and-true process to get you started on that big writing project that you need to crank out.

001: Minimize distractions.
This is when we close that Twitter tab on our browser. In fact, we shut down the whole browser. We close out everything that isn’t the word processing software we happen to be using. And we put our phone in the other room. And make sure the notifications are off.

I’m not trying to be jerk here, but you can’t write if you’re distracted. There is literally no such thing as multitasking, and if you think you’re succeeding at doing two things at once, you’re really just half-assing those things. (If you’ve got three things going, you’re third-assing. I could go on forever with the fractions.) Multitasking is a great way to make minimal progress on multiple things at the same time. So do yourself a favor and focus in on writing. That will make you get through your task a lot faster, and it won’t seem as daunting.

002: Get in the right headspace.
I know exactly what I need to create the perfect environment for writing. It’s taken me so much time to figure this out, but I’m glad that I finally have. I know I need quiet. I know I need to minimize external stimuli. I know that I need to be as far away from people as possible.

For that reason, I NEVER post up in a coffee shop. In fact, I can barely read in those places. Maybe there is an ideal, quiet coffee shop in an alternate universe that would be perfect for me, but for now, I live in a college town, and every cafe is chock-full of loud-ass students.

When I picked a new place to live, I made sure I found a place that had a space I could use as an office. I know I need the dedicated space to catch all my paper clutter associated with teaching as well as a place where I could sit and do any big writing project that came my way.

I know not everyone can have a dedicated space to work on a big writing project, so you gotta work with what you got. I highly recommend Ambient Mixer to help you tune out the world and get shit done. Invest in some headphones that cancel out other noises. And let everyone around you know that you are not to be disturbed. Because every time you stop to acknowledge a distraction, it takes you that much longer to get back into that headspace, and even longer to get your writing done.

003: Create a road map.
You aren’t going to remember all those brilliant points that you thought about when you originally conceived this project. In fact, if you haven’t written any points down before you begin, congratulations on creating the hardest project of all time. I’m not saying you have to create a full-fledged outline (though, depending on the project, you probably should because it can only help), but you need to know where you’re going.

I used to work with a kitchen manager at this professional wrestling-themed barbecue restaurant in the parking lot of a Walmart (real long story for another time), and every day he’d grab an index card and write out what he needed to do. And with that card that he kept in his front shirt pocket, he never missed a food order or delivery. He kept his crew tight, and the kitchen ran like a well-oiled machine. We’d open the restaurant together, and he’d say, “You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t have a map.” Then he’d flick the corner of that to do list, and go about his day.

I still follow that advice. It’s not uncommon for the screen of my laptop to be surrounded by Post-Its with the nonsensical ramblings of a mad woman. But I need those because they have my ideas, and those ideas are the map.

004: Don’t overestimate your potential output.
If you wouldn’t go to the gym after a long period of inactivity and try to max out your squat, then don’t do it with writing. Sure, you’re probably not going to tear a muscle writing, but your brain and body aren’t used to it, and you’re going to do more damage than good.

Writing is like a muscle. You have to exercise it or lose it. And while I’m not one of those militant writers that believes in working on projects every single day, I do believe that you have to work most days. So, if you’re a student who has spent all summer doing nothing besides eating processed food and watching YouTube videos, you aren’t going to go back to school in the fall and suddenly be able to bash out a 10-page paper in one night.

Writing is like a muscle. You have to exercise it or lose it. Click To Tweet

(You might be able to. But, it’s going to hurt like hell. And you’re setting yourself up for failure. Even if you pass this one paper, know that some professors won’t put up with shitty writing, and at some point, it will come back to bite you in the ass.)

So if you haven’t written in a while, maybe set yourself a small goal. Maybe on the first day, all you do is create that road map for the paper. Then, on the second day, you organize your research and pull the quotes you want to use and create your reference list. Then, you’re already familiar with the topic, and you’re ready to go. Sure, it will require hours of work and revision, but you aren’t overextending yourself in the beginning.

005: Stop tongue kissing boys.
One of the biggest mistakes my students run into is not managing time. No one writes all day long. (I mean, maybe on occasion, but not all day every day.) There’s a lot to life that’s way more fun than drumming your fingers on a keyboard while your eyes stare blankly at a screen. And that stuff will always come before writing if you let it.

When I was an undergrad, a particularly folksy professor of mine asked the class of junior-level creative writers what we were reading for fun. As creative writing majors, we had to take so many writing classes in addition to literature classes, and our nights and weekends were spent catching up on Tolstoy and Milton and Brontë. Surely none of us had time to read for fun too!

Wrong.

As my professor so eloquently put it, “If you got time to be tongue kissin’ boys, you got time to be readin’.”

(I feel I should state for the record that at that time in my life, I couldn’t figure out how to get a boy to tongue kiss me. Also, I had never heard the phrase “tongue kissing” in my life.)

Here's the thing about writing: It's a lot more fun to do other stuff like tongue kissing boys. Click To Tweet

Here’s the thing about a big writing project: It’s a lot more fun to do other stuff like tongue kissing boys. But the writing will still need to be done. So, if you’ve got time to gallivant around town with any ol’ fella who will kiss you, you’ve got time to write. Be honest about how you’re time is spent, and plan out how you will be using your time when you’re in the midst of the big writing project. It will save you so much hurt at the end.

Now let’s say you’ve followed these five tips.

And then what? Well. Okay. Here’s the thing.

You still have to write.

That’s the thing about a big writing project. It’s still a lot of work. But, if you follow these five tips, I promise you that it will become easier for you to complete. That’s not to say that it will be easy. But you’ll learn how to approach a big writing project, and honestly, knowing how to do that is half the writing battle.

 

What about you, fellow writers? How do you attack a big writing project? What are your keys to success? On average, how many hours a week do you spend tongue kissin’ boys?


28
Jul 17

Writing Only Gets Harder

Paradoxically, writing only gets harder the more you do it.

Writing Only Gets Harder

Original photo by rawpixel.com

You can practice for years.

I’ve been actively writing since I was 8, and I can say conclusively that it’s harder to write now than it was then EVEN THOUGH NOW I CAN READ MULTI-SYLLABLE WORDS.

You can dedicate several years of your adult life and thousands of dollars to undergrad and graduate programs, but writing only gets harder.

Don’t believe me? Here’s why:

When you’re a kid, a story is any weird string of words. Have you ever listened to a kid tell a story? They start out telling you that their grandpa is coming over on Friday, and wind up at how much they love pudding. And while those things are probably true, the story itself, sucks.

(Sorry, kids.)

But that doesn’t diminish the kid’s ease at vomiting out words. It’s easy for them.

When I was in the first grade, I wrote books ALL THE TIME. I don’t think any of these tomes still exist to this day, as neither I nor my parents are particularly sentimental. But I sandwiched copy paper between sheets of construction paper, stapled those bad boys, and then went to town with a pencil and crayons. I wrote so many “books.” I was prolific.

It felt so easy.

(Probably because these stories were like 3 words to a page with a very intricate crayon drawing to illustrate the point.)

But then as I grew up, I started learning about story structure. I learned how to construct a sentence for maximum impact. I learned literary conventions and pacing and word choice all played a part in everything I wrote, and I made allowances.

Even so, this wasn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back. Writing was still pretty easy.

In middle school and high school creative writing classes, we had to turn in a short story once a week. That’s a helluva writing load, one that college classes wouldn’t inflict on their students. But I hit those deadlines. Sure, it was draining, but writing was easier then. I still have some of those stories (they managed to survive the great notebook throwing out of 2017) and they spanned topics like dystopian junkyards, a man going crazy in a grocery store, an unconscious father on life support mentally recounting life events as his family cries in his hospital room, a young girl posing as a squire so that she can become a knight someday…

I wrote all of that and so much more.

And it was really fucking easy compared to the writing I do now.

The ideas are all still there, disparate and diverse.

But writing only gets harder.

The ideas are all still there, disparate and diverse. But writing only gets harder. Click To Tweet

In college, I procrastinated. (In much the way I encourage my college students not to.) I waited until the day before a story was due for workshop, and then I’d bash one out. And, admittedly, it was never the best story in class. But it also wasn’t the worst.

And I could get away with that procrastination, because writing used to be easy.

Now, I can’t crank out a story in an evening. I can’t hear a song lyric and turn it into a plot line. I can’t watch a movie and use big chunks of it for my own craven purposes.

I don’t just sit down and dump my brain on the page the way I used to.

I have better taste now.

(Some of you who are more acquainted with some of my more colorful posts may disagree.)

I can’t write stories about dystopian junkyards, a man going crazy in a grocery store, an unconscious father on life support mentally recounting life events as his family cries in his hospital room, a young girl posing as a squire so that she can become a knight someday because these stories don’t align with what I want from my writing.

It’s not just writing anymore. It’s actually figuring out what I want to say, understanding the consequences and impact this will have, and how it will frame everything else I write from now until I die.

Writing only gets harder.

Sitting in a chair and bashing out words on a keyboard isn’t the hard part.

Sitting in a chair and bashing out words on a keyboard isn't the hard part. Click To Tweet

I’m saying that Writing, with a capital W, gets harder because it’s Writing with a capital W. It’s the bigger picture of what a writer does. It’s being aware of what writing actually means. It’s understanding who will take your words and how they will be used for years to come.

It’s not wanting your name associated with some garbage concept just because it’s popular at the moment or because it came to you or because it was easy to write.

(There are still things that are easy to write. Some things are so easy they’re out of my brain and on the page before I know it. But are they worth it? If you’ve been paying attention, you know they aren’t.)

Writing only gets harder because you know you’re capable of better prose, and pulling it out of yourself is like exorcising demons.

It’s looking back on the words that you put on the page, and making sure they mean exactly what you want.

This is why writing only gets harder.

The more you practice, the worse it gets. That’s what nobody tells you about practice. Sure, it makes it easier to complete the physical task of putting words on paper. But those words? They get harder and harder to bring to the page.

Writing only gets harder. Click To Tweet