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10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing and Tenacity

Okay, here’s the thing.  The themes I write about here are oftentimes as much about what I need to learn as anything I can possibly hope to pass on to you.  This month, with the focus on tenacity, has certainly been one of those times.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned about writing and tenacity from the posts and conversations here this month:

Perseverance, in Campbeltown, by Joanna Young on flickr

1. Audacity and tenacity are made for each other.  Someone coined the term ‘audacious tenacity’ in the comment box, and I know I wasn’t the only one the words stuck with.  Dream big, then do the work to make the dreams come true.

2. Write to one person is classic writing advice - which doesn’t make it any less valuable.  Switch off the imagined readers, the reactions, the internet voices, focus on one person… and then write - direct - to them.  I’m now writing my memoir to one of you lucky readers, and it really does make a difference to the way I feel about the writing, and the way the words spill out onto the page

3. Write every day.  Again, this is well worn advice - because it works.  Even if - especially if - you don’t want to write a word, sit down and do it.  Write why you don’t want to, why your writing is the most pointless and stupid thing you’ve ever read.  All of that putting of pen to paper will help the words to flow.

4. Read. The ‘aha’ moments I’ve had this month have come from reading.  Not reading blogs, much as I love them, but good old fashioned books.

5. Change location This one came up several times in the practical ways to get round your writing blocks.  For me, it’s going on a journey.  A trip to Edinburgh: boat, two trains and a bus… was enough for a whole lot of things to click into place.

6. Share where you’re at The more you share what’s really going on - blocks, barriers and all - the more you connect, and the more you learn.  From yourself, and from others.

7. The Confident Writing readers are wonderful. Thank you.

8. Learn from your gremlins. Wilson reminded me this month not to be afraid of writer’s block because it will take you further - once you’ve opened up your mind.  I’ve probably learned more from my own blocks than anything else this month (and yes, I’m still standing)

9. Write like yourself. Your fears, loves, despair, awkwardness, smiles.  Trying to write like someone else will tie you in knots.  Writing like yourself, however imperfect it might sound, is the only way to find your voice, and writing rhythm.

10. Reduce your focus: to one person, this moment, your feet on the ground, this here and now.  I know I say ‘reduce your focus’ a lot on this blog - but it’s probably the most useful piece of writing advice I know.  And the one I still most need to learn.

Thank you to everyone who’s added ideas, suggestions, questions and comments about how to write with audacious tenacity.  Those were my learning points: what have you learned about tenacious writing this month?

Writing with tenacity included:

10 Rounds With the Inner Critic, But Still Standing

How Do You get Past Your Writing Road Blocks?

30 Practical Ways to Get Round Your Writing Road Blocks

5 Prescriptions for Tenacity

‘Belief and Technique’ to Help You Stick with Your Writing

Allowing Ourselves to Be Successful - Guest Post by Alex Fayle

Stay tuned for a new theme on Monday!

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  1. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe

    February was the first month for me working with a Blog post Calendar. (You can download the form on I tried to schedule at least one week, blogging on monday, wednesday and friday. In the last third of February I noticed that I got some ideas for blog posts which weren’t on my calendar - that’s where audacity - leaving the safety of my plans and tenacity (keep to three posts a week) met.
    So I learned that it is a) fine to have a plan and b) plans can be changed and should be changed in certain situations.

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Scarborough Fair

  2. Joely Black (@TheCharmQuark on Twitter) says:

    Thank you for summing it up so eloquently!

    Joely Black (@TheCharmQuark on Twitter)s last blog post..Me? A coach? Seriously?

  3. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Joanna, the themes I’ve picked up this month on your blog: be focused but relaxed, be fearless but open minded. These ideas have lifted my tenacious spirit.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Product Pages - How to Write a Website, Chapter 3

  4. Terry Heath says:

    Great list and as Joely said, you summed it up so eloquently.

    I particularly like #6. It’s something I’ve been trying to carry into my writing and it’s been working magic. Not only am I having more fun, but “my right people” are starting to come around and join the conversations.

    Terry Heaths last blog post..Three Ways to Make Your Inner Critic Neurotic

  5. monica says:

    This is a great list. I especially like #5. I try to change location at least once a day - often times it’s to the kitchen counter where I work standing up. Sometimes it’s to the park when the weather’s nice, or a coffee shop. It’s amazing what a change of scenery does for the creativity.

    monicas last blog post..Twitter Basics from Janet Barclay

  6. Meryl K. Evans says:

    #4 describes my February to a tee. I crashed my book party and they have been the source of my motivation for this month.

    Meryl K. Evanss last blog post..Get in the Mood for Love

  7. emily carmichael says:

    Thanks for another lovely post, Joanna!
    I love the idea of writing to one person — somehow I haven’t heard that one before. It particularly appeals to me because of my fondness for diary-style and epistolary narratives. I look forward to exploring the concept further.
    I have taken on the task of writing *something* every day as a Lenten discipline this year. It used to be more than a habit to me; it was more like a compulsion. I am hoping to return to that point. Right now I am actually easing back into the process by not even forcing myself to write anything new, but rather by transcribing tidbits I wrote in the past but haven’t ingrained into a larger work yet. I’ve always been something of a fragmentary writer and I hope that collecting all the fragments in one place will make them more accessible for future use. In fact, by the time I finished last night’s transcriptions — the first of the forty days — I was already beginning to feel the tickling of ideas around the edges of my mind.

  8. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, in the past week I have felt so often that my words have failed me. I feel disconnected from myself, unable to articulate my thoughts and feelings. This post picked me up in so many ways. Writing to one person is great advice and advice I have not used of late. Reducing my focus would help to focus on the here and now and write from that place. Sharing where I am at. I have done the opposite, running from my thoughts and feelings which explains the disconnect. I need to stare them down on the page because the best writing is real (best meaning it feels good to write). I needed this post today so thank you for writing it. I also want to add that I continue to be so inspired and uplifted by you. You continue to soar even higher and it has been a a joy to watch a great writer get even better. You wrote about audacity and tenacity these past two months but you have been walking it for many months and it shows! You really are a rockstar!

    Karen xoxo

    Karen Swims last blog post..Quiet Whispers and Banging Drums: The Magical Mystery of Silence

  9. Rosa Say says:

    Joanna, here is what I have learned about the combination of writing and tenacity: Read everything you write. I do not comment on all of your posts, yet I’m pretty sure you do know that I read every word here, every word that you write for us at JJL, and every word you write for The Calm Space, and you continually amaze me with your tenacity at ‘drawing strands’ —a phrase you’ve taught me, which means to pull together what might seem separate and random into the most pleasing whole, and your whole here is community acceptance and recognition.

    I am not sure we all can fully appreciate what it takes to do this – over and over again as you do – drawing our strands of conversation into new postings that are not simply copied quotes from the comment boxes, especially for a writer like you: The writer’s nature is to read to devour the torrent of ideas others might release (sometimes unknowingly) and then to get swallowed up in the writing of our own thoughts before they can escape us. We are selfish in that way, and necessarily so, to best explore our own craft and channel our muse.

    In comparison, you take pause in that writers’ process! Then, spectacularly, your pause is to recognize, and fully thank and appreciate us in the course of your own learning in such an extraordinary way.

    I know I sound like a raving fan, yet I want to: We who read you, and who feel your Aloha spirit shared in this way are so blessed that you are a writing coach as well, and such a generously giving one. What feels so natural to you is something we learn here every day for free! So I have a request: toot sweetly dear girl, and give us another post about your coaching for hire, so we can support you more fully and send some business your way too!

    Rosa Says last blog post..Read with me and kill boring

  10. Lillie Ammann says:


    #9 was the highlight for me. I would love to write with the eloquence of Karen Swim, the insight of Brad Shorr, and the humor of Robert Hruzek. I would love to “draw strands” like Joanna Young, but that’s not me. So I read other writers for the things I lack and focus on writing like myself.

    Lillie Ammanns last blog post..Ash Wednesday and Penitence

  11. Robert Hruzek says:

    Only enough time at the moment to say, “Tip o’ the hat to ya!”, Joanna. Great points for all of us to keep in mind when it becomes time for that “audacious tenacity” thing. ;-)

  12. Kathryn says:

    Really great summary of the things that were discussed on this blog in relation to the theme for the month. Love it!

    Kathryns last blog post..Why Some Articles Don’t Get Noticed

  13. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Meryl glad you’ve been able to get back to your books this month -na I’m looking forward to reading more about what some of your finds have been

    Emily thanks for that feedback. Writing to one person saves me over and over - it’s definitely worth a go. I’m very interested in your fragmentary and epistolary style… esp the word fragmentary, which my own writing often comes out as too. Even if I don’t want it too, that’s the way it comes. I hope the transcribing goes well… it will be interesting to see what comes out of that process

    Karen I’m sorry that you’ve been feeling disconnected. I know what you mean - it gets me too sometimes, and there’s normally some lesson we need to learn lurking around in there. Thank you for your words of encouragement and support. The feedback you’ve given me since we’ve known each other has given me the courage time and again to stretch and try new things. Thank you. Hope the flow comes back soon.

  14. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Rosa goodness, thanks so much for all that feedback. Truth is, I don’t really consider my writer, but I do love using my skill with words to make connections between ideas and between people, to draw things together, and to dip into the words that will make others believe in what they write and who they are. I don’t know that it takes anything much - it’s just what happens when I sit down to type!

    I haven’t been pushing the coaching much recently for various reasons, but I do need to update my services pages with what I’m offering, and maybe there’ll be a post in there somewhere too…

    Lillie you’ve hit the nail bang on the head there. I’d love to be able to tell stories, but they stubbornly refuse to come out. Other words emerge instead. My words and my style. When I let them, they’re good. When I resist and try to be like others, or compare myself with their skill… that’s where it all goes kerput. ‘Focus on writing like myself’ is the only way to write well… and to keep your own sanity. Thanks.

    Robert thank you for making that time, and hang in there friend!

    Kathryn thank you - I wrote this as my personal experience of the theme, but I’m glad it’s resonated with others

  15. Davina says:

    Hi Joanna. I can appreciate this list. Writing every day is sooo important and a practice that I’ve just begun to implement… even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Just connecting with that pen and paper is enough. I missed the mark this am and feel off because of it (the day is not over yet, though).

    Davinas last blog post..Benefits Of Turning Off Comments

  16. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi Joanna - These are brilliant tips. Writing every day is probably one of the most important ones. I had to take most of January and February off due to illness and personal problems.

    Now I know a lot of people can write when they’re ill, or miserable but I just can’t - especially not on my blog, as I’d depress most of my readers.

    And if you’re used to writing every day, then you take a long break, it can be really hard work just getting into the swing of things again. I would definitely try to avoid big breaks again if I can. I would have been far better off trying to write each day - even if it was just morning pages, or freewriting.

  17. Jamie Grove - How Not To Write says:

    I’ve done each and every one of these things and I believe my writing is better as a result… of course, considering where I started I guess there was no way to go but up! lol

    Thanks for writing this post, Joanna. It’s made of write-tastic goodness!

    Jamie Grove - How Not To Writes last blog post..Thoughts on a Writer’s Ab(s)

  18. Tumblemoose says:


    I love the recap. Your list reads like a bill of rights for being tenacious. I can hardly wait to see the March postings!


    Tumblemooses last blog post..The organized writer

  19. David Atkinson says:

    This post is now on my notice Bord as a reminder.
    Thanks Joanna for the golden nuggets.

    David Atkinsons last blog post..If You Ask Me…

  20. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Davina I’ve been trying to be more consistent with this one - and not counting blogging either… It does make a difference, not least in helping to keep the gremlins at bay

    Cath I can’t write when I’m down or ill either - certainly not anything for public consumption. I should probably have made that clearer on the post! Like you say, it’s realy a question of trying to keep things moving if you can. But sometimes it’s just too hard, and I think what you’ve just been through is one of them. Hope you’re okay.

    Jamie thanks so much for write-tastic!

    George thanks - I’m going for a change of direction in March, so I hope you’ll all tenaciously stick with me!

    David I’m glad you found it helpful

  21. Gennaro says:

    Reading always improves my writing. I try to read different types of writing when looking to improve in different areas. I’ll read the newspapers to improve on reporting travel news, books for overall writing style, and haiku or poetry for motivation to keep it simple. The latter is most important to remind myself to use fewer words especially adjectives.

    Gennaros last blog post..Bodh Gaya: Place Of Buddha’s Enlightenment

  22. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome says:

    This month I learned that while patience feels passive and something I resent, tenacity is active and invigorating. Thank you for showing me this.

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Do you double-standard yourself to death?

  23. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Gennaro Thanks for sharing what you read. I’m interested in the point about the motivation to keep it simple and reading poetry and haiku - sounds like something worth trying. As you know I’m all in favour of things that help us shed excess words!

    Alex what a great reframing! I hadn’t quite thought of it that way, but ‘tenacity’ does feel better because it’s active. You can keep looking for things you can *do* to move things forward. And that gives us the energy. Thanks! And for all your contributions here this month.

  24. wilson says:

    Joanna, it’s a surprise to see my name included into the post! You’re really a kindhearted woman and I wish you all the best with the new theme for March!

    Remember to open up your mind and bring us more spectacular articles, Joanna! :)

    wilsons last blog post..Mind About the Soup’s Boiling Time!

  25. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Wilson, I’m glad to have surprised you :-) Your comment stuck with me all month, and really helped to open up my mind.

  26. Jason Slater says:

    Number 4 - Reading, strikes a chord with me. The back end of last year I picked up a book and read it through - something I hadn’t done for a long time and I’ve since read at least half a dozen others (its actually taken me away from blogging at times). There are so many colourful words and phrases around and reading books is a great way of stretching the grey cells and learning new prose.

    Jason Slaters last blog post..2Large2Email – Easily Transmit Large Email Attachments

  27. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Jason, sorry for the delay in replying. Yes, sometimes it really is good to get back to books. They give us both those ‘aha’ moments, and the words which sink into our mind… and come out again when we’re ready

  28. Miguel Wickert says:


    There’s tons here to respond with… for me, writing everyday is huge- this doesn’t mean you must post everyday to your blog but if you’re able to spend small pockets of time writing down thoughts and ideas or even a short outline- you’re being productive and writing daily which is a good thing. :)

    Thanks for sharing, as usual, amazingly useful tips.

    Miguel Wickerts last blog post..Coming Soon- Thesis 1.5

  29. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Mig, thanks for the feedback, and yes, I agree with you that the practice of writing every day will keep you in the groove, keep your fingers moving, your mind looking for ideas… and your creative juices flowing. And it’s free! :-)