welcome, non-robots!

I have nothing against robots, I just don’t think they should write books. “Is that a real concern?” you ask. Probably not. I just want to be clear: this site is all about writing and what I’ve learned about it in the past few years, and one of the main things I’ve learned is that -- for me -- writing is hard. To me, people to whom writing is not hard are robots. I do not trust them. If you are one of them, you will find nothing here to interest you.

Shoo, robot, shoo!

If, however, you find writing both glorious and maddening, necessary and impossible, dazzling and stultifying, there might be something here that clicks with you.

I’ve wanted to write books ever since I can remember. I was always going to be “a writer.” It was such a given! So why did it take me 35 years? Lots of reasons, I guess. I was a bad combination of dreamy and lazy, and add to that aspects of my personality (such as perfectionism) that conspired to prevent me from finishing things. Also, it’s very easy for us non-robots to persuade ourselves we’re on our right path in life, even when we’re actually sort of languishing in the wheel ruts beside our path, and not really on it at all. I, like many others, stood beside “my path” and watched wistfully as others boldly trod it.

I wasn’t writing.

The years passed. I did other things. I edited books written by others. I went to art school. Traveled. Got married. Moved to another state.

And then, finally, something snapped. I realized that if I wanted to write books. . . I had to, er, write books. And so, painstakingly, I began to do that. It was hard. I learned what I could from others and the rest I figured out or made up. Here are my thoughts on writing fiction. Please let me know what you think. You can leave comments below each segment (anonymously, if you so choose) letting me know if anything resonates with you or if you have more to add to my thoughts. I’m still figuring out my own process, still very much cobbling it all together. Wisdom and commiseration are welcome. I’d love to hear from you!


Anonymous said...


That is all.

bisous, bluepoppy

[a} said...

Am referring my lil bro H to this blog. He's only 11 and working on his first adventure "gamebook"... He'll love the articles here!


Neil said...

What a great idea for a site. I'm already hooked to read more, which I'm going to do right now.

sassy said...

Hi, it's my first time here and I enjoyed your writing style... I'm going to add you to my blogroll so I can come back and read more. (:

Anonymous said...

So so so HAPPY to see you blogging about writing! I am seriously doing the dance of joy here. :D

Do you take requests? please, please, PLEASE write about is absolutely my bugabear.

tinker said...

This site is like a candy store for the writing mind - and I am feasting on it! I want to jam every word into my head, that I can. Thank you - thank you - thank you!

gautami tripathy said...

I started writing very late. On the behest of a friend who forced me to write after reading a few of my scatttered thoughts.

Your post kid of encourages me to check out publishers for my poetry with a vengeance. Until now my effort was half-hearted.

L.B. said...

At first, I thought I fit into the Robot category. But, after reading the entire post, I've decided that I'm very much like you: a bad combo of dreamy, lazy and a perfectionist. I guess, if I were a robot, my novel would have already been written. However, I'm not even sure I've begun it, despite all my glorious ideas.

Left-handed Trees... said...

So glad to see you've started this blog...hmmm, can a friendly book about writing be terribly far behind for you? Seriously, I know I've carried the energy from our NY afternoon with me--such positive writing energy you've shared!!!

Patois said...

A non-robot with robot aspirations here. Or is it the other way? In any event, I second Neil's comment: time to look at what else you've got here. Sounds great.

lisrobbe said...

So far this is the post I can most relate to. I too knew I always wanted to be a writer, only I never pursued that dream. I have recently started chasing it again and this post has added to my inspiration. Thanks!

e_journeys said...

I love this series of posts! My process is similar -- brainstorming, trial balloons, etc. (Your "snick" is my "whoosh.") And "exploratory draft" is a great term!

Two things: You probably know that your time off the path wasn't wasted. You weren't writing, but your writer's brain was working, gathering all that information and experience to translate later on. ("Nothing is wasted" is one of my mottoes. I was also off the path and suffering from the absence, but what I picked up in experience and turmoil/frustration ultimately helped my writing.)

Second, have you thought of selling this series as a chapbook or making it available in print in some other way? (I'm looking at your "Please do not reproduce" line.) I'm going to refer people here, but I have students who aren't on the Internet and who I think would find this a wonderful resource.

Thanks for this, for Sunday Scribblings, and for all your other gifts!

Rob Kistner said...

For me, writing is neither hard or easy -- it is essential... I write, as I concluded in my post for this prompt, because I have no other choice... it is survival -- and it began, for me, as an abused child.

Calandria said...

thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, ideas, and processes. i've started a first draft and have an outline and several chapters but now i hate it. but my idea is so good! i'm trying to keep going but it's hard. so. seeking inspiration and i found some here. thanks :-)

i liked your interview on shannon's blog. GREAT hair!

paris parfait said...

Laini, so much of what you say resonates. I'm so glad you're posting these essays. I can't imagine any writer or would-be writer wouldn't find your advice and experience helpful - and welcome!

Ellen Reagan said...

I read all your Robot posts at one go and they've given be enough inspiration to go out (or in) and write another day. (The Thomas Mann quote is now on a PostIt on my computer.) It was so great meeting you and your husband at kidlitosphere. I wish I'd read these posts before I met you. Thanks so much for you generosity in posting them.

FrecklesandDeb said...

"I was a bad combination of dreamy and lazy, and add to that aspects of my personality (such as perfectionism) that conspired to prevent me from finishing things." This is me! We are soulmates!

fembot said...

I am crushed.

Penny Lane said...

Wow, you and I are like this! *You couldnt see it but I was intertwining my pointer and middle finger :)* I have had such difficulty "starting to write" even though I adore it and want to write books for a living. I am so happy to have found you. :)

Anonymous said...

Ah! I totally agree with 'anonomyous'...A hero you are! I'm still young...13...but I have a HUGE love for writing but it's such a pest. I start...then I stop.
It drives me CRAZY.

Patrick said...

I was in the first class you spoke to this morning (Thursday) at Mountain View High. I just wanted to say that you were a breath of fresh air (honestly, the class isn't that great). You are also a kind of inspiration. It's just like..normally I don't see writers as real people..they are just up in the clouds of celebrity and you are pretty isolated from them. But having you in there, and your publishing being pretty recent it's kind of like "writers are people too!"

And I totally know what you mean about being a perfectionist. Sometimes I just write stuff down and by the time I get through with it, it's just dragging so much and I'm so unhappy with it..but I have a deadline so I just turn it in rather than rewriting it. And the thing you said about not having enough dialogue and explaining and summarizing thing..I do that..haha.
Things to work on..hopefully more writing..and more writing classes will help.
But anyway, I just wanted to give you some feedback and tell you how much your visit meant. You just touched on so many things and it was really good. And also I liked the Radiohead in your slideshow.

Oh, and, in case you were wondering who I am, I was the one who asked the question about your favorite authors (the only question from a student..hah).

Looking forward to reading your blog and your books!

Patry Francis said...

Oh, but sometimes I so wish I was a robot...

Seriously, what a wonderful blog! I just discovered it, and now have to read every post.

Writer bug said...

I love the idea that writing is hard for everyone except robots! Ha! And the Thomas Mann quote on the side of your blog is so true--it's what I always want to say to people when they say they plan to write a book when they retire, as if it's just some goofy past time anyone can take up.

Writer bug said...

I love the idea that writing is hard for everyone except robots! Ha! And the Thomas Mann quote on the side of your blog is so true--it's what I always want to say to people when they say they plan to write a book when they retire, as if it's just some goofy past time anyone can take up.

Amber said...


These essays are my BIBLE! They're so helpful and I've printed them all out so I can look back at any time. I've been writing all my life and these have encouraged me to not only keep it up but to do something MORE with it! THANK YOU SO MUCH!

I came across Not For Robots after reading Dreamdark and looking up your homepage. I'm so glad I did! Now I'm an active Sunday Scribbler (even if I don't often have time to post them) and non-robot.

Thanks so much!

-Amber, 15

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PaulaKay said...

Many of your insights resonated for me.

But one tiny detail, one little suggested wording change, made me feel a whole bunch lighter. From now on, instead of calling my draft my (first) BLEEP draft I will borrow your words and use “Exploratory Draft.”

Thanks for the idea.

I hated thinking/saying I’m writing my BLEEP draft as others call it because it made me feel like, well, BLEEP. And “First” Draft was such a reminder of all the revisions ahead of me.

But “Exploratory Draft” now that I like. So positive, so fun, and so appropriate for fantasy writing.

My wings have grown a little bit more today.

Thanks for taking the time to share. And I don't trust those that say writing is easy either. They must be friends with those skinny girls who brag about how they can eat anything.


beth said...

Just wanted to say I love the title!

Anonymous said...

Wow...thanks for the inspiration. I'm totally on the side of my rut, watching everyone pass by. I think I'm gonna try stepping into the rut. ;)

Rachael King said...

Hi Laini

I'm Marianne's friend from NZ. I'm coming to Portland in November for the Wordstock festival and hope we can meet up! I'm looking forward to reading through this blog, and I'm adding it to my blogroll - my blog is all about the joys of writing as well.

Hope to see you soon...


Carrie Harris said...

This blog is seriously made of awesome. What about a Not a Robot icon or something we can put on our blogs? I would so put one up.

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of interesting, practical stuff here. Thank you. I, too, let everything else distract me from my 'path' until recently. I do like Richard Ford's alternative idea of how hard writing actually is though:

“Not, I hasten to say, that writing is ever all that hard. Beware of writers who tell you how hard they work. (Beware of anybody who tries to tell you that.) Writing is indeed often dark and lonely, but no one really has to do it.
Yes, writing can be complicated, exhausting, isolating, abstracting, boring, dulling, briefly exhilarating; it can be made gruelling and demoralizing. And occasionally it can produce rewards. But it’s never as hard as, say, piloting an L-1011 into O’Hare on a snowy night in January, or doing brain surgery when you have to stand up for ten hours straight... If you’re a writer, you can stop anywhere, any time, and no one will care or ever know. Plus, the results might be better if you do.”

Somehow I find this encouraging.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I love your site...thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! Ok, NOW I know where my 'seperated at birth' sister is! Laini, you are such a kindred spirit and I am blessed to have found you and your words and all that seeps between them and into my writer's soul! Magic! You are truly a messenger. In the name of all that is pulled through you . . . . Amen!

christie said...

That's what I love about the web. You're just surfing along one morning, enjoying your coffee, when wham! you run across someone's blog that articulates exactly what you've been feeling. I've only read your first post, but am looking forward to reading more. Thanks so much for sharing!

Shona Cole said...

Thank you for taking the time to write and post this series of articles on the writing process. They are insightful, informative and entertaining. I couldn't stop reading!
I especially loved your ideas on it being work. I wish I had heard that when I was younger, I believed the idea that if it didn't come easily then it wasn't meant to be.
thank you, thank you.


Vanessa said...

I just came across your blog, and I think it's wonderful. I love the title and the playfulness of it. The real reason I HAD to comment, though, is that I went to your website and saw the products you sell. As soon as I saw one of your "Laini's Ladies," I looked up at my lamp, where I have a hanging ornament that looks curiously similar to the ones on your site. "Is that one of those?" I thought, and upon further inspection, I found that I have the Writing ornament in my very bedroom! I really thought it was great when I received it from my mom (a sort of peace offering after a lot of drama over my decision to become an English major), but I thought it was so bizarre that I happened upon your blog/site as well.

Oh, hey, long comment, how are you?

V short for Victorious said...

I wish I was a robot...okay well maybe not...but thanks for this site...I have found it at just the right time. I will sponge up all the juice I can and then and then...well who knows what the path has in store for me, but I found your inspiration along the way and so here goes....thank You!!

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading your book "Lips Touch" which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way! Out of curiosity, I decided to visit your site and am so glad that I did! The last thing I expected to find was your collection of essays on writing. They're just what I needed to read! I, too, have been dreaming of writing since I was a child, and have had a rough start of it. Thank you for your generosity in providing your insights and advice for us non-robots.

Jean M.

Anonymous said...

I actually happened across your book, Lips Touch, at my school library, and the cover and title struck my interest. Let's just say, if I didn't have to eat and sleep everyday, I would NEVER have put that book down. It was SO INTERESTING!

This article completely clicked for me. I thought I was doing something horribly wrong when writing wouldn't come easily to me. This site is now one of my absolute FAVORITES! You've helped me so much!!!! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Oh.My.God. You are sooooo right! I have to write my doctor's thesis in the next 2 to 3 years, even though I sworn I would never do that again after finifhing my master's thesis. (I spent most of the time procrastrinating, or how you call it. - Sorry, for typos I'm german and english is only my second language.) I always WANTED to write, I was really flustered to realize how hard it was to actually finish your project.
Well, academic writing is something else, though.
I'm thinking about a novel I want to write SOMEDAY, but I guess I need to start now, in order to finish it!?

Thanks for this blog! By the way, are you going to be published in Germany, too?
Love your hair. All the best to your sweet family!

Corinna from Germany

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Melanie said...

Like so many others, I felt like I was looking in a mirror as I read your first post... "OMG that is so me!" I kept saying over and over again. Thanks for sharing, I can't wait to read more and finish my "damn book"!

Mae said...

For me, writing is easy. It's writing WELL that's hard. I'm eleven, with aspirations of publishing at thirteen. By the way, BLACKBRINGER is my favorite book. Dragonlance is my favorite series, Kathryn Lasky my favorite author, and BLACKBRINGER my favorite book. Oh, for SILKSINGER in the library.

toni said...

This is so easy to relate to, thank you so much!

Crystal Cook said...

A friend directed me to your blog and I'm so glad she did. I felt like you were talking straight to me here. About thinking you were on the right path but really you weren't.

Thank you so much for all this information, I plan on pouring over it many, many times.

Thank you!!

Tom M Franklin said...

"I’ve wanted to write books ever since I can remember. I was always going to be “a writer.” It was such a given! So why did it take me 35 years? Lots of reasons, I guess. I was a bad combination of dreamy and lazy"

this sounds so much like me it's scary.

-- Tom

Dawn Pier said...

It is so good to know I am not the ONLY ONE. While I did not know my whole life that I wanted to be a writer, there was this nagging "something" that harassed me for my whole life. The signs were all there, but I steadfastly ignored them until I was almost 40! and found myself without a job. Thanks for sharing everything you do here. I am similarly struggling with self-doubt and the nuts and bolts of writing. Your sharing is appreciated MUCHO. Congrats on your success, it gives me hope.

Anonymous said...

I've just found this blog and I'm in love already! Im on day 2 of writing my first novel so Im going to have a look through your entries and see what tips I can pick up.

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Anonymous said...

Gosh! I really feel you!

'I was always going to be “a writer.”'

'I wasn't writing.'

Those sentences resonate with me!

It's hard for me to avoid distractions (they're everywhere and sometimes are much more interesting the the writing), but if you want to reach your dreams, if you want to be a published writer, you (and I) gotta put a hard work into it, I think :)

Thanks for creating this blog, by the way! :)

Sara B. said...

"I was a bad combination of dreamy and lazy, and add to that aspects of my personality (such as perfectionism) that conspired to prevent me from finishing things."

THAT IS ME! Add a wee does of procrastination and it's 100%! Glad you got over the obstacles. Hope I do too. Thanks for the blog!

David Lau said...

Hello, Laini! What books are good for novices?
Thanks for help.

Fiona Li said...

Thank you Laini, I can't wait to read all your wise wisdom or at least your insight and experience.
What you said resounded with me. Laziness can be so damn easy, but writing so insanely hard.
It's nice to know that you don't find it super easy, because honestly, you write like magic.
It really reminds me to keep working hard.
Thank you.

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Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

Hi Laini. Nicole here, in Boulder -- last got to chat with you at Boulder Bookstore and before that at Sirens. Thank you so much for these essays!

I've been recommending Sunday Scribblings to everyone I know since you mentioned them at the bookstore. Every once in a while, I get the urge to blog back at those self-appointed writing gurus who say "If you're a REAL writer, you write because you HAVE to. REAL writers don't find it hard. REAL writers don't need writing prompts. REAL writers..." And, well, you're one of my go-to examples rebutting them.

I think some of these gurus MAKE writing hard by telling the rest of us that if we find it difficult, we ought to quit... because we're not cut out for it, or because we're "lazy." Oh, how I hate the epithet "lazy." There are so many reasons a writer might find herself not writing... and hating herself for not writing. We get trained to call it "lazy," but--at least in my case--what it really is, is fear.

It's so hard to write when I'm hating myself for being afraid of writing! And it's such a blessing to come across someone who re-affirms that the not-writing isn't something to hate myself for, but is instead something that we all go through.

Thank you for being such a hero.

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Juliana said...

Laini, thank you SO MUCH for this blog. So many times I feel like giving up on writing, but, just like you, I've always wanted to be a writer. Even before I could write. And you just made me remember that, so THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

I just got another here lol

Love from Brazil ;)

PS: You should come to the Book Biennial in Rio in September. Just saying... haha

KK Trotter said...

You're my writer hero. Thank you for sharing all of this! I can't say enough how helpful it is and how wonderful. Thank you so much!

Tom Switfty said...

Doug and I LOVE this blog, thanks!!

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