Conventional wisdom clashes with common writer’s advice

Even a fool is thought wise until he opens his mouth. -Proverbs 17:28

The exception to the rule is when he picks up a pen, right?

Muddling through one’s first week on Medium, a repeated theme emerges quickly.

  • Write every day!
  • Publish 5 times a week!
  • Writer’s write because they can’t not write! (Even when they use the same word three times in one sentence and cling to the artistic choice to use a double negative.)

This begs the question — if I write every day and publish consistently, am I doomed to sound like a babbling idiot?

Perhaps the…

Writing with interruption builds a better brain


My backpack leans against my feet, brimming with tools in my arsenal of wordsmithery. Fully charged laptop. Inspiring books to get my thoughts spinning. A small sketchbook in case words need to move into shapes as inspiration strikes. And playlists to fit a few different moods that I may inhabit throughout the day.

Steaming cup of coffee. A chocolate croissant. Looking out a window from a quiet cafe situated in the center of a bustling city, waiting for a story to pass me by. A moment of observant meditation before the words begin to flow.

A sentence forms. Out comes…

Cracking the code when big pubs are too busy to keep you in the loop

Submit. And wait.

Currently, I have a piece submitted to a large publication that tells writers it could take up to a week for submissions to be reviewed and another 7–10 days before being published. The wait is killing me.

After learning a neat trick for checking which tags your story was curated into, I wondered if I could employ the same technique to see whether an article had been scheduled by a publication or not.

I tested my hypothesis on the aforementioned submission. Nothing. But it hasn’t been quite a week yet so it’s possible that no one has…

5 ways that 2020 tested your ability to thrive as an ex-pat.

I stood in the peanut butter aisle silently crying.

As a 30-something mother of three, I never expected something as simple as peanut butter to be what precipitated an emotional episode. However, as most ex-pats can relate, it wasn’t as simple as a jar on a shelf. The first year of living abroad can be overwhelming in a number of ways — which at times choose to collide upon you all at once in the middle of a grocery store.

With a post-pandemic world finally peeking over the horizon, many of us are feeling the itch to travel again. But…

Your writing needs therapy

Have you heard of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)? Chances are you could use some yourself. But I can guarantee that all of your first drafts need a session with the therapist.

ACT involves accepting your crappy situations and committing to changing what you can. I’m oversimplifying, but what do you expect from a two-minute read?

Before you hit publish, ask yourself these questions. What do you need to accept about your mediocre first draft? And how can you commit to change it?

Accept: Your title sucks.

It’s vague or unclear. It’s too clickbaity and doesn’t actually deliver on its promise. Or it sounds…

My dog-walking side hustle almost led to a brawl

Dear Pair of Overly Aggressive Geese,

Look. I get it. A massive thunderstorm came through last night and I’m sure you were looking for more shelter than the pond had to offer.

I don’t know much about a goose’s inborn navigational skills but your behavior today leads me to believe that it is lacking.

Being lost and unable to find your way home is no excuse for bullying.

Due to your lack of access to the internet, I assume you have no concept of the world we’ve all been living in lately.

Listen up, partner, it’s the wild, wild west…

Am I Doing This Right?

This post is an entry in Modern Parent’s “Am I Doing This Right?” writing contest.

Our dog has been stranded in another country for more than a year.

COVID nomads

Well, technically, we’re the ones who are stranded. We are COVID nomads, displaced by the pandemic.

For the past 9 years, Shanghai has been home to my American family. In January 2020, we had just returned from a holiday visit to the states and within 12 days we were evacuated due to the rapidly escalating situation with this strange, novel virus.

Five plane tickets purchased. Four suitcases packed. A n agreement with…

Finding unlimited confidence, no matter what anyone else thinks

My children have been eating Easy Mac or ramen noodle cups every day for lunch. I’ve lost track of how long. A part of me is appalled but a larger part of me just doesn’t care anymore. I’ve mastered the secret of unapologetic motherhood and you can too.

I know what you’re thinking

Look, I have a house full of middle schoolers who I am homeschooling. When they got old enough to make themselves a meal in the microwave, I think I saw the heavens open for a minute. For a while they’d been on their own for breakfast, pouring cereal is easy enough. Having…

The best gift I could possibly receive

Sleeping on the ground and peeing outside.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

This Sunday, I’ll wake up to the sound of birds celebrating the arrival of dawn. Hours from home in my one-man tent, I’ll roll over in my sleeping bag and smile at the canopy of trees above me.

I’ll stumble out of my tent to make coffee on my camp stove, then swing in my hammock with a steaming mug in hand. I will breathe in the silence and allow my mind to chase its thoughts all the way to their exhaustion without being interrupted.

I will return…

Sara Barnes

Homeschooling mother of three. Raising my family abroad. Lover of strong coffee and a good pun.

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