Joy Held's Writer Wellness

"Be well, write well."

50 Ways to Leave Your Muse is about staying creative

I grew up in my mother’s ballet school, so, of course, I’m familiar with the image of the flowy, beautiful Terpsichore, the Greek muse of dance. I believe in the mythology of the muses, and I can easily play along with the notion when it comes to creativity, but if I sat around and waited on ideas to be gifted to me by some ethereal being, I wouldn’t have published as much or as long as I have.

From my love for studying history and literature, I have learned that the Greeks sought ways to explain their world and themselves. True, this ancient culture contributed a great deal to philosophy, government, education, and so on, but anything they couldn’t exactly touch, eat, or screw didn’t qualify to their norms of rationality and were obviously gifts from the gods who ruled their lives.

We’ve progressed a little farther from that perspective, but the image of the muse bestowing genius and inspiration upon a poet, writer, and others is still with us. For example, in between his writing advice to “work your ass off” and read, author Steven King claims that, “There is a muse*, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground.” (144-145)

As I see it, the problem with depending on a mythical character to do the grunt work is irrational and risky. And since my Scorpio roots ground me to at least listening to my intuition, I’m in between a rock and a hard place that are both falling in on me unless I take a pragmatic approach to things so I can get $h!t done. Because if I don’t, I don’t get paid, and I doubt if I need to explain the avalanche of problems that results from that precarious place. I actually have worked for food writing and posting social media for a local restaurant, so I know what it feels like to sell my ideas in exchange for a sandwich because that’s how they paid me—in calories.

The point is that inspiration most often comes from motivation. Even King explains that he wanted out of a distasteful, go-nowhere teaching job and that compelled him to write and submit until the strike hit the mark for him. He was motivated by survival despite his tongue-in-cheek nod to his muse which he describes as a “basement guy” who smokes cigars while admiring his bowling trophies but has wings and a bag of magic. The muse may have the magic, but the writer must have the motivation. Besides needing to pay bills, where do motivation and ideas come from?

The idea for my online workshop “50 Ways to Leave Your Muse: Creativity Hacks” was originally motivated by an assignment in graduate school. I was motivated by getting a grade and inspired by the work of college English teacher and author Wendy Bishop. Her book Released Into Language: Options for Teaching Creative Writing has a delicious chapter on how she teaches her students to always be inspired to write and not dependent on the muse. She calls it “getting in motion” to write. I like that imagery, not only because of my dance background but because I really do feel like whizzing, whirring, buzzing, clunking, clanking, cranking writing machine when I’m in the flow.

Bishop has students write to and about their personal muses. Those examples in Bishop’s book inspired me to make a list of all the things that can, do, and have contributed to my life as a writer. A writer who is constantly on the run from writer’s block because it doesn’t have a place at my writing table. There’s a place for my lovely muse who eats daintily and quietly with a constant twinkle in her eyes no matter what I’m serving. She’s polite and inspiring, but like King, I always do the dishes, which is the hard work of procuring, pounding out, and proofreading the sentences. We have a lovely relationship, my muse and I, because I stay open to EVERYTHING. That’s what the workshop “50 Ways to Leave Your Muse: Creativity Hacks” is about: staying open to the world so you never miss the whisper of the muse. And fun.

The next online workshop of “50 Ways to Leave Your Muse: Creativity Hacks for Writers” is a self-paced course hosted by Hearts Through History Romance Writers of America. It runs June 1-25, 2021. You can register here:

Be well, write well!


Bishop, Wendy. Released Into Language, 2nd ed. Portland, ME: Calendar Islands Publishers, 1998.

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Scribner, 2000.

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Cover of the Month Nominee!

They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you liked the cover of my book, Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity, please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on!

I’m getting closer to clinch the “Cover of the Month” contest on AllAuthor! I’d need as much support from you guys as possible. Please take a short moment to vote for my book cover here:


All good things,


Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity Joy E. Held

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Mindset, Motivation and Well-being A to Z for Writers Online Workshop Set for September

I’m really looking forward to leading the online workshop “Mindset, Motivation, and Well-being A to Z for Writers” for ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA SAN DIEGO CHAPTER in September. As an author, educator, speaker, and dedicated journal keeper, the idea for this course came to me after reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I was also inspired by The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works. Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal, Ph. D.


These topics readily apply to the writing life, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to keep myself and my clients motivated, healthy, positive, and forward moving. Both books mention the stick-to-ive-tive-ness of several famous authors, and I started to collect a list of all the modes and methods suggested by Duckworth and McGonigal. The list was long. To make it manageable, I alphabetized each idea and POOF! This workshop blossomed from there.

Here’s a look at the workshop schedule:




Welcome, Introductions, and Schedule (F)


Lesson One (M)

Ability, Action, Anxiety

Badass, Boredom, Books


Lesson Two (W)

Change, Community, Character

Dualistic thinking


Lesson Three (F)

Experience Junkies, Exercise

Family, Finances, Fun/Future Me



Lesson Four (M)

Grit for Writers

Hyperopia, Hope


Lesson Five (W)


Journal, Journal, Journal


Lesson Six (F)


Love, Life, Lips



Lesson Seven (M)

Mindfulness, Meditation

Neglect, Novels


Lesson Eight (W)

Optimism, Observation



Lesson Nine (F)

Question Everything

Risk, Reward, Reading



Lesson Ten (M)


Time Mismanagement, Technology


Lesson Eleven (W)

Uncertainty-embrace it!

Values, Vice, Virtue


Lesson Twelve (F)



Yoga for Writers

Zero-based thinking




From action to zero-based thinking, I’m sure you’ll discover something new in this workshop that can be added to your personal tool kit to move you from confused to confident when it comes to your writing career. Writing is not just about arranging the twenty-six letters of the alphabet over and over. Writing success depends on the writer/operator maintaining a good attitude and making the best choices. Please join me in the workshop to learn how the right mindset, motivation, and well-being attitudes can support your health and career.

Register here:

All good things,

JoyHeld_photo_v2 (1)


Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~Joy E. Held

Would you like an autographed copy of the updated third edition of Writer Wellness? Email moi. joyeheld at gmail dot com.


Buy here: Headline Books, Inc.


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Writer Wellness Online Workshop in September Will Cover the Basics

cropped-writer-wellness-cover-2020_front_writer_9781951556051The idea for my book and workshop Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity (Headline Books, Inc., 2020) came to me when some of my critique partners asked how they could be my clones. They wanted to shadow me for a week to see what I did every day that led to my prolific publishing (over 500 articles and counting,) life as a homeschooling mom, and part-time hatha yoga teacher. Up to that point, I hadn’t done any self-examination of my processes, but when they asked, I stepped back and watched myself for a month while documenting my doings and beings in a journal.

What I concluded during my self-analysis was that journaling, exercise, meditation, good nutrition, and creative play supported my career and life. In the workshop, I share my story as well as ways you can customize the idea to reach your goals.

The workshop I’m leading Sept. 14-25 for Romantic Women’s Fiction chapter of RWA in September is a detailed look at the five key concepts of Writer Wellness and an exploration of how you can incorporate the practice into your life. With Writer Wellness as the foundation, you can achieve the writing dreams and personal goals you desire.

Be well, write well. See you in the workshop!

Register here:

All good things,


Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~Joy E. Held

Would you like an autographed copy of the updated third edition of Writer Wellness? Email moi. joyeheld at gmail dot com.

To purchase a copy:

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50 Ways to Leave Your Muse Online Workshop in September Will Inspire You

Letter Quill SetThe idea for my online workshop “50 Ways to Leave Your Muse: Creativity Hacks” was ignited by an assignment in graduate school. I was motivated by getting a grade for the assignment and inspired by the work of college English teacher and author Wendy Bishop. Her book Released Into Language: Options for Teaching Creative Writing contains a delicious chapter on how she teaches her students to always be inspired to write and not depend on the muse. She calls it “getting in motion” to write. I like that imagery, not only because of my dance background but because I really do feel like a whizzing, whirring, buzzing, clunking, clanking, cranking writing machine when I’m in the flow.

When I sat down and made a list of everything I do to stay healthy and creative, I realized that it was something I could share with others. The online workshop “50 Ways to Leave Your Muse: Creativity Hacks” was born. Here’s a look at the lesson schedule:






Welcome, Schedule, and Student Introductions                                        (M)


LESSON 1: THE MUSE RUSE                                                                  (W)


LESSON 2: CURIOSITY*EXPERIENCE*TRAVEL                             (F)




LESSON 3: PHYSICAL FITNESS*NUTRITION                                   (M)




LESSON 5: JOURNALING*INCUBATION                                (F)






LESSON 7: ART*SCIENCE*WOOWOO                                                (W)


LESSON 8: GRIT*CONNECTIONS                                                        (F)




LESSON 9: READING*THE SENSES                                                      (M)


LESSON 10: SLEEP*DREAMS*INTUITION                                         (W)


Wrap-up, Resources, The 50 Ways                                                             (F)

I have the awesome opportunity of leading this online workshop in September ’20 hosted by Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Romance Writers of America chapter. It starts on Sept. 7 and goes until Oct. 4. The price is very reasonable and anybody can sign up. Here’s the registration link:

The lessons are asynchronous (log in anytime) and we’ll also take a peek at the other inspiration for the workshop–Paul Simon’s 1976 hit “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”

Please join me for this cool, fun, and energizing online workshop.

All good things,


Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~Joy E. Held

WRITER WELLNESS COVER 2020_FRONT_Writer_9781951556051

Update third edition of Writer Wellness available now. Want an autographed copy? Email moi. joyeheld at gmail dot com.

Order here

Headline Books, Inc.

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Book Review: The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Occupations, and Careers

The Occupation Thesaurus Cover LARGE EBOOK







If there’s one thing writers learn early, it’s how important details are to the success of the work. Fiction, nonfiction, and everything else resonate better with readers when the content rings true. Getting the specifics correct says that the writer cares about the product and the consumer. It’s also a good idea to get the small things correct because readers know they’re reading good work by an author who went the extra mile to be sure the details are solid. Readers will applaud such effort with positive comments and buying the next book, but they will also let everyone know when something isn’t quite right.


Due diligence by a writer where the nitty-gritty is concerned is how the helpful line of books from authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi come in handy. These two word nerds (term applied lovingly) have done more than enough leg work to help any writer get the facts straight. The latest addition to the Ackerman/Puglisi library is THE OCCUPATION THESAURUS: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO JOBS, VOCATIONS, AND CAREERS. Not only does this work offer a treasure trove of information and the all-important details, the title is a tiny thesaurus in and of itself (occupation, jobs, vocations, careers.) Why would anyone fall prey to the dreaded “word echo” (using the same word too often on a page, in a paragraph, etc.) syndrome when books like the Occupation Thesaurus exist?


In addition to offering concise job descriptions, the Occupation Thesaurus is a handy tool for coming up with ideas. When the brain seems dry but the deadline looms, reference tools such as those crafted by Ackerman and Puglisi go the distance when inspiration is sought.


Before you think that the book is simply a list of careers and what they do, glance back at the full title. It states that this work is a helpful tool for writers, and the content proves this by suggesting a range of writing helpers to further inspire and add depth of understanding. For instance, each vocation provides an overview of the work done followed by juicy details such as training necessary, character traits, reasons why a character might choose the profession, and so much more.


For a quick and different perspective on this book, if you work in any kind of career counseling or services, this book should be sitting on the top shelf in your office. It’s an amazing collection of who, what, why, and what if about the work people do.


Ackerman and Puglisi have previously published other books in their thesaurus line as well. The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers is the crown jewel that cracks the code for crafting realistic character occupations that adds detail to the work. This information contributes to what readers want: the real deal. Thanks to Ackerman and Puglisi, writers have a tool to help them create authentic characters that readers will believe.

You can look deeper at The Occupation Thesaurus Writers Helping Writers

Have you checked this book out yet? Others by the Ackerman/Puglisi team? What did you think? What do you write and did this book help you in any way?

Disclosure: The reviewer received an advanced reading copy of the book from the authors.

All good things,



Writer Wellness

Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity, third edition is available for pre-order now at Headline Books, Inc. 




August Online Workshops to energize your writing and your health



My flagship online workshop is based on my book Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity. The awesome writers at Orange County Romance Writers of America chapter are hosting Writer Wellness 100% online August 10-September 4, 2020. Registration is open and anyone can take the course. There are twelve lessons posted Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with ongoing discussion throughout the month.


August 3-28, 2020 I’m leading the online workshop Reflective Writing: A Journal Workshop for Writers. This course leads participants through different kinds of journal keeping as well as a look at how some famous published authors utilized their journals in life and work. The workshop host is Romance Writers of America San Diego chapter. Registration is open and anyone can take the course. Lessons are posted three times per week with ongoing discussion throughout the month.


I hope to see next month in an online workshop!


Be well, write well!

All good things,





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Writers, Have You Heard About the Occupation Thesaurus?

Hi everyone! Today I have something fun to share…a special chance to win some help with your writing bills. Awesome, right?

Some of you may know Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi of Writers Helping Writers. Well, today they are releasing a new book, and I’m part of their street team. I’m handing the blog over to them so they can tell you about their Writer’s Showcase event, new book, and a great freebie to check out. Read on!

Certain details can reveal a lot about a character, such as their goals, desires, and backstory wounds. But did you know there’s another detail that can tie your character’s arc to the plot, provide intense, multi-layered conflict, AND shorten the “get to know the character” curve for readers?

It’s true. Your character’s occupation is a GOLD MINE of storytelling potential.

Think about it: how much time do you spend on the job? Does it fulfill you or frustrate you? Can you separate work from home? Is it causing you challenges, creating obstacles…or bringing you joy and helping you live your truth?

Just like us, most characters will have a job, and the work they do will impact their life. The ups and downs can serve us well in the story.

Maybe you haven’t thought much about jobs in the past and how they act as a window into your character’s personality, interests, and skills. It’s okay, you aren’t alone. The good news is that The Occupation Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Jobs, Vocations, and Careers is going to do all the heavy lifting for you. (Here’s one of the job profiles we cover in this book: FIREFIGHTER.)


To celebrate the release of a new book, Writers Helping Writers has a giveaway happening July 20th & July 23rd. You can win some great prizes, including gift certificates that can be spent on writing services within our Writer’s Showcase. Stop by to enter!

Resource Alert: A List of Additional Jobs Profiles For Your Characters

Some of the amazing writers in our community have put together additional career profiles for you, based on jobs they have done in the past. What a great way to get accurate information so you can better describe the roles and responsibilities that go with a specific job, right? To access this list, GO HERE.

Happy writing to all!

Be well, write well!

All good things,



Reflective Writing and Springboards


My backgrounds are in journalism, creative writing, and education. I am or have been a teacher of dance, yoga, meditation, writing, health, history, and theatre. When I homeschooled my beautiful daughters for 18 years, I even dabbled in teaching science and math!

Regardless of the subject or setting, I ask students to pause on a regular basis and actively reflect on what they have learned. That reflection usually requires

  • writing about the experience of learning
  • examining how the learning fits into the current state of things for a student
  • how the newly acquired knowledge can be used in the future

This written self-exploration is what constitutes reflective writing over basic journal keeping. All forms of journal writing have value in my opinion. We are going to address journaling from this perspective to help you as a writer clarify your thoughts about life and work.

What Is Reflective Writing?

Reflective writing differs very little from other terms such as journaling, expressive writing, and creative journaling. What it does offer is a perspective on the practice of keeping a journal that defines the action as a way to collect, dissect, and reflect on a vast array of things. Everything from daily life to business documentation to emotional venting is fair game to go into a journal, but the sense of being more responsive to the writing and the events qualify journal entries to be considered reflective.

If you’re already a fan or regular practitioner of journaling, you will understand when journal therapy teacher Kathleen Adams says,

“There’s a friend at the end of your pen which you can use to help you solve personal or business problems, get to know all the different parts of yourself, explore your creativity, heal your relationships, develop your intuition…and much more. (13)

Essentially, reflective writing differs from basic journal writing because the writer writes about an experience, writes about any feelings, emotions, or ideas attached to the experience, then moves beyond the original experience to learn more and repeat the reflective writing practice.

What Are Journal Springboards?

What if you’re new to the idea of journaling, have reservations, or don’t know where to start? That’s where the “Springboards” journaling technique comes in handy. It’s the practice of responding in writing to a prompt, an unfinished sentence, a question, a “what if” statement, and it is a wonderful tool to keep the pen moving across the page or the fingers punching the keyboard.

How Do Springboards Help Writers Journal?

“What should I write about?” (a springboard in its own right,) isn’t a problem where springboards are present. They are easy to answer and easy to create. Simply write about whatever pops into your head in response to a springboard.

Let’s Ink About It Journal Activity

Choose a springboard prompt from the list and journal about it for at least 250 words or as long as you like. Do this as many times as you wish. Once a day for a week is a great way to establish a journaling habit. Simply pick a springboard, copy it into your journal and write free form without stopping. Remember to keep building on ideas as they pop up for you, and keep a lid on the inner critic!

There are three things I want to accomplish (today, this week, this year, etc.) are…


Right now, I’m feeling…


What I value most in my relationship with ___ is…


I’m proud of myself for…


Today was a (great, lousy, hectic, etc.) day because…


What I really want from ____ is…


I need to set better boundaries in the ___ area of my life because ___, and this is how I’m going to do it and why.


The best part about being me is…


The worst part about being me is…


If I could meet someone I haven’t seen in a while, it would be ___ and I would tell them…


I remember…


(Adams 78)

Upcoming Online Workshop: Writer Wellness

I hope you’ll join me in June for an online workshop on Writer Wellness hosted by the Yosemite Romance Writers. It’s open to everyone and the cost is very reasonable in my opinion!

All good things,


Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~JEH

Adams, Kathleen. Journal to the Self: Twenty-two Paths to Personal Growth. Grand Central Publishing, 1990.

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Journaling: The Soul of Writer Wellness


“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~Socrates, philosopher

Writer Wellness is the term I coined several years ago to identify my personal lifestyle plan. Writers in my critique group wanted to know my secret to raising a family, working part-time, homeschooling two children, publishing regularly, and staying healthy. I stepped back and observed my daily activities. Based on what I learned and my training as a dancer and hatha yoga teacher, I offered to teach those writers how to devise their own personalized program that included journaling, exercise, relaxation, eating right, and creative play.

The workshop meetings evolved into the publication of my book Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity by WigWam Publishing in 2003. A second edition was released in 2011 by Bob Mayer’s Cool Gus Publishing, and a third edition is coming soon from Headline Books, Inc. From there, I created a course that I have taught online and at conferences since 1998.


“The Many Joys of Journal Writing”

Journaling and writers share a long and important history. From the personal journals of Gustave Flaubert that read like a laundry list of how to view life to the story bibles many writers create to keep themselves organized throughout the writing process, writers have always had and always will have numerous reasons to keep a journal. A journal can serve writers of all genres in many different ways, chief among them as a place to collect and hash out story ideas.

It isn’t a waste of valuable writing time to scribble in a journal in advance of working on one’s novel. In the words of author James Brown:

What matters is how journaling can help the writer come up with ideas, kind of a warm-up to a bigger process. The next step is building on those ideas, discarding some and fleshing out others, developing characters and motives, and arranging the scenes in a logical, meaningful sequence with a firm sense of a beginning, middle, and end. Whether you write your thoughts down in a journal or try to store them all in your head, which I don’t recommend, story begins when you begin to dream and brainstorm about people and their problems. (Raab 6)

Then there is the fascinating practice of documenting not only one’s life, but the progress of a book. Two books by John Steinbeck that fundamentally changed the way I look at myself as a writer and a human include Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath. Reading these helped me understand how keeping a journal alongside writing a novel can serve several purposes.

One use for a journal is a place to cleanse the palate, so to speak, before turning to the blank page of the work in progress. Reading snippets about Steinbeck’s faithfully recorded personal life reinforced my feelings on using a journal as a “dumping ground” to clear a writer’s head prior to working on a current project. All too often personal issues can make their way into our creative work and many times that isn’t the appropriate venue for hashing out our problems.

Steinbeck wrote a page or two each morning about his life, thoughts, and sometimes current events in order to “warm-up his writing arm.” He also used the journal pages to organize his thoughts about what to write. For example, one day’s journal describes his plans for writing:

May 9, Wednesday: It is time I think for the book to pause for discussion. It has not done that for a long time. I think that is the way I will do it. That way-first a kind of possible analysis and then quick narrative right to the end, explain it first and then do it. (79)

Steinbeck is just one example of a writer who uses journal writing to stay focused on the creative project at hand. Sue Grafton, prolific mystery author (“A” Is for Alibi) believes that the writing process is a constant back and forth between the right and left-brain hemispheres. She keeps a daily log of her writing progress and says:

This notebook (usually four times longer than the novel itself) is like a letter to myself, detailing every idea that occurs to me as I proceed. Some ideas I incorporate, some I modify, many I discard. The journal is a record of my imagination at work, from the first spark of inspiration to the final manuscript. (Raab 9)

Similar to Steinbeck, Grafton starts each writing day with logging the date into her journal followed by what’s going on in her life then a note about ideas she has for the book she’s writing. She ‘talks to herself’ about where the story could go and explores the writer’s question “What if?” In the privacy and safety of a “for my eyes only” journal, Grafton claims that this collection of meandering thoughts helps her jumpstart the creative juices and before she knows it, she’s writing new pages (Raab 11).

The many joys of keeping a journal for writers is a lengthy list. These three writers demonstrate how valuable a tool this is for brainstorming, whining, organizing, formalizing, clarifying, reflecting, and much more.

Upcoming Online Workshop: Writer Wellness

I hope you’ll join me in June for an online workshop hosted by the Yosemite Romance Writers where I’ll spend the month covering and sharing information and activities related to journaling, exercise, nutrition, relaxation, and creative play. The workshop is open to members and nonmembers.

All good things,


Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~JEH

Raab, Diana M., ed. Writers and Their Notebooks. The University of South Carolina Press, 2010.

Steinbeck, John. Journal of A Novel: The East of Eden Letters. Penguin Books, 1969.


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