Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

January Meeting: Author Tara Dairman

To ring in the New Year, Tara Dairman, author of The Great Hibernation (Random House) and The Four Stars foodie series (Putnam/Penguin) informed a full house how to deal with anxiety in the writing process. First, she confessed to having anxiety herself, concerning this very presentation. Tara went on to explain anxiety is not a beginner’s problem, nor a sign one is not cut out for writing. Anxiety is common among writers of all levels.

Tara’s handout outlined the following, for writers to ask of themselves:

I. Quick Self-Assessment

1) What part (or parts) of the writing process bring me the most joy(For example: creativity, those light bulb moments, self-expression)

2) What part (or parts) of the writing process cause me the most anxiety(For example: concerns about revisions/finishing, what others may think, or what will happen next on the blank page)

II. Collaborating…with myself!

1) Time travel (or cloning) — What do I wish that the past-me had done to help my future self with this project? Is there still a way to do this now? How? (Where do you tend to get stuck? Try creating a plot outline, or character sketches; or do some setting research)

2) Office Supplies — What are a few office supplies that might help me organize (or get a fresh perspective on) my current project? (For example, get a bulletin board and push pins, then jot each scene on index cards to post on the board—to visualize/revise the story’s organization)

3) Trick or Treat — How can I trick myself into getting started? (Create a routine; train your brain—perhaps whenever you wake up you write, or everyday after you workout you write) How can I treat myself for having accomplished a goal? (You might use stars and for every 2 stars get a latte, or perhaps reward yourself with a little spending money…just like corporate incentive programs offer bonuses)

III. Habits

1) What is one old writing habit that is not serving me anymore?

2) How can I shed or change it? What new habit can I replace it with that may decrease my anxiety?

During the presentation, Tara also discussed how she altered her own writing process to deal with her own anxieties. For instance, she evolved from thinking of herself as a slow writer, to as a fast writer, and finally to as a paced writer. Her first book took nine years, start to finish. Then, once she experienced publisher-imposed deadlines, she changed to a process involving, in part, interim outlines and revising “as you go.” Through this evolution she became a less anxious, more joyful writer.

Tara’s 4 Resources for Joy:

– Splendid Mola—The Writer’s Happiness Challenge

– Lori Snyder sends out free daily writing prompts to (re)discover happiness in your process

– The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes

– Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole (pre-writing and character development exercises)

For more information about Tara’s fast-drafting techniques including pre-writing, goal-setting, interim rewards, Google “Tara Dairman First Drafting Now 96% Faster” 

(Or visit