Monday, July 20, 2020

Top 10 Writing Tips from Lindsay M. Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet

Writing isn't always easy to do. But a lot of successful writers have figured out some tips and tricks to help them to stay productive. Today, author Lindsay M. Chervinsky shares her Top 10 Writing Tips with us, plus an excerpt from her new book The Cabinet. Be sure to follow the tour for even more and leave your questions and comments along the way. Best of luck entering the giveaway!


Top Ten Writing Tips
  1. Never sit down to a blank page. When I need to start a new project, I pick up a pen (.38 blue G2 brand only!) and a white legal pad (never yellow!) and start outlining. That way, when I sit down to the computer, I can transfer over my outline and I never have to stare at a blank page.
  2. Speaking of outlining….outline! Even if it’s just super simple, it’s so helpful to have a roadmap. I also find the process of jotting down notes sparks new ideas, helps me brainstorm where things should go, how to transition my argument, etc. I outline entire books, chapters, and even sections.
  3. Leave yourself something easy to start with the next day. Writing works best when you can start with a quick win and get some momentum. Most days, I’ll end by outlining the next section, putting a few thoughts together for the next paragraph, or finding a quote that will kick off my next point and leave it for myself to flesh out the next day.
  4. Find music for various moods. Most of the time I have a playlist with music from the 60s-80s and that works for me. I can write and read with those lyrics. If I’m having trouble focusing, I’ll put on a Yo-Yo Ma playlist. If I need to seriously get pumped up, I’ll put on salsa music. Because I can’t really speak Spanish, the lyrics aren’t distracting and the fast pace gets my fingers flying.
  5. Tidy up your desk at the end of the day. I simply cannot write without an organized space (doesn’t have to be clean or bare, but just organized). I will use that organizing as an excuse not to write, so I try and take away that procrastination method.
  6. Work in a space with a door that closes. My pup (John Quincy Dog Adams, pictured here) likes to hang out with me when I work. Most of the time he’s a good writing companion, but when he wants attention, he will nudge my arm with his nose. Nothing is more distracting!
  7. If a section is proving to be particularly troublesome, try changing the font or writing it in an email to a friend. Sometimes when we take away the pressure to get the language just right, it actually flows better.
  8. If a sentence is stumping you, I’ll give myself a running start. I will literally type “something like…” and then start writing out where I want to go. Usually by the end of that first sentence I’m actually writing and can just delete the beginning part.
  9. Build in rewards. For small sections, I’ll reward myself with a snack, a walk, a quick episode of a TV show, a chat with a friend, etc. For larger chunks (like chapters), I’ll get a pedicure, see a movie, read a fun book, go out for a drink with my husband (pre-pandemic of course). When I turned in manuscript drafts, copy-edits, and final page proofs, we celebrated. I bought myself a pair of boots I had wanted forever, a nice dinner, or a mini-vacation or stay-cation.
  10. Read as much as you can of all genres! It’s so inspiring to read amazing writing and bad writing helps you identify your own limitations as well. It will also use a different part of your brain and free up your subconscious to work through lingering issues.

The US Constitution never established a presidential cabinet―the delegates to the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected the idea. So how did George Washington create one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government?

On November 26, 1791, George Washington convened his department secretaries―Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph―for the first cabinet meeting. Why did he wait two and a half years into his presidency to call his cabinet? Because the US Constitution did not create or provide for such a body. Washington was on his own.

Faced with diplomatic crises, domestic insurrections, and constitutional challenges―and finding congressional help lacking―Washington decided he needed a group of advisors he could turn to. He modeled his new cabinet on the councils of war he had led as commander of the Continental Army. In the early days, the cabinet served at the president’s pleasure. Washington tinkered with its structure throughout his administration, at times calling regular meetings, at other times preferring written advice and individual discussions.

Lindsay M. Chervinsky reveals the far-reaching consequences of Washington’s choice. The tensions in the cabinet between Hamilton and Jefferson heightened partisanship and contributed to the development of the first party system. And as Washington faced an increasingly recalcitrant Congress, he came to treat the cabinet as a private advisory body to summon as needed, greatly expanding the role of the president and the executive branch.

Read an excerpt:
At eleven thirty in the morning on August 22, 1789, a large cream-colored coach pulled up to the front door of Federal Hall at 26 Wall Street in New York City. Six matching, perfectly groomed horses pulled the elegant carriage with sparkling gold trim. The coachman, outfitted in crisp white- and red-trimmed livery, jumped down from the back of the carriage and opened the door. An elegantly dressed man with powdered hair stepped down with a portfolio of papers under his arm. He towered over his companion, Henry Knox, the acting secretary of war, and his slaves tending to his horses. His ornate coach and his imposing presence drew curious stares from strangers passing by on the street. He walked up to the front door of Federal Hall and was immediately announced to the Senate. George Washington, the first president of the United States, had arrived for his first visit to the United States Senate.

This was no ordinary meeting. Two years earlier, the delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia had agreed that the Senate would “advise and consent” on treaties and other questions of foreign policy. But in practice, how the president and the Senate would interact remained for the first officeholders to work out….

(affiliate link included)

Lindsay M. Chervinsky, Ph.D. a historian of Early America, the presidency, and the government – especially the president’s cabinet. She shares her research by writing everything from op-eds to books, speaking on podcasts and other media, and teaching every kind of audience. She is Scholar-in-Residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies and Senior Fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies. Previously, she worked as a historian at the White House Historical Association. She received her B.A. in history and political science from the George Washington University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. She has been featured in the Law and History Review, the Journal of the Early Republic, TIME, and the Washington Post. Her new book, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution, was published by the Belknap Imprint of Harvard University Press on April 7, 2020.

The New Criterion
recently said of her book, “Fantastic…Unlike many works of popular history, The Cabinet never feels like hagiography. It lacks the reverence of works like Joseph J. Ellis’ Founder Brothers or the revisionist obsequiousness that now greets Alexander Hamilton’s name on stage…Chervinsky exemplifies the public-history ethos in her new book. The writing is clear and concise…She takes what could have been a dry institutional and political history of the Early Republic and transforms it into a compelling story of people and places.”

When she isn’t writing, researching, or talking about history, she can be found hiking with her husband and American Foxhound, John Quincy Dog Adams (Quincy for short).

Readers can request a personalized book plate here:





Lindsay M. Chervinsky will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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