Tag Archives: Get Writing

#NotWriting

Sometimes you get a cold, or you have a busy day at work, or you have some kind of emotional turmoil, so you don’t feel like writing. And sometimes you just don’t feel like writing.

So what is it with all this guilt?

I’ve never heard a knitter lamenting that they haven’t picked up the sticks for a few weeks now, or a balsa aircraft maker embarrassingly whispering under their breath that they haven’t cut out the struts for their bi-plane, even though they started it over two months ago. Why do writers feel like we are failing if we let a week (or four) slip by with no new words being written?

Just look at the Twitter #NotWriting string to see how many excuses people come up with for neglecting the page. But don’t look for my tweet, it’s not that I haven’t written one, it’s just that it is now buried so deeply under the sediment of writer guilt from across the globe that it has probably fallen off the Twitter memory banks.

This is at risk of becoming a pandemic!

I don’t believe you are going to forget the craft of writing, or that you are not dedicated if you don’t force yourself to the notebook each day. A week is also not worth worrying about, and a month is just buying your subconscious some time to work without stress. Get to three months without a tickle of the muse and you might be in trouble, but even then I use the word might.

So for all those out there #NotWriting –chillax, you’ll be writing again before you know it.

Move to trash

It’s funny how when I post a blog the refreshed screen always comes up such that my cursor is poised over the ‘Move to trash’ option. I can’t help but think it is my blog software commenting on the quality of my most recent post.

This is the paranoia a writer must live with.

Neil Gaiman famously tells the story of how he calls his editor during every book at the ¾ mark (or something close to that point) and says it is totally crap and no-one will ever want to read it (I’m paraphrasing by the way). Writers all seem to go through this, the only difference is at what point it occurs. As far as I’m concerned, as long as it is not when you write ‘The End’ then you can get through it. If you hate it when it’s finished you are really in trouble!

I too hit the ‘this isn’t working I might as well throw it away’ at about the ¾ point. Even with short stories and sometimes flash fiction. I now know that I should celebrate when I get to that stage as it means I’ve only got a ¼ of the story to go! But as lightly as I talk of it, it can be a really difficult point to get through. This is where novels get put down and not looked at again for months, or even years. It is also usually a fictitious fear.

I have set aside many unfinished stories as lost causes, only to go back and read them later and have no idea why I stopped writing them. What’s worse is you are no longer on the roll so you cannot just pick them up and start writing with the same flow. Sometimes I even forget what the end was meant to be.  At best it means re-writes at worst it can be terminal (for the story, I’m not THAT melodramatic).

Breathing time for any story can be a good thing. If it is not working, or you don’t love it, putting it down can be a good idea. The key is not to let it sit too long. I think anything you turn your back on should be revisited within a week of setting it aside. This is long enough to be free of that strange writer paranoia that sucks you down into a mire of negativity, as well as distancing you enough to read with fresh, honest eyes.

Remember, editing is always an option. Heavy editing can save a badly written piece, and it doesn’t matter if you completely re-write 2/3rds of what you originally put to paper. But if the story is never finished, there is nothing to save.

Happy writing

Nat

Heart or pocket?

LOVE OR MONEYI don’t think anyone in this day and age becomes a writer as a way to make lots of money, or if you do you just need to attend one writing convention or read a few blogs (thanks Lamellae for putting me onto that one) to quickly learn that there are easier ways to make your first million. But all writers at some point have to ask themselves, are they writing to make some money, or are they writing purely for themselves?

I’d like to think that ultimately the goal of all of us is to get to the second option. We will always be our first market that must be satisfied for us to be happy writers. Unfortunately being happy about what your write doesn’t always equate to being paid for what you write.

At the extreme end, you can write annual reports and business plans for companies and get paid for writing, but will you be satisfied? By the same token, you can write that story that has been bumping around in your head these past twenty years about a dog who can fly, and no-one else might want to read it, let alone pay for it.  

So with WriMoFoFo now started I’ve decided that for me a job can be the equivalent of my annual report writing. Typing out words isn’t what brings me pleasure, it is creating worlds and characters and flying dogs. So WriMoFoFo is going to be all about me this time around, and I’m going to have some fun.

After all, if my ultimate goal (as a writer) is to be able to write what I want to write, well then I can hand myself that goal right now. I’ll worry about publication later.

Nat

The drug of a nation

This weekend I saw an excellent exhibition on the machines of Da Vinci, and while he might not have invented the Cryptex (as claimed by Dan Brown) he was certainly no slouch. When he wasn’t painting, drawing or sculpting masterpieces, he was inventing things which have made all our lives better, and in some instances he invented stuff for things that weren’t yet invented (like pitch and roll measures for aircraft –yikes).

This of course left me feeling completely incompetent. The only thing I’ve ever invented was a delicious chicken/caper pasta sauce and a hot drink for getting rid of colds which tastes like sweet dirt and smells like well-used wet sandshoes.

But I am not alone. A lot of people I know have never invented life-changing contraptions or created beautiful works of art. So why was Snr Da Vinci so prolific and the rest of us so useless? I think The disposable heroes of hiphoprisy might have hit the nail on the head within the lyrics of their song; “Television, the drug of the nation, breeding ignorance and feeding radiation.”

When Da Vinci and his compatriots finished a long day at the office they did not flop home to watch the latest unreal reality TV or endless enigma within a riddle within a red herring drama. No, they entertained themselves. They invented things. They got creative.

So this week, in  the lead up to WriMoFoFo I’m going to record any ‘must see TV’ (of which I might add there is very little) and I’m going to see if I can get my creative juices flowing by banning the idiot box (as my mother likes to call it). I’m going cold turkey… Starting tomorrow.

Nat

Finding new words

I’ve had a lot of time to write in recent months, but I’ve mainly spent the time editing – something I usually put off as much as possible. Recently though, I’ve had three deadlines which all required new words. Amazingly enough I made all three!

The thing that strikes me is that often I have wanted to write new words, but when I looked at the screen nothing would come. So I turned back to the editing, something for which I had hard deadlines which also counted as writing. What changed between then and now to see the new words flow; it was having externally set deadlines.

One of my favourite short stories was a competition entry (which didn’t win) that I started writing at 8:30PM on the night it was due. I entered the story at 11:45PM –apparently it was the last submission before entries closed. Yes it could have (and has since) benefitted from a solid edit and a 24 hour rest, but without that external deadline it would never have been written.

This led me to ask the question of why I respect my self-set editing deadlines but not the new word ones. Finally it came to me; I had committed to friends and family about when they would be able to buy my novel on line, so lots of people knew that deadline. My new words had no such external commitment, they were just numbers in a spreadsheet.

Lucky for me my writers group is about to start a new WriMoFoFo (write more for four) and while we run it anonymously, I’m going to use it as a way to make myself more externally accountable. I will publish my targets and my actual achieved figures each Sunday.

Please feel free to join me, it starts on June 11th –so you still have plenty of time to plan what you want to tackle. For more info about WriMoFoFo see my last WriMoFoFo post. Let me know how you are tracking, even just in vague non-numerical terms. Maybe we can all get a few new words written!

Nat

Didn’t life get the script?

I have to confess I’ve been feeling a little despondent this week. After nearly 10,000 impressions (displays of my Paragon ad) I’ve received exactly zero click-throughs. I also know everyone who voted for my story in the Trading post competition (not the intention, my comic genius was meant to shine through so the public would hand over their vote, catapulting me to the top 5) and exactly none of my share-a-secret stories have been picked up by the women’s magazines.

Things are not sticking to my script.  

March is a significant month for me; it is the end of my six months off. My search for work has begun and the urgency was *meant* to be offset by the burgeoning success of my writing career. I was meant to be getting some income by now, or so it went in the script. Reality is turning out quite differently.  

A great philosopher (I think it was Calvin –form Calvin and Hobbes) once said; [we all think we are the lead character in the movie of our life, but one day we realise we are just the comic relief in a much bigger story].

Has that day come? Have I realised that perhaps there is no happy ending?

Not a chance! I’m a writer, and by definition we are dreamers in one way or other. I will look at this as just another bump that I have to overcome. Attitude is 90% of success, I’m sure, so as long as I don’t let myself wallow for too long (but give myself at least a few days, there is nothing as cathartic as a good wallow now and then) I’m sure I’ll get back on track soon.

So if you are down about something that is not working out as you planned, don’t listen to Calvin, you are the star of your own movie. Whatever is happening is just another plot twist to make the punch line that much more exciting.

Nat

Bending time

On Tuesday I had reason to wait around in an airport for over an hour. I managed to secure a seat in front of a TV and watched in shock as the latest natural disaster unfolded on the screen. After an hour of riveting, yet horrifying viewing I checked my watch and was amazed to see that really only ten minutes had passed. Three hours later, and I had only used up 30 minutes of my wait time. Something very strange was going on.

I pulled myself away from the vision of yet more evidence that maybe the 2012 fanatics were not all card carrying nutbags, and decided to walk the concourse. After watching three planes take off I nervously looked at my watch, sure I had wasted too much time and boarding was probably well underway at my now distant gate.

Only three more minutes had passed.

Then it struck me; time in the airport moves at a different pace. If you are early, it feels like wading through honey in a shaggy, full-length coat, if you are running late for your flight, it is like walking on sloping glass in shoes made of butter.

There must be a way to harness this.

I have friends who a) actually make some money out of writing, so b) have real deadlines for delivering it (not just self-made Excel spreadsheets with cells that change colour if you are behind). I think these friends need to book themselves on a flight somewhere and turn up for the plane a week early. Using my recent experience I estimate that it should give them about a year’s worth of writing time.

In the meantime, after nearly a day of waiting, my hour was up and I caught my flight home, ever mindful of all the people who would not be getting home that night, and how awfully fast and slow their minutes must be. I guess the message in this is no matter what speed your minutes are passing, they are indeed passing, so you need to make the most of every single one.

Nat

The Original Idea

This week the net is abuzz with news of a YouTuber who asked for a million dollars, and amazingly someone has given it to him. You can bet there will now be a spate of hopefuls loading up their requests for a million dollars and being sorely disappointed when they only get 34 views and no promises of money.

To be noticed these days, you need to do something original. Asking for money was not original, but requesting $1 million through the medium of YouTube was. Alas not any more. Now you need to do something different; ask a million people to give you a dollar, offer to do something peculiar for the million, or maybe tie some charitable act to your payment. Oh, and maybe use Twitter instead of YouTube! You need to think outside the box that has already been set, even if it was only set last week.

Writers face the problem of originality all the time. Many people say there is no such thing as an original story, you can only hope to weave familiar facets of a story together in a new way to give the feel of an original tale. For example, the story of a vampire who loves a mortal is not new, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight do it in massively different ways. And I’m sure the 200 vampire love stories published since Twilight were all different in their own way too, though not original enough to spawn their own wave of imitators.

So, the question is do you want to go for your own million dollar idea, or do you want to just twist an existing idea from another angle? I think I would rather try for something that has never been done before, it might be harder, but I’m sure it is much more satisfying. But if a million of you do want to send me a dollar, I wouldn’t say no either. I’ll even provide you with a koala photo for each ‘donation’ you send me. Here are a couple to start you off….

Koala in a tree fork

Koala from below

A valuable space

I’ve often read about writers who claim they must have their own space to write, preferably a dedicated room. Some even swear you cannot write unless you hire a suite away from home so you must travel to it like a job. I thought these people were a bit loopy, not to mention that they were clearly earning more from their writing than I was (yes, Paragon is still for sale –I need dental work so every sale counts).

That was until I moved in with people who are home during the day. Having your own space is not so much about allowing your creativity to flow as it is about sending a message to those around you that you are writing and you need to be alone. Trying to write with others nearby (I’m learning) is nearly impossible. Even when they are not talking to you, you can hear their tea-making, their interesting conversations and their delving into the pantry to open goodies that you are missing out on.

None of this is conducive for concentrating on writing.

So previously my valuable space was actually a timeframe, when the house was empty and I could set myself up anywhere I wanted and never be interrupted. Now I need to do what countless writers before me have done and carve out a little nook in the house to call my own.

If that doesn’t work there is always the library. After all, I need to get working on the sequel to Paragon, which I know you’ll all be begging for once you have read the first instalment!

Nat

I got the wrong ghost

I tried to channel my blog tonight. I just let my fingers hit the keys and hoped that something really witty would come out. It didn’t. I did manage three words that made sense: as, ale, & fie. I could probably turn them into a story, but it would involve a tavern, a beanstalk and lots of plagiarism.

Sometimes the words just don’t come.

What do you do when that happens? Well I can now tell you with confidence that you don’t just randomly bang away at the keyboard, unless you are after a sentence like this; Ncaieu as fie lai balie ale asei fo faiewnbix oain woine aosienaow’b. Then you hit some unknown combination of keys and minimise everything on your screen.

The best thing to do is just start writing. Write what you are thinking, even if it is about how much you don’t know what to write about. Describe the high level plot of the chapter or story you are hoping to start (or finish). Or tell the story of what you did this morning, even if it was something dull like going ballooning or juggling knives. Just write anything!

Will it be witty and wonderful and the best piece of work you have ever done? Not likely, but it will be words, and everyone knows that words lead to words. So while you might end up binning your first few paragraphs (or pages) before you get to the good stuff, at least you will be on the path to the good stuff, and that’s what counts.

So don’t let writer’s block beat you, and whatever you do, don’t let silly excuses stop you from writing. If all you can channel is an illiterate goat, then ditch the black arts and go for the literary ones, force the work out.

Happy writing,

Nat