Hello, it’s me.

Right. So at the beginning of the year, I set myself two goals:

1. Write more

2. Blog more.

Re Goal #1, I’ve been working steadily on WIP in between full-time work and life in general. I’m maybe about halfway through and I wanna to tear my hair out / set the whole bloody thing on fire and never look it in the eye again it’s coming along swimmingly. My aim is to at least finish the first draft by year end, though that deadline might flutter by cheerfully seeing as it’s August already. But we won’t talk about that.

On Goal #2, however, I have failed. Spectacularly. Journalling has never been my strong suit – I much prefer to make stuff up as an outlet – so it’s a given I’d suck at blogging too. And while I like technology and reading blogs and following favourite authors etc, I’m terrible with social media. I am, to no surprise, a happy introvert. Hell, it’s why I love writing so much (hours on end of speaking your thoughts on paper, uninterrupted! Sign me up!)

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A writer’s desk, on which many worlds are made and destroyed (but really where the most common thing that happens is procrastination)

But you know, it’s actually lovely to be writing something other than your WIP. It’s a helpful exercise in being concise, which is beneficial in cutting out the bullshit from your manuscript. It’s also nice to write in your own voice from time to time, rather than your characters’. And if you’ve come up against a plot block in your story, blogging is a great way of stepping back, re-gathering your thoughts and even getting helpful suggestions from other writers.

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So as is often the case of late, I’ve concocted some mantras for the reluctant blogger such as myself:

1. Start small

You don’t have to be everywhere all at once, all in the beginning. Start with platforms that are familiar and/or easy. Privately, I’m most active on Facebook. Writing-wise, I like using Instagram to convey bursts of thoughts and inspiration, plus there are so many beautiful accounts to admire/waste time on.

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2. Interest

Write about things that interest you. Of course. From 19th century female thugs to forensic pathology to the ergonomics of writing (more on that later *excitement*), whatever takes your fancy. Even if it’s never read or liked or commented upon.

3. Schedule it

Whether it be weekly, two-weekly, monthly etc. (I’m workin’ on this one)

4. Don’t beat yourself up about it

Social media platforms is only one aspect of engagement, albeit an important one, especially if you want to be published. But if you’d rather be writing than blogging, I say go for it. Stress less, write more.

5. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole

Paradoxically, social media and blogging is just easier, and sometimes more enjoyable, than wrangling that ‘recalcitrant manuscript‘. So self-discipline is the best super power to have here. That or Hermione’s Time-Turner.

If there’s anyone else out there with tips, tricks and laments for the beginner blogger, I’d love to know! Otherwise, it’s back to the writing desk I go. Ciao!

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Creativity: it’s not that big a deal…and that’s why it’s awesome!

I’m gonna get a little kumbaya and quote some Elizabeth Gilbert, namely from an interview with Radio National’s Book and Arts promoting her latest book, Big Magic. Admittedly, I haven’t read her books (I tend to jump onto the hype wagon pretty late) but I’ve always enjoyed listening to her interviews. There’s just something compelling and mellifluous about her voice that encourages you to absorb it all in.

Here, she has some interesting things to say about creativity and the arts that I felt really hit home with me:

A contract with creativity

“I will never ask you to support me financially; I will always support you financially. You are creativity, you don’t know what my gas bill means, you don’t know what rent is. You don’t need to know what those things are, those are worldly concerns. I will take care of the worldly concerns. You, creativity, take care of igniting my soul. That’s our contract.”

“Everything matters more.”

“Everything is more important [than art]. We need clean water, we need better reproductive rights for women, we have food insecurity, we have global warming. Everything matters more. The reason the arts is so delicious is because they don’t matter. Because it’s one of the few things that we have in this world where the consequences are so slight that you can actually play, that you can goof around, and that you can fail.”

“We get really dramatic about the work that we make but it’s just decoration, it’s just superfluous, and that’s why you can love it safely. And that’s why it’s nothing to kill yourself over. Really. Take it seriously, yes, but don’t take it seriously.”

Writers are often anxious of creativity, and we don’t have to be. Certainly, some of us depend on it for our livelihoods, but I think remembering it’s a path we freely chose and that it doesn’t have to be a big deal is quite liberating.

(You can also listen to Elizabeth’s Big Magic podcast, which expounds on similar themes and thoughts from the book.)

Of slow brains and juggling acts

These past few weeks (nay, months) I’ve been heads down over my WIP because I’ve finally worked through that Plot Block that’s been plaguing me. Hooray!

It’s been a very quiet, almost unceremonious, word-by-painstaking-word breakthrough. There was no flash of epiphany, no Great Insight or Sudden Awakening. There was a lot of butt-sitting, scribbling in and scribbling out, moody spaced-out silences and a ton of re-writing. Not to get it right; just to get through it. I figure if I write crap now, I can edit the crap out of it later.

I sometimes think of my writing progress as having been cleaved in two: pre-motherhood and post-motherhood. My brain is a little slower nowadays and it takes longer to find the right words (ok, I’m not getting younger either). In documenting the trivial self-discoveries, I feel like I’m re-learning how to write as a mother, as well as a wife, as a daughter and sister, a colleague etc. All these aspects of myself that must be juggled, as any writer must.

I think the loss of ease with which I used to write is not something to be mourned, but rather something to be redrafted and edited, over and over as situations change. That it should be embraced as a personal triumph.

So I’m going to revel in the mistakes and the story because I’m still writing. And that counts.

Confessions of a wannabe novelist

What happens on a good writing day:

5am – Alarm rings. Wake up. Coffee.

5:30am – Turn on Freedom. Write.

7:30am – Household wakes. Spend time with the hubby and daughter.

1pm – Daughter’s naptime. Write.

3pm – Daughter wakes up. Spend time with family and continue with the rest of the day.

7:30-8pm – Daughter’s bedtime. Write. Finish a scene, makes notes for the next.

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What typically happens on a writing day:

5am – Alarm rings. Snooze till 6am.

6am – Wake up. Coffee. Write. (check mail and facebook in between, just a bit)

7:30am – Household wakes. Family time.

1pm – Daughter’s naptime. Write. Hang on, need to research 19th century handcuffs. Ooh, need a slow cooker. Or let’s look at Apple Watch reviews.

3pm – Daughter wakes up. Continue with rest of the day.

7:30pm – Daughter’s bedtime. Attempt to write. Delete ‘the’, change ‘then’ for ‘however’. Fall asleep in front of computer. Ah fergeddit, Penny Dreadful is on. Join Hubby on the couch.

Don’t call it writer’s block. Call it a ‘plot block’…until proven otherwise.

I’m stuck.

I’ve been stuck since November last year. See, I’ve rewritten this one particular scene about 10 times, trying to find the angle that works. I don’t think I can even write the next scene until I’ve sorted it out.

I do plan the story a few chapters ahead, then wing it up to that point, and repeat etc. I like the spontaneity of that method but it often lands me in a few plot point conundrums.

So, when I’ve hit a wall in my WIP, I tend to do a number of things:

1) Don’t call it writer’s block. Call it a ‘plot block’. That way you can say the ideas are still there but you’re just unsure how to proceed (total genius, right?).

2) Stare at the screen/page until something comes out (again, genius).

3) Re-read and rewrite furiously, shit or gold it matters not. If you keep making stuff up, eventually something will make sense.

4) Stare out the window until something comes out.

5) Read a bad book and tell yourself you can write better than this.

6) Read a great book and tell yourself you suck big time but that you’ll keep trying.

7) Procrastination is as useful as intense concentration. Think endlessly about the plot circle of hell you’ve written yourself into, all while you’re supposed to be doing something else.

8) Go back to basics. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think it should.

9) Keep a writing journal detailing your woes and despair, your lone insights and flashes of brilliance. It keeps the juices flowing and your journal won’t mind if you’re full of crap.

10) Allow yourself to daydream. It really is ok.

To be continued…