Welcome to the Inspiration Diaries! Last year we had six writers – three published, three on their way – checking in each month as a sort of ‘year in the writing life’. (You can catch up here.) This year we’re doing things a little differently. Three new Inspiration Project graduates will give us a monthly insight into their writing lives, but first Catherine, Carmel and Hazel will share some of their favourite writing advice in our new series, 5 Steps To…
5 Steps To… Fall in Love with Your Writing
Roses are red, Violets are blue, I find writing really hard, How about you?
It’s February. The month of love. Whatever about pink prosecco and M&S meal deals (peak romance in my book!), romancing your writing is what this month’s tips are all about. Of course writing feels so easy during those starry-eyed early days of new ideas and first chapters, but we can just as easy fall out of love with our words, take them for granted, and forget what we ever liked about them in the first place. So, here are five easy steps to re-ignite that spark:
- Date nights. Yes! It works for writing, too. Take a day to really romance your writing. Clear the desk/kitchen table/wherever you write, light a candle, send your desk some flowers, switch off social media, write for the pure creative joy of it, and remind yourself why you fell in love with this craft in the first place.
- Five things you love. Remind yourself of those early days when you set the alarm for 6am and stayed up past midnight because you were so in love with your idea. Write down five things you love about writing. Stick them above your desk, or to your face, or the cat. Whatever works!
- Stop complaining. Writing isn’t easy. It isn’t meant to be. Accept that first drafts are awful, and structural edits are intense, and waiting to hear is part of the job, and get on with it! As Elizabeth Gilbert so perfectly puts it in Big Magic: “Most of my writing life consists of nothing more than unglamorous disciplined labor. I sit at my desk and I work like a farmer, and that’s how it gets done. Most of it is not fairy dust in the least. But sometimes is is fairy dust.”
- Re-read a book you love. Leave your own words and go back to a much-loved book. Savour the words, pages and characters all over again, and then ask yourself why you love it so much. What is it about that book that works so well? What can it teach you about your own writing? Remember that the author of that book most probably fell out of love with their words at some stage, too.
- Share the love. Get involved in the writing community. Read other people’s books. Go to their book launches. Cheer their successes. You will learn so much from spending time with other writers and will definitely return to your own writing inspired, energised (and possibly slightly hungover). Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely existence at all.
What do you love most about writing? Let us know in the comments below!
Hey y’all, Happy Valentine’s Day. Feel free to dive into that box of chocolates you’ve been eyeing all day, and while you sit back, relax, and nibble away, I’ll catch you up on what has been happening in my world.
As I look back on the last few weeks, it’s clear I’ve been more juggler than writer. I had two trips back to back; neither conducive to writing, so I made the decision to leave my laptop at home. I know, I know, I hear y’all gasping from here. But hold on, I had a plan. Instead of focusing on the writing I wouldn’t be doing, I decided to follow Catherine’s advice and set some intentions for the year.
Goal number one: Always be open and honest about my writing journey. Easy, next. Goal number two: Write every single day. Harder, but definitely doable. Yay me! I’m rocking this goal setting thing. Goal number three: Finish my first draft. Yes! I will do it. Hold on, just one slight problem. Which first draft? Y’all are gasping again; don’t forget I can hear you. I’m going to be completely honest (see goal #1) and admit something to you. I am now the proud owner of two unfinished works in progress. How did this happen?
You probably know all about this ‘write a novel in November’ challenge. During the fall, I was struggling with my regular writing routine and found myself looking for some motivation. After reading more about the project, I concluded writing 50,000+ new words, in one month, was exactly the kick in the pants I needed. Let’s just pretend for the moment I’m sane and simply love a good challenge. On November 26th, at midnight, I submitted my final word count of 51,043 words. Not a finished draft, but a good start, which leads me to my decision. We will chat later about the reasons, but this is the WIP I’ll be tackling these next few months. Oh, and one final thought regarding my NaNoWriMo experience. I was reminded of something I had forgotten; I’m a very good juggler! Wonder if the State Fair is hiring?
The last month of writing has been slow but steady. I’ve been following Time Clare’s 100 days of writing podcast. It’s very interesting and very useful; I’ve been doing the ten minute exercises every morning on the bus to work. It’s a good time to write. I find it can be quite productive, even when I feel exhausted. When I’m not following a writing prompt from the podcast I continue the first draft of my second as yet unnamed novel. I don’t bring my laptop, instead I type all those words straight onto my phone, using the google docs app. Just a few months ago if you had told me that I would write thousands of words on my phone, I probably would have laughed, but I’ve found it works. I can listen to music or just the sounds of other commuters snoring.
If, like me, you are trying to fit your writing around a full time job and family commitments, you need to find ways to squeeze your writing time – your ‘me time’ – into the day or the week, so now that I know I can write on my phone, there’s no excuse really. I appreciate it may not suit everyone and even though I am finding time to write every day it never feels like enough. I wish there were eight or nine days in a week, or that I could disappear off into a cabin in the woods for a few months to get some work done. Anyone with family knows how hard it is to find the time or space to write. Sometimes you need to find a physical place to bash out ideas and sometimes its headspace you need. I struggle with focusing on anything creative when the distractions of family life are all around and I know I’m not alone in that, but slowly, sometimes painfully slowly, word by word I’ll get there.
Does knowing your genre help or hinder you when writing?
Last November I completed my second novel and I popped it away into a drawer as recommended and tried to forget about it. But I couldn’t forget about it. Besides having named all the characters after family members and desperately trying to come up with new character names, the whole tone novel felt off. I couldn’t figure it out what it was until I did two things.
The first was that I wrote something else entirely. I felt the urge to write a piece that was just for me, might possibly become a long term philosophic project, or might become nothing. What it had to be was free from constraint, but considered, and with that sense of freedom and that allowance I gave myself to think, I sat down and wrote fifteen hundred words in a short space of time.
The second thing was that I gave feedback on a fellow writer’s short story. It’s a privilege and a challenge to be asked to read someone’s work. I love to help other writers, so I threw myself into this project. I hope that my analysis of that work has helped my friend as much as it’s helped me because what I discovered was that the questions I was asking them, I had also to ask of my own work. Specifically I needed to answer why did I feel my novel it wasn’t right?
The answer came to me as I emailed my feedback to my friend: I had a genre problem. I remembered the joy I felt when I free-wrote and remembered how I’d felt when I started the novel. I thought of the books that I enjoy reading now, and came to the realisation that I was shoe-horning my writing into the wrong genre. I had been writing, albeit slightly unconsciously and slightly consciously, with a genre in mind and that genre was controlling me in all the wrong ways. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer to my question, except that maybe, for me, considering genre too much stifles my writing, but for you it may be exactly the guide you need.
Join us next month and each month for the rest of the year for more writing advice from Catherine, Carmel and Hazel, and to check in with our scribes!