Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Over the last year I have discovered my magic formula - the best way to get my creative juices flowing, and as a result am able to write anywhere, which is awesome.
For those of you who could do with a shake up, have lost your creative mojo, are stuck in one line of thinking or with that dreaded blank page/canvas etc or just want something new to try – here is what works for me.
A space I can work. A clear surface for starters.
My first novel I wrote on a table in the lounge surrounded by life. The second I wrote in a corner of my son’s bedroom, I literally had to climb over lego and slide his piles of stuff out of the way to form a walkway through to my desk. It sounds crazy, it is crazy! But that’s just life, so I put on my big girl panties, my headphones and my focus and blocked out my surroundings.
Music or Silence.
I use headphones for both. Whether I am listening to spotify, or just using the ear-buds to block out distraction, it is essential. In public it is also a warning to people. One that says ‘I am otherwise engaged…do not under any circumstances talk to me!’
I wrote book one in silence. And books two and three with music. Music is one of those things. If you get right it can help you find your zone, OR the second it sounds you have to stop yourself from flinging those headphones against the wall in horror because it does the opposite. Be flexible, work out what works, listen to a wide range of music outside of your writing time, and then try it out.
Water, A full thermos, coffee sachets, tea bags and a mini thermos of milk.
Some people find it necessary to get up to make a drink. I do not! When I start, I prefer not to stop. I like it to be ready and on my desk to make and sip as I go. Filling up the thermos and getting these things ready also helps to prepare my mind for writing . This is my routine, the thing that tells my brain 'it’s writing time.'
As I said, I don’t like to get up and waste my precious writing time preparing food. I also get so into my work I don’t get hungry. So, to stave off starvation and feed my brain, I have nuts and crackers on my desk to munch on as I need them. I try to avoid high fat/sugar foods, due to the fact that I refuse to get up off my tushie.
My friend Amy-Leigh Wicks - an incredible poet - taught me the power of timed sessions, and I will be forever grateful. I do half-hour sessions. When I am in a timed session there is no drink making, no toilet visits, no research, no pen tapping, just no no no! When the timer is on I am writing. Then I have a five-minute break between sessions. Although as you will gather as you get to know me, I am a tad obsessive when I am writing, and unless my bladder is going to literally burst its dam, I often just start that timer straight up again and keep going until there is a natural lull.
A way to track your progress
I personally find this incredibly motivating. I log each of my half hour sessions, what I was listening to, a few words about the part of the book I was writing and how many words I wrote. I love looking back and seeing my progress. I can also see what I was listening to when I had a really productive session, or when I wrote a similar scene, this is invaluable information for me.
When I am writing I engage my monkey mind. It is darn speedy and a little bit nuts - thankfully I type fast. While I am writing scenes I often have other ideas pop up for later in the story, or something I didn’t know about my character or even an idea for another book. I do not engage in these thoughts. Instead I jot them down in my active notebook and keep going with the scene I am writing.
A muzzle for your internal editor.
I am not interested in listening to that judgemental, bossy and interrupting voice that likes to interfere in my writing process. My first draft is rapid fire, trying to keep up with the conversations in my head. (No, I do not hear voices, well yes, I kind of do, but since they are the characters I am creating on the page, I am okay with it….).
The darn editor tells you have to follow the rules, or that sentence wasn’t good enough or nobody is going to want to read this drivel etc etc. Well they can shut the heck up! First drafts are about embracing the crazy. Getting what is inside you, out! Go wild, and put that editor in its place. They will have their time later.
Courage & Determination
If you want to write a book. Write a book. If you are an architectural writer then make your lovely flowcharts, and build your story piece by piece, Just do it!
If you are a gardener, like me – write your first word, have that first conversation and watch that beautiful garden of wild flowers bloom, and then marvel as things you didn’t even know were in the soil of your mind, flourish.
I think that is my favourite part – when my characters argue with me (yeah yeah, those voices again….). I love it when I am challenged by them, when I tell them to go right and they force my hand left. Again…just embrace the crazy – that is where the magic is.
I love the truth that there are only 26 letters in the English language, and writing a book is literally writing one of those 26 letters at a time, one word at a time. The hardest part is starting. After that, I fall back on the Dory method…Just keep swimming….or in our case. Just keep writing.
Work out your strength, and use it.
Mine is dialogue and character development. So, if I hit a wall, if a scene falls flat or I experience writers block, I write dialogue. It doesn’t even need to be relevant to the story I am writing, just writing it is enough to flip the switch. More times than not, before I have finished my piece of writing practice, I have switched into my characters voice and I have stepped back into my current work.
If you have not worked out how to step into your zone, try some of these. But the most important thing of all is love what you do. Be passionate about your work – because that, more than anything else is evident in your writing.