Archives: Writing Nuggets

Tomorrow is Mine

Okay. Another day, another day of figuring stuff out. Today, I realised that I need to get back to the keyboard. If I rest for much longer, I’ll allow this bloody Block to grow into a monster. I can’t give it that power. I have to pick up my sword and keep hacking. 

Saying that, I needed a break. It was honestly my first one in years (except five days I spent in New York where I’d written 30k the previous week). I mean, I’ve not written every day all this time, but I’ve always been attempting to write a novel. Always. My brain has not once switched to the off position. And for that reason, I believe this break of two-three weeks has been necessary. It’s also something I need to incorporate into my schedule on a regular basis. 

HOWEVER, I think I’ve been guilty of giving up too easily on projects, especially in the last year. In the past, I’ve had ideas that have walked into my head and then onto the page, resulting in completed books (The Night Mage was one of them). I’ve also had many ideas that have stuttered and failed, mostly resulting in half-finished manuscripts. Because of this, I think I’ve come to believe that I can only finish a book if the original idea dances into my brain on top of a glittery unicorn.

If I believe this, I’m not going to have a long-term career writing fiction. That’s the brutal truth. Funny thing is, I know that writing is a grind – and I’ve been capable of great grinding, believe me – but it’s like I’ve forgotten it. Maybe months and months and months of Failure and feeling like UTTER SHIT has slowly morphed my thought process. Well, this break has given me perspective. Just because some books have been glorious, doesn’t mean they all will be. And if I wait around for the glorious ones, I’m not going to produce enough content to earn a living. #hardfacts

So, I’m getting back in the saddle.  Today I’m going to go to a coffee shop with my notepad, and think. No pressure – simply think. Perhaps one of my previous ideas can be resuscitated, or perhaps I’ll find the spark of something new. 

I’m also making some general changes, to stop myself falling so far down the hole again.

  1. I’m adding more activity into my life. Maybe some people can write all day every day, but I’m not one of them. As I said in my previous post, my Muse is a vampire. It needs rest and darkness, and my well of ideas needs refilling. I also need to do something about the horrible loneliness I feel throughout the day, so hopefully a wee volunteering gig will help.
  2. I’ve found a little pocket of the internet where I like to engage with writers. I’ve been searching for a space for so long and think I’ve found it at last. This should make the daily slog a little less gruelling.
  3. I’ve acknowledged that I’m way too hard on myself, and that needs to change. Hopefully, with the help of a counsellor, I can learn to be kind to myself while maintaining my ambition. 
  4. I’ve given up caffeine and refined sugar (for the most part) because they make me ill/mess with my mood. Hopefully this will alleviate the dreaded afternoon slump. 
  5. I’ve accepted that books take a loooooong time. I can’t write a book a month or anything like it. I think my range will be one-three books a year, depending on the project(s). 

Lastly, I’m reminding myself that I’m not a failure. I am a fighter (wooyeah! I’m blasting the Bayonetta soundtrack as I write this) and I AM COMING FOR YOU, BOOK. 

Big Bag of Nope

I’m out. My brain, at last, has emptied the last of its creative reserve and now I’m left with nothing but painful childhood memories and random character names from Game of Thrones. 

After a decent day on Monday, I found on Tuesday that I couldn’t write. No, I really couldn’t. I’ve been at this gig for nearly seven years now and have been through my fair share of ups and downs (which have been mainly downs and slightly deeper downs) so I know how to write through self-doubt, laziness, and compulsive urges to binge Netflix. Yesterday, however, was something new. 

Before, I thought I was blocked because no idea would stick. Well, HA!, now I have no ideas. At all. Like I said: I’m out. The well is dry, the cup is empty. Tumbleweed has blown in and somewhere in the corner, an old man plays a doleful tune on the harmonica. I don’t know what to do.

Steady Now

OKAY. I was wrong. About being blocked. I don’t have a shortage of ideas; I have a shortage of good ideas.

http://www.poorlydrawnlines.com/comic/an-idea/

I realised this after reading an interview with Philip Roth (well, half an interview, because I’m too cheap to subscribe), and a bunch of other quotes about writer’s block. Ideas take time. Ideas sputter and fail. You can spin your wheels for months. This is all part of the process. 

I’ve been trying to write my way out, going through idea after idea after idea, which seems to be recommended practice. And after my two-week holiday, I’ll get back to the keyboard, hacking away until something catches. 

I’ve decided to believe that all this toil is a good sign. It shows that my standards are rising, that I’m not willing to settle for a mediocre idea. I mean, this might be a load of rubbish, but it’s what I’m choosing to believe. So there 🙂

Obviously, I have a new idea! It popped up late Tuesday night, and I spent all yesterday mulling it over, scribbling in my notebook. I know I’m on a writing holiday, but I honestly couldn’t help myself! The urge to start Chapter One is strong, but I’m going to resist until Monday. I need this break. My plan for the next few days is to keep reading, keep mulling, and with any luck, this latest idea will still be calling to me come Monday morning. If not, then…I’ll keep plugging away regardless. 

Wait For It

Well, I took a week off from everything (and binged on the Olympics). I read The Earthsea Quartet, Beauty, The Last Unicorn, and The Darkest Part of the Forest.  And at the back of my head I thought I could feel a flicker of excitement, not for Beauty and the Beast, but for an older project of mine – The Forest King. I started that book in Spring 2017, had a few false starts, and eventually got to 30k before abandoning. Despite that, I’ve always thought it was a book I’d eventually dust down and rewrite, and I thought its time was now. 

I listened to its playlist; I pictured scenes in my head; I brainstormed (without writing anything down); I even reread the old manuscript (which is nothing more than a rough, scrappy draft – not even a first draft because it’s so incomplete). 

I thought I was ready. 

But then… I don’t know what happened. The flame died. I knew the story I’d written wasn’t right. Trouble was, I couldn’t find the right one. And then I realised I was back to my bad habit of searching hard for the spark of a story, chasing down the Muse. And I realised The Forest King would have to keep waiting.

So, battling the disappointment (and panic), my mind automatically returned to Beauty and the Beast, playing around with the characters, sitting them around tables, chatting, and occasionally making them do interesting things. BUT the story isn’t there either. And I’m worried I haven’t settled on the right tone yet. I’m also worried about starting a series – my attention span is limited – and B&B was always intended as the first in a series of related fairy tale retellings. 

UGH. That sums me up right now. Cos now the Olympics are over and my holiday is over and I’m left with the dark wall of writer’s block and the challenge of filling up my day. Yes, I have a list of things to be getting on with, but I’m finding it soooooo difficult to block out the voice in my head that says you know you really should be writing a book by now

I’ve never, ever, had such a shortage of ideas. My brain used to be filled with them, and now it’s dry and dusty. For a creator, that is…terrifying. 

TL:DR – I am very scared. Please send wine and inspiration.

The Void

Everyone warns you that being a writer is lonely, but nothing can fully prepare you. It’s tough to switch from being with people all day (even people you’d quite like to punch in the face) to just you and your thoughts. The loneliness isn’t so bad when I’m working hard on a project, but right now, with my lack of ideas, the isolation is hurting more than usual. 

It’s rubbish. And I’m not sure there’s a proper solution. I know that working in coffee shops can help a bit, and so can staying busy in the evenings and weekends. I know that exercise can help, as can arranging meet-ups with friends. I’ve done all these things – many times. But nothing changes the fact that most days, for most of the time, I’m on my own. 

It’s the curse of being a writer. 

On a slightly more positive note, I finished my ‘strange photo’ short story, and did a few character studies. I now want to work on a 2000 word freestyle story – about what, I have no idea. (I also want to learn to ski, thanks to my Winter Olympics binge, but know it will never happen because it is a) cold, b) scary, c) expensive, d) full of douche-bags.)

Laugh or Cry

LOL. 

No really, I have to laugh. What did I just say, about this version of B&B feeling good? Yup. Good feelings gone. 

This has happened so many times now that I know something’s up. This goes beyond story. There’s something broken in me. (Oh goody.) I’ve got theories.

Possibility Uno: I have nothing to say about Beauty and the Beast. The Night Mage is kinda B&B-esque, and I did complete a novella in the summer that summed up a lot of what I have to say about beauty. I didn’t decide to write B&B because I had a fantastic idea; I decided to write it because I thought it would be commercially viable. (GREAT IDEA NOT.) So, maybe I’m out? 

Possibility Dos: I’ve been chasing the Muse like a rabid hunter for the last couple of years. I’ve been so desperate to write books quickly, I’ve been chasing any half-assed idea until the point of collapse. My fav books, including The Night Mage, all arrived in my head semi-formed when I wasn’t looking for them. It’s like my attention has to be elsewhere for a story (or usually, a couple of characters) to have the courage to poke its wee head out. 

(To be honest, I think my first and second theories are both true, therefore combining to form one MEGA TRUTH, and therefore there’s no need for a third option. I know what’s wrong. In ma bones, I know it.)

A Plan of Action

I can’t sit around and mope, nor can I take a break from writing (I’ve tried – it’s impossible), nor can I continue down this Path of Madness. So I’ve come up with a plan. This is my plan. *drumroll*

  • To treat myself like an Olympic athlete*, where I train and train and train in preparation for the big event. Except the big event is an idea for a book, and unlike the Olympics the timing is unknown, so really I’m more like a firefighter than an Olympian, but I’m sticking with my original analogy. 
  • Training is broken down into two components: creativity and craft. Creativity training involves a lot of fast, free-flowing writing. Nae rules, no editing – just words. Craft, on the other hand, is more like deliberate practice, where I write with intention, edit with precision, and study grammar, story, and writers I admire. 
  • When an idea comes, I trust my gut. If I think it’s got legs, then I go for it. If the legs fall off, then…you win some, lose some. I hope I can still tell when an idea is worth pursuing, and when it has run out of steam. I hope I haven’t broken myself beyond repair. 

So, that’s my plan. I need a way of continuing to work every day without hounding down any whiff of a novel like some foaming, manic mutt. 

No mutts. That is my new motto.

 

 

*I’m watching the Winter Olympics right now. Those figure skaters…damn.