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Giving Yourself Permission to Write

Even as a professional writer, taking the time to write feels a bit selfish. Yes, I’ve got a deadline, and yes, it’s a business, but still. I get to sit here and make up stories, and it feels a little self indulgent. I could be doing my laundry, or cleaning the house, or advertising the book. We often take the stance that this is procrastination, and sometimes it is. But other times, it can come from the idea that what we’re doing isn’t worthy of the time we’re spending on it.

Writing is something just for you. In many ways it’s a completely solo activity. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, people write in a group, and share stories, create together, but usually, the process of drawing out a story from within you to on the page, is a personal journey. Learning that the stories you have to tell are relevant and important is necessary to work well. If you think about it in terms of your feelings, regardless of how the work will be received or what others will say- you have a story within you, and you need to get it out. If the story stays untold, unacknowledged, it’s not going to be good for you. It’ll sit forgotten, itching at you. Like many things that reoccur and pop into our heads, nudging us for attention, it’s important to listen to them.

To ignore your artistry is to ignore how you work, and how you feel about it all. I run Writing for Wellbeing Workshops, and these are a fairly new and holistic way of using creativity. It’s thinking about the process and not about the outcome. Obviously, the writing you produced has a part to play, and often you’ll create some beautiful and meaningful work. The reason people come to these workshops is because they feel they need permission to spend the time on their writing, to take a break from their lives for the day, and focus solely on them and their creativity. It’s a brilliant atmosphere, and the hope is that when you finish the day, you’ll take away the sense that writing is good for you, and it’s not selfish to do it, but necessary and helpful to you.

There’s more details on the workshop here, but always try to remember that anything you do has purpose, and you can’t feel guilty about that.

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Words With Edge Festival!

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It’s finally happening!

At: Red Door Studios, Masterman Road (rear of 120 high street south) East Ham, E63RW

Sat 24th: Opening, feat Newham Music Hub, Poetry Society’s Slambassadors (Rhythm of Men, Megan Beech, Naga MC) and Dizraeli. 7pm Free entry

Sat 25th/Sun 26th: 11am-5pm  Workshops, performances from Early Doors Collective, Myths of the Near Future, Four Thirty Three Magazine, Hollie Mcnish (performance and poetry workshop), Arachne Press, Stairwell Books, Atlantic Books, Kids storytelling with Clare Murphy, Writing for wellness with Me! Scriptwriting, both beginners and people who want feedback, with Louise Davidson.

Tues 28th- Literary Pub Quiz, £3 entry, 7pm start

Weds 29th – Cake Club. Theme: stories. Bake about stories! Free entry if you bring cake, £2 entry if you just want to eat!

Thurs 30th- Theatre ThursdayThe Woodhouse Players perform The Book Club of Little Whitterington and Joz Norris in his one-man comedy ‘Awkward Prophet’free entry!

Fri 31st- Open mic from local authors and artists, followed by End of Festival (and end of my residency!) party! All welcome! Free! 7pm

 

For more info:

facebook.com/wordswithedge

@wordswithedge

 

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Paying for Validation: Buying Success.

 

In my post on The Thriving Creative website, I wrote that publication cannot give you validation. That’s not entirely true. What I meant, is that there is a delicate balance between self-belief and the respect of others. To have a publisher wave their magical publishing wand over you is only to tell you two things: they like what you wrote or they think you can make money. Usually, both.

I know writers who spend all their time worrying about whether or not other people like their work. These are usually in the beginning of their career, before being shot down or attacked in writing workshops beats it out of you. Some go the other way, and become so defensive of their masterpiece that they don’t think they need feedback. They know their story, and your opinion (if negative) is void. If it’s positive it just reinforces that they know better.

This is not the writer’s fault- they have responded to the pressure of their work, and unless you can find a balance, it’s hard not to become a dickhead. The problem is that validation becomes both impossible and necessary. ‘I’ve got a book deal’ can be waved in the face of anyone who ever criticised. But a book deal hardly defines quality anymore. It just defines whether something might have a chance of selling.

So what happens to that validation when we can just buy it? If we can afford to self-publish, surely we need no-one’s validation but our own. And yet, that is why self-publishing is still looked down on. If you didn’t think your work was good, you wouldn’t put it out there. If it’s affordable to ‘make’ yourself an author, then why not? Do self-published authors feel they are missing a vital element, do they feel looked down upon in literary society? Or is it the only way for them to ensure a pure vision and retain control?

I am currently working in a studio/gallery where we are considering how we put on exhibitions. Until now, artists have come to us, requested an exhibition, rented the space and done it. But is that how real galleries are run? If you are an artist, hoping to be picked for an exhibition, hoping for that validation of a confirmation, how can you get that by forking over money and just doing it yourself?

I suppose what I’m asking is ‘How do we know we’re any good, if we can buy that belief?’ Does ‘good’ always rely on other people? Or is ‘good’ more about marketing, branding, audience, timing?

To sell your validation (as a printer or a gallery space) is a dangerous thing. People enjoy throwing your name around as if you christened them a genius, and yet, all you’ve done is let them pay to have their own one-horn parade, really. So are you helping or hurting?

I haven’t got any answers here, I’m just assuming that a shortlist exists for a reason, and that rejection makes character, and that something earned instead of bought, will reap more rewards. What do you think?

 

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Writerly Resolutions for 2013

Hey there writers, readers and general people of the web-verse.

Happy 2013! I hope your resolutions are achievable and your will power is strong.

Here are a few of my writerly resolutions for the coming year. I’ve been looking at twitter, and everyone all over the place seems to intend to read more! Not a bad idea. There’s a strange level of disappointment in yourself when you haven’t read all the books everyone else has read, or whatever seems to be in vogue or is being made into a film. What books are you guys looking forward to reading this year?

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1. Learning to Love E-Books

This has been easier than anticipated. Since fighting violently against the e-book market, and denying that e-readers are at all a positive thing, I have got a kindle. And boy, I love it! I especially get very excited by scanning Amazon for books (as I did before) and then getting them automatically! Instantaneous reading excitement! It’s also very likely that when my book goes into publication, it will be as an e-book. So I want to convert as many people as possible. Plus, now I have more room in my bag when travelling!

I’m currently reading Mhairi McFarlane’s You Had Me At Hello, which has all the things I love, including sarcasm, snarkiness, nostalgia and a pretty boy. It’s also the closest thing I’ve found to my second novel The Last Word, so that’s comforting.

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2. Blogging the Crap out of Everything.

Whilst some people are probably sick to death of everything I say on this blog (please see comments on previous post for example, ha ha) blogging is how you get yourself known, and as countless SEO experts have said, it’s bloody important. I’ve been keeping up with my writing, reading and…no, not so much with the maths, but have been so busy doing it that I haven’t been blogging about it!

So 2013 will be the year of the blog…hopefully. And I’ll start uploading more samples of my work because when you let people know what you’re up to, you’re kind of obligated to keep going.

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3. Write, not just Type

I’m having a bit of a situation in figuring out physical mediums at the moment. Originally, I always used to write everything in a notebook, or write pages and pages of scraps, and then type once things already appeared to have a definitive form. With my latest project, I started typing from the get-go, and I’m not really sure about it. Also, I like pretty notebooks!

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4. Write Sober

Big fan of Hemmingway’s famous advice, and find it to be particularly useful, but seeing as I’ll be giving up alcohol for January, it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s easier to write when you’re not so foggy from a glass of red. I doubt it. I kind of believe that perception altering experiences are good, and that anything that brings your subconscious bleeting into the conscious in confused, pretty sentences is pretty damn awesome. But, maybe being sober will be a perception altering experience. Or I’ll drink twice the amount of tea.

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5. Believe

I will tell you the absolute truth, the same truth every person who calls themselves an artist and writes a blog, or gives out a business card or talks about their work thinks: I am a fraud. I’m only talking about what I know, and trying to make it sound as if I know exactly what I’m doing, or as if I have any control over who reads my books, who thinks I’m good, and who thinks I’m professional.

But that’s part of the game. I have to call myself a writer. If not, what am I? If I’m not, then how can I legitimately run workshops, give talks, feedback to other writers, edit other people’s work? We are all absolutely playing the part of the life we want, in the hopes that one day we’ll simply stop pretending and be. So I hope that you know that these musings are made delicately, hopefully and without ego. Or rather, just enough ego to appear confident.

And to all my other frauds out there- keep pretending. Most of them don’t know we’re faking it!

I’ll keep you posted about the novel publication, the latest project and all the wonderful things I’ve been reading on my magic electronic reading device!

Have a very happy new year, and keep writing! What are your resolutions this year, writerly, readerly or not? Stick them in the comments box!