writing tips

Writer’s Tips for Getting through The Slump

Two days ago I freaked out. I have an 80000 word book due at the end of September, and as of last night I’ve done 16000 words. I have an essay due. I have some editing. I have a lot of crap to write, and all I could do was clean my house and sit blankly in front of my laptop having an anxiety attack. So then I’d go for a run, or go to the gym. Or clean some more. And then panic some more. Then I’d send a freaked out email to my editor telling her how panicked I was. Then I’d moan at my writer friends.

Did any of this help me write the book? No. (Although both my editor and writer friends made me feel better!)

Deny the slump

So here’s some things I did to deal with The Dreaded Slump:

  • Change your environment! (I went to sit and work in Cinnamon Square, which is one of my favourite places to write)
  • Treat yourself to something delicious (Somehow, cake makes writing easier. I swear it’s scientific)
  • Write for fun- do some random writing tasks, some freewriting, or write from a different character’s perspective for a bit
  • Know that you’ve got through this before, and it always feels like shit sometimes.
  • Know that you are incapable of judging your own work at times like this.
  • DO NOT EDIT. Rush on through like a train- no stopping at pointless stations!
  • Remember you used to do this because you LIKE writing, you like the story you’ve got!
  • Deadlines can be changed, just don’t leave it- make sure you’re still writing.
  • Read something you love, and remind yourself that stories are great!

I’m back on track with the writing now. Am I still panicked about the deadline? About the word count? About not having enough hours in the day? Yes, of course. But I’m enjoying writing again. And I have cake.

• TROPICAL •• TASTE •

therapeutic writing

Is All Writing Therapeutic Writing?

Is all writing therapeutic? I’m pretty sure it isn’t. When talking to writer friends hacking away at their novel, or stressing over edits, or rewriting that same conversation four times because it just doesn’t flow correctly…well, no, that doesn’t sound therapeutic.

But maybe it is.

These last few days I worked at Larmertree Festival in Wiltshire, running creative writing workshops. This is something I have been lucky enough to do for the last five years now, and I love it. Last year, I introduced ‘Writing for Wellbeing’ workshops for the first time, and this year I ran two, which were quite popular. I also ran a few standard ‘Creative Writing Workshops’ and a Kid’s workshop. And what did I realise? All of them, in a way, are focused on wellbeing. They all include the principles of a Writing for Wellbeing workshop.

These included, group dynamics, feeling safe enough to share or not, using our own history and stories as ideas, being supportive of the other group members, being playful with your writing.

What else did I learn? Any prompt can be a trigger. You don’t know what people are going through. As I’ve been running wellbeing groups, I’ve been very careful to be a facilitator- I’m in the ‘therapeutic’ state of mind. But standard creative writing groups don’t deserve anything else- their prompts can also hurt or upset people. Just because we have made the distinction in our mind doesn’t mean that the effects aren’t the same. I chose an incorrect prompt, simply because I thought ‘standard creative writing’ workshops weren’t capable of the same power as wellbeing ones. And that’s not true.

There is something about responding in words that makes us feel certain things- lists make us feel certain, or determined, or sometimes more confused. Recipes make us feel guided, or perhaps a little rebellious, eager to make them our own. Reviews, rants, letters, complaining emails, twitter posts…all these little ways of expressing ourselves in words have an emotional reaction. If they didn’t, why would we do them?

So as a facilitator, my lesson here was to pick things that can be engaging without overwhelming- my context is not everyone else’s. Think carefully about what you bring into the room. But also, even when I’m slogging through writing a bit of a novel that seems rubbish, or writing a rambling blog post…I feel better. I feel expressed. And maybe that’s the point. Any writing can be powerful, as long as we let ourselves connect.

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business

Aligning Planets, Aligning Dreams: How to be an efficient creative being.

I didn’t see the eclipse this morning. I was lying in what felt like the world’s most comfortable bed, in the most gorgeous hotel, having drunk a leetle too much champagne the night before and simply breathing. I lay there in this comfortable bed and thought ‘Ah, I remember this. This is what it feels like not to worry.’

I am a worried. I am also a planner, a schemer, a long-term investor, a busy body and someone who gets rundown easily. I am possibly the worst person to be self-employed. I do maths, I make charts- ‘How can I increase my efficiency?’ ‘Can I squeeze in any more hours this week?’ ‘How much more can I get done if I learn to be happy with six hours sleep a night?’

This is not the right way to be efficient. Or creative. Or a human being that other human beings want to be around.

This is the way to a nervous breakdown and a heartattack before I’m thirty.

So as I lay there in this very comfortable bed, doing nothing but ruminating and breathing, I thought to myself ‘Why am I panicking when everything seems to be going right?’

I wonder if you ever have this sensation too? That you are so full of dreams and hopes and plans that they never feel like they’ll get there soon enough. And by the time they arrive, you are too busy worrying about the next plans to fully enjoy them.

This, I believe, is about alignment. On my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, I was required to write a five year arts and business plan. This was meant as a tool to equip me on my writing career. It had contacts, it had aims and goals and ways of achieving them. But nowhere in that plan did I factor in the astonishing realisation that whilst you’re working towards these goals, life is still happening. Life doesn’t stop to let you catch up, or get ahead. I could sit here and work out that x+y = 13 books a year, and how much a % commission is and what likelihood it is that I could write full time…but you know how my time would be better spent? Writing book 5. And letting book 13 work itself out when I get there.

I spend a lot of time tutoring kids in analysing Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. It’s a brilliant book, and often the essay question the kids get is: ‘Explore the importance of dreams in the novel.’ It throws them, because they can’t see any dreams in the novel, no-one’s asleep and imagining crazy things, no-one’s looking up at the Hollywood sign and saying ‘I’m gonna be a star’ (although one character thought that, once). It’s a landscape of failed dreams and unachievable goals. But here’s the catch, the important thing was to have a dream. To let it nourish you, to give you strength to get through another crappy day where nothing seemed to change. To let it be your lullaby when your weary head hit the pillow.

My lesson here, dear readers? Dreams should be invigorating, they should give you purpose and movement and strength. But they are no substitute for real life. Let your dreams inspire your life, but let your life be more important than your dreams. Work hard, play hard and BE PRESENT. Only then, can your creativity align with your passion. I’d also recommend mindfulness, and I’ll be posting some mindfulness writing tasks next week for those of you who want to be more present in your present!

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Writing to Be Your Own Hero

When I was younger, I often felt like life was happening to me, instead of ‘me’ happening to life. I was the sidekick in someone else’s story. It’s a pretty disempowering feeling, the idea that all around you people are making things happen, forging on with their journeys and experiences, and meanwhile you’re stuck, really only there to provide support to the main character, to be their shoulder to cry on and kooky best friend.

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We are ALL the main characters in our own life, and we ALL have stories to tell. I’ve been working on exploring how The Hero’s Journey, a sort of template for adventure stories, can help people in their search for wholeness. We explore who we are as a hero, what magical elixir we’re searching for (our life goal/aim) and who we encounter on the journey (mentors, demons, tricksters).

When we start to look at our lives through the archetypes and metaphors, it’s easier to notice patterns. It’s easy to see that the kindly older person we constantly seek advice from is our mentor, and that often much of our problems on the path are self-imposed by our shadow selves, by doubt and fear and anger.

I’m currently working on creating a program using The Hero’s Journey to help those on a journey of wellness and health, so if you’ve had problems with self-image, EDs or are struggling to reach your fitness goals with a positive outlook, get in touch to find out more about the study I’ll be doing this year.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in The Hero’s Journey, I’d suggest looking into The Writer’s Journey.

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New Goal, New Dream, New Year.

I’m a dreamer. I’m a planner. And I’m not the only one.

As a writer and someone interested in the therapeutic benefits, I can tell you this: writing down your goals makes them real. However, spending time THINKING about these goals is more important. Pick something that means something to you. Something that will change your life, that will stretch you but not break you.

I have a terrible habit of picking a hundred things I want to do. Or I pick a goal, but don’t plan HOW I’m going to get there. Achieving our dreams is a process that includes planning, thinking, visualising and DOING.

For example, I’m sitting here thinking: I want to have four more books out next year. That’s entirely possible. But I’m sitting here thinking about that instead of editing the book that would be the first out of those four. There is a time for dreaming and a time for doing.

Use these next couple of days wisely- think about what you want from 2015, but more than that, think about what you can do TODAY to make those dreams possible! Every journey starts with a step, yes, but it also is continued by steps every day, and there’s usually a map and a general sense of direction! Get together your tool kit for 2015, what’s going to help you on your journey?

My aims for 2015:

-To have four new novels out

-To get to grips with vlogging, podcasts and other active forms of social media

-To continue on my healthy journey, and explore how creativity can promote health

-To make more money from the work that I do, working smart instead of just working hard

-To find adventures and explore every day

 

Some of these are personal, some are professional, but all can be achieved with a plan and a little time each day to consider whether what I’m doing is taking me towards where I want to be. In my toolkit, I’ll need motivation, the support of friends and family, a work ethic, a dozen reminders of my goals, and an understanding of what my success will look like.

How will you know if you’ve achieved your goals? How can you tell what your doing is working? Think of a plane’s trajectory- the smallest change in direction at the beginning of a journey can be all the difference at the end of it.

Go slow, go steady, and get excited.

Wishing you a creative and fruitful New Year.

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Why Big Breaks are Bullshit, and other tales from the Writer’s Life

My housemate is a lovely person. She tends to talk me up to people. When she was explaining what I do for a living, and that I’m an author, her work colleagues asked, ‘that’s great. Is she just waiting for her Big Break now then?’

Big Breaks are a myth. There is no one defining moment in a writer’s life that means they’ve ‘Made It’. Often, we think getting an agent, or getting a publishing deal, or finishing a body of work is the Big Break. But I’m a firm believer in the fact that even though those rituals are recognised (and really exciting) they are only one more step on the journey.

We don’t wait around for breaks, we make them. By writing the book, by talking to authors and bloggers and reviewers, by blogging and connecting and entering competitions and continuing to have belief in our goals, no matter what.

The goal posts are constantly shifting for authors. First it’s agent, then publishing house, then bestseller, then multi-book deals, then royalty percentage. Then what about the movie deal? And is it really any good? Maybe you’ve got all these things, but people still think you’re waiting to ‘make it’ because they haven’t heard your name, or haven’t seen you on the cover of Hello Magazine.

We confuse success with fame, and we confuse creative lives with lives of ease. When you do something as a job, it involves dedication and hard work, regardless of whether you love it or not.

The writers who ARE sitting around waiting for their big breaks, well, I don’t classify them as writers. I consider them to be Writers-in-Waiting. If you don’t have the confidence or commitment to chase after your dreams, even in the face of derision or judgement, well, you’re in waiting. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s the nature of the game that no-one is going to come along and drop a multi-billion pound book deal in your lap if you’re not doing all the groundwork.

Ways to Make your Own Breaks:

Write. Every day. Find your pattern. Find your story. Make it happen.

Talk to people, but more importantly, LISTEN to people. Out of interest, not just about how they’re of interest to you.

Enter competitions, blog, tweet.

Build a brand based on who you really are. Spend some time navel gazing. Think about what you want to write about, what kind of writer you want to be, and where you want to go.

Think about how you define success for you. When will you feel like you’ve achieved what you wanted? What are your goals? What are you working towards?

Keep doing this every day, every week, every month, and regardless of whether you even think you’re any good, I guarantee someone else will. Baby steps. Not one big break, but many little ones.

 

 

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5 Reasons to come to our Marketing for Writers Workshop

People are always trying to sell you something, right? And I don’t like doing that. I’m running a workshop in collaboration with Steven Sparling that’s focused on getting authors to create a marketing plan, so their books can get the recognition they deserve. And I bloody hate having to try to flog stuff. So I’m just going to tell you straight:

1-  I have been through this whole process, with independent publishers, with big publishers, and working with self-publishing authors. I had to learn everything first hand through trial and error with absolutely no idea what I was meant to do. You can come and learn it from us and not have to feel that panic!

2- We’re creative business experts. Steven and I met whilst we were both doing a Masters degree in Creative Entrepreneurship, working on our individual ideas of how to define and ensure success in creative fields. I mostly just work with writers now, but Steven has gone on to do a PhD and work with every creative genre, from actors to singers to journalists to…anyone! He knows his stuff.

3- Creating a community. Meeting other writers and meeting other creative people is a big part of the writing and marketing experience. It’s all too easy to sit in your writing room, reply to blog comments and never truly interact. You’ll meet some great people who have different experiences to you, and that’ll be useful.

4- It’s a day out of your life. You will leave with a complete plan of how you can go about sorting out your marketing, a step-by-step, personalised plan. So you won’t leave panicked. You’ll leave with purpose. And with Christmas coming up, it means you’ve got just enough time to start that stocking-filler promo!

5- Tickets are on sale for £49!!! Come on, now! Where else will you get a whole day of personalised planning and advice from professionals, PLUS a Q and A with a London Publisher for ONLY £49?! It’s madness!

 

And they’re selling out fast. If you want more info about me and Steven and the workshop we have planned, click here. It’s 27th September in Central London. Don’t miss out. It’s going to be amazing!