Still Here, Still Writing • Writing Thoughts

Whew.

It’s been a while.

I haven’t updated this blog in… what, two months? Maybe two and a half? I haven’t really been keeping track, but it’s always been in the back of my mind. What’s stopped me from posting? A couple of things; stress from working two jobs and a total lack of motivation and creativity, but mainly my failure and the embarrassment that tags along with it.

You see, in my last few posts I joyfully announced that I’d soon be finished my first draft of my first novel, in doing so fulfilling a lifelong dream of being an author. Not being a successful author, or an author who even sells a single copy, but an author who has finished writing a book, because that’s what writing a book makes you; it makes you an author. I wanted to be an author before my momentum and motivation came to a stuttering halt, and I’ll still want to be an author after the next inevitable bout of writers’ block too.

Ultimately, it’s down to me. I haven’t finished my novel yet. I let the pressure I put on myself by setting a deadline completely derail me. I lost faith in my plot, in my characters, in my ability as a writer, and the saddest thing is it’s all so damn predictable. I’ve written several posts about it on this very blog; I’ve posted articles on tips to beat writers’ block, how to stay motivated and persevering even if you and everyone else doubts that you can do it. But in the end, it’s you and the keyboard. And sometimes knowing how to beat something isn’t the problem, it’s making yourself do it in spite of your fear of failing.

I have fear, but fear doesn’t control my dream, it just can’t. Completing this is too important to me. I’ve had two months of excuses and feeling sorry for myself and doubting myself more than I ever have before, but now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get writing again. And the next time this happens, because it probably will, I’ll do the same.

Bottom line: Writing is hard, but nothing worth having ever comes easy.

5 Ways To Get In The Writing Mood

It can be very hard to turn off from technology and work commitments and get yourself in the writing mood, but when you’re dedicated to following your dream and becoming a writer, you need to set time aside.

Someone on Twitter put it really well: see it as a daily appointment that you must always keep with yourself. When you think of it like that, it’s much easier to set other things aside and commit to a daily word goal. Make it a priority.

Other than this, there are a few other things you can do to get in the mood to write, write, write:

Sound 

I don’t just mean music. I always fall asleep to the sound of heavy rain (I really dislike silence, it just doesn’t work for me) and I’ve found that anytime I hear it I get very relaxed. I get day-dreamy. It’s a calming, creative space that I’ve created for myself and it’s allowed me to explore a range of new sounds as well.

Nature sounds can be very helpful when writing particular scenes, for instance ocean noises would help place you in your created environment if it was set by the sea or seagull sounds for a scene at the docks. Play around with different settings and see if it helps you.

Get uncomfortable 

This might be the worst advice for someone who likes to write buried in a mound of pillows and fluffy blankets, but I always write better when I’m just a little uncomfortable. It feels more like work that way. If I’m so comfy I can feel myself getting sleepy, chances are I’m going to fall asleep when I should be writing.

get in the writing mood

Whether you’re perched on a hard wooden chair or you’re just a little too cold, try being a bit uncomfortable and watch your word count rise.

People watch 

Sometimes writers forget that thinking is also part of the writing process. You don’t need to have your fingers balanced on a keyboard or a pen in your hands to be in the writing mood. Thinking through a particular scene or a character’s development in itself can make you want to sit down and write.

After all, there’s no point being in the writing mood if you have no inspiration and nothing to write. Spend an hour or two in a café or at a bus station and watch how people move, how they react to the mundane, how they walk down the street and what quirks they have. You might be surprised how excited you’ll be to write it all down.

Set up a routine 

This is an important one if writing is your day job. It can be so easy to get lost in the dull hours of a day and you might find yourself taking “a quick break” only to be engrossed in a Netflix show a few hours later.

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Whether it’s in the morning or at night time or half an hour at a time during meals, make a routine and stick to it. If you write best in the morning, sit down at your desk first thing and bang out 500 words with your breakfast. Whatever works best for you. Make sure to do it regularly, as if it was a job you can get fired from.

Make a steaming cup of tea 

I’m Irish so I believe a cup of tea solves almost every problem, but it’s not just the warmth and comfort of a steaming mug that helps, it’s also the act of tea making. Filling the water and waiting for it to boil, then waiting as the tea bag steeps is a good time for you to go over some of the previous day’s writing.

get in the writing mood

It allows you to think what you’re going to do next and chances are it’ll be a few moments of solitude for you as you throw off sleep and start a new day (and a new page).

What gets you in the writing mood? What works for you? Let me know in the comments!

Getting My Mojo Back • Writing Thoughts

Any time I see or write the word ‘mojo’ in any context, an image of that crazy monkey Mojo Jojo from the Powerpuff Girls pops into my head. Wouldn’t it be great to take over a word and make it so indistinguishable from your character that anytime someone sees it they think of your creation? That’s the dream, right?

writing mojo

Well, it may be the dream but it’s something that feels very very far away from my abilities at the moment. I’ve been on a downer for the past week and I’m kind of ashamed to say I didn’t write any more of my novel. Not one single word. Nothing. And it’s not like I just forgot about it, it’s been on my mind all day every day.

I don’t have an excuse except that some of my old fear has crept back in. This fear that has masqueraded as writer’s block and crippled my progress for years cannot be allowed back in. If it settles in the most insecure parts of my mind it will rot away at my confidence until my motivation to write is just a distant memory.

writing mojo

I know why this is happening, too; I’m so depressingly consistent in my insecurity that I can pinpoint exactly why this fear has returned, but knowing why I’m scared doesn’t do much to eradicate the fear.

I’m so close to finishing my first draft, something I’ve never even come close to before, and the thought of completing my book only to be rejected is enough to make me want to stop completely so I never have to face it at all. If I can honestly say I never managed to finish my book so it never got a chance to be queried by an agent or publisher, it’s not quite as bad as total failure and rejection, right? The thought of my book going absolutely nowhere except a file on my hard drive and knowing that I’m not good enough to be published is enough for that fear to return.

writing mojo

I know it’s really just a defence mechanism. It’s something to protect me and my dream from being crushed. If I was the same writer that I was a couple of years ago, sure, I’d probably let my fear and insecurity take over and push the pause button on my book for yet another few months or years, but I’m not that writer anymore. I’m so scared of failure, but my dream is to be a writer and I can’t just let myself down because of fear.

J.K. Rowling was rejected many times before she was finally published, and her books are some of the most beloved stories of all time. She and countless other writers faced rejection again and again before seeing their stories on the shelves. I know logically that even if I’m not taken on by an agent or publisher that that doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer or that my story is bad, but I’m very sensitive when it comes to my work and I’m just worried that rejection after rejection is going to crush me. I know, I know, it’s useless to obsess over it before it even happens, but for whatever reason it’s all I’ve been thinking about this week.

writing mojo

I’m going to do myself a favour and kickstart my motivation today. I’m going to put on the kettle, settle down in a comfy chair and bang out at least 1000 words. Hopefully it’ll set me on the right track to get my draft finished or, at the very least, to banish some of that crippling fear.

Wish me luck!

 

The Writing Circle • WRITING PROGRESS

The Writing Circle is very important to me in terms of writing progress, but it’s something of a curse that has followed me around since I first started writing when I was 11.

The Circle is made up of a select group of people in my life – besides the mostly anonymous internet, like you fine readers – who I talk to about my novel-in-progress. This is not a large group of people and there’s a very good reason for that.

In the past, any time that I became super excited about an idea, I told people that I was going to write a book. This is it, I’d said, I’m going to write it! Of course, I didn’t write it. I didn’t write anything for a long time until quite recently, least of all the beginnings of a novel.

It may seem silly or superstitious but I don’t want to jinx it. I don’t want to announce my dream to people and then end up crushing it myself with my lack of self-esteem or because I give up on myself like I always do.

I’m fine with talking about it here because, in a way, people don’t feel truly real when you know they’re reading behind a computer screen. If they hate it, you don’t often know. If they hate it and comment how much they hate it, you can just delete it. You can hide from judgement and other people’s opinions.

For instance, if I do fail in my attempt to write my novel, I could (I won’t, but I could) just delete all posts relating to it or delete this blog or abandon this blog and never have to look at it again. In my head, there’s no harm done. My dignity and dream is intact, right? But if people I know expect me to write a book and then I don’t… what does that say about me? What do they think about that? Those kind of thoughts drive me nuts and make me second-guess myself.

It strikes fear in me and makes me nervous about continuing because if (best case scenario) I do finish the book, what if it’s then bad? There are so many obstacles that I create for myself and I know it all stems from a lack of faith, but it cripples me sometimes. This feeling of self-doubt and fear of humiliation really does affect how often I write, even though I shouldn’t let it.

Ultimately, I find the best way for me to write is to talk about my book as little as possible and to avoid telling new people who I know personally anything about it. Once I finish the book and prove to myself that I can actually do it – that it’s not just a pipe dream – I’m sure this cloud of self-doubt and fear will dissipate. For now, however, I’m going to play it cautious. I don’t want something I’m passionate about to crumble just because of my fears and the opinions of others.

I can’t be the only person who feels this way. Let me know in the comments if you’ve had these thoughts before!

VISUALISING PIECES OF THE PUZZLE • WRITING PROGRESS

Since I started writing my novel, I’ve come to think of the segments I write as pieces of the overall jigsaw puzzle that is my book.

Many different writers have their own style and way of going about creating, but I personally write totally out of order. I think writing chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3 etc. stunts the creative process and it limits what I can do with a bout of inspiration.

If I’m writing a chapter and I suddenly think of a great idea for a character or plot line that’s set in a totally different part of the story, I drop everything and work through that idea. I just find that if you write down the idea and continue with what you were doing, you lose the momentum and the passion behind the inspiration, and that affects execution in my opinion.

Now that I’m about a third through the story (in the written sense), I can start seeing the pieces fitting together, even the ones I haven’t written yet. I think writing this way gives you the freedom to change scenes around and to sneak in foreboding clues and clever tie-ins that you may not have been able to naturally do otherwise.

I used to write in a uniform way and I think it had a lot to do with my failure up until now. I never managed to finish a novel that I started writing, and I do place a lot of blame on the way I was writing, though obviously that’s not the only factor. Other reasons also include not continuously writing every day even when I didn’t want to, losing faith in the story, writer’s block (and not knowing how to deal with it), and work and school commitments as well.

I feel like I’m a lot more in control of my story nowadays, and that’s a great feeling for someone who is so used to giving up.

5 Ways To Beat Writer’s Block

Daydream 

If you can’t write, think. I like to get under my duvet in the middle of the day, get comfortable and close my eyes. This kind of dark and comfy environment creates a dreamy, imaginative atmosphere and I for one get my best ideas in that limbo between awake and asleep.

In your mind, absolutely everything is possible, and you can come up with some incredibly cool ideas that you may not have been brave enough to touch upon otherwise. Thinking about something is not as intimidating as facing a blank sheet of paper and having to write, so use day dreaming as a way to get those creative juices flowing.

You may nod off in the process, but that’s just a bonus because you’ll be even more excited to work on your new ideas after a power nap.

Listen to a sound machine 

Listening to different sounds can set a scene that may never have come to mind otherwise. You may have an action scene ready in your book or you want to create something with conflict or tragedy, but it’s not coming together on the page. Listening to different kinds of music can absolutely influence scene creation.

Whether you’re listening to epic drum beats, or wind chimes, or the sound of stampeding hooves, you’re sure to get a visual in your mind that can help a scene come together. Taking a shower is another good way to think through a plot point or scene, as the sound of the heavy water can drown out any distractions.

writers block

Go outside 

This is one I see very frequently, and it is a good thing to do if you’ve been cooped up inside for a long period of time. Staring at the same four walls while writing a book is enough to make any writer feel very small and insignificant, and personally it makes me feel boxed in, which in turn keeps my more drastic and crazy ideas at bay.

Going outside even for a few minutes can really help freshen you up, and it can help you get out of your idea slump. Just spending a bit of time in nature does the body and mind good, and you could get some inspiration from what’s around you, depending on where you live.

Abandon ship 

If a chapter or even a paragraph is just not behaving and reads terribly no matter how you rephrase it, abandon ship. Just close it. Move on. Try writing another scene or take a break. There’s no point trying to force yourself through a piece of writing that’s just not coming together.

Trying to work on another part of your book will press the reset button in your mind. Plus, who knows, when you eventually come back to the stubborn piece of writing, you may have solved the problem of why it doesn’t work. Give the writing and your ideas time to breathe.

Look at art books 

I started doing this when I lived in London after I picked up a gorgeous art book called Threads. It contained stunning drawings/sketches/paintings of people of all different races, sizes, colours and shapes, and it really does stimulate the character creation section of your mind. However, make sure not to just take the character you see and adopt it as your own – see what others have created and take inspiration from their creations. I’ve come up with a few different characters and even plot points from the smallest of details in some art that I’ve seen.

If you’re struggling to create an interesting and visually diverse cast, and if their personalities are incredibly vanilla, take a look at an art book and I guarantee you’ll have more ideas by the final page than when you started.

What do you do to beat writer’s block? Let me know in the comments!

 

Writing and Getting Somewhere • Confidence is Fleeting

As some of you may already know from reading my other posts, I’m an aspiring writer. I know, I know. It’s hardly an original dream, but you can’t just order the desires of your heart and mind to cease, so here I am.

For the past several years, I’ve experienced terrible writer’s block. I lost all confidence in my abilities and was kind of drowning in my pessimism for a long time; it didn’t matter that I wanted to be a writer, I had to actually have ideas that could be translated properly from thoughts to paper in a way that people would actually want to read. That seemed impossible for me for years.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten my mojo back. I started reading again after a long hiatus and with that came waves of creativity. After years of day dreaming and wishing, I’ve finally started writing my novel, because dreams don’t work unless you do. I’m proud to say that I’ve hit the 6000 word mark, something I never managed to do before, and I’m aiming for at least 50,000 by the end of the year (#50000wordchallenge anyone?)

The problem is that writing isn’t a smooth process – in fact it’s rocky as hell and it takes a lot of dedication and work. However, sometimes that isn’t enough. One day your confidence could be sky high and the next you may think you’re the worst writer in the world and that you were borderline insane to think that you could ever actually get a book published. This is normal in the process, I’ve found.

What I’ve been faced with lately, however, is an aversion to reading books on my TBR list. It feels like I’m scared to read them because, and this is just a theory, I’ll be comparing my unwritten book to a perfectly crafted, thoroughly edited complete novel. And despite the fact I know that it’s silly to compare the two, I don’t think I’d be able to help myself.

The slightest thing makes me lose confidence in my abilities. It’s why I don’t send my writing to any of my friends or family anymore, because even if they offer mostly praise, if there’s a niggling problem somewhere I focus on it until it becomes the sole thing I’m thinking about. Then I blow it up to be this insurmountable monster that I can’t write my way out of and I abandon the whole project. It sounds ridiculous but this kind of thing has happened many times, and I know it’s something I just have to get over, but it’s a challenge.

A first draft is very fragile. I know that many writers say a first draft is always crap, so whatever I come up with will probably read very differently from the finished book, but I’m a notorious editor. I have a major problem of striving for perfection with my writing, and that just isn’t realistic when writing a first draft. There are many drafts to come where I can fix my mistakes, plot holes and dull descriptions.

I can’t help it that I have thin skin; I think I’m so overly sensitive to my writing because it’s a dream I hold so dear to my heart that any critique of what I’m doing makes me think I can’t reach that dream. Which makes me feel like a failure. Nobody likes feeling like a failure, and it makes sense to avoid that.

Despite my shortcomings and my pessimistic writing process, I do think this time is different. I’ve never gotten this far before and I’ve also never felt as strongly about a plot; perhaps the other stories were abandoned for a proper reason, and not just because I gave up on them. Perhaps this one will go the distance and by the end of the year I’ll have a fully fledged draft ready to edit.

Despite myself, I’m optimistic!