Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Write NOW!

This past couple of weeks, I have mainly been distracted from writing scowling at swirling snow shenanigans. 

Not, of course, that my disapproval makes any difference. I do realise that; I just can't quite help myself. There are moments when I can appreciate the wonder that is our weather and respect the fact of IT taking charge but mostly I get frustrated that it gets in the way of plans I've made. 

One plan I have stuck to, however, is my newly-established daily writing routine following the advice from Dorothea Brande's book which I mentioned in my previous post. Reader, it works! Writing everyday, FIRST THING everyday has improved my writing stamina and, I am pleased to report, I am finding that I am not only able to write more but what I am writing is occasionally more interesting too.

Brande's advice is that it is absolutely critical for the aspiring writer to invest in themselves and how they feel about writing and not just invest time in studying the technicalities of the craft of writing. In fact, too much attention to the technicalities of the craft of writing can, in the early stages, prohibit the capacity of the writer to write anything. (VERY) Basically, the technicalities of the craft of writing are developed in our 'conscious writing brain' - this is where stories are crafted BUT we need to nurture our 'unconscious brain' which is where the stories start. If we jump too quickly into the conscious crafting we allow our self-editor to dominate too quickly and, all too often, before our unconscious creative brain has even had the chance to get-going. 

Have you ever had an idea for a story that was absolutely BRILLIANT in your head but completely impossible to write down? I've been struggling with this for the past few years! It's a clear sign that you need to clear space for your creative unconscious to become liberated. Writing every morning is the very starting point; liberating the unconscious before the conscious (and often hyper-critical) wakes up. 

The morning writing routine: the gateway to creative success?
Brande says that whilst you're establishing this early morning writing routine, you shouldn't read over what's been written. I have had a brief scan back at mine. Much of it is absolute rubbish! Less interesting to read than a timetable suspended due to adverse weather conditions, sadder than a pair of theatre tickets doomed to be unused because you can't get off your drive (have I mentioned my frustrations with snow?!). However, I do know that I am able to write more during these 30 minute sessions and I also know that it has an impact on how I feel about myself for the rest of the day. 

Starting my day writing reminds me that writing is what I want to do. In doing the morning write, it feels like my unconscious creative brain gains some confidence and this confidence continues throughout the day where my newly liberated unconscious feels free to heckle out all kinds of ideas - not all of them completely crazy and/or libellous.

The next step, following Brande's instruction (and why wouldn't you?) is to train yourself to write at a given moment. The plan goes like this:
  • continue with the daily morning writing
  • at the end of the morning session (after a pat on the back for sticking to it and recognising how much better you're getting!) review your plans for the coming day
  • identify a SPECIFIC time that day when you WILL sit down for another 20-30 minutes and write
  • importantly, this daily 'scheduled write' should be at different times on different days
  • the aim is to train yourself to be able to write NOW
  • Brande stresses how STRICT you have to be with this 
  • No excuses, once you've promised yourself it's what you are going to do you need to get on and DO IT!
I'm going to be giving this a shot over the next couple of weeks and whatever the weather I will let you know how I get on. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Writing? Just Do It EVERY Morning.

This past couple of weeks, I have mainly been distracted from writing by my reading ABOUT writing.

If you are already an expert writer then you really need go no further here, except perhaps to gloat (although in my experience 'expert' writers are a very kind and generous bunch; and liberal with their enthusiasm and encouragement for the novice). This is just me exploring the core of getting-going-with writing and some advice I've come across recently that I think will help me move on in my endeaendeavour. If you are teetering anywhere near the precipice of starting to think about yourself as a writer then you may find the following useful.

Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande is a text oft mentioned in meanderings on creative writings. First published in 1934, Brande urges would-be writers to write in the morning, every morning and before anything else. I'm thinking Ms Brande didn't have cats because I have peace to do absolutely nothing upon waking until mine have been fed but, following this feline life saving task, this is an exercise I used previously which really worked. Within a week of doing this everyday, writing before anything (except feeding cats), I find my writing picks up. I become able to write more in the same amount of time and I more quickly scroll beyond the dull dribbles of the previous day into something with a little more potential; a glimmer of imagination emerges and makes me more eager to engage further in the exercise.

Just as the repetitions of star jumps make footballers fitter for footballing; doing writing makes writers better at writing. For Brande, the morning writing exercise is all about cultivating a writer's temperament. Contrary to what can be summised from the profiles of many of my Twitter writing friends, this does not have anything to do with how many cups of coffee you drink and at what point in the day it is appropriate to drink wine. The writer's temperament of which Brande speaks is one that is more 'versatile, sympathetic and studious' than others. Genius, she assures us, 'can be taught'.

This feeds seamlessly into our desire to read about writing and study the craft of writing, a number of texts on which I have already found very useful but, Brande warns, attention to excavating our inner writer from this 'crafting' perspective will do little unless we also take time to develop our personality as a writer.

The biggest threat to the emergent writer is not the technicalities of writing but in having the confidence to actually write at all. The morning writing exercise helps us to stumble through all the demons and doubts to a place where we feel safe to have a go.

Try it:

- Write for 20 minutes every morning.
- Write before you do ANYTHING if at all possible and certainly write before reading or talking to anyone - you are trying to catch yourself writing before you inner critic wakes up!
- Keep writing for the FULL 20 minutes. DO NOT STOP, Ms Brande is VERY strict about this. Write ANYTHING but keep writing.
- Don't read back what you have written - you're building fluency and stamina as a writer not penning the next prize winner.
- Do notice how, after even a week or so, you are able to write more in this time.

I've heard/read of this so often in the past few years and having tried it, I know it works. I'm trying it again (I can't believe I ever stopped!) and this time I've bought the book! If there was a t-shirt I'd buy that too. Dorothea Brande's original text is an absolute joy, a no-nonsense read which has the potential to push your productivity as a writer ... maybe even as far as publishing.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Resolve to evolve?

This past few weeks I have mostly been distracted from writing by the chaos that is the Christmas holidays. Wonderful though this has been I find myself, like many, desperate to get back to some sort of normal. 'Normal'? I wonder! Only a couple of days ago, in the 'chrimbo-limbo' (as Sarah Cox referred to it on Radio 2), the journey through the no-mans-land from Christmas Day to New Year's Eve 'normal' was not the intention. The after glow of Santa's visit, generous quantities of cheese and chocolate, and liberal helpings of Port (other alcoholic beverages were available ... and consumed *ahem*) I was imagining 2013 as anything but normal. 


I imagined 2013 as a place in which personal failings were resolved into a fresh new me! A place of less calorie consumption, more exercise and less, FAR less procrastination. Alcohol infused enthusiasm had me believing in a world where I could be positively charged to succeed. Now? Now I'm caressing memories of time well spent with people I love and remembering that fat is a lot easier to add on than take off.


"Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress." Charles Dickens

'Normal' 16 going on 17! 


Normal? It's a myth isn't it? This was never more obvious to me than when I had my first, and only, child. One of the clearest memories I have of the desperately difficult first few months of motherhood is of my own mum trying to reassure me that things would, in time, 'get back to normal'. 'Normal?' Reader, I screeched. 'There is NO normal. THIS is as NORMAL as it gets from here on in.' 


I am probably just about sober enough now to realise that what I am hankering for is the gentle 'succession of changes' that move me from where I am to where I want to be with enough space to reflect on the past and embrace the present.


Reflecting on the past, I am pleased to have made the 'grand' decision to embark on a part time MA in creative writing before the chaos of the holidays took over. I embraced all the Christmas chaos had to offer by carefully placing my WIP to one side for the duration. I am happy that today marks the first day of the rest of my writerly life as I redraft part of the WIP into my 5000 word submission to accompany my application for the MA.
It's life 'Jim' but never quite as we think we know it. 


"LIFE: Love, Intelligence, Fun, Evolution in that order." -Vanna Bonta


Happy 2013 days to you and yours, in whatever form that might take.