Speed & Endurance

How your DNA can change the way you write

I’m something of an armchair genealogist. In the digital age it’s now possible to access many records about our ancestors from the comfort of our own homes, and with the advent of Genetic Genealogy we can even find out our DNA by spitting in a tube and popping a parcel in the post.

One of the things which I have discovered as a result of my research is that I am built for speed and not endurance. This isn’t really news to me. I ran the 100 metres in school in 12.85 seconds. I also practically threw up during long distance running on frosty winter days as my chest tightened and my legs turned to jelly.

But how does this apply to my writing? Am I condemned to the realms of poetry or short-story writing? Should I just stick to blogging? That would be fine if my passion lay in poetry and short-stories, or I was content to do nothing but blog, but there are countless stories inside of me, itching to get out, that would fit perfectly into the length of a novel.

The answer, as I have discovered, is to move multiple counters forwards in short, sharp bursts, rather than sit and do one thing for a prolonged length of time. Today, for example, I’m writing two blog posts of approximately 600 words each, as well as 600 words of two novels I’m working on, and 600 more on an autobiographical work. That’s a total of 3k words in a day, which is hugely productive. I know I can achieve this relatively easily because I’ve broken it down into bite-sized chunks. Had I told myself that I would write a solid 3k words at the beginning of the day, the likelihood is my brain would have melted down in apoplexy and it would have felt like people were sticking a multitude of long, sharp needles in my head.

I also try to change it up throughout the day to keep my brain stimulated. For example, I might spend the first block of time writing a blog, then do some research, then listen to some music or watch a podcast, then write some of one of my novels. I will vary what I work on throughout the day so my brain never gets bored. The other key thing for me is to get plenty of fresh air an exercise, especially during the long, dark, winters, and, importantly, to cuddle with my cat, Henry.

Of course none of us are the same. I suspect that our writing styles are as unique as our DNA. The important thing is to find what works best for you. If you are a marathon runner at heart then you can probably sit down for longer periods, but may not write as fast. If you are a sprinter, you might want to try to write less words at a time or even set a stop watch to write in bursts. It’s all the same in the end, but unlocking the key to your own writing DNA is what will bring you the greatest success in the end.

Are you build for writing speed or endurance? What are the secrets to your writing success? I’d love to hear from you. Do drop me a line. Liv.

The Bible and the Silver Spoon

One woman’s journey in search of self

I am adopted. I’ve always known that I was adopted. My parents were very open about it. They told me and my brother that we were special because we were chosen. They also said that if I ever wanted to trace my birth- parents they would support me 100%.

I was quite fortunate in that I knew quite a bit about where I was from. I was born on a rainy Sunday, in November 1972 at the Royal Free Hospital in London, England. My mother was American. I knew her name, I knew she was from the Carolinas, and I knew that her father was a pastor. That’s a lot more than most adoptees know.

Not only this, I had something tangible to hold on to from my family of origin. When my maternal grandmother found out I was to be born, she sent to the social worker a small, white, leather Bible and a silver spoon with the message, “this is what we give all our grandchildren.”

These precious items were kept in an old cake tin in my mum’s dressing table. If things ever got on top of me, if the gaping hole that existed inside of me ever grew too loud, I would sit on the floor with the Bible and the spoon and hold them up to my heart, imaging where my family were, and what they might be doing.

Talking of holes, I really struggled with my identity growing up. Although I was popular, academic, sporty, and pretty, I never really felt like I fitted in. I was always on the outside looking in. I didn’t quite belong. With that came a rampant fear of rejection and abandonment that to some extent exists to this day.

The summer I turned thirteen I went with a friend to a sailing centre on the Isle of Wight. That was the week I got my National Dinghy Sailing Certificate. It was also the week that I sat out on the jetty one evening, watching the sun go down over then Medina River, and asked God to fill the hole in my heart and help me find my birth mother.

As I prayed, I felt this overwhelming sense that somehow or other it would be ok. I felt enveloped in a blanket of love and peace and warmth. I let go of the angst, the ache, and I trusted that all would be well. I stood up, went back inside, and joined my friends.

Are you adopted? Do you know someone who is? Have you struggled with your own identity? Do you have a fear of rejection and abandonment? Have you found it hard to find your tribe? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

The story will continue tomorrow, but for now may your day be full of rich blessings, love and light.

Liv x

Write2Write: day 4

Three little words…

One interesting thing that has started to happen as I journal throughout the day while simultaneously blogging and working on my novel is that I am starting to dream more. I don’t remember what my dreams are when I’m awake, at least I can’t grab the pen quickly enough to jot them down before they evaporate from my conscious mind, but I am aware it’s happening. I suspect that I’m unlocking something. The more I write, the more my brain wants to show me things.

Today’s blog post is subtitled, “three little words,” because I have realised something important in the last few days. No, I’m not about to say, “I love you,” but rather, quite simply, “I need help.” Writing is such a solitary past time that it’s extremely difficult for us to do it on our own. The Bronte sisters would walk around their dining table reading their work to each other, Jane Austen would write letters to her sister, Steven King is all over Twitter. There is something magical that happens when creative people come together to share their work, to brainstorm ideas, and to dream dreams.

That’s what I need. It’s what makes me feel most alive. My dream is to write a story about a girl who is a workaholic, over-achieving perfectionist. Tragedy strikes her family, she crashes and burns, and finds herself in a magical place that people only find when they need it the most. That is what Finding Freodholm is all about. That’s what I’m doing when I sit down and write every day. What about you?

What are your hopes, your dreams, your struggles, your fears? What ideas do you have that need fleshing out with an interested ear? How can we help each other? I need your help. Do you need mine?

Liv

Write2Write: day 3

The thin veil between worlds

I’m really tired today. I’m trying to come off caffeine which doesn’t help. It’s bad for the joints and I’m waiting for some natural anti-inflammatories to arrive in the post. I also woke up two hours before my alarm. That’s the second day this has happened. Perhaps it’s one of the side-effects we should put as a warning on the label that is journaling.

But my productivity is much better than it was before I started all this. Today I began writing before I went anywhere near social media, and right after journaling a short paragraph. I put on my evocative writing playlist, stuck on my noise-cancelling headphones, closed my eyes and allowed my imagination to take me back to the fictional world that is Freodholm. I picked up the thread where I left my heroine, Lily, and watched what she did next, what she saw, smelt, heard, tasted, touched and thought. When I felt like I was back in that world I opened my eyes and started to type and the words flowed pretty well.

The chapter is now finished and I can moved on to the next stage. I need to stretch, go swimming, get something to eat, and come back refreshed and ready for the next stage. If I continue to bash out words now they will be a disconnected string of forced phrases born of this world and not the world that is Freodholm. They will be an imposition rather than an exposition of what is going on there.

It can be a challenge for me to move between different worlds – the crazy world we live in today, and the magical world of my imagination. I have to take my time, meditate on it first, and let myself fall into it. Yesterday I did my research, today I wrote. It felt good, and I can’t wait to go back there. How do you move between those different worlds? How is your writing going today? Hope it’s going well.

Liv

Write as you write: day 2

Tea and Herbal Remedies

So here I am on day two of journaling, blogging and writing my novel throughout the day. It’s going really well so far but one thing I’m realising is how easily I’m distracted. Whether it’s a family member coming in to ask me a question, a WhatsApp message from a friend, or even a lawnmower starting in a neighbour’s garden, I find my mind wandering, and then journal about it and pull it back to the subject at hand.

Today that subject is research! This is actually one of my favourite things to do when writing a novel as I get to learn something interesting and new. As you can see, my current research subjects are Tea and Herbal Remedies. The first is because there is a Tea Emporium in my fictional world that features heavily in the story, and secondly because of the Apothecary who does likewise. She’s Spanish, and called Carmen, but bears no resemblance to the opera of the same name.

It’s also proved useful as I’ve realised I love Assam Tea, and am going to try a herbal remedy for the inflammation in my knees. Better than popping pills any day. I think I’ll treat myself to a new teapot and cup and saucer. The bigger the better. I could even knit a funky tea cosy to go with it! But I digress. How has your day gone? Have you given the journaling a go? Is it working? What interesting subjects have you been looking into?

Here’s me signing off until tomorrow,

Liv

Write as you write: day 1

If it’s good enough for Mark Zuckerberg, it’s good enough for me

I’ve recently been suffering from a bad case of procrastination. I normally love to write, in fact I live and breathe to write. Lately, however, I have been finding almost anything to do before actually sitting down with the manuscript and getting some words on the page. Tomorrow, tomorrow I will start and become a hard-working, serious, accomplished, brilliant, and of course, perfect writer.

And the cursor remains flashing on the blank page.

I’ve tried many things. Some have worked for a while – changing location, setting a timer for ten minutes, writing by hand rather than on the computer, dictation, yet after a while the inevitable kicks in, the malaise ensues, and I’m left feeling like I’m under-achieving with the elusive bubble of getting this book out just beyond my reach.

Today I decided I needed to give myself a good talking to. I picked up one of my many partially-used journals and began writing. I decided that this journal would be my writing buddy, my genie in a bottle, my higher power, my cheerleader and my friend who would help me to be the writer I was destined to be. I set myself small goals. I told my journal what they were and checked back when I’d done them. I congratulated myself on my accomplishments and chivied myself along when I got stuck. It’s been fantastic, and there are now words to accompany the flashing cursor.

Here’s an except from today:

Dear diary, I need you. I cannot do this without you. I dream of a brighter future but it won’t come unless I’m prepared to work towards it today. Please give me the kick up the backside I need to get myself in gear and just do the next thing…

I’m reminded of the scene in The Social Network where Mark Zuckerberg is blogging at the same time as he is giving birth to Facebook. If it worked for him, why can’t it work for the rest of us? How about I check in every day and say how it’s going? Even if one person reads it and says hello I’ll be happy. Maybe you’ll decide to give it a go too and we can share with each other? Are you willing to go on this journey with me and to see where it collectively takes us? Pen’s poised? Then let us begin…

What’s stopping you..?

Why getting an editor was the best thing I ever did

I’m terrified of releasing my work on the world. There, I’ve said it. I’ve had an idea for a novel which has been percolating in my head for the past eleven years and yet it is still not published. I’ve written countless drafts, some of which I’m ashamed to say I’ve deleted in moments of pure insanity. I’ve renamed, restructured, reversed and rebelled. So what’s stopping me from giving it a go? One word. FEAR!

I’ve nothing to compare it to. I’m an avid reader so surely I’m a reasonable judge of what is good and bad literature? For me, it’s quite simple. I want to get lost in a story, be transported to another world. I want to connect with the characters, to care what happens to them, to experience the highs and lows of their journeys and to really miss them when I close the back page. That’s what I want from a story and that’s what I want to give to the world.

Yet when I read my manuscripts I get some glimpses of light coming through the cracks of my own incompetencies, but the awkwardness of the prose and unnaturalness of the dialogue rips me apart and I can’t see the light anymore. Is it good enough? Will it pass muster? I doubt it.

I long since decided to self-publish. I love social media and marketing and figured if my work is meant to be read it will find its way into the hands of the right readers. What I haven’t had until now is an editor, that is until I approached Ros. Ros is a friend who has an ability with language akin to a music maestro’s ear or a mathematician’s brain. She just knows when it’s grammatically correct. It sounds right. She agreed to take me on.

We’re working together one chapter at a time. I send it to her and she edits it, not with red pen, but the completed edited manuscript. I trust her to retain the integrity of my writing as she goes. Now here’s the catch. She won’t return it to me until I send her the next chapter. I’m chomping at the bit to know what she thinks each time, and desperate to see the finished result, but I hear absolutely nothing from her until I send her the next one. It makes me keep going and forces me to at least release my work to one person.

When I do, it’s always a joyful occasion. She tells me I’m a great storyteller and she can’t wait to hear what happens next. She encourages me to keep going. The chapters that are returned still sound like me, but I know they are cleaner and easier to read. Ros is a miracle-worker in my life and I know, because of her, that I will reach my goal of releasing my work on the world this year. Getting an editor was the best thing I ever did. What about you?