How learning to play is the key to creative freedom.
How learning to play is the key to creative freedom.
Exploring ways of filling our creative wells in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Episode 25 of my Staycation Podcast.
I never thought the day would come when I would be able to announce to the world that my book was published and available to buy, but it has, and it is. I have been attempting to write a novel for twelve years. I have, in fact, written it four times over, each time close to seventy thousand words, and each time have deleted it. I know some of you will recoil in horror at this news. “Save everything!” is the advice we give one another, and you are all absolutely right. The only problem was, my internal critic had a louder voice.
But I have an editor, a friend called Ros, who has been a quiet encourager to me over the years. She has read many drafts of my supposed opus and has always told me I’m a great storyteller and she can’t wait to find out what happens next. Only the next never came and I think she got a bit frustrated with me, because she eventually said, “just write a blooming book. I don’t care what it’s about. It can be anything. The important thing is to just write it and get it published. Don’t even send it to me to edit it. Don’t worry if it has the odd typo in it, or the prose sticks slightly in your throat when you read it, get it written and get it out there! Then, once you’re an author, you can spend the rest of your life honing your craft and getting better at it.”
She had a point. I wasn’t going to be a master wordsmith if I kept unravelling and starting again. I needed to finish something and learn from that experience as well. But what to write about? I decided on non-fiction as it is something that comes more easily to me. I love writing fiction in the way that I love knitting, but I have to work that much harder at it than I do with crochet. But I digress. The subject…
I have been leading a Writing for Wellness group online since lockdown began, and over the weeks we have grown both numerically and in terms of self-awareness. This group encompasses all of my favourite things, writing, wellness, creativity, inspiration, imagination, and the equipping and empowering of others. Not only that, it is topical, as we have faced the ravages of life in lockdown together. There was a built-in deadline to it too! I was on a roll.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned about my writing is that I work so much better when I work to a routine and to a deadline. I now get up at eight every morning and go into my office to begin my working day, coffee in hand. I stop at one for lunch, and return to my office at two. I stop for the day at four as I have some other commitments I need to attend to by then. This routine works for me, and is what has helped me write this book. I can’t imagine not doing this now.
So I began to write. I spent quite a bit of time devising the chapters, sifting through the writing we had done over the weeks in the group, gathering anecdotal stories, and planning. Then I sat down and began to write. The words flowed, and when they didn’t, I used dictation software to help me get through the dryer spells.
All in all, this book took about six weeks to write and edit. It is fairly short, but it is a book and the sense of achievement I felt when I had finished it was such a relief. Now came the hard part. No, not the editing. I did the best I could with that in the short space of time I had. The hard part was the formatting for Kindle and print on Amazon. There’s an app for the former which makes things considerably easier, and there are templates for the latter. The only problem was, I hadn’t used those templates until then so had to copy and paste my book into it which meant a fair amount of reformatting. But I did it, and the print copy is currently under review.
It felt good to change my bio from writer to author. I have learned so much from this entire process and I am eternally indebted to Ros for giving me the shove over the cliff edge so that I could learn to fly. This is just the beginning. I have made many mistakes in this process, all of which I hope to learn from so that I can do better next time. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? It’s progress, and not perfection that will drive me forwards from now on, and help me to achieve things that are beyond my wildest dreams. How about you have a go at doing that too?
With much love, Liv x
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?
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.