Gretchin Williams clutched the Golden Globe in her hand as she looked out at the sea of familiar faces. The applause died down and she placed the statue on the lectern in front of her and began unfolding a piece of paper, her hands shaking as she did so. Squinting at the type, she cursed the fact that she had left her glasses on the bedside table. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and screwed up the paper.
“It is never too late,” she began. She looked directly at the camera. “If you are sitting there at home right now thinkinging your life is over, it’s not. A year ago I was sat where you are right now, abandoned by the world, nothing to look forward to, all hope gone. But you are not alone. I see you. I am you. And tonight I am handing the batton on to you. It’s your time. You’ve got this. I believe in you!
Whatever that tiny glimmer of an idea is that is percolating in the darkest recesses of your mind right now, let it out, and let is shine! Give it wings. Let it fly! Just do the next right thing, keep it in the day and your tomorrow will be like mine – beyond your wildest dreams!
Thank you all. God bless you. Goodnight.”
The room errupted in thunderous applause as everyone stood and cheered. Job done, Gretchin turned and left the stage.
In a pokey living room in Hertfordshire, England, Sophie grabbed a tissue, wiped her eyes and blew her nose then padded through to the dining room where a small, rickety desk stood in the corner. She picked up a pen and began to write…
I’ve recently been reading James Scott Bell’s excellent book, “Plot and Structure.” Each chapter includes some exercises at the end. Having completed one, I thought I would share the results with you all here, in the hope that it might inspire your creative writing efforts today.
When readers read my novels, I want them to feel elated and inspired at the end. That’s because, to me, novels are an opportunity to be transformed by immersing ourselves in another world where we can walk a mile in another person’s shoes, experience the drama and danger, the ups and the downs of that person’s experiences without ever leaving the confines of our own beds.
In a novel, we get to play, to experiment and to imagine what we would do if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation, so that when we come to face life’s dramas we are better equipped to do so than we would have been if we were relying solely on our own experiences. Novels broaden our horizons, they help us to imagine the unimaginable and ultimately they remind us of the universality of the human condition and that we are never fully alone.
Novels help us connect with the human race, join hands with the myriad of other intrepid explorers and travel through distant lands that are beyond our wildest dreams. When we return from the novel, it is like coming home from a long trip, back to the comfortable and familiar, yet knowing that we have been indelibly changed by the experience and that life will somehow never be the same again.
Feeling a little sluggish? Got the lockdown blues? Here are a few ways to fuel your writing during these difficult times:
Drink more water
Sounds obvious, but how many of us actually drink about 3 litres of water a day? I know I often fall short. By making sure we drink the right amount of water every day we will help our sleep, our skin, our brain and ultimately our creativity. I’ve started to refill a litre water bottle three times a day to make sure I reach the mark. It’s helping immensely.
2. Get up and stretch!
It’s so easy to sit hunched over the computer or notebook for hours on end and forget to move. It’s little wonder that we start to feel clogged up when we do. My latest effort on this front is to set my timer for 20 minutes and literally stand up and stretch before sitting back down for another 20 minutes. It feels a bit arbitrary at first but over time it makes a massive difference to how my body feels by the end of the day and this, in turn, really helps my creativity.
3. Switch it up!
Another way I can start to feel sluggish is if I try and do the same thing over a really long period of time. One way in which I have combated this is to switch up what I do throughout the day. My morning routine, for example, is morning pages, followed by reading, followed by crafts, followed by meditation, followed by writing my WIP. I have definitely earned a lunch break by that point! What are some ways in which you can switch it up throughout the day to keep your brain ticking over?
4. Go for a walk!
This one has always been hard for me. I suspect, if I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve become a little lazy. There are all sorts of inducements you can use to get out for 20 minutes a day. Some people use a game or running adventure app. I’ve been known to break out the Pokemon Go on occasions. Some listen to an audiobook or podcast. You could even listen to one of mine if you’re really desperate! Others take photographs on their phone. One thing I will say of this walking malarky is I never regret going, but I sometimes regret not going. It definitely makes a difference to my writing when I do go.
5. Take a Shower
As much as the body needs water on the inside, it also loves water on the outside. A warm shower (or if you are brave enough, a cold one) can do wonders for firing up the little grey cells and getting the creative juices flowing. I used to take my showers at the end of the day, but I’ve recently started to have them first thing in the morning and they are really helping. Washing our hands throughout the day can also help ground us, one of the benefits of the pandemic I suppose.
6. Hug a tree / walk barefoot in the grass
The second part of this is a little difficult to do in the middle of autumn / winter but you get my drift. These are things that literally and physically help you to connect with nature. The same could be said for paddling in the surf on a beach, petting an animal or watching the sunset. They are all things that help us to feel more connected to the rest of creation, and, in turn, our creative selves.
7. Nurture the child within
My inner child is the part of me that still has a sense of awe and wonder, a joyful optimism, and the capacity to unleash an unfettered imagination inside of me. That inner child is the source of my inspiration and the catalyst for all of my creative writing. She needs nurturing. To do this, I get down and play. As sensible adults this might feel a little bit crazy, but it really helps with my writing. For example, I might do some colouring, make a daisy chain in the grass, build the Hogwarts Castle out of Lego (I wish), go splashing in puddles in my wellies, or curl up with a favourite book from my childhood. I might buy sparkly stationery, design a map for the location of my book, dance and sing to ABBA (when no one is looking), paint my nails and get dressed up. What would you do to nurture that inner creative spirit of a child in you?
8. Create some space
This may be physical space. It might be time to empty out that garden shed and turn it into your creative writing retreat. It might be time to paint a wall, hang a picture, introduce a reed diffuser or buy a new desk chair. The physical space in which we create needs to be inspirational, comfortable but not so much that it sends us to sleep, and above all, fun. I’ve even put up my Christmas tree early and treated myself to a new bauble. It brings me a lot of joy when it’s lit up next to me. It definitely helps my writing. What would you change about your environment to inspire you in your creativity?
9. Carve out time
Just as the physical space around us is important in making space for creativity, so too is our schedule. For those that work full time in a job that is not our first creative love this can be especially hard. The same is true if we are raising a family or caring for elderly or sick relatives. Whatever the constraints we may have in our lives, if we can, it is really helpful to give ourselves some quality time to just think, listen, pay attention and create. If you’re not currently finding the time to be creative, and would like to be, what can you cut down on, cut back on and cut out to make that space? Trust me, it will be worth it.
10. Get a decent amount of sleep
Regardless of whether you’re a night owl or up with lark, sleep is as fundamental as water when it comes to creativity. We will never do our best work when we are overwrought and overtired. I’ve taken to going to bed earlier in the evening so I can wake up refreshed. I also use a sleep meditation in order to go to sleep at night. It works every time. I recommend giving it a go. It’s better than any medication I’ve ever used.
What are some other ways in which you keep the creative flow throughout your day? Feel free to share your ideas and experiences below.
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?