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.
While I’m stuck at home because of COVID-19 I thought I’d start a podcast series for everyone else affected by coronavirus. Hope you enjoy, and I’d love to hear from you! We are not alone, together we can!
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?