Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Daydreaming for Beginners: How to Boost Your Writing Speed by Fantasizing

A woman daydreaming

Thinking… by Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr

I’m Jessica’s Creativity, that little disruptive voice from her imagination that writes in purple text. In this post I’m gonna teach you how to daydream.

Last week I explained the theory behind how daydreaming can improve your writing speed. Now let me give you some tips on how to daydream effectively.

Why?

Because it’s likely been many years since you last daydreamed, and chances are the last time you tried it you were probably told off by a teacher, parent, school crossing guard, or sibling who expected you to keep a look out for mom while he raided the cookie jar. (There’s no need to feel embarrassed, we’ve all been there before.)

Now, as an adult, your sensibleness may have stopped you from keeping your daydreaming muscles active. So this post has some basic reminders for those who are not yet adept at the art of daydreaming. 

Pick a Safe Time and Place

Daydreaming can be great fun, but do not do it when your attention should be elsewhere. For example, don’t daydream while in control of a moving vehicle, bathing an infant, wandering across a busy road, fighting carnivorous dinosaurs, or disarming a nuclear warhead. That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get my drift.

Instead, you might try daydreaming while:

  • Showering (provided you’re not in a drought-affected area where extra-long showers may be a problem).
  • Washing dishes.
  • Doing housework.
  • Gardening.
  • Performing mindless tasks at work.
  • Eating lunch.
  • Walking (in areas where traffic isn’t an issue).

Look at your schedule and choose a few times during the week where daydreaming might be possible.

Don’t Set Yourself a Goal

The beauty of daydreaming is that you never know where you’ll end up, especially when you’re dreaming about your story. You might start off wondering how you’re going to reveal that your heroine’s Peruvian grandmother was the one serving poison sashimi all this time, and instead wind up solving the clue to your antagonist’s cryptic crossword.

That’s why you shouldn’t set yourself daydreaming goals. Don’t expect that you’ll come out of your daydreaming session with a specific answer, otherwise the pressure to perform will impose unnecessary limitations on your daydreams. Instead, allow them to flow where they will and enjoy the journey.

Having said that, do start your daydream with a problem in mind. Use a problem you’ve encountered in your writing as a launching point for your thoughts and then allow them to roam free. You might come up with the answer, or you might discover something completely different. Keep your mind open to all the possibilities before you.

Staring Out the Window is Fine

To start daydreaming, settle yourself in your environment and then start your mind rolling on the topic of your choice (like how your hero is going to escape from the marmot-infested pit he’s just fallen into). Don’t seek to control where your mind goes, simply give it little prods from time to time if necessary.

If you find yourself staring out the window with a blank mind, that’s okay. It’s all part of the process. Often it’s not the thoughts themselves that provide the ideas, but the spaces between the thoughts — those spots where your Creativity can jump in with random words and ideas. Make room for your Creativity and don’t seek to fill every little void with thought.

Relax and enjoy the sensations of your wandering mind.

Use Questions

Once you’ve started daydreaming, you may want to prompt your mind and your Creativity to problem-solve and explore.

You can direct your daydreaming by inserting questions like:

  • What if?
  • Why?
  • Then what?
  • What would the consequences be?
  • How can we make that idea bigger?
  • What’s the most unexpected/ridiculous thing that could happen?
  • Under what circumstances would I consider wearing a chicken suit?

Use gentle prods to keep yourself moving forward and exploring options.

Don’t Settle for the First Thing That Comes to Mind

Often the first idea or answer that comes to mind is the cliched response because it’s the easiest — it’s what most other people would come up with if asked the question. You want the more creative option which means you have to dig a little, looking for several more answers to the same question to find something original and worth pursuing.

In this speech by John Cleese (of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fame) he mentions that although he is not as talented as some of his fellow comedians, he stayed at his desk longer until he found the unexpected ideas that kept things fresh. 

Try it yourself. How many uses can you think of for a brick? Your first few answers will be the usual — e.g. build a house, doorstop, fling through the window of someone you dislike. But once you get past those, then you start coming up with more interesting answers — e.g. heat it up and stick it in your bed on a cold night, use it to weigh down your hot air balloon. The longer you work at the problem the more interesting your answers will be.

The answers will come slower than the first few, but they’ll be worth the wait. There’s no need to rush your daydreaming. Spend some time exploring all your options, and when you think you’ve run out of ideas push for one more just to see what happens. Your Creativity may surprise you!

Don’t Overthink It

If daydreaming becomes stressful, then you’ve gone wrong somewhere. It should be an inspiring, entertaining, illuminating experience. If you find yourself forcing the thoughts, then step back and let your mind rest.

If there are no thoughts there, then just allow your mind to wander — like an arctic explorer across the snowy tundra (without the polar bears and the possibility that climate change is about to maroon you by slicing off a fresh iceberg beneath your feet).

Perhaps your Creativity needs the blankness of your mind to recuperate so she/he can give you an answer to your writing problem later.

Whatever the results of your daydream, by using these tips you can prime your Creativity full of ideas so when it comes time to sit down and write you’re both ready to get to work!

Tune in next week for a guest post by a fellow writer explaining how she uses ‘what if?’ to solve her writing conundrums.

In the meantime, what are your daydreaming tips? Share them with us in the comments.

 


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How Daydreaming Can Improve Your Writing Speed

A little girl looking out the window, daydreaming

“Daydreaming” by Greg Westfall via Flickr

Hi, I’m Jessica’s Creativity (you can tell because I’m writing in purple) and today I want to convince you to daydream more often.

Last week we started looking at the subject of daydreaming.

Why?

Because it’s one of those guilty pleasures, something you were told off for doing as a child and then discovered valid reasons for doing in adulthood — just like putting your elbows on the dinner table, licking your knife, and avoiding mashed potatoes (can you believe your parents didn’t realize the dangers of carbs?!).

As a child, you may have been told that daydreaming was a waste of time. I’m here today to convince you that, as a writer, you can now say that daydreaming is a legitimate part of your writing process. Not only that, it might actually save you time.

Don’t believe me?

Go listen to this interview with Hugh Howey and pay particular attention around 12:20 minutes. Before becoming a full-time writer, he did a number of other jobs. He daydreamed while he worked, writing stories in his head so when he sat down to the page he was ready to go.

Daydreaming can be used to prepare your mind, so when you finally sit down to write the words are ready to pour onto the page. 

The act of creating takes time. Sure, there’s that moment of inspiration when an idea suddenly hits you, but one idea does not a story make. (I’m sure that’s a quote from Yoda, during his years as a writing coach.) To put together a story with plot, characters, location, and descriptions, your Creativity needs time to form them.

How often have you sat yourself down in front of the page and ‘switched your Creativity on’ expecting the words to come, only to find your Creativity needs time to ‘buffer up’ before providing you with the details you need? You end up staring off into space while your Creativity meanders through the streets of your imaginary world looking for clues, playing with plot twists, planting red herrings or finding the perfect outfit for your heroine’s big scene (don’t ever rush a diva while she’s choosing stilettos).

Let’s face it, that’s technically daydreaming. Your Creativity needs that time to create, so why not start your Creativity on the task a few hours early?

Get her/him working on story details while you commute to work, wash the dishes, go for a run, do some gardening, walk your pet python, or do some other mindless task. Then when you do sit down to the page your Creativity is already ‘loaded’ and ready to go. You’ve got an image in your head of what you want to write so all that’s left is to find the words.

If you and your Creativity can work out a system of regular daydreaming, then you can potentially speed up your writing time (even if it did lead to you getting off the train two stops too late, breaking your daughter’s favorite mug, getting yourself completely lost while exercising, mowing your petunias, and losing your pet snake down a storm drain). The inspiration and creation has already happened. When it comes time to write you become a scribe, recording all the progress you’ve already thought up, while your Creativity adds in extra details here and there as needed.

Now I know what you’re thinking. What if I forget the stuff I’ve daydreamed? The answer is relatively simple. Make quick notes about the things you’re thinking about and then make sure you have a regular writing schedule in place (daily would be ideal) so you can get those words down on the page as quickly as possible. The longer you leave the images in your head, the more flaky and stale they become…rather like pastries. So get those ideas onto the page while they’re still piping hot!

There you have it. If you want to speed up your writing, spend more time staring out into space daydreaming. It’s very simple really.

How do you use daydreaming to speed up your writing?

******

P.S. In case you haven’t heard, The Red Umbrella (my latest short story) is now available on Amazon. If you didn’t get the news, then sign up to my author mailing list for regular updates or check out my author blog.


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A New Hashtag for Writers: #WriterInNeed

WriterInNeed hashtag

Background Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

(I have been battling a bad cold/viral infection for the past week and a half, and spent most of last week flat on my back so I missed my De-Stress Your Writing Life deadline for the first time this year. My apologies to everyone. I hope to be back up and running soon.) 

There are many great Twitter groups out there for writers, such as #MyWANA and #WriteClub, where writers can get encouragement, support and plenty of random fun.

However I would like to encourage the use of a new hashtag specifically for writers who are looking for help with something writing related: #WriterInNeed

Why Do We Need Another Hashtag?

While the hashtags mentioned are wonderful author communities, the messages tweeted cover a variety of topics, including blog posts, word counts, and random thoughts. The #WriterInNeed hashtag is specifically for writers looking for help with their writing related problem.

For example, this hashtag can be used:

  • If you’re looking for a beta reader with specific qualifications (such as someone with police experience or someone who has traveled to a location you’re describing in your story).
  • If you need help with a language (for example, if you wish to use a French phrase in something you are writing).
  • If you’re looking for good research resources for your writing (for example, if you want to know of a good website or book on the subject of lace making).
  • If you would like help from your fellow writers with simple decisions (like which cover art to use or what to name your characters).
  • If you want suggestions on good writing books dealing with an area of writing that you have difficulty with.

I will keep a close eye on this hashtag and do my best to refer the writer in need to a fellow writer who may be able to help, or at least retweet it to my followers so that someone else may be able to help. I may also mention certain WriterInNeed tweets on my blog to help spread the word.

Will This Work?

I am constantly amazed at the wealth of experience the writers are I have encountered on Twitter possess.

Just recently, I helped a writer get in touch with someone who had experience in Latin. Within minutes the writer had a Latin phrase she could use in her novel. It really was that easy.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of us could get answers to our writing problems that quickly? I’m hoping that #WriterInNeed will bring us a little closer to that ideal.

Let’s give it a go!

What writing hashtags do you use? How could you use #WriterInNeed?


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Voice Recognition – The Answer to Repetitive Strain Injury?

A woman holding her shoulder in pain.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Ever since I was in my early teens, I’ve been plagued with bouts of pain in my wrist, elbow, and shoulder because of ‘chronic overuse.’ For many writers this is the bane of their existence. Some also call this pain Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

I’ve been relatively pain free for the past few years, thanks to enforced rest due to chronic illness. Now that I’m getting back into the swing of writing on a regular basis, the pain is returning.

For a few weeks now I have been trying to improve the ergonomics of my work space but it hasn’t been enough, so I’ve had to think creatively.

A week ago I activated the voice recognition software on my computer to see if would make a difference. I’ve known about voice-to-text software for a while now but never had the inclination to set it up. Now, thanks to circumstances, I’ve been forced to do so.

I won’t lie, it does take a lot of getting used to. It takes a lot of patience to teach the computer my voice patterns, strange word choices, and Australian accent. However, it is worth it to reduce the pain.

I’ll be interested to see if this change in writing method also changes my writing voice. Instead of thumping away at my keyboard, structuring sentences as the words flow from my fingers, I now have to form my thoughts into coherent and clear sentences before any words can appear on the page. It may not seem like that big a difference on the surface, but for me it is a completely different working arrangement that is curbing some of my spontaneity as I try to retrain my brain.

I didn’t realise how natural typing had become to me. The words seemed to materialise, from an abstract thought in my mind to solid sentences on the page, all with very little effort on my part. Now my mouth needs to form each tiny the word and every individual punctuation mark.

I’m sure that soon this new way of doing things will feel more natural. It might even turn into me talking to my computer is if it were a child hearing a bedtime story. The possibilities are intriguing. It may even open up a whole raft of new story ideas.

In the meantime though, my writing may be a little stilted until I get the hang of this.

Have you ever try voice recognition software for writing? Do you have any suggestions or questions?


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How Healthy is Your Reading Diet?

Someone heading to bed with a good book and a bowl of cereal

“Good Night” by Leo Hidalgo via Flickr

Last week I mentioned this quote by Ray Bradbury:

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

Now if you’re a writer it’s understandable that you must write (we covered the writing diet in last week’s post), but must you read?

Ray Bradbury and many other successful authors say you do. Why? Because the words you take in as you read affect the words you write.

The reading diet isn’t just about picking up a good book and flicking through the pages. Notice Bradbury said, “Read intensely.” What does that mean?

It means savouring what you read, chewing it over in the mind and noticing the details from word choice to character development. Do you see why it’s called a diet?

Today we’ll cover the three aspects of a reading diet:

  • How often we read,
  • How much we read, and
  • What kind of books we’re reading.

Remember, everyone is different. The books and reading methods that appeal to me might not appeal to you, and vice versa. I’ve tried to keep the suggestions here as general as possible so you can tailor them to your own personal tastes.

Shall we get started?

How Often?

So how often should you read? Well, remember your reading diet depends on your personal needs. Some writers read every morning before they write. Others read on the weekends or just before they go to bed.

Once again, regularity is key. It is very easy for the creative well to run dry if you are not topping it up with regular input.

How do you know if you’re not reading enough? Here are some signs:

  • Difficulty finding the word you’re looking for. Reading provides you with a continual stream of words and often enlarges your vocabulary. If the words you use are shrinking, then you need to top yourself up with some reading.
  • Reoccurring cliches in your writing. Reading widely shows you what has already been done in your genre and demonstrates the inventive and unique places stories can go.
  • Lack of new ideas. If your Creativity’s excitement and output are starting to wane, it’s likely you’re not providing enough ‘idea juice’ for her/him. Keep the creative will filled.

If any of the above signs are sounding familiar, then the solution is to increase your reading time.

How Much?

What about how much you read? To determine this you need to take into consideration how long you read for and how fast you read.

When it comes to reading intensely, you want to read less and read it slowly. Too often we find ourselves pulled into a good book, turning the pages faster and faster as the plot progresses. That’s great if the aim of the reading is to enjoy the story, but as a writer you need to see more than just the scenery whizzing by.

Sometimes all you need is a single paragraph and ten minutes to pick it apart. Read slowly, deliberately, questioning each word you come to. Why did the writer choose that word? How is the writer directing the reader’s attention? What is the writer building towards?

You may even choose to read the passage out loud, listening to the lilt of the words so you can absorb the music inherent in the sentences.

What Kind?

Now, what kind of books should you be reading? The choices before you are countless. Does it matter what you pick up to read? Well, if your purpose is the “read intensely” and slowly, then you want to make sure you’re reading the right stuff.

First and foremost you want to make sure you’re reading quality work. Think back to the diet analogy. Whole foods are recommended over fast food. Why? Because they provide your body with the high-quality fuel it needs to operate efficiently. So while your favourite comic book might have some great one liners, for this diet you want to be sinking your reading teeth into something more filling.

Now this doesn’t mean you should go out and find yourself a dry and dense tome of a book and spend years poring over every single sentence of it. Look for books you enjoy reading but books that will challenge you.

Find books that you can learn from, whether it be new subjects, new words, new genres, new writing forms or just new perspectives. But don’t think that means you can only grab the latest book hot off the presses. These are things that are new to you. There are plenty of classic books, reaching back hundreds of years, that contain fresh and interesting writing for you to experience.

So, to recap, the reading diet is as follows:

  • Read regularly.
  • Read slowly.
  • Read good quality books you enjoy and that will teach you something new.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what’s on your reading list? What are your reading diet tips?


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What’s on Your Writing Diet?

A half-eaten cookie on a book.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

I recently came across this quote by Ray Bradbury:

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

So, what’s on your diet?

When it comes to dieting, we’re usually encouraged to look at:

  • How often we eat,
  • How much we eat, and
  • What kind of food we’re eating.

The same holds true for our writing and reading diets. So for the next two weeks I’m encouraging you to take a closer look at your writing and reading habits.

Of course, it goes without saying that everyone is different. The diet that works for you may not work for me and vice versa. The principle is the same for writing routines and reading choices.

The trick with dieting (as well as reading and writing) is to tailor your habits to your own needs. This week we’ll look at the different aspects of a good writing diet. Next week we’ll tackle the reading diet. As we go, think about the tweaks you can make to your writing and reading habits to increase your creative output.

Ready?

How Often?

The first thing with any writing routine is working out how often you write. Most writers recommend writing daily in order to get into a good rhythm. But there are some writers out there who write less frequently What about you?

No matter whether you write every day, every second day, or only every week, the important thing is to make sure you are writing regularly. Why? As Ray Bradbury pointed out in his quote, this is a diet. Binge eating doesn’t work for your body, so binge writing doesn’t usually work well for your Creativity or your mind.

No matter when you plan to write, make sure you have a specific time and place in mind. Schedule it into your calendar or set yourself a reminder on your phone. If you only write when you feel like it, then it’s too easy for other things to take the place of your writing. Make an appointment with your writing and keep it!

How Much?

What about how muchyou write? Some writers stick to word counts. Other writers prefer to set a time limit. How do you decide how much you will write?

Whichever method you use, you want the amount to be achievable, something you can manage on a regular basis. Getting into a routine is hard, and there will be days when you miss your writing goal for whatever reason. Melissa Dinwiddie describes her goals as “ridiculously achievable” because they are easy to do every day and easy to return to if she misses a day.

Setting a goal for yourself means you can measure your success and improvement. You may start out with a goal of writing 100 words a day. Gradually that goal may increase to 500 and then 1,000. It’s great to have an overall goal of reaching a certain amount of writing a day, but remember to work you way up with achievable goals that you can realistically accomplish during each writing session.

What Kind?

Now, what kind of writing are you doing? Short stories? Novellas? Novels? Poetry? Songwriting? Are you writing romance? Science-fiction? Comedy? There are so many different writing forms and genres. Are you taking advantage of them?

A healthy diet encourages you to eat a variety of foods. So too a healthy writing life involves variety and even experimentation. We all have our favourite writing forms and subjects, but stepping outside our comfort zone from time to time not only allows us to learn and grow, but can also lead to very pleasant surprises. You never know whether you’ll enjoy something or not until you give it a go.

For example, I used to love writing novels and had no interest in short stories until several years ago. A friend of mine organised a “writers’ day” and requested each writer bring a short story with them. While preparing my contribution, I discovered I loved writing short stories and have greatly enjoyed writing them ever since.

Don’t rule anything out until you’ve tried it. You might discover a brand new outlet for your Creativity.

So, to recap, no matter what kind of writer you are, the writing diet goes as follows:

  • Write regularly.
  • Write achievable amounts each session.
  • Use variety and experimentation in your writing.

Now I hand it over to you. What kind of writing diet works for you?


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Gut, Heart and Head – Making Creative Decisions as a Writer

A sign offering two options: Warm and Cold

“Decision” by Tim Rizzo

There are countless decisions you need to make as a writer, ranging from the genre of your novel to the placement of punctuation. Some decisions come easily, others cause confusion and some perhaps even lead to sleepless nights.

When making a decision, there are usually three elements in play:

  • Your gut – What your instinct is telling you.
  • Your heart – What you’re emotionally attached to.
  • Your head – What options you have before you and the logical reasoning behind them.

How can you use all three of these elements to make the best decisions for your story? And where does your Creativity come into all of this?

Let’s look at an example.

The Beginnings of a Problem

For the past week or two I’ve been going through the edits for my collection of short, short stories called Baverstock’s Allsorts. Most of my editor’s suggestions were straight forward, but there was one suggestion which has given me pause for a number of days.

He suggested I change the ending to one of my stories…and at that point that my gut and my heart went to war with each other.

My gut reaction was that he was right. The change was essential. But my heart was too attached to the original version. It searched for every conceivable reason why I shouldn’t change the ending.

So naturally, being in a quandary, I looked to loved ones and beta readers for their opinion.

If you have ever had experience with this kind of situation, you undoubtedly know what happened next. I was presented with a number of reasons why the ending should stay.

On the positive side, my writing had enough emotional pull for my readers to have strong views on the subject. However, I was once again left in the middle of the war between my gut and my heart – with the added problem that my heart had brought in reinforcements.

The Real Problem

In the process of making the decision, I had to disappoint someone. I had to either go against what my editor said and follow the suggestions of my readers, or I had to trust my editor and change an ending that my readers liked. I also had to choose within myself – to go with my gut or my heart.

Last week I wrote about the independent writing mindset. In an upcoming section of that chapter, we will look at how an independent writer takes responsibility for their writing, especially in the decisions that need to be made in their writing life.

The reality of writing is that you will always disappoint someone. It is impossible to please everyone with what you write and how you write it. So you want to make decisions that are authentic to your voice and your audience.

You probably think that means my example decision should have been easy: Go with what the readers were telling me.

Well, there was one player missing – my mind hadn’t yet entered the fray.

Finding the Solution

After a fitful night’s sleep, I mentioned my conundrum to one last reader. Her response was unexpected – she agreed with the editor. But even more than that, she explained why she agreed. She finally put my gut feeling into words my head could understand.

Once my head was properly involved I saw the issue much more clearly. But, interestingly enough, my Creativity also joined in. With a bit of creative thinking I could see a third option – one that would allow me to incorporate my editor’s suggestions while taking into consideration the elements of the original ending that my readers liked.

Writing problems are seldom black and white (like deciding whether to delete or add). There are often creative solutions that allow you to have the best of both worlds. These solutions may take time to find, but they’re worth the extra effort.

Gut reactions are important, but so is the emotional investment your heart makes. When you are able to add bring your head and your Creativity into the mix, then you can create alternatives that will add depth and authenticity to your writing.

So, what ended up happening with the story? I changed the ending and ran it past my beta readers. Interestingly enough, they liked it!

Now as I sit here writing this, I can’t believe how much protest my heart put up about the change. I’m completely in love with the new ending and can’t imagine the story ending any other way.

Have you had similar experiences in your editing? What did you do to resolve your writing decisions?


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When Non-Writing Days Proliferate

Girl sleeping - she's definitely having a non-writing day...

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

This month we’ve been talking about non-writing days – those days when you just don’t want to sit down to the page.

All of us have days like that. As Creativity mentioned in her post last week, there’s no need to panic if you’re having one. There are plenty of other things you and your Creativity can do for that day.

A little rest and relaxation often does you and your Creativity wonders, leaving you refreshed and ready to get back to writing tomorrow.

But what happens when those non-writing days start to proliferate? What about when you’re having non-writing weeks? Or non-writing months?

When that starts happening, you know the situation is becoming more serious.

There could be several reasons why you and your Creativity aren’t interested in writing. Let’s have a look at a few of them.

Fear

The most likely reason is something has spooked you. For some reason you’re worried about sitting down and writing.

Perhaps your mind is spinning those ol’ thoughts about how your writing isn’t good enough and how you don’t have anything worth writing about.

How can you tell if fear is the cause of your problem?

Warning Signs

  • You wake up feeling great, but the very idea of writing suddenly makes you feel ill or tired.
  • You try writing, but you feel really tired. When you get up from your desk and do something else, you suddenly feel fine again.
  • You try writing, but your stomach is rumbling. You feel like you’ve just got to eat even though it’s only half an hour since your last meal.
  • As you try to write, you hear the voice of your Inner Critic picking holes in your words.
  • You find yourself editing your words as you write them.

If that’s sounding at all familiar, then your problem is likely fear of the page.

What Should You Do?

You’ll need to work through your fears, firstly identifying them and then deciding how you’re going to overcome them.

There are more details on how you can go about doing that in Creativity’s post Creative Action: Freewrite About Your Fears.

Physical Exhaustion

Another cause of writing problems is physical exhaustion. This often happens because we put our writing time low on our list of priorities and can only get around to the page at the very end of our day.

You’re never at your best when you’re physically tired, so your writing will naturally suffer.

Warning Signs

  • You feel tired before you start writing.
  • You feel tired while you’re writing.
  • You feel tired when you get up from your writing.
  • You fall asleep while you’re writing.

What Should You Do?

You need some rest. Go to bed early or have a nap. There’s no point pushing yourself.

Try scheduling your writing earlier in the day when you’re feeling fresher.

Mental Exhaustion

Creative acts, like writing, require brain space. If your brain is already crammed full of thoughts from your day, or your brain fuel has already been spent on other activities, then writing will be a chore.

Writing is not something you can usually do on autopilot. It requires concentration and emotional investment. If you’re not able to give that, then your writing will show it.

Warning Signs

  • You find yourself writing To Do Lists rather than your novel.
  • You can’t remember your main character’s name, defining physical features or personality quirks.
  • When you sit down to write, you feel like it’s the first time you’ve stopped all day.

What Should You Do?

Make sure you’re not using your writing time as your sole down time. Find times in your schedule where you can pause from your busy life to walk in the park, read a book or have a good soak in the tub. (If you’re looking for more suggestions, try the e-book Tips for Those Contemplating Insanity.)

Mental exhaustion should not be ignored as it can eventually lead to other problems (such as prolonged fatigue and breakdowns). Make sure you’re taking care of yourself and giving your mind as well as your body regular opportunities to rest.

Creative Exhaustion

Creativities also need their down time. Without regular refilling of the creative well, your Creativity may find her/himself winding down – perhaps even too tired or stressed to continue producing the ideas and inspiration you’re relying on.

Warning Signs

  • Ideas do not flow regularly and freely.
  • Ideas become clichéd and lose their variety.
  • You don’t receive sudden, random sparks of inspiration at awkward times (in the shower, just before bed).

What Should You Do?

Your Creativity needs some attention – perhaps even a holiday. Take the pressure off. You may even have to remove some deadlines.

Find yourself some creatively refreshing activities, like reading or traveling, to rejuvenate your Creativity and refill your creative well.

Take Care of Yourself and Your Creativity

As you can see, if you’re suffering from a proliferation of non-writing days, don’t ignore them. Don’t keep pushing.

Take a little time to look for the cause and then start making some changes.

If you’re having trouble with mental or creative exhaustion, then you’ll love the announcement I’ll be making next week. Stay tuned!

What about you? Have you experienced any of the above symptoms in your writing life?


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Why You Shouldn’t Read This Blog

A child holding a stop sign, because you should really stop reading this blog...like right now.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Yep, you read that title correctly. You shouldn’t read this blog. Stop right now.

Why?

Because you should be off somewhere writing.

I used to read so many writing blogs. Probably at least one third of the time I spent at the computer was reading blogs.

Why was I reading them?

  • I wanted to learn more about writing (because there’s always something more to learn about writing).
  • I wanted to understand the trends in the publishing industry so I could keep up with the curve.
  • I wanted to know what my fellow writers were writing about so I could comment.
  • I wanted to make friends with other writers and share guest posts with them.
  • Most of all, I thought it would make me a better writer in the long run.

Are any of these reasons sounding familiar?

Some blogs made me feel positive, others stressed me out and still others made me feel utterly overwhelmed. I started wondering to myself:

  • Can I really make it as a writer?
  • How will I ever remember all of these things?
  • The industry is changing so fast. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Will it be stable enough by the time I want to publish?

Each day my approach to the page was altered by the latest blog post I’d read. Should I be writing fast? Should I be writing slow? How many words a day is a good average? Are my characters strong enough? Am I using too many adverbs? Will this piece be marketable? How am I going to get my em dashes to show up correctly on Kindle?

Each time my husband would catch me at the computer reading a blog, he’d tap me on the shoulder and say, “You shouldn’t be reading. You should be writing! You know all this. Just write!”

It took me a while to see the wisdom in his words. After all, aren’t the best writers the ones who keep reading? How am I going to learn and improve if I don’t listen to the experience of other writers?

Finally, gradually, I switched my focus. I made sure I started my day with my writing rather than reading blogs.

And you know what? I learned more from my daily writing practice than I had learned from the blogs I’d been reading.

Why?

Because I’d found the things that worked for me. Yes, there were plenty of things I’d learned while reading blogs, but they didn’t do me any good until I actually worked things out for myself on the page.

Am I saying that you should never read a writing blog?

Well…that might be going a bit far, but it’s at least worth considering – even if its just for a couple of weeks.

See what kind of a writer you are when it’s just you and the page. Because in the end writing has nothing to do with what you do and don’t agree with in other people’s posts. It’s got nothing to do with how many adjectives you use in your prose. It’s got nothing to do with the latest numbers from Amazon or the latest demise of a bookstore chain.

It has to do with the magical thing that happens when you turn letters into words, words into sentences and sentences into stories. That’s what writing is.

You definitely can’t do that while reading this blog or any other.

If you do want to keep up your blog reading routine, then ask yourself these questions about each blog you visit.

  • Would I be better off writing right now, instead of reading?
  • Does this blog make me feel excited about myself and my writing or does it leave me feeling deflated, perhaps even depressed?

If you’re not up to writing, and the blog keeps you creatively buoyant, then it’s worth a read. Otherwise, get yourself back to your writing – because you’re a writer and that’s the best place for you to be.

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Whenever I post to Creativity’s Workshop I work hard to keep the subjects positive and inspiring. I aim to motivate you to find your own creative and prolific writing routine. But at the end of the day, I hope to see you writing.

So if you’re too busy writing to read my blog, then I am very, very happy for you! I wish you a happy and fulfilled writing life.

If you want to be busy writing but you can’t get yourself into a good creative routine, then sign up for a creative coaching session and we can talk about finding your creative rhythm.


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Our Pep Talk Winner: A Kick in the Pants from ‘Mr T’

A coach giving his football player a pep talk. Don't you wish you had someone on hand to do the same for your writing?

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

If you’ve been signed up to the Creativity’s Workshop mailing list (no longer available as of 2016) for the past month or two, you’ll know that we’ve been looking at how to write yourself a personalised pep talk.

There are plenty of pep talks of every description on the internet, freely available to get you motivated and writing again. But the most effective pep talk is the one written specifically for you – the one tailored to your personal writing needs.

Unless you have a writing coach (which isn’t a bad idea if you want to take your writing seriously) the only person who can write that pep talk is you.

The process of creating a personalised pep talk involves identifying:

  • Your biggest fear,
  • What you need to hear,
  • What you wish someone would say to you,
  • Your favourite motivational quotes,
  • The most inspiring/comforting thing you could be told right now, and
  • What you feel you need in order to continue.

I asked those on the mailing list who participated in the exercise to send through their finished pep talks so I could publish one on Creativity’s Workshop.

The pep talk I’ve chosen comes from Tristan, who felt he needed some ‘tough love’ and decided his imaginary Mr T was the best person to give it to him. Without further ado, I present to you Tristan’s pep talk.

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Biggest Fear: I haven’t completely worked out what’s happening in my story

What do you need to hear: That it will be written some day.

What do you wish someone would say to you: “I can’t wait to read your story.”

What are some of your favourite quotes: “Those who can – do. Those who can’t – teach. Those who can’t teach – become critics.”

What would be the most inspiring/comforting thing you could be told right now: “If you won’t write this story, then I will.”

What am I looking for: Someone to share my story with.

Pep Talk:

Hey you! You sitting in that chair looking all self-pitying. I know what ‘cha thinking. You got this story in ‘yer head that ‘cha know is the best idea you eva’ had and you’re just waiting it out until you understand the sucker.

Well how long you gonna wait, fool? Once you know what ‘cha story’s gonna do, why would you write it? It’ll be boring man. Like driving down a highway wich ‘er elder sister who don’t let ‘cha turn off the road and frolic in the sissy flowers. Stories aren’t written on brain stems, fool! Stories are written on paper! Now get those words ‘offa your brain and onta that E-lectronic device.

Get it done man! Before I come and <use your imagination here>!

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Well, I don’t know about you but I’m certainly feeling motivated. I either want to write or run away and hide. I’m not sure which yet.

I want to say thank you to everyone who participated, and a special thank you to Tristan for letting me post his pep talk.

Now, what do you wish someone would say to you? Why not try writing yourself a pep talk in the comments?