I’m a big fan of motivational reading. Over the years I have used many books, talks, podcasts, and more, to get me over humps and out of slumps. Now I’d like to share all that has resonated with me, in the hope that, wherever you are on your writing journey, the things I’ve learned might inspire you too.
Each of my Author’s Mindset series has four topics. I suggest you pick one topic and spend some time (at least a week, or as long as you need) mulling over the suggestions, and implementing any new habits you need to propel your writing forward.
Have you ever had the perfect story idea in your mind, only to watch it turn to mush when you try to write it down? Or are you disillusioned because you can’t express your ideas as well as you’d like to?
The writing process – and the publishing process – are very vulnerable spaces. I talk about the vulnerability of sharing your work in ‘Constructive Criticism’ (part 4), but, before that, there’s another type of vulnerability you need to bring to your writing, and that’s the vulnerability involved in putting your ideas down on the page.
When writing, things rarely come out perfectly the first time around. If you set the bar so high that you want your novel to pour out fully finished on the page, you are 99.9% likely to fail, and, what’s more, this pressure will rob you of the joy of creativity as you go.
I can distinctly remember which of the passages of my writing came to me almost perfectly, and now appear in my published books, precisely because they were such rare and joyous experiences. I think of these precious moments as occasional rewards for the hard slog I usually do to craft my books. It’s disappointing to write a scene and return to it a day later to find that it doesn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped – but that’s an experience I’m much more familiar with than a perfectly polished flow of words.
Being afraid to write crap will quickly morph into staring at a blank page. As Margaret Atwood says, ‘the rubbish bin is your friend’. So write away! And remember this: whatever stage writers have got to in the writing and publishing process, the tussle to turn your work from a rough manuscript into a dazzling piece of fiction never changes.
ACTION STEPS/THINGS TO CONSIDER
If you’re struggling with the blank page, I suggest knuckling down and being fully prepared to write some rubbish. Write fast so you don’t give yourself too much time to check and edit. This isn’t a long-term writing suggestion, it’s an exercise to help you get into the flow of words. And you can return to this exercise if you get stuck. When I was using The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and following her advice to write three pages every morning, I was amazed at the regularity in which I’d write two pages of meandering nothingness followed by something way more interesting on the third page. Sometimes you just need to let the dirty water pour out before the tap can run clear.
Don’t be thwarted if you read your words back and you’re not happy. Look for your best, most authentic sentence. What made you pick it out? Go from there, and don’t beat yourself up with self-criticism. And if there’s nothing… start again, and remember you’ve learned something about what you don’t like!
If it feels like too much comes too easy, you might not be challenging yourself enough. Look carefully as to where you can hone your sentence structure or add more to a character or scene. Being vulnerable is a good thing when you’re writing.
Write three pages every day for the next week. It could be a scene for your story. Ideas about the plot. Reasons you want to write the story. Why another story has inspired you. Anything! Don’t hold back, this is just for you. Don’t read it back straight away, just put it to one side and keep writing. You can decide later if you want to return to it, as the point of this exercise is to get your ideas and your words to flow.
HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR VULNERABILITY:
Books by Brene Brown, and watch or re-watch her TED talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en
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