Writing advice

Of writing and security blankets

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I am fresh back from the Be Love retreat run by Dr Joanna Martin and the wonderful women at One of Many. Two days examining love, not as an emotion or an action, but as a place to stand. A conscious choice to be love, not just to feel the hormone cocktail of attraction or do nice things for the people in your heart. What I learned could (and may yet) fill a whole category of blog posts…

There were many tears shed and many breakthroughs broken by all, with blood, sweat and yes, even more tears. At the end of it all, I wanted to share an “AHA” moment that I had during the evening session (led by the amazing Susie Heath).

Susie’s sessions are a glorious mix of dance, silent interactions and emotion. Each exercise is crafted to help you feel in your body what your head has been learning that day. Most powerful for me was the last: Susie stood in the middle of the room, a constant centre around which all the women orbited. As we danced, she spoke to us of all the adventures we could have, knowing she was there to look back to when we needed her. And in the middle, she gently dropped the words I didn’t know I needed to hear:

“Go write your book.”

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for about a year now. My best flow was a three day streak, and even that required a vacation to Memphis for time, space and inspiration to magically align – not exactly a long term solution! But as Annie spoke those words, my brain filled with ideas and – even better – confidence. The tips and tricks I’ve been trying over the past twelve months pale in comparison to the flow I’ve achieved since this moment.

For many of us, writers block really is all in our head. A head game we play with ourselves where our inner critic is stronger than our joy in putting words on a page. What if I choose the wrong word? What if my characters are accidentally problematic? What if writing this novel destroys my finances, makes me homeless, drives away anyone and everyone I’ve ever loved and all I have to show for it is 60,000 terrible words about magical vikings???

What I remembered in that three minute dance is that writers are never really alone. We all have our security blankets – the fixed points of comfort we look to when we wobble on our paths to adventure.

Ritual

The right environment is often a great way to ease yourself into the right headspace. For me, that looks like a massive cup of tea, a scented candle and the perfect level of background noise. Some stories need music, the right melody to carry the words onto the page, where others beg for ambient sounds to conjure the right setting. One of my friends can only write in coffee shops, where people watching turns into story ideas turns into words on a page. Finding your own writing ritual may be a wonderful way to beat the block.

Friends and family

This can be a tricky one to get right – the ones you love may be too quick to love your words, and the nagging voice of doubt shouts a lot louder than their r praise at times. Equally, opening yourself up enough to share your writing only to have it shot down by your nearest and dearest is a form of torture I hope you never have to experience. Trust me, it hurts

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A vital team member…

So how do you find the right friends, the right family, to share your writing with? Start with those whose taste you admire. If you have a friend who gives consistently good book recommendations your trust in their judgement and shared tastes may make their feedback weigh a little more. Equally, if you are lucky enough to have writer friends, they could be the perfect partner to swap stories with. What starts as a group chat about fictional ice hockey players might lead to the perfect cheerleader, with pompoms galore and a listening ear when the plot bunnies bite! (Hi Ellyse!)

Writing groups

I plan to talk about my experiences with critique from writing groups in a later post, but they have their place in the confidence game too. Sometimes, there’s nothing like sitting in a room full of people who wrestle with plots on the regular to get your own feelings of flow going. I’ve had some wonderful moments where listening to someone talk through their own snarl has untangled one of my own. Just remember to keep your notepad handy to jot the memory down!

So now I’m turning it over to you – what security blankets have you found for the times when the words just won’t come or confidence fails?

And just in case you need to hear it: GO WRITE YOUR BOOK!

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