A writer simply writes. Right?

Someone hears you are a writer and they say “oh it must be great to sit down and write, so much fun.” Because that’s what we do; window-192242_1280sit at our desks watching our story play out on the page while sunlight through lacy curtains casts delicate patterns of dappled light and shade…right? No. No, no, no.

Why not? A writer must simply sit with pen and paper and the words will flow seamlessly onto the page. How I wish. Or maybe I don’t. That actually sounds a little boring. How about the struggling penniless writer in a loft in Paris, trying to keep fingers warm by candlelight. Romantic? Mmmm, a little too Dickensian.

So what is the reality? If  writing is not like this, what is in the Writer’s Job Description?

 

  • Reading copiously – yes this is in the job description. IMG_2055Read in your genre, read the classics, read not in your genre, read whatever interests you. Read.
  • Research. Where is the story set? When? Is fashion a factor?
  • Snatching moments to write while working the day job and juggling family commitments.
  • Editing – because no one else does that for free.
  • Editing again and again and again…
  • Struggling with Imposter Syndrome. Ok this isn’t exclusive to writers but it is real.
  • Fielding questions from friends and foe like, “Have you written anything I have read?”
  • Keeping up with social media connections. Someone out there will want to read your words.
  • Looking for those notes you scribbled at 3am and maybe that is what the cat is now throwing up under the bed.
  • Making the time to write.
  • Finding somewhere to write.
  • Trying to keep those ideas in your head while negotiating peak hour traffic.
  • Making yourself accept that though you haven’t written a word on your Work In Progress for days, you are a writer because of the above and more.
  • Reciting this mantra daily –

I am a Writer

I am a Writer

I am a Writer

I could add more to the list, but if you can relate to a few of the points above, guess what? Yep. You are a writer.

 

 

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Bookshop Addiction-there is no cure.

Do you admit to bookshop addiction? I do. Openly, blissfully I admit to my affliction.

And there is no cure. I know; I have done the studies. No. Cure.

When you enter those hallowed walls, how do you browse the shelves? What is your process? Do you head straight for your genre, despite looking for a gift for someone else? Do you start at the back and work forward? Or do you mix it up a little?

I start at the beginning. At the very front. Those tables piled with temptation; the specials tables, then the new releases. Oh… the joy of picking the latest by a favourite author. Beyond these to the crime, romance, literature. There is the classic I have been looking for. On to the self help which does nothing to salve my addiction.

The children’s section, cooking and wine. Art and memoir. My pulse quickened back at Australian Classics and my doctor would seriously disapprove of the level my blood pressure has reached. I have enough to feed my addiction for the moment. It is time to go.

Have you noticed most registers are never quite at the front of the store? Nor in the middle or the back? No. So as not to impede your progress, they know their best spot is to the side, set back a little; not too obvious but where you will see them, ready to transfer your treasures into a brown paper bag while they feed their spoils of your addiction into the till.

I confess to something a little peculiar; I pick the book behind the first one. So I buy a pristine copy. It’s like the top one is sacrificed for the good of the rest. Unless I am browsing a second hand bookshop. That’s a whole other story.

My habit is out of control; I have browsed many a bookshop and below are a few of my favourites. There’s a common thread in these; heritage buildings, high timber shelves, careful lighting. And those library ladders!

New modern shops with their bright lights and garish posters – not for the seriously addicted, clearly. No, the serious addict doesn’t want their affliction flaunted in places such as these. Give us the low light, soft murmurs, and that smell. You know what I mean. Breathe it in and exhale slowly.

When My Muse Procrastinates

Finding the muse, struggling for new ideas, fighting distraction, inspiration lost, writer’s block. We have all been there, that place where we fear we have lost our mojo. There is much written on this subject and many accomplished writers have prepared lists of what they find most useful for breaking the cycle and boosting their own creativity.

Not everything on these lists appeals to me – this body is not built for yoga, for example – so I was compelled to look at the ways I deal with distraction, to solve a character or plot problem, to even actually getting started some days. My list is in no particular order because I find my emotional and physical energy levels will affect which one/s works for me. (In other words which one I can be bothered doing).

1. Escape to a cafe, a museum, a gallery

One of my favourites. This morning I sat in a cafe to prepare notes for this post. I watched people pass, sit and move on. The red haired man covered in tattoos scratching his leg ferociously; a recent tat gone wrong? The shabbily dressed, proud elderly man with a slow limping gait. He Western Australian Museummay have survived a POW camp. The 2 young mums chatting over coffee. One dressed simply and expensively with immaculate hair and makeup, her child quiet and happy; the other frazzled but trying to hide it, her clothes thrown on at the last minute, hair falling out of it’s clip, child throwing his cake at her. Sisters? Old school friends? What choices led to their different journeys?

I might visit an art gallery, an exhibition, even weekend markets. Somewhere I am exposed to different areas of creativity which help get me into the mood and to feel at my most inspired and creative.

2. Take a walk

Walking has solved many a problem for me, I’m just not that great at it. While I know that walking is good for mind and body, walking shoesI often have a pretty good argument against it. I am also one of those people who gets bored on a walk around the neighbourhood, so my smart phone is my best companion. Music, radio or a podcast and by the time I am home again I have solved the issue of whether Miranda should meet Jean Louis in Paris or Sebastion in London. It is also a great way to smell the roses from time to time. Or the seaweed and salt if a beach walk is more the thing.

3. Morning Shower (or whenever)

waterproof notes

This might sound odd but for some reason my mind unleashes when I am in the shower. It’s a bit like being in an enclosure with the outside world shut out for a while. When I found these waterproof notebooks I was in seventh heaven. Because I lose ideas quickly if I don’t write them down. The downside is I can emerge a lot more wrinkled than when I started.

4. Enjoy Nature

Winding down, relaxing, getting my thoughts together is easier, and all the more enjoyable, if I can sit under the shade of a big tree and listen to the birds chat and Looking up into a treethe leaves mingle. Watching the canopy move against the sky can mesmerise and clear my mind, giving me room to start again and fill it with ideas on how to begin the next part of my story, or just start.

5. Write everyday – even if it is junk.

“Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour. (I admit I had to look him up.) but he is right. I just pick up the pen and write. Anything. What I am seeing through the window, what scents waft in. I can hear the sound of a lawn mower fighting the cries of the galahs in the trees. How does the pen feel on the paper. Why does the buttery croissant taste so good right now?

6. Read – Anything

As writers we are encouraged to read widely, especially in the genre we hope to be published. I need no excuse to do this, usually with two books on the go at once. This is therapy, enabling me to travel to different places, inhabit other minds and often inspires me to put the book down and put my imagination to use on my own project. I also love to read what other writers have to say. McSweeneys.net is a good place to get lost in.

7. Mind Mapping

I keep a scrap book and markers handy. This is a fun activity and I am often surprised at where I end up. Basically, start with a question or an idea in the mindmapmiddle of the page and branch out from there with associated thoughts and ideas. A bit like a tree or a spider. Let your mind go and write whatever comes to mind. Try this website,  Mindmapping,  for help if you haven’t tried it.

8. Try just one thing from this list or a different list.

Then share it. I would love to know what works for you.

Oh, and 9. TURN OFF THE INTERNET FOR AN HOUR.

Self explanatory.