Monday, January 23, 2017
It's one of my goals, and indeed one of my sanity-saving actions, to write every weekday. It doesn't have to be long, it doesn't have to be powerful, moving stuff, and most of all, it doesn't have to be perfect - it just has to happen. Last year I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (personal hero) and for any creatives out there wondering - yes, you need this book. This was definitely the beautiful, articulate kick up the arse I had needed to get started on a passion project of mine that I had always shied away from - the typical reasons held me back: 'What if I'm not good enough?' 'What if it's shit?' 'What if everything I do is total tripe and I get humiliated by putting myself out there?'
In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert basically takes those fears and exposes them for what they are - lies and road blocks. There are always going to be a thousand reasons not to do something, and if you're in that headspace, go and read that book immediately. But to those of you that are willing and ready to fuck it all off and say: 'To hell with it, I'm doing it!' - I'm so glad you got here. I wanted to list some of the things to do, or bear in mind, that made it easier for me to be a consistently crap writer every day, and show up anyway.
EMBRACE THE BRAIN DUMP:
I absolutely loathe the phrase 'brain dump', but sometimes, that's exactly what it is - have you ever had so many thoughts in your mind that you can barely keep track of them? I'm right there with you. In my worst moments, these thoughts can bundle up on me and manifest in anxiety or worse, an anxiety attack.
One of the ways I've found to combat this is to just write - open a notebook and let the pen do the work. Take all of the intellectualising out of your writing process and let whatever happens happens - the freer the better! Ironically, it takes discipline to let yourself go, so if you find this difficult at first, stick with it. Some people find the idea of the Morning Pages, which Julia Cameron discusses in her book 'The Artist's Way', to be very accessible. The idea of writing when you're still not fully conscious and weighed down by your day is an attractive one, and I've definitely had really fruitful writing sessions half asleep! You'll find your way of letting it happen but that's the trick: let it.
WRITING ISN'T A DESTINATION:
I think a lot of us can be guilty of holding the process of writing to being some sort of holy ritual - the tortured artist alone, in front of a keypad, furiously working away at their piece, burning the midnight oil and watching the world go by. Writing happens everywhere. I've woken up and written the first and closing sentences of a story in the Notes app on my iPhone. We've all seen beautiful prose and poetry captured on Twitter in perfect chains of 140 characters or less. Writing can be the ten line poem you jot down on a napkin in Pret. There isn't a 'right time' or 'right way' to get to work, and I think the sooner we realise this, the more we can be open for inspiration to hit us whenever. Isn't the worst thing ever sitting in front of a screen and waiting for *it* to happen? Not to get to 'woo woo' on you, but you act as a vessel - the ideas come when they do. So be prepared - carry a pen and a notepad, make sure you have a note taking app on your phone. Wherever you're at - stay willing. Open yourself up to be inspired.
One of my favourite things to do is prompt myself - once I took myself through the alphabet, writing a 500 or so word piece based around a word that began with the letter 'a', 'b' and so on. It was really frustrating at times and restrictive, but at other times the words just flowed, and it was so rewarding to enjoy the ups and downs of that process. Something I've never done, but I think might be quite fun - spend one week writing down ten prompts a night, one each on scrap paper. By the end, you'll have 70 different prompts. Draw a piece of paper and stick to that prompt each night for the next 70 nights. You would've completed over two months solid of daily writing without even thinking about it!
LEARN THAT A CRAP PIECE DOES NOT MAKE YOU A PIECE OF CRAP:
I think Elizabeth Gilbert basically says in Big Magic, 'I encourage you to go out there and be average'. And there's a really loving reason why she says this. Writing regularly, like working out, is so much more about forming the habit and committing rather than nailing the form and output every single time. Of course you're going to write atrociously sometimes. Of course there will be days when you feel really frustrated with yourself and things just aren't clicking. That's what being creative is! But for every 10 of those days, how great does the day when you nail it feel?
MEASURE YOUR WAY:
This might be a personal one, but I am a goal-oriented person - I do better with stuff I can measure and tick off (my love of the tick box shall be saved for another post). One way I keep myself accountable and motivated? I promise to write minimum 1000 words each time I sit down to write. I'm not overly concerned with these being the *right* or perfect words, I just know I have to hit that marker, and then I can go ahead with my day and carry on as normal. The editing process I go through at the beginning of my writing sessions usually clears out the extraneous stuff from this process. It doesn't always work - some days I don't hit the 1000, some days I easily stream out 2000 or even 3000 words. But the marker is set, and I use Word Count Tool to help me account for that. It's not a perfect science and it won't work for everyone, but I've found it invaluable.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
On Writing by Stephen King