Friday, 22 November 2013

Ten Ways to Boost your Writing Practise

Every sporting and musical activity has some kind of warm up, so why should creative writing be any different? It's important to get those creative muscles working every day, even if it's only for a few minutes. Even the most seasoned writers have days when they get stuck on a piece they're writing or feel completely uninspired to write anything at all. We've all been there - those days when you think "Why do I bother?" and "Will I ever be inspired again?" and "Shall I just pack it all in now?" But remember these feelings won't last and there are lots of fun ways to get going again - here are some of my favourites:

1. Pick a writing prompt to kick start a writing session, such as those found at

2. Attend a writing workshop / course / retreat

3. Join a writers' group - sharing your work and listening to others' work can be inspiring

4. Go for a long walk in the countryside or any green space you can find - ideally somewhere with trees or water

5. Use another art form for inspiration - visit an art gallery / museum, go to the theatre, watch a great film

6. Dance madly (indoors with the blinds shut - not in the street!) to your favourite music or go to a dance class (I love zumba!)

7. Sing your head off to your favourite songs (in the house or the car - I don't recommend serenading everyone in the high street unless you're already a licensed busker!)

8. Practise yoga, tai chi or some other kind of mindful exercise

9. Gardening - from planting to weeding - looking after plants and trees brings me back to nature and helps me focus

10. Last but not least, keep reading! (novels, poetry, comics - whatever you like!)

Of course, everyone has their own sources of inspiration, so if these don't work for you please don't despair - just keep trying new activities until you find what works for you!

Monday, 18 November 2013

From Missing Cherries to Better Writing

My last blog post gave you ten things it takes to be a writer but it didn't cover everything. Also essential is:
- An obsession for detail – from spotting spelling and grammatical mistakes to working out what might be missing from your story. This is an obvious one which I won't go on about and some may argue that you can always get someone else to proof your work and offer suggestions on plot/character.
- Trusting your subconscious – realising that no matter how hard you try to make things happen at the 'right' moment – i.e. while you're at your writing desk – that the really important stuff only comes into your head when you're not even thinking about it, usually when you're not even writing. Unfortunately this means that inspiration hits you at the most inopportune moments – in the car, in the shower, 5 in the morning etc.
I was set off on this train of thought by some missing cherries (yes really!) As well as being a writer I'm also a busy mum and one of the (very) few luxuries I treat myself to is having the weekly food shop delivered. And sometimes things are missing. The last time but one the shopping delivery was missing some cat food, an obvious error which I spotted straight away. The supermarket in question kindly recompensed me with a voucher to cover the cat food and the delivery charge. So this time I decided to treat the family to some cherries – they were on offer but still expensive in my opinion! Anyway, the shopping was delivered on Saturday and as I've had a lot on my mind lately I didn't notice anything was missing at first. However at 5am this morning (Tuesday) I found myself wide awake. One of my first thoughts was “Where are the cherries?!” After trying and failing to get back to sleep I finally got up and went to check the shopping receipt and the cupboards. I was right – two packs of cherries were on the bill but there were none in the cupboards. Of course I know this will be put right and that will be the end of it. But the point I'm making is:
- how important it is to check the details; and,
- how the subconscious mind always finds a way of always telling you what you need to know.

What Makes a Good Creative Writer?

It takes a great many qualities to become a good creative writer; here are 10 of them:

1. A love of reading – this comes first and is as important as a love of writing

2. A love of writing – pretty obvious, unless you've never tried writing before

3. A love of words – meaning you are dedicated to finding / using the right words / phrases for whatever it is you are writing

4. A good imagination – crucial!

5. Good powers of observation – being a people watcher and an eavesdropper!

6. A love of telling stories – always telling stories to anyone who will listen

7. Being disciplined – establishing and sticking to some kind of writing routine

8. Being thick skinned – being able to take criticism / rejection

9. Being patient – and I MEAN patient – especially when waiting for agents or the publishing process

10. A lifelong dedication to improving your writing skills – attending workshops and courses, reading books about writing, attending author talks, joining a writers' group, joining an online critique group and anything else that improves your writing skills.

I think I've covered the main qualities, but feel free to add any others you think are missing!