My trickiest ‘writing week’ yet

Week 3…a toughie
This third week of writing my short story has been the most challenging one yet. Week one had seen the start of a new project, and the first time I’d written a story in years, and so I was excited to write on most of the days. I was slightly less excited in the second week, but still maintained fairly good rhythm. This last week, however, I’ve just not felt in the mood to write.

I put this down to a number of possible things. The initial excitement has worn off. I have now pretty much outlined the story, plot and characters – so there’s less imagine left now, it’s just about the graft that is writing. Also, I’ve been letting my mind wander again (kinda like I did last week), this time thinking about other possible stories; I’ve stopped myself from getting too carried away though, and avoided honing in and developing an idea that I know could distract me from getting this first one completely.

woman pencil teeth
credit: JESHOOTS

My struggle to finish things
I’ve struggled to finish things I’ve started in the past. For example, I started 2 degrees at 2 different university; not long into each, I lost interest and pretty much switched off. I dropped out a year after each, but I could have done that a lot sooner even. Similarly, with my Masters, I had a couple of wobbles before I eventually pulled through. I’m not sure if this not-finishing-stuff is down to boredom, laziness, or a lack of self-belief. Probably a combination. With this story, I know there’ll be a great sense of satisfaction that comes with it’s completion. I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other, and concentrate on the next step. Right now, that next step is getting the 1st draft completed. It feels like I’m about 60-70% done at this stage; for whatever reason, it’s stretching out longer than I expected. I’ve noticed that this week I’m being a little more carefree with the words, sentence structures, etcetera… I’m just trying to get it all down.

Then, I can type it up and edit as I go; the idea is that I’ll effectively have ‘newer draft’ when it’s all been typed up, before I can then conduct a 2nd self-edit. After this, I can hand it over to someone else to edit (provided I don’t carry out further rounds of self-editing). Really, I just want to keep my feet on the ground and keep moving forwards.

Easier said than done.

Self-doubt + other nasty inner dialogue
And all sorts of doubts creep up on me, pretty much on a daily basis. Is there any point in doing this? Am I any good at this? Am I supposed to be a writer? Is this even going to lead anywhere?

Writing these doubts down, like I am right now, actually helps. As does reading about the experiences of other writers. This week, I started listening to Joanna Penn’s huge library of podcast episodes (300+), starting with this episode, titled Stop Worrying, Start Writing. How to Overcome Fear and Self-Doubt with Sarah Painter. I liked the episode, and it served as a good reminder that this stuff is so common. Sarah, of The Worried Writer, also mentions that she has been diagnosis with clinical anxiety, something I can relate too having also had the same diagnosis. Equally, I have been following other writers who have also had challenges with their mental health (depression, anxiety, social anxiety) and so forth. I actually recently shared a post about my own social anxiety, here on my other blog.

For every writer I see online who has 1000s of followers, a portfolio of published works, and otherwise looks like ‘a proper author’… I also try to remind myself of those, just like me, who feel like they have no idea what they are doing, and are just trying to see where their writing takes them. In the podcast episode, a particular tip I found useful was where Sarah talked about being kind to yourself and removing those triggers for your anxious/negative thoughts (when you need to); for example, not going into bookshops and looking at all the ‘big, famous titles’ in there (something which, funnily enough, unsettled me a couple of weeks when I visited Waterstones to buy my mum her Mother’s Day present), or following other reputable with 100,000s of followers, or anything else which can make you feel small, insignificant and overwhelmed. A useful tip that certainly spoke to me.

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 01.30.20
This week, my therapist also recommended a book to me about the creative process, which she couldn’t find on her bookshelf but thought might be something that could resonate. She said it might also help me feel a little less alone, in terms of identifying those phases that every creative goes through when producing something (thoughts of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art spring to mind). In therapy, I’ve also been talking through things that I’ve been holding in for a while – even last year when I had intense group therapy (2-3 days a week) and 1-to-1 therapy; I’m addressing some of the issues that started when I was a child/teenager, and the associated habits, thought patterns and core beliefs about myself which have spawned as a result. Talking therapy and writing are helping me slowly unpick these meaty issues and heal from them.

Daily writing
Perhaps a little contrary to the article on Lauren Sapala’s website that I read last week (which certainly makes sense to me), I’ve been trying to do some fiction writing (i.e. my short story) every day, even if just for a few minutes. I have found that it helps to maintain momentum, and helps avoid days passing with no writing. It also is useful for me to be ‘tuned in’ to what I am writing; if I leave it, say 3 days, without writing, it means that I may have partially forgotten what I’ve previously written about – and I feel I’ve lost a bit of that connection with the character, whose shoes I’m attempting to stand in, and connect with, in order to tell the story.

Where I’m currently at
Week 1: 21 pages (A5)
Week 2: 27.5 pages (A5)
Week 3: 21 pages (A5)

[added] ~15k words written

What’s next
Whilst trying to take it in small steps, I’ve been using the thought and excitement of ‘finishing’ as motivation to plough on. I also have an idea about what I might do with the finished piece – which I’m excited about, as well as nervous, of course. Watch this space…

Should I be reading fiction?!
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, is whether I need to be reading more fiction. I see a lot of indie/aspiring/published/unpublished authors on Goodreads, consuming lots of books, sharing their reviews and other authors’ work, etcetera. I’m sure they enjoy doing this, and it seems like a meaningful way to contribute and make connections, and perhaps gain support for their own published works, too (further down the line). I’m asking myself – do I need to do this?

I’m feeling some resistance – to be completely honest, I’ve read hardly any fiction in recent years. Whilst I do recognise that that reading has so many advantages for authors, I am also wary of how reading other authors’ books has the potential to interfere with my own personal style / ‘writers’ voice’.

But then – am I not missing out by not reading fiction, and engaging in reader communities? Am I depriving myself of the present/future benefits of reading, reviewing and contributing to the community? I’d love to get your thoughts on this! (see below)

PS. Confession: After writing this earlier in the day, I got back after midnight after the pub with a friend. It is 1.41am on Friday at time of publishing – but it’s technically still Thursday’s, so I’ve maintained my posting schedule, right?! 🙄

✏ Written: Thursday, 21st March 2018 @ 2.07pm

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
How do you deal with your anxieties/inner-chatter? Do you read and review lots of books? Should I be doing the same?! As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts + perspectives 💙


Momentum, editing + not losing my mind (hopefully)

General update
After a first week of story writing that I was pretty happy with, I was determined not to falter. Has this been NaNoWriMo, I probably would have done just that. After a couple of days. It feels so pressure-some, and I get overwhelmed with the task ahead. 50,000 words? Sheesh.

Another article on Lauren Sapala’s blog, written by another writing coach – Anna-Marie O’Brien, was timely. It was titled “Writing progress does NOT always equal word count” and it really resonated. It spoke about the typical “writing rules” not fitting. About pausing, and reflecting, and going with the flow. So I don’t have to write every day? I thought. Hallelujah. This took off some pressure.

Daily habit (ish)
That said, I am finding that I do feel better when I’ve written at least something. I remember listening to author + writer Joanna Penn on this podcast episode, talking about a post-it note she has on her wall which says something like “Have I created art today?” Yes, this goes against the article I read which I said really resonated, but there’s something about little-by-little and momentum for me. (Joanna Penn is, though, a freak of nature it seems). Whilst I feel that creative writing is, for me, more challenging and requires more energy and focus, my journalling/writing for my other blog has helped me maintain a daily habit for the last 5 weeks (bar one or two days). Stream-of-consciousness writing, or just putting pen to paper and writing about whatever’s occupying your mind, has become easier for me the more I’ve done it. That also counts towards my daily writing. Even though it may be cheating slightly. Oh well.

Thing is, some mornings (like this Monday just gone) I wake up and just feel very demotivated and not at all in the mood to write. On Monday, after a couple of hours of TV/YouTube/procrastination, I forced myself to sit down at my desk and get started on my story-writing. It wasn’t easy, but it came. Even if I heavily edit later on, I did it. I put pen to paper.

Whilst I’m not working at the moment, my writing is also contributing to my fairly lax routine. But routine is routine, and I’m also figuring I should be trying to make the most of the free time I have. Though, conversely, sometimes when I have more things to do, I can be more effective and plough through tasks. I imagine though, with creative writing, pressure and time constraints will not help – especially for sensitive, lil me.

So, as long as I write something every day, whether it’s journalling, blogging or creative writing. Or a combination of those. All good. I don’t count my words, or even time myself. It just has to be something.

Starting to type / edit
Whilst initially thinking I might type up my story only when it was all written down, I actually started writing it up this week. Last week, I’d already starting looking at writing software. I’m keeping it simple and going for something free if possible, for now. Annoyingly, I realised that I am unable to download any Apps on my Mac from the App Store. In short, a little while back I installed the latest Mac OS, and it crashed my Mac. I lost everything, and luckily it wasn’t so much of a big deal. Just annoying. Anyhow, it meant I was limited to some sort of online writer, rather than an App one.

I scanned a couple of articles like this one for free writing software apps. I settled on Reedsy. It looked clean and minimal, plus with basic sections you can add for different chapters/segments. Pretty much what I needed. It looks like it also doubles up as a writers’ marketplace, for freelance, editors, proof-readers, marketers as such. Not something I need just yet, but this could be handy further down the line.

I started typing my story up this week. It’s actually been useful, to kinda start editing but also remind myself of the detail earlier on in the story vs where it’s currently at (i.e. where I am with writing it). This typing up is a way where I feel like I am working on the story, when I’m not feeling so creatively inspired to actually write new words.

Where I’m currently at
Week 1: 21 A5 pages
Week 2: 27.5 A5 pages

To my pleasant surprise, not only have I written as much as I did in the first week, but even more. News to my ears. Or eyes. Or both. Well, all four. You know what I mean.

Structure vs pantsing
Following the very basic outline of week 1, shortly into week 2 I realised I was in danger of my story going haywire. So, this week, I’ve been reverting to the outline, adding sub-points to it to keep me on track. It’s a delicate balance between having enough structure there, with some flexibility for me to just write and go with the flow and see how it turns out.

So far, it’s working. Kinda. I’m winging it still, but I’m making progress. Which is all the matters.

If I were to estimate, it feels like I’m about half-way through with this short story. I’m fairly sure it will, indeed, be on the mediocre-to-longish side of a short story, but fall short of being a novella. PS. Phillip McCollum’s output is slightly putting mine to shame. PPS. Don’t compare yourself to others, AB. Stop it. *hits himself on hand*

Thinking ahead aka losing my mind a bit
I’ll be honest now… as is *typical* of what I do (I loooove freaking myself out), I’ve been thinking ahead like an excitable-yet-worried little puppy. When I’ve finished writing and typing it all up… Do I need a professional editor? Am I going to self-publish? Will I have to release it ‘free’, indefinitely? How the hell am I gonna get people to actually read the damn thing? Will they even like it? Should I even be telling the world about my first ever short story, seeing as it’s likely to be crap?

Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh! Wait, no, more like aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! That’s better. More freaked out vibes, less scary-monster vibes.

But seriously, I have to try to reign myself in with these thoughts – as otherwise there’s the risk I’ll get overwhelmed, feel hopeless and that this is a thankless task. I just can’t help myself, though.

I’m aware that I’m sooo early in my writing journey, and I mustn’t get ahead of myself. But I just can’t help thinking about others reading the words I’ve written, the story I’ve crafted. And wanting to know what they’ll make of it.

*Deep breaths*

As I write this and I crystallise my thoughts, I have resigned myself to the fact that very few people are likely to even start reading the finished piece, initially at least. This whole writing lark sounds like a long-term thing. Hopefully – if it’s meant to be – this story will form just part of a body of work. F*ck that sounds overwhelming and daunting even to put down.

Perhaps, I’ll slowly get more people who hear about my stuff, and even one day be able to charge for my stuff. Or find a traditional publisher. I’m doing it again. Thinking too far into the future and freaking out.

For now, I’m just trying to ground myself and just be happy with putting one foot in front of the other.

✏ Written: Wednesday, 14th March 2018 @ 10.24pm

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you? 📖
Do any other early-journey authors + writers think ahead like this? If you’re further down the line, I’d love to hear what happened after your first story (or two) were ready to be shared with the world. What happened? Your perspective would really be appreciated 💙

My first week as a ‘proper writer’

Pretending to be a writer. #equipped

Wow, that feels strange to write down. Technically, I’ve been writing various articles on my own blogs / elsewhere over the last couple of years.

Somehow, though, creative writing seems like ‘the proper stuff’ to me. PS. No disrespect to the many, fantastic, non-creative-writing authors, writers and journalists out there. It’s not you, it’s me.

Shortly after starting my most recent blog, seeing as I’ve gotten back into the habit of writing daily (🤞🏽), I figured what better time to ride this wave and get started on my own short story. Eek.

Some background information… I loved creative writing as a kid (primary school and the beginning of secondary school). I’ve not done it since then. Like, at all. Except if you count the couple of times when I’ve literally GOT THE INSPIRATIONNN 💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽… for about 5 minutes. And a few lines later, the writing stops. One time, I even started writing a script for Toy Story 3 (back when just 1 & 2 had been released, obviously). True story.

Anywhoozle*, here’s what’s gone down so far, in my first week as a writer:

(*I stole this word from Amy Schumer)

The research phase
Before I got started, theres was a whole big mental hurdle for me to jump through. *Was I ready for this?!* Given my track record with research (#AnalysisParalysis), this could prove to me a major roadblock.

I’d done pretty much zero creative writing for about 15 years. Surely, I needed to do a course, right? Right?!

My options extended from the extreme (an MA in Creative Writing) to the lighter (a book, online course).

In a quick-fire moment of inspiration, I reached out on Twitter to a friendly face. I’d come across Lauren Sapala previously, when I’d gone on an introvert-author binge shortly after my “I’m an introvert” discovery. She calls herself The INFJ Writer, so this felt appropriate now more than ever (she’s only one letter away from INFP me!).

A couple of posts on her blog had confirmed that I liked this chick, a lot. Lauren is a writing coach, and she writes a lot about INFJs, INFPs and highly-sensitive people, and works with them too.

I DM’d her the following…

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 18.27.29

… desperately hoping for the answer I so wanted. And I got it:

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 18.28.57

Boom! She went on to recommend this book, and also this guy, who’s writing a short story every week for 52 weeks(?!?!):

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 18.30.47

Philip’s website is here, and I’ll be checking out his stories + his process, along with of the techniques he also writes about.

However, I didn’t wanna get sucked into RESEARCH, like my typical self. What Lauren said about classes + courses inhibiting writers resonated; whilst it’s valuable to learn basic processes, too much of this “learning” can, I feel, stifle your own creative voice.

PS. I’m glad I didn’t open this email beforehand, as that could’ve opened up a whole new Aladdin’s cave that I didn’t need:


To my credit, I did something I don’t do often enough. I just got started.

Story ideas
Again, in the past, I’ve come up with ideas for various weird and wonderful stories. Or rather, part-ideas, as they weren’t fully-formed by any means. And then – just not got started, or fizzled out very quickly.

This time, I drafted 3 or 4 story ideas. And – with my new found ‘just do it’ attitude – I honed in on one of these, and start imagining in my head how this might potentially pan out. I had quickly moved onto the next phase.

Fleshing out a (very) loose outline
The researcher in me wanted to read up on ‘planning your story’, to read about 3-Act Structures, and Character Development, and Sub-plots, and such. I figured I could read about that stuff as I need to / as it came up.

Woo, woo! There was no stopping this steam train, baby… 🚂

The researcher in me wanted to read up on ‘planning your story’, to read about 3-Act Structures, and Character Development, and Sub-plots, and such. I figured I could read about that stuff as I need to / as it came up.

I scribbled down a quick, basic spider diagram with my central character in the middle – aka the guy who this whole short story would be about – Joel:

Squiggled out a key “secret” in the story 🙂

And then…

Pen to paper
Resisting the temptation to get all of the details down, from detailed character descriptions, through to a detailed start-to-finish outline… I just started writing. Hell I didn’t even know exactly where this story was going.

I just put pen to paper. I let the words flow. Until I hit a bump, then went away, and came back to it the next day. Whilst there’s no hard-and-fast rule for me – I’ve been writing for less than a week! – and one-hour blocks seem to be working OK at the moment. Any more than that and I can start to feel a bit stuck / creatively worn out.

I’ll be honest, I’m kinda winging it here. Making up this story as it goes along. This probably isn’t the ideal way to do things. I’m unlikely to be winning any literary awards for this piece of art. My story may well end up in a mess, and a week from now I may be crying in the bathtub a-la Ace Ventura, realising I have a lot of loose ends which are just hanging there waiting to be tied up (kinda like what happened to Lost. Oh that show.).

But, I don’t care. Or at least, I’m trying not to care. Because usually I care too much. I really just want to learn-by-doing, to keep moving forward, this only being my first story ‘n all.

There’ve been a couple of times when I’ve had to pause, and do a quick re-cap on the main characters, added a character here and there, scribbled things out, etcetera.

It’s not been clean. It’s not been pretty. But there’s been progress. And for me, that feels like the most important thing right now.

A note on genre
I had a brief moment of panic/confusion when I realised that my story fitted no obvious genre(s). First, I familiarised myself with the basic ones. Hmm, no obvious fit. I quickly googled a couple of my favourite films that don’t have an obvious genre (confession: I know watch more films than I read books), to see what genres they had been placed under, and realised all was OK in the world. Turns out, my story is a mix of drama and mystery.

Where I’m currently at
– Basic outline / prep work
– Handwritten 21 A5 pages

Stuff I’ve found useful this week:
– Just start writing!
Lauren Sapala’s blog

✏️ Written: Thursday, 8th March 2018 @ 7.07pm

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you?
Are you a pen-to-paper writer, or a straight-to-the-keyboard writer? Are you a planner or a just-wing-it kinda writer? I’d love to know your style 😎 And… do you remember what writing your first story (as an adult) was like?!

My first post…

Thanks for visiting! 

My 1st post is coming this Friday 9th March, then I’ll be posting weekly thereafter.

Follow my scary-exciting-wild journey from wannabe writer -> actual writer.

In the meantime, get to know me a little.

Cya soon 👋🏽

AB Guy

EDIT: I uploaded my first post a day early! Partly because it was ready & I thought “why not?”, and partly because I already upload on Fridays to my other blog.