Creative exhaustion + juggling

I’m currently sat outside in the sunshine in what is the hottest day of the year so far here in England, and in London where I am. (My car temperature gauge measured 28.5ºC!). Yet it was snowing just a couple of weeks ago. Strange times that we’re living in. Btw – you know it’ s hot when your iPhone stops playing YouTube suddenly, with an alert saying “Your iPhone needs to cool down before you can use it again”.

In last week’s post I shared my publishing ambitions, and how attending London Book Fair had only helped to re-affirm this. For those 3 days last week, Tuesday to Thursday, energy management was crucial, especially as I was out till late evening on two of those nights – and it takes anything from 7-90mins to get back home form ‘town’. Friday came as a welcome relief, before I went to an Indian wedding on Saturday, and then went to Church on Sunday evening and hung out afterwards. Monday I had a meeting with one of the panellists from LBF that I’d emailed, and then had a Sikh event in the evening which, again, saw me get back late.

When I’m away in London, I can forget about things like hydrating and nourishing myself, and I think the accumulation of busy days/evenings led to my feeling tired and under the weather when I got back late on Monday night. I then did the exact opposite of the sensible thing, and ended up staying up through the night; I wish I could say I was being productive – in short, I’ve had a long-standing issue when it comes to ‘being’ online – it certainly has been a release/crux of sorts when I’m particularly over-stimulated/tired/have lots of things going on; it’s something I’m working through in therapy).

creativ exhaustion.jpg
credit: geralt

In other words, I’ve had a fair bit going on and the priority to gain experience in publishing still remains, having had over a year off and the whole ‘job thing’ being a personal pain point of mine for so long. With my being so busy and active of late, the exhaustion also equates to creative exhaustion. Yesterday, as I sat in bed before going to sleep, I got down to writing just a couple of pages – the first story pages I’d written in a few days.

I’m trying to be kind to myself and, whereas before I was just wanting to get this book finished and out in the world asap, I’m now content with going at a slower pace. The key thing for me is keeping going, even if only gradually. Though I would still really like to maintain momentum and write at least a couple of days a week for, say, 30 minutes to an hour, I’m also conscious that – when I am working full-time – it will be more challenging to manage my (creative) energy with the job (and 3 blogs!); at this stage, I’m just trying not to worry about the future and take it as it comes.

Originally intended as a short story, it has now well and truly become a novella and is on it’s way to becoming a novel. I think I’ll even feel a little disappointed if it ends of falling short of the 50,000 words “novel mark”!

As I’ve previously talked about on this blog, some heavy editing will be needed – and I may also be weaving more into the plot to add some complexity and multi-dimensionality. I know I’m going to have to keep an eye on the pesky perfectionist in me, and I’ll do well to embrace the “don’t think, just do!” mentality I’ve been trying to adopt of late.

Another challenge for me is reigning myself in, and not getting carried away with so many creative projects – e.g. poetry and acting. These are two things which, as a curious and increasingly expressive/creative guy, I’m intrigued about. I actually released my very-amateurish first self-narrated poem to the world just yesterday on Twitter. It’s definitely the closest I’ve felt to being Eminem, I must say.

Like my journalling, poetry is just an amazing outlet for me to express my innermost thoughts, feelings and emotions from my core. Writing is definitely the medium through which I feel most comfortable and effective when it comes to expressing myself. I’m not much of a talker or a sharer when it comes to ‘my stuff’ – therapy and writing are filling that void for me right now. (Psst – that said, I have recently been quoted in a couple of articles about my mental health – this one is the most recent, published just today: 19 men share what it’s like to take anti-depressants). It feels like this week’s post is, apart from being a rambling one, as much of a reminder to myself than anything else. A reminder of that fact that life has priorities, and whilst these exist my energy is a limited resource. that I am only human, and best when I focus my efforts on just 1 or 2 projects, rather than a whole bunch. That with writing a story, maintaining 3 blogs, and focusing on a job search that is now in full swing – plus various extra-curricula activities I’m now involving myself in (some publishing-/book-related, some religious-related), as well as trying to consciously cultivate closer friendships…. I will need to be EXTRA-kind to myself over the coming days and weeks!

I hope that you, too, are kind to yourself when it comes to your writing and your life as a whole – and remember to love yourself and respect yourself in the same way that you probably do with others, rather than hold yourself to ridiculously high and punishing standards. #guiltyascharged

Right, I’m off to start my ’10 minutes of story’ on my list for today…

Have a lovely weekend folks ✨☀️

PS. Do check out my 1st recorded poem if you get a chance, on Soundcloud
& the ‘The Metro’ men’s mental health articles I contributed to can be found here and here

✏ Written: Thursday, 12th April @ 2.31pm

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
What ‘creative projects’ are you working on, at the moment? And – how good are you when it comes to being kind to yourself, and/or prioritising as needed? 💙

 

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Writing small.

I always wrote quite small as a kid. I thought it made my writing look neater. This week, I’ve embraced “writing small”, in a slightly different way.

After the not-so-good last week, I decided to keep it simple. I’ve written about 9 A5 pages this week, doing about 10-15mins of writing. It’s a new tactic of mine, the whole “make it a ridiculously easy task to do so you can’t not get started” thing. Especially whilst I’ve had a few things on my plate (and in my head) recently, this has worked.

I can write in larger chunks and force myself to write, but it feels quite nice having written just a tiny piece the last couple of days. I have also realised that this short story is already a novella, and may well be on it’s way to a novel. And it is also going to require a heavy-edit it feels like, and some re-writing. So, I’ve tried to hold back from just trying to rush and get it down, and chill out a little bit more. Whilst, initially, I was writing whole scenes all in one go, this week I’ve been writing the same scene in little pieces. It’s actually been kinda fun to come to it each day and write a little bit more, continuing where I left off rather than try to muster up the willpower to start afresh on a whole new big scene.

writing small
credit: marlene_charlotte

To review or not to review
I’ve been thinking about a lot this week (surprise, surprise), including whether I should write book or film reviews for the purposes of helping with my indie-marketing in the future. I even wrote my first review (for the film ‘All Good Things’ and associated HBO documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst; a true story, and recommended whether you’re a #truecrime fan or not), and thought about doing a review a week. Hmm, I thought. So that means I’m running 2 blogs, posting 3 ‘proper posts’ a week in total (across both), a poem a week, and now a review a week? Just so it helps me build my following/engagement and sell my potential literature in the future?

For now, I’ve decided against this. I mean, as I write/type this (doing both at the same time this week – typing straight onto computer, rather than copying up pen-to-paper piece), I still didn’t feel like I’d entirely decided this. But putting it down in ink (well, computer ink) makes it more of assertion. You see, I have this habit of getting excited and starting lots of things, and then getting overwhelmed, not finishing them, and feeling really sh*tty afterwards.

For me, I really need to prioritise, and go slow and steady. I need to reign myself in. When I have more things I’m working on, I get overwhelmed by everything on my plate, and then I just end up stagnant and not doing anything. Not good. Not good at all. I’ve decided I’d much rather continue to connect with other bloggers, authors, and all-round human beings more naturally like I have been doing, and over time. (I’m not saying being a reviewer to add to your following is unnatural, it just feels that way for me as that would be my primary motivation!). Other projects

With all the ideas that keep popping into my head, I’ve decided I’m going to write them all down and be selective – hopefully ruthlessly so, for my own good. The trouble with me is I always seem to question “whether I’m doing the right thing” i.e. “what I’m meant to be doing”, and hence I’m tempted to experiment and try different stuff to spread my risk with the view to seeing what sticks and makes me a successful artist person. I know this sounds really stupid though, and is putting a ton of expectation on my shoulders. So, again, I’m trying to prioritise and just chill the f*ck out.

My job search – publishing
I’ve looked at a couple more bookshops this week, and going along to London Book Fair next week, where I hope to gain some tips about getting into publishers, and hopefully meet some folks in the industry and others who, like me, might be trying to get in. It’ll also be a chance for me to, hopefully, find out more about the industry itself (there are lots of different areas within publishing), and get closer to securing work experience to experience first-hand what it’s really like. I’m trying not to get too carried away, but hopefully the stars will align and good things will happen.

PS. I also need to visit a library and start on some fiction! I have two which are pretty close to me, so I have zero excuses.

Where I’m currently at
Week 1: 21 pages (A5)
Week 2: 27.5 page
Week 3: 21 pages
Week 4: 0 pages
Week 5: 9 pages

~17k words written

✏ Written: Thursday, 5th April

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
Do you write in big chunks, or bit-by-bit? I’d love to hear how your week’s going, too 💙

 

If Napoleon Dynamite was a writer…

So, this week I have done precisely zero work on my novella. Ze-ro. Zilch. Nada. And after 3 straight weeks of decent momentum.

Uuuuuuuuuuuugggghhhhhhhhh.

Gosh, it feels pretty shi*tty writing that down, and then typing it up as I am doing right now. I’m thinking of the beep…beep…beep of the heart-rate monitor, before that long beeeeeeeep at the end to indicate something is wrong.

napoleon dynamite
clker-free-vector-images

Ah man. Annoying. Here’s my trying to break down what happened here:

The previous week was tricky
Last week, I wrote how I had to force myself to write after the novelty of the story had worn off, and it was starting to feel that I was writing just for the sake of writing, and keep the word-count ticking along. This, of course, has it’s benefits – pen-to-paper is the hardest thing, after all! But I’d certainly lost noticeable enthusiasm for writing my short-story-cum-novella.

Meaty chapters lie ahead
I’m over the half-way mark in the story, and from here on in every chapter feels pretty significant. And chunky. Throughout the story we find out more about Joel, the main character, and I have a pretty decent outline of the way things are going to go, and so what I need to write about / let unfold from now. Last week, the last chapter/chunk I wrote had been a pretty tedious one to get through, and it feels the same – if not ore tedious – for the next part. Oh man.

My job search
Having taken a year off last year, I’ve been figuring out what to ‘do’ work-wise. With that has come the anxiety from not having worked in a while and going back to work, as well as choosing ‘the right thing’. At this point in time, I actually feel like I have a semblance of a plan as to what to do. Accordingly, I’ve been making calls, sending emails and even going into places and chatting/dropping my CV off. With a job search, it’s not just the physical time one spends actually applying/looking for jobs, but the actual mental energy the whole thing takes up.

Family/friends
Last weekend, it was just me and bro at home as my parents were away. I spend time chilling with him, and we went out with our cousin and uncle one evening. I also was out with a friend one evening last week. In other words, I did more socialising that I normally would, and so I felt more tired from this / socially-stimulated than usual. (I also had another evening out cancelled, and turned down yet another).

But…
At the end of the day, at any point – I had ample time – I could have just sat down and written. Just like I did last week, when I also hadn’t felt completely overjoyed at doing so. This is another example of how something can start with just missing a day or two, and then all of a sudden turning into a few days of doing nothing. As stupid as it is, once I’d realised I only had a couple of days left to ‘catch up’ and maintain the sort of pace I had been thus far, it felt like I pretty much gave up.

I woke up today intending to write. I didn’t. Truth be told, I did some job-searching stuff, and spent time procrastinating. I’m soon off to the gym, and going to a birthday party tonight. (What’s worse is that the “wig” I’ve ordered for this wig-party was supposed to arrive by today, and it still says it’s going to get here before 8pm, and there’s still no sign of it! Karma, maybe).

I won’t lie, sometimes you can have “too much time’ on your hands, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. And right now, I think it’ll do my good once the whole work-situation is more stable and I can relax about that a little.

But this week’s stats sure don’t make great viewing:

Where I’m currently at
Week 1: 21 pages (A5)
Week 2: 27.5 pages (A5)
Week 3: 21 pages (A5)
Week 4: 0 pages (#fml)

*still* ~15k words written

On a positive note
I have still been writing every day. I continue to journal, write blog posts and I even published my first poem on Sunday. So hey, not all bad. But I have to admit, it feels like little consolation. It’s been a week of thinking over doing, which is a pattern I definitely want to keep at bay.

For the Easter break, I’m away with my family for a couple of those days which I’m looking forward to. However, it’s a four-day weekend and I really want it to feel productive. Even if it’s just a few minutes here and there, I want to get back into the creative writing swing and carry on where I left off with the novella. I need to think of it as “little bit by bit” rather than big, whole, scary important chapter.

And hopefully that darn Napoleon Dynamite wig (+ accompanying ‘Vote for Pedro t-shirt) will arrive in the next couple of hours before I leave tonight.

🤞🏽

PS. In case you haven’t seen Napoleon Dynamite (you totally need to), or if you have, here’s a short clip from the movie which feels pretty apt right now.

✏ Written: Thursday, 28th March 2018 @ 5.03pm

A.B. Guy | articles | newsletter 💌

What about you? 🤷🏽‍♂️
How’s your week been? Has it felt like a good one, or a less-than-ideal one? (Be honest, I can handle it, I promise!)

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.

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Therapy
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’

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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…

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

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

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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:

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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:

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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

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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?!