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 💙

 

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 💙

 

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

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?!