Friday, 3 July 2015

Writing....habits, resources, notebooks and spaces

My writing space - one side of the dining table
I love this time of day; early morning, no one up, the moon still huge and hanging there in the blue sky of dawn. What am I doing sitting here at 4.30am? Well, I'm wide awake and often this is the best time to write. There are less distractions and right now it is even cool.

I thought I'd talk about routines and ways in to writing. There are many books and websites which will give you great advice. I can only speak from my point of view. What works for me may not work for you. You have to try different methods until something clicks, and it will. Just give it time.

The best time for writing for me tends to be early morning, though not normally quite this early! Usually, I will start to write sometime between 6.30am and 7.30am. However, I'm pretty flexible and will write any time of day or night but I have to say that my best writing, or perhaps the easier writing comes in the morning and I like writing then.

Perhaps more important than 'the best time' to write is actually making time to write, and regularly. Often people say they have no time. They are excuses. I know, I've used them, If you want to do something badly enough you find time. Now I quite often have the opposite problem - I'd rather write than do anything else! Writing regularly is important because regularity makes for habit. At first, having set times might help to instill this. Perhaps you could get up an hour earlier in the morning to write, do it in your lunch hour, ditch the TV in the evening and write. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for your writing. Write in short bursts of fifteen minutes a time if that is all you can manage, but write something.

I found that once the habit of writing was established, the words flowed easier and suddenly it wasn't such a struggle. It became automatic for me to sit and write. It is what I do, like a job. Even ideas flow much better. My brain is engaged creatively and where once I found the prospect of writing a novel daunting, now I relish it. My imagination takes me in all sorts of directions and ideas spring up from out of nowhere - something I see or overhear, a flash of something that comes in the night, in a dream, at odd times of the day.

The more you write, the better you get....technically! That is my hope anyway. Practice and practice the art of writing; find books which will give you writing exercises, try morning pages (a stream of consciousness style of writing about anything that comes to you), buy a copy of Writers' Forum or Writing Magazine, both are full of advice, exercises and details of competitions and what the writing market is looking for.. Be brave and join a class or writing group.

It doesn't matter what you write in the beginning. Your first writings are just a rehearsal for what comes next. It is a step on the road to publication (be positive!). Follow some writing blogs or writers websites. Try and find some like minded people to 'chat' to, if only online. Writing is a lonely business and I can go from the pits to elation and back again in minutes depending on what is happening (rejections, acceptances, feedback). I grab hold of the positives. They are what keep me going.

Keep a notebook - use it! It doesn't have to be a beautiful one with a cover that says 'I'm too nice to write in'! Better you use an exercise book or an A4 spiral bound, nothing special stationary item from WH Smith. I use whatever I happen to have at home (the kids old school exercise books have come in handy over the years!). With an ordinary notebook or writing pad it doesn't matter so much if it is full of scribbles, crossings out, doodles, margin notes and dreadful writing with spelling errors. Who is going to see it? Okay, maybe one day your notebooks might be archived can but hope, but really, just write. I carry a small notebook in my handbag for those ideas that come at strange moments and an A4 pad at home. I have several pads which now include separate ones for each of my ongoing projects. I have to say I am hopeless at keeping track of what is in what (except for fiction, which I've finally got a handle on). One day I hope to sort through the notebooks. It's fine until I know I wrote something down but can't remember in what!

Finally, here I want to talk about where to write. Yes, we would all love a room of our own and if you have one I am very, very envious! I long for a 'girl shed' (I love watching George Clark's Amazing Spaces on Channel 4. I wish he'd come here and sort out some small space for me). However, I can't use the excuse that I have nowhere to write. Don't let that stop you. I have one side of the dining table which is rarely used to eat at! I have my laptop in one corner and my note pads and anything else I am currently using on the left hand side. There is room for a mug of tea (always essential) and a few nibbles (not essential but helpful!). My space is a mess and I have to go through it regularly to find notes and put things in order. Often other bits of my life get mixed up in the pile (I've been searching for someone's phone number on a piece of paper but it hasn't come to light yet...thankfully I found an email for them.) When I'm making notes I often spread out into the lounge and have stuff on the floor. Occasionally I take myself off to the B&Q cafe to edit or rough out ideas. And I always take a note pad or exercise book with me on holiday.

While I was at Winchester Writers' Festival and had my own room I finally had a desk to myself. The room also contained something else I long for (when I get my own space) - a pin board. I could have hours of fun with that! Having all things would be lovely but having them won't make you a writer. That you have to work at that everyday, starting with baby steps. I write because I have to. I've always made up worlds in my head, created characters. For many years I forgot the knack. I never thought I'd be able to do it again. Bit by bit I have rediscovered the sheer pleasure of rampant imagination. It has come back after all these years but with it has come life experience which has broadened my views and writing. I am still learning. I have no more excuses. Whether I am good at writing is another matter. The main things is I love it and I write first and foremost for myself. I just hope that one day others will also enjoy what I write.

Okay, enough. Get out your notebook, fire up the laptop. Write!

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