I find it slightly ironic that my last newsletter, sent out in July, talked about barriers to writing and in particular about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, examining the idea that if you are under stress then you’re less able to be creative. Well folks, that’s the explanation for my absence. A death in my family meant I was unable to write anything at all in August or September. I’m crawling back to the computer now, but taking things easy. (You can catch up on that newsletter here).
So, apologies for my absence, but one thing this experience has taught me is to be really kind to myself. And I’d like to encourage you to do the same. While negative experiences can feed the writing, and mining deep emotions can lend authenticity to your work, at the same time you cannot drain an empty well.
A creative writing tutor once said to me that no writing is ever wasted, and misunderstanding what she said, for a while I used to keep hundreds of drafts of things, cut paragraphs, etc etc, thinking, well maybe I can use that.
I realise now that she was not being literal. It’s not that you should keep all those cut sentences, but that every experience of writing brings you a bit further on. It’s all practice. Maybe it’s the same for experiences. Nothing is ever wasted. So you have a ‘bad’ writing month; shit happens, you don’t get to your pc, there are dramas – maybe those experiences are all rehydrating the creative well. You’re amassing the raw material for your writing.
Let’s hope so.
How have I found my way back? Through reading. At first I couldn’t read anything at all. Instead of my daily devouring of books, I was playing spider solitaire and stupid things like that, but after a while, and thanks to support from lovely friends, I stopped berating myself for it. Then I picked up a book.
Since then I’ve done really nothing but read, but hey – I started to notice myself thinking things like, hmm, that was telling not showing, or ooh good plot device… I was beginning again to read like a writer. The mojo was returning. And then this week, for the first time since all the dramas began, I woke up thinking about my characters. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed that!
So now I’m finally ready to start writing again. OK I’ve lost a couple of months. But here are my takes from it.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Do what your body and mind need.
- Finally, reading is the way back to writing when the muse deserts you.
I’ve still been talking to writers about their creative space. Sheila Averburch reminded me how lovely it is to work outside, and Sara Grant reminded me of the importance of a good view! Meanwhile BB Taylor has made her loft into a cosy nighttime space. How about you? Do you need to be shut in a cupboard or do you prefer open vistas and fresh air?
How to write
Continuing with this month’s theme about being kind to yourself, I reoommend this book by Kate Grenville. I read it when I was just getting started with fiction and found it tremendously helpful. It felt like she was there holding my hand, no question too small, and everything beautifully explained. There are a wealth of exercises for every stage of the journey, and I’m going to include one of them as my writing prompt this month. (If you want to see my monthly writing prompts AND get free feedback on your writing, then be sure to sign up for my newsletters.)