Tag Archives: writer’s block

A rather unusual writer’s retreat

27 Aug

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I’m writing this on my last night at a ‘study centre’, a sort of place for quiet reflection and that type of thing.  The reason I’ve ended up in a little place in the Midlands (Selly Oak, to be precise) is because I’ve been shocked at how easily I can come up with excuses to do anything but write.  I figured if I could send myself away with nothing but my laptop then I’d have to write.  So I started searching for writers retreats but most of the ones I found were far too expensive for my budget.  Also, I figured, I didn’t want to spend time around other writers, I just wanted to be quiet and get on with my own things. To be honest, I would have been happy with an all-inclusive in a shed but unfortunately those don’t exist. Really it didn’t matter where I was or with whom I was around as long as the atmosphere was conducive to creativity. 

Now here comes the weird bit.  The place I’m staying at is a Quaker study centre which is a very strange concept considering I’m an Atheist.  Firstly, I didn’t even know Quakers still existed; the only thing I knew about them was from brief mentions in old History lessons.  Apparently the Quakers aren’t so great at self promotion…But when I was able to research the place further, I realised it was perfect for my requirements. There’s a library, a desk in my room (there, I’ve taken a little photo of it, just because), ten acres of beautiful woodland and breakfast, lunch and dinner so I don’t have to worry about what to eat etc.  And that usually is a big worry for me, sadly… 

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But I have definitely managed to write a lot more although today (my last day here), I did suffer from some kind of writing burnout as my brain is not used to writing non-stop all day long.  It got to the point today where I would literally read over what I had written and genuinely not be able to tell whether it was OK or utter drivel.  I think three days away is a good time if you’re writing – any longer and I think my mind would have spontaneously combusted but perhaps it would be different if you just came out looking to meditate and gain a different perspective on things. 

I had concerns beforehand that I might slowly start scratching the walls but there are always people around so you never really feel like you’re completely alone.  In the canteen, I’ve met people I would never normally meet and had some really meaningful conversations.  Although it’s a ‘Quaker study centre’, the actual building is used to hold various conferences and it prides itself on being a good place for people to stay whether you are religious or not.  

The test will be when I go home and read over what I have written with a fresh mind… but I’ve definitely done something I wouldn’t normally do so I can tick ‘stay in a Quaker centre’ off my bucket list…

 

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My brain has decided to slowly melt into a pile of mush

23 Aug

…so I’ve been looking at pictures of pseudo-intellectual animals instead.

Amusing-Animal-Photos-Reading-Dog

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pseudo-intellectual cat

All I can say is that I am mighty glad it’s approaching the weekend, and a lovely long one at that.  I have been conscious of the fact that my writing has been appalling of late – either non-existent or just complete and utter tripe – but I’m going on a retreat thingymajig from Sunday until Wednesday where there is nothing to do but write.

Or stare at the walls and sink further into insanity.

General update on the adventures of an aspiring novelist

6 Aug

Again, I’m pretty sure these sorts of posts are more of a way to reassure myself than entertaining for others.

Recently, I hit a severe writer’s block.  I had got roughly halfway and I found myself at a complete standstill.  I would sit at my desk (or more likely, in my bed), willing myself to write anything but it was hopeless.  The few disjointed sentences I was able to produce were so appalling, they disheartened me more and frustrated, I pushed my laptop aside and stewed in my own melancholia.

I started doubting the storyline – was it actually convincing? interesting? worth reading? – and then I noticed all sorts of plotholes/ inconsistencies and felt unable to move on any further.  I started this draft back in January without a proper plan, just a rough idea of the protagonist, her dilemma and a general timeline of events.  And while I do think this organic approach has major benefits, mainly its spontaneity and the room it allows for characters to become fully alive, there is something to be said for a good plan.

I know some people are rather OCD on things like this and organise the notes of their notes etc.  But what has helped me immensely is a book by author and writing coach, Harry Bingham, ‘How to Write’.  I have read so many guides purporting to help you hone your writing skills but this is by far the best.  The title’s a little misleading insofar as it doesn’t tell you how to write – Bingham explicitly states that this isn’t a ‘creative writing’ book – but it gives you practical no-nonsense advice on what a good book (fiction or non-fiction) requires.  In fact, it’s so no-nonsense and matter of fact that I initially thought it was rather cynical.  However, Bingham obviously preempted that some readers may feel this and addressed his tone appropriately.  Plus, it was genuinely refreshing to read a book on writing that didn’t have the same old pieces of advice (buy a notebook, choose whether you want to write longhand or type it on a computer).. I learnt a lot.

One of the things I did learn actually helped to push me out of my weird I-hate-writing funk.  Bingham broke down Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ into chapters and described what happened in each chapter and how this moved the story forwards.  What was emphasised was the fact that MOTION (and not necessarily conflict) is KEY to writing a good novel.  He advises writers to summarise each chapter of their novel in two or three sentences and to test its soundness, you need to question whether it alters the protagonist’s relationship with their goal in any way?  If it does, great.  Your chapter is not simply drivel.  However, if it doesn’t, get rid of it.  Or hone it so it does reflect movement and a changing relationship between the protagonist and their objective.

Using Bingham’s advice, I was able to test the soundness of the chapters I had written already and create a structure for the second half of my book which has proved invaluable in eradicating my writer’s block.

An amazing book and I would recommend this, above all others, to be read by all aspiring writers everywhere.  For now I am pushing on and cannot wait until I finish my first draft.  My fingers are already itching to make edits and rewrite as appropriate…

Writer’s block

5 Feb

I have currently hit a writing brick wall.  My mind is so frazzled by the time I come home from work, I find it difficult to sit down and write when I’ve been sitting at a computer for over 9 hours already.  So, in search for inspiration, I have bought a number of creative writing books from the every-trusty Amazon which contain advice as well as exercises to flex and hone my writing technique.  Hopefully I’ll find at least one of these somewhat helpful and I’ll try to post reviews in the near future. 

Must stop procrastinating.