Saturday, 10 April 2010

Maintaining the balance

Thank you for all your wonderful comments on my last post! It was really interesting to read your thoughtful advice about how you balance your creativity with day-to-day living. I’m not one to hoard (apart from Agatha Christie books, chocolate, and random old tat), so this post is all about sharing the wealth! Also please do click through on the names – lovely folk, all of them.

1. KarenG mentioned about keeping a notebook handy when commuting as the people I see, conversations I hear, and descriptions of life around me could all be valuable research in the future. I always used to carry a notebook around with me but this has recently fallen to the wayside thanks to the acquisition of Jaws (my new handbag’s nickname; I swear it is after my skin). But it is time to reinstate the notebook again, as the most important thing it did, regardless of my scribbles, was it made me feel and think like a writer just by carrying it around with me. A positive mindset towards the right direction is invaluable for unpublished writers, and so the notebook will rise again (and Jaws will be left behind to terrify and snag the clothes in my wardrobe).

2. Melissa gave a great piece of advice, which was to stuff your writing in wherever you can! She also suggested trying not to ‘think’ when you are writing, but just let yourself go with the flow as you can think later on when you go back to edit. I have definitely been over-thinking the last two chapters of my novel-to-be, and it has really hindered my writing ability. So I shall try and adopt this process – a bit of free-form, just-get-it-on-the-page, good honest ‘you-go-girl’ writing. Fran also agreed with stuffing the writing in – it is definitely the way forward. I might do a bit a stuffing today in fact!

3. Sarahjayne said that she jots down notes and snippets of dialogue whenever and wherever she can, even if she accumulates scraps of paper. This was something else I used to do – I’d always have bits of the story typed into my phone, scribbled in my work diary, written on the back of my dentist appointment card. I decided to buy a small emerald green notebook to carry around with me and put all my story ideas into instead… and irrationally but instantly developed the fear that I’d lose the notebook to a Plot Nabbing Pilferer. They are out there somewhere! (Hang on; is that the motto of The X-Files?) But pilferers aside, it is a good idea to write down ideas when you get them, small little seeds can grow into big treacherous man eaters. Or roses, of course.

4. Joanne makes a to-do list of manageable goals each week so she can see what is ahead of her and what fits in with her schedule. I love this idea – starting each week with an achievable list for my writing. The key words here are manageable and achievable – I could put on my list that next week I will finish the redrafting, finish researching agents, finish my query and send the whole lot off by the next post, but all that will do is make me feel bad and sad (and no doubt mad) by Friday. I do believe in list power though, and if I keep my goals small then there will be the real joy of success by the end of the week. Thanks for this tip, I am definitely going to adopt it.

5. EmmaK writes in the afternoons when her kids are at school, and says this is perfect for her as she runs out of steam after three hours. Lilly also mentioned she sets aside 8 to 9 as her time to be creative. I think it is so important working out what time best suits your blend of creativity. After I was made redundant (a goodly while ago now) I found that my writing was at its best from 4pm to 2am. Now I work full-time, I try to kick-start that creativity early in the morning, especially at weekends, and it just doesn’t happen as well for me. But what I can learn from this is to do all my weekend chores in the morning, if I can, and then spend the rest of the day and evening writing.

6. Jen is usually raring to go when she gets in from work as her muse is angry she hasn’t had a chance to write all day… don’t suppose there is any chance I could borrow your muse, is there Jen?! Even without the forceful muse I think this shows I could frame my thoughts better. I need to be thinking ‘wow, now I can go home after work and write – how lucky am I!’ as opposed to ‘now I am really tired but I have to go home and write or die’ which is less than optimistic. Needless to say I am very impressed with this attitude already!

7. Roland puts aside fifteen minutes each night to type up any notes made in the day, and then those fifteen minutes often lead into a longer session. This makes me feel really good, as I guess I do put aside fifteen minutes already. It might not be strictly for novel-writing, but any writing I do can only help improve and build on what was before – it’s all practice. I’d love to make writing every day as natural as breathing, part of my daily routine, an imaginative work-out every bit as valuable as physical exercise.

8. Linda mentions a fantastic idea – doing daily pages. This is where you take a notebook and write spontaneously for three pages, and she uses it to tackle any tricky parts in her novel. I love this idea… one of my big problems is that I write straight into Word software, and sometimes I really feel the weight of that novel (currently 412 pages) pressing invisibly down on the little new scene I want to insert. Even if I open a new Word document I can still feel that pressure… but to take it completely away from the computer and just scribble, no matter whether or not it makes it to the novel itself… yes, I think I will enjoy this!

9. VR Barkowski carries a little memo tape recorder around for ideas, making sense of it all when she is finally in front of her computer. Janet also mentioned about something similar. This will be harder for me to do (of course, not everything suits everyone!) as I don’t have any privacy during the day, and feel awfully self-conscious even talking into a mobile via hands free. But I do actually tape myself with dialogue – I sit in the front of the computer and read parts out loud, and then play it back to listen to how it sounds. Sometimes I write an impassioned speech that just doesn’t translate to real humans. Speaking it out loud is another excellent way to edit. Roland also mentions he does a similar thing by speaking parts of his dialogue aloud in the shower for the acoustics - great idea! So now I am off to the bathroom, pages in hand…

10. Lilly mentions listening to inspiring music or audio books on the commute. I love this idea, Lilly! Although I can read books on the way to work, after a day staring at a computer I get eye-strain when trying to read on the bumpy journey coming home. At the moment I listen to music, but I never thought of audio books, and this is perfect for me. Not only do I get to be inspired by other stories, but I get to hear how vocabulary is pronounced, how language can sing, how words can be so visual. Fantastic – cannot wait! The only question is what book to start with…

11. TJ Carson makes an excellent point about taking time for yourself and not trying to push writing when you are really not feeling it. I think there is a lot of truth here – although we are told as writers we must work at it every single day, every single hour – all the time, in fact – there is a horrible guilt feeling that steals over me when I do something else, such as take time out with friends, go stand in the sun, or if I am feeling too tired or sick. No doubt this comes with learning that balance, and sure, there will be deadlines that have to be met, but as a beginner there is no urgency, no rush – just get that story as good as you can, and work when you feel at your peak.

12. Alexandra finds that she usually gets most of her writing done on a Sunday. I tend to swing happily between Saturday and Sunday as my favourite writing day. Saturday the house is quiet, and so I manage to get most of my plotting done, and sort out any big tricky scenes. Sunday the house is busier, but I tend to write like the wind on Sunday evenings – mainly as I have Monday work hanging over my head and know this is my last chance to get as much done as possible. I seem to work better when I hear that clock ticking.

13. Al mentioned a great piece of advice, which was simply to keep plugging away! Talli also mentioned for her it was ‘write or nothing’. I think self-determination is the key to getting things done in life, we all have to keep at it, keep that belief strong in our hearts and one day we will all be on those bookshop shelves. Bring it on!

14. Janet had some great tips – one that worked for her was entering her novel’s synopsis in a competition, as knowing there was a deadline really helped her to plot her novel and get the synopsis ready. I do believe that if you have won or been a finalist on a short story (or other fiction) competition then it is a great thing to mention on your query letter. It lets agents know that you have a track record, that you can actually write fiction! I haven’t entered any competitions, mainly because I feel I have so little time to write that any writing I do must be on The Big One. But the more tips from this list that I adopt, the more I might be able to create room for this as well, as I think working on a different story for a time might help me with the novel.

15. And last but not least, Melissa, Linda and T.J Carson all said about investing in a laptop or net book – something small I can carry about and type into when feel so moved. Oh I do agree… the cumbersome PC is lovely, but it currently is not in a great place for me to work. Roll on payday for this one!

Thank you once again – all appreciated! Any more tips and hints please let me know!


Laura S. said...

These are all wonderful tips. Thanks for taking the time to summarize them all. I hope they help you find balance for your creativity and work life!

Joanne said...

What great advice you've accumulated here! I'm so glad to have been a help, and I hope your to-do list is full of checkmarks by week's end!

sarahjayne smythe said...

Wow. Great post. Thanks for putting this all together for us. And thanks for the shoutout and the lovely links. :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Gee, I'm sorry I missed that last post.

My only piece of advice really, is to keep a notebook and pen in the bathroom. I know that sounds stupid, but when you've got 10 minutes or in the shower and you get a fantastic idea, the pad and pen is there and you don't have to scramble to get it down.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

What a wonderful sharing post, you got some great ideas! I can use a few of those myself. Like Talli's all or none dedication, I love that. I posted on blog #2 today about collecting information to write a memoir, but really that idea of collecting applies to any kind of writing. As writers we must constantly be collecting information to be useful later when we actually get the writing in! Now to go check out all the blogs you linked!

Mise said...

Since I had children, I've given up on time for creativity, but I find the main thing is to find time to edit - most natural creativity is too verbose and needs to be halved in size. So my top tip for the planet is to be destructive rather than creative when it comes to words. This comment has dragged on a bit, right?

Ann Best said...

I found your fascinating blog today through Karen Jones Gowen, who's had two books published by the same company that's going to publish mine here in the United States. I read your intriguing profile and wish you luck on your book. What you did to write it was scary financially, but you did it!!! I've enjoyed all these comments about balance. And about keeping "notes" that might be useful later. For a memoir, for a novel, for short stories. Or maybe that will simply help us, as we get older, to remember who we were.

Private said...

what a great post:) Summing up and sharing the advice is a great idea! And thanks for the shout outs and links :)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

So very interesting!! I'm sorry I was away for this.

Thanks so much for my sweet birthday wish. I had a lovely one. Watching Edward on the beach.

Kit Courteney said...

What fantastic advice.

Like you, I HAVE done a few of these before but for various reasons, don't any more.

But what a damn good way to get motivated.

I'm a BIG fan of audio books. Some years ago my mum was diagnosed with an eye condition and was told there may come a time when she can no longer read. She went to pieces at this as she is a very big reader. I had a bit of a turn over it too as my eyes were looking very similar to hers. Panic!

We decided that between us we would buy audio books regularly - this was when they were only on tape - and we gathered quite a collection. Over time the tapes have become a bit hit and miss in their quality and any tape machines we had, likewise!

However, we both still try to find the ones that work and we dribble over them - as well as buying and getting them from the library on CD now.

Very inspirational...although if you get a thriller and you're on the Tube... don't do what I've done in the past and say 'No!', 'Oh she didn't!', 'He was shot?!' etc OUT LOUD in front of people.

Mind you... you can be sure of a seat ;0)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

No awe-inspiring comment except thank you for dropping by my blog and liking what you read.

All our other friends had excellent ideas, didn't they?

Have a beautiful week. Roland

T.J. Carson said...

BLOG AWARD! on my page for you :)

Andrea Eames said...

There's some great advice here!

Lilly Higgins said...

Its a great idea to compile all the advice! So handy! Thanks for the mention and keep up the good work! x

Talli Roland said...

Oh, what a great list of tips you've given us! I love reading how other writers write.

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Jayne you totally rock!! Thanks for pimping my blog! I love how sweet you were to share in detail each and one of these bloggers all of whom I follow thankfully!!!

Of course you can borrow my muse she's still been quite the annoying one. She has a new story she wants to share with me but I told her I need to revise for this evenings crit group... she wasn't happy but she backed off enough for me to get a few chapters done! Silly muse!!!

Roxy said...

A wonderful post, Jayne. I so enjoyed learning some new names of bloggers I don't know as yet. Thanks also for the many great tips.

Lydia Kang said...

Great advice, thank you! I found your blog via Hilary's blogpost today. Nice to meet you!

Ciara Brehony said...

Oh my goodness! Well, I think it's all just about covered there. I spend so much time in my car ferrying children here, there and everywhere that I 'write' all my scenes and conversations out as I do and then when all is quiet I type madly away into the small hours.
And yes, a notebook. Essential.

Fab post! And all these wonderful people to take a peek at too. Thanks!

ChristaCarol Jones said...

I may just have to link to this post on my next Good News Thursday. Well done!

Jayne said...

Hi Joanne. I do have a to-do list, and I did manage to check some of it! I am still a little unrealistic at the moment with what I want to achieve, but I am getting there. Thank you!


Hi Laura. They were wonderful tips, too good to stay hidden in comments. I'm glad you liked them, and thank you for the good wishes. Getting there, I hope!


Hi Sarahjayne. Glad you liked it! And thank you for your comment - I have two scraps of paper notes in my bag already!

Hi Piedmont Writer. I shall have to incorporate you and your advice up above - thank you for suggesting something new. I wouldn't have thought of keeping a notebook in the bathroom but it is a good idea to keep them around the house 'just in case'.

T.J. Carson said...

Laptop. You'll lOVE it :)

Jayne said...

Hi Karen. Glad you liked it! I do collect a lot of info I must admit – my problem is then trying to find space for everything. At the moment it all lurks under my bed, but I have had to throw a lot away when moving flats, and now a lot of my research lives in boxes – I really miss having it around me.


Hi Mise – loved your comment! Not sure where that would end though, perhaps all I would do is sit there and Think Great Thoughts instead of doing anything. Still, not a bad occupation!


Hi Ann. Thank you for coming along and letting me know you liked the blog. Also thanks for the good luck wishes – yes, it was scary! A bit too scary at times. But it had to be done, as I would never have got this far without throwing myself in that deep end. I love the idea of keeping notes, not just for research, but to identify who we are right now, and what we want from life. It makes me want to create a Collage of Me. :)


Hi Alexandra. I am glad you liked it! And no worries. :)


Hi Pamela. Glad you found it interesting and very glad you had a lovely birthday with the lovely Edward!

Jayne said...

Hi Kit. I know – lots of lovely advice here! Oh gosh, I do feel for your mum (and you) about your sight worries. I would completely panic too. But at least you were practical and started collecting audio books. I now, spurred by this post, have the grand total of two in my collection – The Hobbit, and Wolf Hall. I am loving them, I must admit. Gives a whole new dimension to the story – reminds me of Jackanory.


Hi Roland. No worries! Thank you for giving me some advice in the first place!


Hi T.J. Aw thank you so much! I have already scurried over to your blog to collect and say thank you, but I will at some point this week share the good vibes!


Hi Andrea. I know – I was delighted! Nice to have it all in one spot.

Jayne said...

Hi Lilly. Thank 'you' - I am now the proud owner of Wolf Hall on audio - the perfect thing for inspiring me on my journey!


Hi Talli. I also like hearing about how other writers write - am fascinated!


Aw Jen! Thank you! There was just too much good advice for it to stay hidden, you all deserved to take credit. And your muse rocks!


Hi Roxy. Glad you liked it!


Hi Lydia. Thank you so much for finding my blog - hope you like it here. Very nice to meet you too!

Jayne said...

Hi Ciara. I know, loads of good advice! I guess it really is squeezing the writing in when we can, and take comfort in the fact we do it, and keep on doing it! So glad you liked the post. :)


Hi ChristaCarol. Feel free - I'd be honoured! :)


Hi TJ - yes, laptop! I so need one... working on it!