So, before I talked about it being time to panic, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of days, and yet I haven’t even made a dent. Anyone who thinks Creative Writing is an easy course, it isn’t. I have a film script to do, very short, but still looking for the idea, craft books to look through, a Reading as a Writer to start drafting on a book that makes me cringe, and many words to write for my dissertation.
It’s so hard to find the motivation to do anything, sometimes. Like work, writing, and even sometimes reading. Right now, I cannot find the strength to do anything but sink into easy books and ignore the craft texts sitting next to me that I need to go through. It can be the same with writing. I’d rather escape into someone else’s world that already built and requires little effort on my part, than work on my own.
I’d like, now, to be able to offer some brilliant words of advice that will get anyone out of this laziness, but I only have one. Try. Nothing more than that. Try to get out of it and you’ll probably manage. Usually, for me, this is brought on by panic. I’ll start freaking myself out about not having done any of the work I needed to and I won’t feel better until it’s done.
Warning to all writers and reader. This is probably something you’ve already come across if you’ve gone through a stage of reading compulsively for even just one day. The dreaded book headache. I made the not so bad mistake of wanting to start a series of books. A series that had another series before it that I also wanted to reread first. And, since I didn’t have much else to do this week, I read. All five books of the first series. In three days. And, right now, I’ve managed to get through the first two books of the second series, which, looking at the page count, add up to all the books in the other series combined. And now my head really hurts. Luckily, I’ve run out of books that I’m desperate to read and that I can find under my bed (which is where I keep my unread books) so I can recover in peace.
I pretty sure the internet thinks I’m a serial killer right now. I’ve been researching crime and laws for my dissertation story and my web history is beginning to look somewhat alarming. I can just imagine someone looking at it and saying something like ‘Oh, researching psychopaths and killers, there. And gun laws… and carry permits… police response times? Ok, I’m just going to back away now. I didn’t see a thing.’
As we’ve already said here at Inkprint, research is damn important. But, while making the gods of Google reach for their phones to send the police my way, I realised what I was doing. And not doing. I wasn’t writing. Research may be necessary, but it cannot be allowed to become a distraction from the actual writing. What I was meant to be writing actually had nothing to do with crime and accident rates, or even the police. That stuff would come much later. But, there I was, drifting through the vastness of the internet, not one word added to the open document next to it.
Bad me. Time to go back to writing. This may be another distraction….
So, First things first. Reading. Anyone who likes writing likes reading. And, if you don’t, you’re seriously doing something wrong. But, if there’s one thing that readers/writers learn very quickly, it’s that some of the ‘best’ books, new or old, can be damn hard to read. Especially some of the reading list books we get, along with the classic ‘proper’ books. So here’s a quick tip that gets me through some of the harder pieces of apparently brilliant fiction out there: Read what you like, too. A friend of mine got a new book recently. Part of a series. One she’d been waiting for. But she had another book she really needed to read for class. So, use the books you like as a reward system. You’ve just read a chapter of the dullest and most difficult book in the word? Congratulations! You may now read a chapter of that epic you just can’t wait for. As long as you stick to this, you’ll make it.
And now, part two. Random thoughts.
As a writer, you should keep a notebook, or at least a pen, with you at all times. You can’t let that perfect idea that hit you in the supermarket get away, can you? But, sometimes, it’s just the little things that can make a story. The random thoughts that bubble into or heads throughout the day that make us real. Take a moment to write them down and give them to your characters.
For example (and collected from a few people for the purposes of this blog and trying not to let just me look completely insane); ‘I really have to stop getting mad a yoghurt.’ Which sounds mad out of context, but is really just a friend’s annoyance at not being able to get yoghurt without bits, or without strawberry flavour, which she hates.
‘He’s going to arrest me for reckless walking.’ Another friend who’d just walked right into a policeman and really did think he would arrest her.
And, who doesn’t think this one? ‘What if I walk through the security sensors and the alarm goes off?’ That one was me being paranoid walking out of a shop even though I hadn’t stolen anything.
So, reading and writing down the random. Get to it.
So, had dissertation today, and my work was looked at. I’m not entirely sure how much I’ve improved as a writer over the past three years, but I have learnt to take a critical eye to my work. I can easily remember my first year and how much I would panic before letting someone else see my work. And how much I was terrified that they’d call it a train wreck. Teacher or fellow student, it didn’t matter. I was sure that they’d hate it and sure that I wouldn’t be able to deal with it when they said so. Today, as I said, the tutor and a friend of mine looked at my work and told me what they thought. Some good. Some bad. Lots of rewriting to do. Lots of lines that needed cut because they were over written, badly written, or simply not needed. And, you know what I realised? It wasn’t a bad thing. That’s perhaps the main thing I’ve come to see over my time at university. Someone telling me what’s wrong with my work isn’t a bad thing. It’s helpful. It’s damn hard to see our own work critically. It’s either complete rubbish or totally brilliant. And, it’s never really either of those.
So, don’t be afraid to let someone read what you’ve got. Especially if they’re someone who knows what they’re doing. And, you don’t always have to listen to everything.