Category Archives: Motivation

Writing is a lonely business sometimes

I just had an experience that I want to share as it seems to be quite typical of the writer’s journey. I wrote a post that I thought was really good, got all excited about it, expected some lovely feedback and…. Nothing. I fell flat on my face. Well, my ego did. In comedies, when the main character falls flat in his or her face it’s funny. In real life, it hurts.

Writing can be a lonely business sometimes. People don’t realise. It’s not like those office jobs where you have colleagues, a coffee machine, a boss, a structure, a plan, an annual review and a pay check. For a writer none of this exists. You have to self motivate yourself. You have to build your own plan. And very often it’s wiser to have a day job or at least a part time job so that you don’t find yourself in a state of desperately needing money as it usually repels opportunities when you approach them in that emotional state. Believe me, I learnt the lesson first hand.

So how do you keep that motivation? How do you build self belief? Very often, friends and family, as well meaning as they are, have no clue what it is like to fend for yourself. They have jobs. They don’t take risk. And writing is a very risky business. You risk making a fool of yourself. You risk spending years “trying” with no obvious result. Writers circles can be good, as long as you come across one that is supportive. I admit not having ever been to one myself so I can’t comment. I would love for you to share your experience I’m your circle if you go to one.

I have however, shared my work with friends and family and although I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I don’t recommend it. For me, what has worked best, is make friends with like minded writers. I learnt over the years that just because you do the same thing does not mean you will be on the same page. We all have our insecurities, especially us creatives. In fact, I would hazard a guess that most of us walk through life feeling like frauds and hoping no one is going to expose us. I do. Our inner critics are vicious. We struggle to gather enough self belief to get started. The last thing we want is to share a piece of work with someone who has ulterior motives. Someone who has unresolved issues and who is going to trash our piece because it’s good and they are jealous. Someone who is going to only pretend to help us but does nothing to really improve our work because they believe in competition and it’s them or us. And believe me there are a LOT of those birds flying around.

If you are put in the position of Irving feedback on a fellow writer’s work, remember the compliment sandwich. Praise-feedback-praise. No one should ever give feedback in any other way.

Be extremely picky who you share work and make friends with. I know this does not sound very nice but at the first sign of a lash out, take your leave. Don’t put up with nasty behaviour. You want to be around people who genuinely want you to do well. They are rare, I know, but well worth the wait. And let’s be honest, it is hard for us too. If your best friend got a book deal before you, it would be hard to celebrate it, especially if you believed that your work is better than his or hers. This is human nature. But we can all rise above the fear, envy, jealousy, anger, resentment and all those dark feelings that we all experiment when we forget there is space for everyone. The best way to do this is to be honest. It is better to say to this friend “I find it really hard to be happy for you when I feel left behind, so please accept my apologies, let me sleep on it and hopefully I will be able to be genuinely happy for you tomorrow morning.” Rather than pretend you are happy but give her a fake smile.

We all have our insecurities, but if we are not willing to stick out for others and support each other, then there is no point. No one else can do it for us, because no one else understands the loneliness of the writer’s life. So in a way, I see this as a necessity.

I don’t believe in competition. I don’t believe competition is doing any of us any good. I much prefer collaboration. So what! the world as we know is competitive? Maybe we can invent a new world for writers where encouragement, support and space for everyone could be created.

At “I can make you write” I want to create such a space.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

The writing journey

Writing is a journey, not a race. There is no going from A to B in a straight line. There is no short cut. And this can be frustrating for writers or even off putting if they misunderstand the nature of the writing journey. But if you realise and embrace its true nature, it becomes enjoyable. You could compare it to running. No two bodies are the same. And it takes time, commitment, discipline and small steps. If you do too much too soon you are likely to get injured. If you do too little, you won’t progress. If you don’t listen to your body, you might actually do something that will compromise your journey.

Writing is a bit the same. If you start fast and furious, you might get something on paper (and in theory there is nothing wrong with that) but you might then be faced with material that you are not happy with. Or you may get discouraged if you can’t keep it up and give up when you hit the first obstacle.

You cannot force it, yet you must have discipline and practice regularly. You must explore what others have done but ultimately do what works for you. Some like to write in the morning, some in the wee hours of the night. Some write from home. Others like to write in cafés. Some like to write by hand in big notebooks. Others prefer the computer. Not to mention that some like to write poetry, others short stories. And so on. You have to find what works for you. But again. What works for you might change and evolve over time and you need to know this so that you don’t get panicky if what has worked for you up to now, doesn’t work anymore.

And you must have the wisdom to take breaks or change your pace when your life demands it, or you will burn out. Did you know for example that it is not possible to write more than three hours a day and stay productive?

I have experienced set backs both in my running and writing journeys. They are not really set backs but things that come in the way, but they need to be embraced as part of the journey. If you approach writing like a race, however, these meanderings will frustrate you. Everything that happens in the life of a writer informs his or her writing. Life is part of the writing journey. You night have to shelve a project and start a new one. And that’s ok.

What you write needs to rest between writing sessions. You need to sleep on it. Whilst you do that and get on with your life, you continue writing in your head but from a different part of your brain: the unconscious. It’s the same as trying to resolve a problem. You do research. You gather all the pros and cons and how other people have resolved the issue. Ultimately, you are likely to find a solution whilst having your shower in the morning three days later, after when you unconscious has been mulling over it without you realising it and come up with the perfect solution.

And when you finish a piece, you might have to let it rest for weeks to gain enough perspective to get back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. This is the nature of the work.

To your creativity

Ange de Lumiere

Can I really make you write?

I want to share with you a story about something that happened to me this morning as I came back from doing my grocery shopping. I had on my shopping list to buy  jam but didn’t buy it from the supermarket on purpose as I wanted to buy home made jam. So I headed for a lady in my village who used to leave her jams and preserves outside her door in a little wooden hut with a honesty jar for people to pay their due. I wanted to buy jar from her but noticed the whole hut had vanished. I knocked on her door.

I asked her what happened and she explained why she had taken it away. We got chatting, as one does, and she asked me what I was up to these days. We hadn’t seen each other in a while. I told her I was now running writer’s workshops for people who want to write books.

I said to her that not all books had a lot of words in them and had she considered writing a book of her recipes for her jams. I told her it could be good for her business. She told me  that she might one day write a book before she died but not before. It was clearly not on her list of things to do. She immediately added that she hated writing with a passion. I told her I wasn’t that good myself and even had a fail as a predictive mark for my GCSEs in English (well it was in France so it was French, but you get the idea) and it was through sheer hard work that I managed to get a C. So not exactly that good at writing myself in school. But could it have had to do with the way it was taught? I didn’t particularly enjoy having to study French literature. And it wasn’t really geared towards nurturing my creative writing skills. If anything it would have stifled them.

I then went on to say that  she could write her book of recipes one recipe at a time, on sticky notes, as she was making her jams. And then all she needed to do was stick them in a notepad and wait until she had enough to make a book. I asked her how many recipes she had. She said at least a hundred. All in her head. I said, get them out even for your own sake. You could get one book printed only for you. I can help you with that. If you write one recipe per day as you make your jams, in five to six months you will have them all down on paper.

She said “Funny you should say that, just before Christmas I said to myself I would like to write down my recipes.” There you go. She left saying that she was definitely going to give it a try and she had completely forgotten how much she hated writing and how she would only write a book on her death bed. I, on the other hand, was thinking that without much effort she would have her book ready by the summer, without even realising it. And then she added “I might just do it to annoy (so and so) and show them I wrote a book”. Why not? After all, you just have to find the motivation.

This is how dangerous it is to talk to me about your vague idea about writing a book or even about the fact that you will never write a book. I know I can make almost anyone write.

My jam lady was the least likely candidate to write a book… and when I left her she smiled and said “I am going to give it a try”. So do you think “I can make you write” now?

To your creativity

Ange

New Year resolutions: how to make them work

How many of us have made New Year resolutions? Or decided on looking back at the end of the year that we wished we had done this or that and not let time slip and nothing happened?

Here are a few pointers to make your new year resolutions (whatever you call them) work:

  1. Make them specific: don’t say “I want to write my novel this year”, say “I commit to writing one page per day”
  2. Break them into small steps: this may seem very similar to point nb 1 but you could say “I commit to writing 400 pages to complete my novel” which is specific but you could end up doing nothing because it is far too overwhelming. Committing to four pages a day is more reasonable.
  3. Break them into realistic steps: Even after you have broken down your goal into small steps, If you have a life packed to the brim, four pages a day might still be impossible. So work on the goal so it is actually achievable. Four pages a day might work for me, but what would work for you could be twenty pages per week-end. Or your first step might be to actually declutter your life so you have more time to write and that might involve learning to say no. Don’t run before you can walk. If that is the case, learn to say no. When you have mastered the art of saying no gracefully (that can take time), assess if that has created the space for you to commit to your writing. Then assess how you can break down the time into regular writing slots and commit to them. This might take six months. If you have a baby, it might take more. If you measure your success by something like a finished book, you will feel like a failure. But if you measure your success by a detailed plan of how to get from A to B, then even if there is supposedly nothing to show for it, you will have made progress as long as you can tick the small steps leading up to your big dream.
  4. Tie up a time schedule to your steps: if you don’t, you might find that you constantly let others things come first. Realise that your dreams and aspirations have to be on the top of your priority list. With things such a writing, especially if you have a day job, are a parent or have lots of friends, there will always be something more important. Not to mention that you might create something more important because of your own inner critic. So commit. Have a calendar on the wall and plan your week so you can achieve your small goals. Don’t be rigid but be committed.
  5. Make sure you reward yourself with something small when you reach one of your targets or goals. Have a nice walk in fresh air. Get that special latte. Watch your favourite TV programme or listen to some music.

For example, I have committed to writing three blogs per week for the month of January. It’s a little challenge I have set for myself. So here is the first one. Let’s see if I can keep the challenge.

The best to your creativity and your new year resolutions

Ange de Lumiere