Warning: The following post is a bit UK-centric and a bit Anna-Davis-centric. However, it still includes writing advice that’s applicable on other shores, in other seasons and in other frames of mind – so do bear with me… And thank you for your indulgence!
What a mess of contradictions many of us are finding ourselves in at the moment. Social distancing has ended but there’s still plenty of the old Delta about and lots of us are getting pinged and finding ourselves back in splendid isolation. Most days the sun shines just long enough to tempt me out in my sandals and sundress – at which point the heavens open and the rain is elemental. Then there’s the other stuff – the bigger, gnarlier stuff that doesn’t fit well with a frothy blog post – and this goes for pretty much everyone at the moment, doesn’t it, to a greater or lesser degree? All in all, I don’t know what to think, do or feel these days. And when I meet up with friends, I see my bewilderment and frustration reflected in their faces too.
So with all this tangle on the outside and the inside – with so many uncertainties and so much stress – and for some, so many demands on our time – how do we keep writing?
Well, here are a few thoughts…
1. The scrapbook
We know lots of you are very time-poor and have been for ages now. Perhaps a novel or other long-form project is just impossible. Even notebooks can be scary, when they’re all pristine and new and empty. But maybe we can still achieve something by shifting our mindset and grabbing the tiniest minutes: Do you remember the scrapbooks of yesteryear? When I was little, my mum always made sure I had a scrapbook to stick things in – pictures from magazines, messages built out of cut-up newspaper headlines, postcards and more. I reckon that’s an approach to try when times are hard. Write down the strange line that popped into your head from nowhere, the dream you had last night, the weird shop name that you spotted on a walk – anything and everything. Don’t worry if it doesn’t amount to anything, that’s not the point. This is all food for your imagination – and one day you will flick through these bits and pieces and something will jump out at you that you will be able to make use of or develop into something bigger.
2. Writing is portable
If, like me, you don’t know if you’re staying put, going away or what – remember that writing can travel everywhere with you. You might not always have your computer, with your work-in-progress, handy – but you can write while lying on the beach, or in a park, or while sheltering from the rain in your car – provided you have a phone or a notebook and pen with you. It can be an actively good thing to write a scene, or part of one, while you’re away from the rest of your material. It can freshen things up and free you from the weight of it all, and from issues that are blocking you. Your writing can go wherever you go, if you just decide to let it happen.
3. Writing and juggling
Lots of us had more opportunity to write during the various lockdowns than in normal times – and might now be feeling the loss of that precious creative space, as work and people and hectic life return. But remember, most of us need to be out there living in order to have experience to draw on in our writing. You can have all the time in the world to write but find you have nothing to say. And even if you don’t consciously write about your lived experience, your creativity is still refreshed by it. So even if you’re not getting as many words down as you were a few months ago, the world will now be replenishing your imagination for more writing.
4. Capture the wonder
For some, the world is opening up again in marvellous ways. We’re emerging, blinking, into the light. We’re leaving our neighbourhoods for the first time in what feels like forever, and it is a wondrous thing. If you can, bring that wonder to your writing – the return to the world, the feeling of newness, the dazzle. If colours look brighter, if people seem lovelier, try for some words to express it. We’ve all been through the strangest of times, and they’re not over yet. It’s a fascinating challenge – for us writers – to reflect and give shape to all of this (the bad stuff as well as the good, of course) in ways that are perhaps less workaday and literal than you’d find in the newspapers or on social media.
5. CBC’s Writing Summer
For those who’d like some help from CBC to maximise the potential of your writing summer, how about trying some of these?
The last of our summer writing courses start on 5th August: You can use the discount YOURWRITINGSUMMER to get £20 off the price of Creative Writing For Beginners – my four-week online course to help you find inspiration, flex your creative muscles, learn new writing techniques and start getting some words down. Or for something more genre-specific, use the discount for one of our six-week online courses, Writing Historical Fiction with S J Parris, or Writing a Psychological Thriller with Erin Kelly.
Also, starting on 5th August is our free writing competition running over on Twitter @cbcreative and Instagram @curtisbrowncreative – #CBCSummerStory, sponsored by author and former CBC student Neil Daws. The competition begins at 11am (UK time) on 5th August and will end at 10am on 10th August. Do join in the fun – you’ll meet lots of other friendly writers and one person from each social media platform will win the free six-week online course of their choice, plus a report and video-tutorial from one of our expert tutors.
Last but not least, you can join a free three-part mini-course on Character Development from CBC tutor Simon Ings.
I hope something here has resonated with you – whatever your current writing situation is. My very best wishes to you for your writing summer – or for whatever season you’re living through. May you find the inspiration and the time that you need.
Other posts you may enjoy