Finding The Joy Of Writing

Over recent months, I’ve found myself fighting with the first major writer’s block of my short time as a blogger. My enthusiasm for writing in itself hasn’t diminished so it’s been a very confusing time in all honesty. A number of stories still swim through my head and I hold onto them as best I can but when it comes to putting them into words the way I’m used to, something always stops me.

I’ve written about writer’s block before but this has, by far, been the most mind boggling situation to find myself in. At first, I just tried to break through it and began experimenting with methods that would take me outside of my usual routine in order to stimulate a change in my mentality. From repainting my home to spending a weekend camping alone in the middle of nowhere, I was willing to try anything to break the block. Often I would think it was working but when the time came to write, even logging my experiences felt like a struggle.

For those who don’t know, I was a full time carer for someone when I first began blogging. I spent a lot of my time housebound and in a way, writing probably saved my sanity through that period of my life. I didn’t discuss my life as a carer but it gave me a focus other than what was right in front of me. I had no expectations for myself other than to love the very process of writing. The recognition and feedback of others was surprising but gratifying and over time, I began to hope that I could make something of this. Writing has been a passion unlike any other for me so finding myself unable to write has been infuriating and at times, even depressing.

Then I stopped being a carer shortly after the block began. I got a full time job and started to wonder if writing had just been an outlet to get me through a difficult phase of my life. I wondered if I’d be happier just stopping. And for a while, I did. Not once since then have I stopped wanting to write but it’s always ended the same way – with frustration, anger and usually a hasty surrender.

This post, on the other hand – and hopefully all future posts – is different. I’ve dwelt on the reason for these difficulties constantly and asked myself time and time again “How do I beat this?” with no answer in sight… That changed when I started asking a different question.

Why Do You Want To Beat This?

A creator is someone who makes something that starts as nothing but a mere thought. Through the creator that thought takes shape and with a bit of time, commitment and sometimes a little luck, it becomes something more. The end result can be whatever the creator decides they want it to be and because of that, the possibilities are limitless. A few words can be more powerful than a thousand and there will never be too many stories or songs in the world because the process in itself can take any shape or form.

There’s a joy in that process which can’t be clearly described. That may seem pretty rich coming from someone claiming to be a writer but that’s exactly the point. Creation isn’t definable, there’s no rule book to it but more often than not, we try to write the rules. It doesn’t take muck to see from my past posts that I’ve attempted just that.

When you focus more on defining the process than just enjoying the process itself, you stop creating. My theories on writing are just theories but I began to see them differently. They became rules that I had to abide by and through sharing those rules I put pressure on myself to get it right every time which goes against the very nature of a writer. I don’t want to be right all the time, but I want to write all the time. Forgetting that is what stopped me in my tracks for this long.

I’m writing publicly today with confidence for the first time in a long time because I’ve let go of those imaginary rules. I’m not going to get it right every time and neither are you. Writing isn’t about getting it right, it’s about expressing your passion and turning your thoughts into something you can take pride and joy in. If it gives that same joy to others then it’s a bonus, nothing more.

Don’t prioritise your work succeeding over the work itself. The creative industry as a whole is an amazing industry that all creators want to be a part of, we just don’t need to be. Love the process and hope that others around will enjoy it. If you create something with true love, chances are they will.

I think this post is written with love and I know it’s been written for me. I want that to be the case with everything I post going forward.

I’ll still hope you all enjoy it though.

Advertisements

The Productivity Experiment: Hermitage Part 1 – The Voyage

Born and raised in one of the largest cities in Scotland, I’ve grown accustomed to the convenience of the bustling city centre and the excitement of the thriving night life. The only time I’ve felt remotely at home anywhere else has been my infrequent visits to even larger cities. Simply put, I’m a city boy at heart.

When it comes to being productive however, there are times when it all becomes a little too noisy. I enjoy the city life but the city life is a constant distraction that can often tear my focus away from my dream to become a writer. No matter where you’re from or what kind of lifestyle you lead, it’s all too easy to fall into a standard routine. Do your time working or studying followed by the unproductive down time in a bar, in front of a computer screen or just sleeping the day away.

The very idea of a regular routine is contradictory to the ideals of what stimulates the creative mind. A writer is capable of opening up a whole new world to his or her readers through the power of words. Together with their readers they can explore new horizons and reveal the impossible with just their imagination. The flexibility to create something new and exciting simply cannot be nurtured if they themselves are unwilling to explore the new and exciting.

Therefore, I decided to expand my horizons by reaching out beyond my comfort zone and spending some time away from my regular routine. For just a few days, I decided to abandon my comfortable city life and take a camping trip alone to the sleepy western Isle of Arran. I had never ventured out of the city without friends or family accompanying me so I couldn’t help wondering: How would I fare without my comfortable bed, my drinking companions, my terabyte of computer games, my Netflix? I neglected to take a phone charger and removed the battery from my phone to stop myself from checking it every five minutes; Would I feel frustration or anxiety without the instant access to the infinite media and information provided by the internet that I’d grown so accustomed to?

The extent of my camping experience was limited to the music festivals of my teenage life where I was always surrounded by more experienced campers. The realization that I had never pitched a tent on my own was shocking and in its own way, a little saddening. Therefore, I pledged to learn it all the hard way. I packed up my tent and sleeping bag with some basic supplies and without much forward planning, set off on a train to the coastal town of Ardrossan where I would pay for passage off the Scottish mainland.

I’d love to say that I did all this with much bravado and confidence but in truth, I spent the hour long train journey with my heart trying to climb out of my throat. I’ve always had the willingness to jump into new situations so long as there was someone at my back but this was different. There was no point to prove, nobody watching that could judge my actions. This was a conscious decision made with no motive other than to explore the unknown and as simple as a typical camping trip may seem to some of you, in my eyes this truly was the unknown.

I arrived at the Ardrossan Harbour to see my next method of transport preparing to dock. The ferry was much larger than I’d anticipated which gave a realistic sense of the scale of my trip. From here, the ferry would travel directly to the Isle of Arran, a small isolated location that would likely escape the notice of most tourists on a map unless they were looking for it. The plan I had formed for this trip hadn’t developed any further than getting on that ferry; what would come after was a terrifying mystery to me. Even as I purchased my ticket and began to board, I considered the possibility of getting back on the train home and pretending the day thus far had never happened.

Nonetheless, I deposited my bags in the storage area, taking only a notepad and pen with me onto the main deck and began to write these very thoughts, though much less articulated. A stream of consciousness was scribbled onto the first few pages as if they would be the last words I would ever write. I believe it was along the lines of “I don’t know what I’m doing here, I’m going to get lost on a hill somewhere on a remote island so long as this boat doesn’t sink in which case I don’t know why I’m bothering to write on you because you’re made of paper and no one will see and…” You get the point.

Yet as the walkway was disconnected from the ferry and I resigned myself to the journey ahead, excitement began to overwrite the mild sense of panic within me. I watched the mainland grow further away and as we picked up speed, my writing changed with the new sensations I felt. For the first time, I felt like this trip was helping me to flex my creative muscles.

Each paragraph seemed to alternate as I went from describing the sights I saw to noting the ideas that the journey inspired for boat-related scenes in my own fictional writing projects. At the back of the ship I stared in awe at the foaming white path that the ferry cut into the water; in my mind’s eye it had been there the whole time, marking the way home and symbolizing just how far I had come already. At the front, my head snapped up from my notepad as children screamed, pointing excitedly at the porpoises that inhabited the waters, surfacing from time to time alongside the boat. When I read of similar scenes in fictional writing, the cynic in me often thought that these moments didn’t exist in reality. On those rare occasions however, a few simple moments can seem truly magical.

As the Isle of Arran came into clear view, doubt began to revisit me. Camping laws in Scotland are very flexible but I had no idea where to even begin in finding a spot to set up for the evening. I had only set out two rules for myself: It had to be somewhere beautiful and solitary.

As I scanned the coastline it seemed I would be spoiled for choice. Save for the small town where we would be docking, the scenery seemed almost completely untouched by human civilization. I collected my bags and stuffed my notepad away in preparation for the next step of the journey. Stepping off the ferry into the sleepy town of Brodick, I set off in search of the tourist centre in order to acquire a map. Within the hour I would be setting out north from the quaint little town and into the unknown.

The Productivity Experiment: Hermitage continues soon with Part 2: Into The Wilderness

Another Typical Life Update

Two weeks without a post, I really am the worst when it comes to scheduled blogging, huh? Don’t worry, I’m not dead! How are you all doing? I do apologize for the lack of content recently but for what it’s worth, it’s been a busy couple of weeks for me!

So first off, a few updates! I’m going to continue my silence for a short time, or my posting frequency will be much sparser at least. I’ve recently gained full time employment as well as being enlisted to provide content for a new project by the Millionaire’s Digest so the next two weeks will have me investing the majority of my time into that. Full details will be posted when it’s all finished up but in the meantime, thank you for your patience and for sticking around!

As for my regular posting material, I have a few things lined up that I plan to post up ASAP. Two more posts will be coming regarding the Productivity Experiment that I’ve already tried and tested as well as a few writing exercises that I plan to tear through over the course of a few days!

Still, I’d rather not be one to procrastinate on what’s coming too much so I’ll just work on getting it done and get it out there as quick as I can. Until then, a big thank you once again to anyone who’s stuck with this blog and it’s sporadic post frequency! I’ll be back real soon so stay tuned for whatever comes next!

Blog Update: With Renewed Focus Comes A New Look

When I began this blog, I never expected it to be anything more than a practice run at writing in public. My plan was simple: Post up as much content as possible and use WordPress as a temporary online portfolio rather than a public blog. While it can still be said that I’m able to use it as originally intended, this blog has been noticed by an unexpected amount of you lovely readers and writers in a fairly short amount of time.

Fifty followers probably doesn’t seem like much to the more experienced professional bloggers but to me, that’s more people reading my blog than I ever imagined! Seriously, thank you to every single one of you who has chosen to let WordPress spam your emails with my content, it really means a lot!

In my earlier days as a blogger I wanted to cover as many topics as possible; From writing game reviews and covering events like the Play Expo, all the way to discussing more serious issues in politics and, of course, life in general. Over time however, my motivation for blogging has altered and become much more focused on a single subject which happens to be the biggest passion I have: The art of writing itself.

While I may occasionally still provide a personal opinion or two on various subjects, I think it’s safe to say that the primary focus of this blog has been evident for a while now. Between that and my childish giddiness at the follower count, I figured it was time to give the blog a new look that matches with the renewed sense of focus and passion for my writing that I’ve recently acquired.

I suppose that was a very long-winded way of saying “Thank you for following me and I hope you enjoy the new look!” but if you’ve been keeping up with me then you should know by now that everything I do is long-winded.

So I’ll wrap things up by saying thank you once again for sticking around and I hope you stay tuned for whatever turns up next! Speak soon folks!

Stream Of Consciousness: It’s Fun To Write Dumb

Stream of Consciousness: To say or write the first thoughts that comes into your head without hesitation, no matter how disjointed, confusing or nonsensical they may be.

In celebration of writing about one of my favorite methods of brainstorming, I am going to perform this entire post using the tactic above. The only things I will edit afterwards are any spelling or grammar errors. If anything comes to mind, I will write it but because I myself can be a little disjointed, confusing and nonsensical, I apologize in advance for whatever God awful state this post becomes. Not that all my previous posts are particularly planned out, I’m a very disorganized individual at times and I swear often too so I’ll probably delete or censor any uses of the words “****, **** or *******.” Woops.

 

Anyway, onto the point of this drivel and that is what I like to call the “Stream of Consciousness.”

I first picked up this technique when I joined a community of writers and artists online. After spending several years without writing after losing a great deal of progress on a novel due to a PC breakdown, I was rusty and had no idea where to begin writing again. Luckily, this community was very active and had a lot of writing workshops going including what they call the “Writer’s Hot Seat.”

This involved a series of challenges or tasks which all amounted to writing 1000 or more words on a daily basis. Each session would have a particular theme and each day had a new objective. These typically lasted a week each Hot Seat.

The same week that I joined this community they were beginning a Hot Seat themed “Stream of Consciousness.” The challenge began with the first day being to write whatever the hell came to mind. The first thing I wrote amounted to “What the hell am I writing, why am I writing this, I don’t understand” and so on and so on until I just decided that it was too personal to put up publicly.

It essentially provided the ultimate outburst of every insecurity I had as a writer at the time. It outlined why I had stopped writing, how I felt stupid for letting a technical failure stop my passion and how I was concerned that I could quite possibly fail. Not at becoming a writer, I was concerned that I’d fail to even properly pursue it.

I read that stream and it gave me a surprising amount of insight into myself for speaking it. I could see where I’d hesitated to write and where the borderline was crossed into the “not give a ****” territory. That realization amused me and for some reason, it felt easier knowing that I didn’t have to hold back.

So rather than posting that personal block of text to the workshop, I wrote another 1000 words, this time beginning a story. I had no idea what I was writing about, all I can say just now is that it began with something about how worlds are created. As I wrote, I expected to be coming up with some rather typical fantasy plot. Until the first few sentences were finished and the story started to take form.

The second day was the same again with the general idea being that something new would be written but I broke the rules a little. Instead I continued the story I had worked on the day before, and I did this for the entire Hot Seat. In the case of this one, it was only five days long but those five days became the first draft of “Dream Lab.”

After the Hot Seat was completed, I looked at the results and felt completely refreshed. After years of discouragement from a single incident, I felt like I was a writer again. The fact that the spelling errors I’m going to have to correct later are at a minimum here is just a bigger boost in itself: Stream Of Consciousness saves the day again!

Seriously folks, you’ve probably heard the term “just write” a few times if you’re a writer seeking advice on how to churn out a story but I don’t think many of you will fully grasp what that means.

Just write really means just write. Put your fears and hopes and dreams in the middle of an important story narrative if they come to mind. Completely switch off from the fact that you’re typing and just type while you sit there staring into space like you’re on some kind of drug that I would never recommend for the creative process.

 

The brain is always active but it’s just like a muscle you regularly use. Imagine you’re punching a punchbag, if you pull your punches you won’t hit as hard. If you swing with all your might you aren’t as precise but you pack a mean punch when it connects.

That’s what your brain is doing when you let it loose with the stream. You miss so many times with the outbursts of self-doubt or what you think you’re going to watch on Netflix later (I prefer NowTv but can’t afford it, I’m still using my ex’s Netflix, if she doesn’t say anything why should I, right? Right?) (You see what I mean?) BUT when you connect with the target you started swinging for, you hit it hard!

Ignore your hesitant thoughts and your personal speculation about whether you’re writing anything of worth. THAT’S what “just write” means. It may feel like a fool’s errand when you start off but believe me, it’s worth putting in that extra force to each punch.

Because you could potentially hit gold at any moment.

An Empty Room: The Productivity Experiment

 

When the desire to get productive comes to mind, the brain can fixate on that desire, whether you want it to or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re suffering from a creative block or if you just don’t feel focused for the day, the human mind doesn’t always know how to switch off.

Now that’s great when you’re actually being productive but in those tough moments in between where you just don’t feel up to it, it can become a frustrating and almost painful distraction that hinders you rather than encourages.

During that time, you may find yourself mentally listing off the important things that you want to achieve for the day: Whether it’s utilizing and improving some of your creative talents or just getting the simple weekly chores that we all deal with out of the way so they won’t be hanging over you for the whole week.

Unfortunately, the reality rarely matches up to our expectations. In my case, the result is that I usually end up lying on my bed binge watching Netflix with a bottle of wine close at hand. Even as I relax to whatever TV show has caught my eye for the week, I continue to dwell on the fact that I should be doing something much more worthwhile with my free time…and yet I just keep on watching.

I argue to myself that I’m under the influence of alcohol by that point so I may as well wait until the morning to be productive… except that productive morning doesn’t arrive because either I sleep in thanks to the wine or I have other priorities to take care of. By the time I’m in a position to begin what I told myself I would do, I’m already in the mindset to begin the Netflix binge all over again.

It’s a vicious cycle and the longer it goes on, the more infuriating it can become. The worst part is how easy it is to fall into that routine. For the majority of aspiring writers, bloggers and other creators, the bulk of our early work is done from home. Whether it’s in our bedrooms, our lounges or wherever else we see fit, there’s always a spot somewhere in the household that becomes your regular creative space. For the sake of this post, I’ll presume that most of you do so in the privacy of your own bedroom; A typical safe space at home for people of all ages and backgrounds.

The downside to that space is that it’s usually your regular space for most other things as well. In many of today’s societies, a person’s bedroom can contain a television, a computer, at least a shelf’s worth of reading material, perhaps even a gaming console, a musical instrument or two and the limitless content of the internet to peruse, all at your disposal from a single location. Essentially, that one space has the potential for all work AND all play and as is human nature, we regularly choose play when we shouldn’t.

The timing for me to suffer from my own personal writer’s block has been pretty auspicious, as I’d already been long overdue to repaint the walls of my rather mangy bedroom. Therefore, I decided to implement that inevitable chore into my first attempt to find the off switch for my brain.

Typically, I would ask for help from some friends in something like this, especially when I’d never actually painted a room alone before now. However, if I’m not distracting myself at home then I’m usually distracting myself at a bar with friends. No doubt they’d suggest the entire paint job be done with a crate of beer at our disposal (and that would defeat the whole point of this experiment) so in the end, I decided to go it alone. After emptying the room of all furnishings and gadgets, I put on my old radio and got to work.

There’s something rather therapeutic about painting when you have the right tools but after a few hours, the discount roller I was using began to bend, making the job much more time consuming and tedious to the point that I thought I would abandon the job altogether. I grew more and more frustrated until the only thing keeping me painting was the realization of how stupid a half-painted room would look. Suffice to say, I was rather pessimistic for a time at the thought of recounting this experience with you all as I expected it to yield little to no results.

When the job was finally finished however, the relief was instantaneous. It wasn’t with a sense of achievement, but rather that of a burden being removed. I sat on the floor in the middle of the room, observing my handiwork cautiously for any mistake that would force me off the ground once more to resume the job.

But there were none. I’d completed my task and if I do say so myself, I’d done a rather fine job of it! I switched off the radio and took a moment to relax on the carpet. I began mentally preparing myself to stand up so I could wash the paint from my hands but I felt too exhausted to move. Instead I just sat there and closed my eyes, basking in the silence for a moment.

I didn’t sleep. I didn’t even lie down on the carpet beneath me. I simply sat and listened to the occasional noises that sounded from the open window. I found it strange how sounds change when a room changes. The echoes carry in such a way that I began to understand a little about how bats can navigate so well at night by sound alone. I could almost feel the walls around me and there was a sense of safety in knowing how far I was from any other obstacle.

After a time, I stopped thinking about the sounds. I stopped thinking about anything although I was still aware that I was awake. I was simply content in the quiet escape I had from my usual distractions.

When I finally stood up, I felt more relaxed that I have done in weeks. I plugged in my laptop and began writing, heedless of the dried paint I was shedding onto the keyboard. It wasn’t the quality of the writing that had particularly changed, or the quantities that I produced. It just flowed more freely for me, as if the pressure of trying to be productive was gone from my mind…at least for a time.

I’ve only just scratched the surface on how some hard work and a moment of meditation can help to settle the mind and give it fresh focus. There are still a lot of questions left unanswered: Did I benefit more from the fatigue of painting with a broken roller or was it all in the tranquility that came after? Or must the two always coincide?

I plan to explore both separately to further distinguish the effects they have on the mindset of the creator. I plan to test them in new environments to see just how accessible the best experience can be.

It’s still early days in the Productivity Experiment and I only have this one experience to go on so far…but right now, I honestly can’t imagine a more peaceful place to be than an empty room.

Igniting Creation: The Productivity Experiment (An Introduction)

Feel free to correct me in the comments if I’m wrong… but I think it’s safe to say that we all have those phases in our lives where we just don’t feel like being productive at all.

It can be for long periods or short periods and it can happen for any number of reasons. Maybe you’re occupied with other hobbies or events. Maybe you’re having some personal upheaval in your life that puts your creative work further down on the priority list…Or maybe you just can’t be bothered at this moment in time.

It’s totally natural to have days or even weeks like that but there’s a certain point where it starts to feel like you’ve been unproductive for WAY too long and that can be worrying. Worse yet, that worry in itself can make it even more difficult to get back into the swing of things since you begin to force yourself to work out of a sense of urgency rather than genuine passion for your craft.

Everybody suffers from moments like this and that’s perfectly normal but there really is no definitive answer on how to break the cycle. Must we force ourselves to perform our craft despite a temporary lack of enthusiasm for it or must we wait for the thrill of our work to return before we can continue the craft?

While I’ve previously written about “The Creative Mind: Battling The Block,” the article was written as an untested theory based on previous experience and the opinions of like-minded individuals. However, after acquiring an artist for my primary illustrated project, I have been finding extreme difficulty in preparing the next installment of a story I have been working on for quite some time and this recent writer’s block is feeling particularly burdensome. Therefore, I’ve decided to take direct action in order to bring back the excitement for writing that led me on the path I’m walking today.

Over the next month, I’m going to experiment with several methods that can potentially reignite the enthusiasm and creativity of those who are struggling on their personal path as a creator. I will be making changes to my personal life in order to test what affects the mindset of a creator, both positively and negatively.

 

I will then be documenting my findings for you all in the hope that some of it will be relevant to your own personal dilemmas as creators. I will update as frequently as possible to report my findings… whether it yields helpful advice, disappointed ramblings about zero results or just hilarious experiences, I will make sure that you know it all.

The general aim of these experiments is to partake in activities that are:

  • Low budget.
  • Accessible to anyone.
  • Easy to organize.
  • As far from my own personal comfort zone as I can manage.

Rather than posting my to-do list, I’m just going to pledge to begin these experiments beginning Monday 1st August and present my findings as I go, as quickly and coherently as possible. Generally, I’ll be testing new experiences, both alone and in a social group which will preferably not be a group I am familiar with.

 

So for my final words I’d like to give a quick thank you to the 40 followers I currently have reading my ramblings and for anyone new tuning in, I hope you stick around long enough to read my findings! While the first experiment will begin Monday, it may take a few extra days to put up a post stating whether or not I’ve become more or less productive after my experiences. Hopefully it’ll be the latter!

Wish me luck and I hope you enjoy the results!