Wednesday, 27 July 2011


Deadlines. Love them or loathe them, they are a necessary part of being a writer. If you are anything like me, if it wasn't for deadlines, you'd probably never get anything written at all.

The main problem I have with deadlines (and I suspect I'm not the only one) is a problem of balance. If I start a piece too far in advance of a deadline, like I know I probably should, it can feel flat and lifeless as I'm writing it and I find it difficult to motivate myself to get over the finishing line.

On the other hand, if I leave it too close to the deadline, I feel anxious and stressed and probably don't produce my best work as it is likely to be rushed and "thrown together".

Although I am a great believer in the "salami" technique where you break a large task down into small, manageable slices and then allocate a slice to each day of the week or however you want to organise it, this never seems to work that well for deadlines. I find it difficult to know exactly when to take off the first "slice" and if I'm too organised, I miss the adrenaline rush that you get as the deadline looms and you are forced into producing something that comes over as fresh and immediate, probably because you only started writing it three hours before it was due in.

Talking of deadlines, I have an urgent one to attend to which is probably why I am posting this instead of getting on with trying to meet it. Because that's another thing with deadlines. The nearer they get, the more they lull you into a false sense of security that the story or article which is still largely inside your head, will somehow miraculously make it on to the page without you having to do very much at all.      

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Portfolio Career

I have been telling everyone recently that I now have a "portfolio career". Most people don't know what I mean by this (someone even said they'd have to "Google" it!) but it's really just a fancy way of saying that you have fingers in several different pies.

I have been a "professional" writer since 1995 although I have always been a writer of some sort, ever since I was at school. During this time, I have stuck pretty religiously to writing and only occasionally had flights of fancy about getting a "proper" job. (And I still do. Only this time last week, I found myself offering to manage a jazz band!!)

However, for various reasons, I've recently been seriously exploring other freelancing options that I can do alongside writing and have now decided to "rebrand" myself as a writer, a crafter and a musician. I also plan to carry on working on community newsletters and do something in the spiritual healing/growth area at some point too.

It's quite a scary decision but I definitely feel it's the right one. The thing that scares me most is that my writing will suffer, mainly because I will have less time to spend on it and there will be more demands on my "creative energy", if that doesn't sound too pretentious. After all, I've always maintained that you can't be a part-time writer, any more than you can be a part-time brain surgeon.

On the other hand, I hope that the other "pies" will help stimulate my writing. Certainly if I manage to take my music into care homes, which is my plan, I should have plenty of stories to tell. (Although that's not why I'm doing it, of course.) And hopefully, if I feel more satisfied because I'm taking seriously some of the other things I enjoy doing and am good at, then perhaps I shall feel more motivated when I do eventually sit down to write. Here's hoping, anyway.    

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Living Write

In the unlikely event that you were wondering why I haven't been blogging for the last couple of weeks, it was because I decided to take a fortnight off. That's quite unusual for me as I normally find myself desperate to get back to writing after about a week or so but for reasons that I won't bore you with, I decided that "psychologically" I needed a longer break. Although I haven't been anywhere exotic like the south of France or even Dagenham, it was good to get away from my desk for a while.

Although I spent most of my time watching Wimbledon and the Tour de France while listening to cricket, I did read a "how to" book about writing which I found really useful. It's called "Living Write" and the author is Kelly L. Stone. I should point out that it's an American book and all the author quotes and extracts are from American authors, but that didn't really worry me as the advice and tips apply to any writers.

I ordered it because the review said that the author, who is a professional counsellor, would show you how to:
* Make writing a daily priority
* Maintain enthusiasm, motivation and dedication for long-term writing goals
* Overcome fear of failure
*Gain confidence in your writing abilities
*Identify yourself as a "writer", not just someone who casually sits down to write.

These are all areas that I feel I have been struggling with recently (I'm guessing I'm not the only one!) and it's certainly given me the "kick-start" I needed. The book is divided into three parts: Inviting Writing Into Your Daily Life, Developing A Writer's Mind-set and Deepen Your Writing. There are fifteen chapters, each of which contains a practical "exercise" to help with reversing negativity and moving forward as a disciplined writer.

I particularly liked the idea of setting twenty year goals (gulp!) and then working backwards through ten years, five years, three years, one year and so on, to help you discover what you should be working on right now. Also the idea of adopting a successful author as a positive role model and trying to emulate their successful working patterns and habits appealed to me. I wasn't too sure about the suggestion of talking into a mirror to help realise your writing ambitions but I have been doing it a bit (mainly when I'm cleaning my teeth!) and actually, it seems to have helped.

There is also a CD with the book that contains "guided meditations" designed to accompany some of the exercises and to act as a prelude to your writing sessions. I must admit I haven't listened to that yet.

As I said earlier, "Living Write" is an American book published by Adams Media. I have just looked on Amazon and it is available there so why not give it a go?