Creative Recovery or How to Reboot your Writing Mojo

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Bjelke Blues has been going great guns and I’m thrilled about that. We even scored a review in The Weekend Australian!

Bjelke Blues review, Fitzgerald, Weekend Aust 9-11-19 (lo res)

Review of Bjelke Blues, Weekend Australian 9/10 November 2019

Thanks to everyone who’s been buying copies. It’s been a huge year’s work, collecting and editing the work of 44 other people, then promoting and marketing the book as well. On top of it all, I caught the dreaded lurgy which drained the very last of my own creative energy.

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But I had a screenplay to write. Due at the end of the month. I sat down at the computer and searched my brain, my heart, but I had nothing left to give. I was done! An empty well without a drop of inspiration. I’d pumped myself dry.

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Most creative people experience patches like this. Some call it writers block. Others, burn out or exhaustion. I run retreats helping other people to find their creative selves, but in the meantime I’d lost my own.

How was I going to find it again?

Luckily I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. Hope they’ll work for you too.

artists way

  1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – regular readers of my site will know that this is the book that started me writing. It’s still the first place I turn when I need to reboot my writing mojo. Working my way through the exercises slowly but surely ideas started to flow again. My favourite affirmation this time around is “Through the use of a few simple tools my creativity will flourish.”

 

  1. Take the pressure off. When I start thinking about my writing tasks as hard work then I know I’m in trouble. Writing is fun! I love it because I get to muck around in my imagination, make stuff up and play. So get that “life is a serious business” frown off your face and lighten up!
woman smiling

Put on your happy face!

  1. Get into nature. Take your journal and a pen and just sit with your back against a tree or look out to the sea or listen to the birds a while, then write down everything you see, feel, hear, smell, taste. Free write for no other reason than to record that one moment in time.
The Reader Crowned with Flowers, or Virgil's Muse, 1845 Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

The Reader Crowned with Flowers, or Virgil’s Muse, 1845 Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

  1. Buy yourself a treat. It’s best of course if it’s something to do with your writing/art form like a new book on writing, a novel you’ve always wanted to read, a new set of colouring pencils or a recorder, but any treat will work just as well. I bought myself a mattress topper. I love it so much I think I’ll marry it!
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    I love my mattress topper!

     

  2. Do something you don’t usually do. Paint a picture, climb a mountain, go for a swim. I played the piano. I had lessons for years as a child but these days I rarely play. The other day I sat down and learnt a new piece. It made me feel very happy.
Child playing the piano

Happiness

  1. Give yourself some proper time off to do NOTHING. Yes, I mean nothing. For some of us that’s really hard to do. Luckily for me, I was babysitting my brother’s kids in Dubbo and my internet wasn’t working so time off was forced upon me. I read. A lot. Talked to the kids. Went for walks. And guess what? Ideas for my screenplay started to flow in like magic.
woman sprinkling inspiration from the moon

Like magic!

  1. Give yourself permission to write absolute crap (or do a shitty painting- whatever). Then sit down and get stuck in.

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If you’ve completely pumped yourself dry it will take a bit of time to fill your well to a point where you’re ready to produce again. Be gentle with yourself. Gentle is my new favourite word – the world right now needs a whole lot of gentleness.

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My secret writer’s block buster is meditation! Those or you who’ve attended my workshops will know how helpful some brain clearing and positive visualisation can be for rebooting your creative mojo. At my latest retreat my friend Maria recorded my guided meditation for busting through the inner critic and building creative confidence. Try the guided meditation and see how it can free up your writing. Let me know how you go.

I got my screenplay done and it wasn’t even crap. Once I started writing it was great fun to do.

Good luck with your own reboot. What are your favourite tricks, techniques to help unblock? I’d love to hear about them.

Happy writing – or just lying around dreaming 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina  xx

SNUFKIN’S SONG

Great advice for all writers from the Finnish sage Tove Jansson.

 From “The Spring Tune” in Tales From Moominvalley (Puffin Books 1973)

snufkin sitting on a bridge playing the harmonica

Snufkin

“It’s the right evening for a tune, Snufkin thought. A new tune, one part expectation, two parts sadness, and for the rest, just the great delight of walking alone and liking it.

He had kept this tune under his hat for several days but hadn’t quite dared to take it out yet. It had to grow into a kind of happy conviction. Then, he would simply have to put his lips to the mouth organ, and all the notes would jump instantly into their places.

If he released them too soon they might get stuck crossways and make only a half-good tune, or he might lose them altogether and never be in the right mood to get hold of them again. Tunes are serious things, especially if they have to be jolly and sad at the same time.

But this evening Snufkin felt rather sure of his tune. It was there, waiting, nearly full-grown – and it was going to be the best he ever made.

Then, when he arrived in Moominvalley, he’d sit on the bridge rail and play it, and Moomintroll would say at once: That’s a good one. Really a good one.”

I love this piece. It reminds me how important it is to keep the tender shoots of first drafts protected and under your hat, to keep them all to yourself, till it is fully grown, and ready to be shown to the world – hopefully to a reader who is as appreciative as Moomintroll. 

Moomintroll and Snufkin on the bridge at night

Moomin Bridge by Maria Hobbit

WHO’S ON YOUR SUPPORT TEAM?

Like most writers I swing between ridiculous delusions of grandeur and the depths of morose self-loathing. A publication starts an upswing, followed by a terrible downturn when yet another rejection follows hot on its heels. In order to help keep me on an even keel I need a strong support team.

I have my writing friends, my husband and family, and they all help a lot. But it was only when I discovered a team of supportive writer ghosts that I felt as if my gang was tough enough to weather all storms.

Especially with Old Uncle Ernie (Ernest Hemingway to you) at the helm. I’d always admired his writing, if not his machismo and despair, but while I was studying my masters degree I read an enormous volume of his collected letters and fell in love with him as a mentor. I loved the way he complained about chest colds and bottom issues. His letters made him very real, and he was kind and warm and funny and had lots of good advice about the writing life. I also liked him because when one of his grandchildren was born and Edwina was forwarded as a name he said it was a good one. I found a photograph of him in his boxing gear and used it to protect me the evening I first presented my work to my masters workshop group. Since then he has been my protector. He’s smiling at me now, all hairy chest and bushy beard, from the picture that still hangs on my wall.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, my champion.

He’s team captain. Since then, I’ve added lots of other favourite authors. A big gang from the American south, Steinbeck and Faulkner and Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. Walt Whitman turned up and he and Ernie came to blows over who exactly was captain of my ship. Ernie won. I don’t think Walt was much of a boxer. Thoreau, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Chaucer, Shakespeare – no ghost was too big to join my team.

And the women? Tove Jansen – my beloved creator of the Moomins, pipe smoker, trench coat wearer, adventurer. Josephine Ulrick because she too smoked a pipe and is a great supporter of emerging writers. She and Tove get on like a house on fire. Jane Austen of course (she’s much in demand) the Brontes, Willa Cather, Olga Masters, Katherine Susannah Pritchard,Thea Astley, Miles Franklin, Henry Handel Richardsen, George Eliot, Margaret Mitchell, even Barbara Cartland. 

You should’ve seen the fuss when she turned up. Ernie and the other fellows were about to blow their stacks till I pointed out just how many books she’d written and how well they’d sold. Not only that – she’d done it all while looking glamorous and reclining on a couch! She stayed. I’d like to add Susan Johnson, Helen Garner. Tim Winton and Margaret Attwood but they’re still alive!

The team is growing all the time, but Ernie remains my champion. Every morning I check in with him. When I’ve been procrastinating or busying myself with other work besides my writing, Ernie gets grouchy, tut tuts and taps his foot. On days when I’ve been working hard he grins and punches the air with glee.

The other day he said “You’re on your way now, girl.”

I hope he’s right. He  isn’t always but it’s good to know he’s on my team, along with all the others.

Of course it may be, and probably all is, my imagination. But hey, I’m a  writer of fiction – I live in my imagination.  My characters are real to me and so is my support team. What’s more, they keep my spirits up as the publishing world seems to be swirling down the gurgler.

So, who’s on your support team?

I’d love to know. (Oh and I’m happy to share. these guys are like Gods – omnipotent)

Love to you all,

Edwina

THE REST CURE

“Find the time to write. Protect the time to write. Be inventive: get gorgons. Forget email. Whatever it takes. Because you still need more time than there is, also it’s important to leave enough time to waste.”
Ann Beattie.

The truth of this quote was just brought home to me in a conversation with my fabulous writer friend Favel Parrett. She’s recently signed a two book deal with Hachette Livre Australia and they’re wanting her second book fast! She’s been working so long and hard on the first story that ideas for the second haven’t entered the picture. That’s where Ann’s “time to waste” comes in.

As creative artists we can’t keep pumping ideas out without stopping sometimes to refill the tank. Time to waste is actually some of the most important work we can do as writers.

Fuddling around, seeing movies, cleaning the house, sorting through old photographs, catching up with friends, going for long walks, travelling, visiting people or the art gallery or museum, reading all sorts of books, catching buses and talking to strangers, focusing on our real world and seeing what’s in front of us, spending lots of time in LaLa Land, dreaming up ideas and following them to see where they go, Steven King’s “essential afternoon nap”. This is where story ideas come from.

As writers we simply can’t afford to spend all our time writing! We need to go out and live and stockpile images and ideas then sit around doing nothing but day dreaming about them.

For a writer rest is as important as work.

Sometime, however, you are going to have to sit down, face the blank page, and turn those daydreams into words!

Pre-menstrual and pre-published

This is not a good combination. Still waiting on my edit and for Sophie to read my mss, watching others leapfrog me. Console myself with the thought that there is some greater purpose at work, but I’m buggered if I know what it could be. Yep, one of those bitter and twisted kind of days.
On the upside I’m looking forward to teaching creative writing on the weekend. There are only a few spots left so hurry if you’d like to spend a fun morning writing and learning a few tricks of the trade.
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