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.

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  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!
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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.
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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.
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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

What is a writer’s “VOICE” and how to find yours

 

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When I first started writing I kept hearing this mysterious term, “voice”, mainly in the many rejections I received. Publishers would inevitably say something along the lines of, my “voice wasn’t developed.” It drove me mad. What did they mean? It was me writing, not anyone else. It took me a while to figure out that voice in creative writing terms just means a writer’s own particular style.

Put simply, which is how I like things, it means unadulterated plain old you on the page. Not you trying to be smarter or funnier or fancier than you are. Just you – the way you would talk to your best friend, the way you’d write a letter to someone who’s known you all your life. In my work with new writers I often come across people who think they have to use a whole lot of big words and mountains of adjectives and metaphors to sound “Writerly”. Which brings me to my first point.

Forget about being Writerly!

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Fancy may work for some people who are born that way, or lived a hundred years ago, but these days it’s best just to write as you would speak. Of course you can throw in the occasional unique metaphor and fabulous big word, but most of the time keep it simple.

YOU are enough just the way you are.

Yes, that’s you. Your life and all you’ve lived and who you’ve become because of it is totally unique in the whole world. No one else can write your stories because only you can tell them in your own special way echoing all those experiences. If you grew up swinging around on a hills hoist washing line being sprayed with a hose, the story you tell about childhood is going to be very different to the person who slammed face first into a tree in a tobogganing accident. Claim who you are and let that shine through. The specific details of your life can reveal universal truths.

Once you’ve claimed your voice, everyone who reads your stories will say, “Oh that’s so and so, I’d know her voice anywhere.” Editors will accept your work for publication and say, “Great unique voice”. YES! That’s what we’re aiming for.

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But how to do it?

Read on.

TOOLS for developing your unique voice

1. Free writing

Write whatever comes into your head, stream of consciousness style. No stopping, don’t let your pen leave the page. Set a time for five minutes and just go for it, no editing, no fiddling with grammar, no checking spelling. If you don’t know a word then just put a question mark beside it. Even if you’re only writing “I don’t’ know what to write, this is silly, that’s fine. You can complain as much as you like, just keep writing. Find a writing prompt, set a timer, and go for your life. Write as fast and as much as you can in those five minutes. You’ll be surprised what you can do. Get used to writing rubbish 😊 Once you’re used to that, then you’re free to go! You will need to edit what comes out later, but just think of all the words you’ll have to play with.

2. Keep a journal

Use the free-writing technique to write a journal. Every day write at least an A4 page by hand, letting words flow off the top of your head onto the page. The more you write, the more natural your voice becomes. If you are too busy to do this every day, every second day will do. Writing, like anything else, is all about practice. The more you practice the better you get. The more you get used to writing completely naturally without thinking about sounding flash or clever, the more your natural voice will emerge.
3. Look at emails, letters or texts you send friends – are they different to the way you’ve being trying to write stories/ poems etc? Do you sound like you? If you feel uncomfortable writing in any form it may not. But I’m guessing if you’ve picked this book up then you’re a writing kind of a person and those messages to your friends and family are lighter and more natural than the artificial voice you may have been trying to put on for your writing. Next time you write a story pretend you’re writing to a friend instead of some imaginary publisher.

3. Look at emails, letters or texts you send friends

Are they different to the way you’ve being trying to write stories/ poems etc? Do you sound like you? If you feel uncomfortable writing in any form it may not. But I’m guessing if you’re reading this up then you’re a writing kind of a person and those messages to your friends and family are lighter and more natural than the artificial voice you may have been trying to put on for your writing. Next time you write a story pretend you’re writing to a friend instead of some imaginary publisher.

4. WRITE!

Write every day, whenever you can. Scribble down what you see while you’re on the bus. Who is that strange woman in the purple hat and too much pink lipstick? What’s her story? Play with your imagination. Write down your dreams and give them another chapter. Fill notebooks with lots of messy writing about anything that takes your fancy. Write until it comes naturally.

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Have you found your voice yet? How do you know? I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to leave a comment.

If you’d like to receive more writing hints and tips, drop me a line here.

And if you’d like a whole weekend of writing and yoga to get those creative juices flowing then see HERE for my next retreat.

Until next time – HAPPY WRITING!

Lots of love

Edwina xx

SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! The 10 Point Plan to Publishing Success.

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Whether you’re a writing newbie or an old hand like me there’s one rule that stays true – in order to get published you need to submit. Scary, but true.

You want someone to read them, right?

When I first started writing in earnest back in 2002, I wrote short stories while my young children were having their naps. I joined the QLD Writers Centre and formed a writers’ group with a few women I’d met in workshops. After they’d given me advice and positive feedback, I felt brave enough to send some stories out to competitions.

crying babyIt took guts. I know how scary it is to even have anyone else read your work, but then submitting to competitions or publishers can feel like you’re sending a newborn off to face the world alone, without even a blankey. I was filled with anxiety but also a trembling hope.

I was thrilled when I won the Avid Reader short story prize and was published in a free local newspaper. When I went to collect my $50 book voucher from Avid Reader bookstore, I felt as if I’d made the New York Times best seller list and was beaming ear to ear when Krissy Kneen helped me pick out a book. I chose Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott which is still one of my favourite books on the writing life.

It gave me the courage to send out more stories, and the following year I came runner up in the Josephine Ulrick Prize and had two more stories published! I was beside myself. This writing gig wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be.

Then I started work on a novel and my publications list dried up. I was still writing but I’d forgotten I was supposed to submit stories as well. It felt like my beginner’s luck had dried up. I was yet to learn that the trick is to keep submitting anyway. Persistence is the key. Write, write, write. Submit, submit, submit!

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Which brings me to THE 10 POINT PLAN!

My writing buddy Fiona Robertson first told me about the 10 Point Plan a few years ago, when I’d let my submissions dribble to just about nothing as I focused on full length works. She’d heard about it from someone at her writers’ group, who’d heard about it from someone else, and so on. If anyone knows who actually thought of it, please let me know because I’d like to give them the credit and thank them.

It goes like this.

Aim to have at least 10 points out in submissions at any time and you will inevitably get published. It may not happen straight away but keep on writing, redrafting and sending those stories out and I promise you that sooner or later IT WILL HAPPEN!

1 Point per story or essay/article/pitch.

3 Points per full length work or grant application

However, I’d still aim for 10 points worth of short pieces out at the same time, because they’re easier and those small wins feel really great.

If you’re starting out, it will take time to amass the number of pieces you need to have them to submit, but it’s a great motivator to do so. If you’re writing something longer, like a full-length memoir or a novel, think about whether there are sections you can excerpt and edit to create fully self-contained pieces.

A lot of journals and competitions these days ask you to either subscribe to their publication or pay a hefty entry fee. If you’re flash with cash go right ahead – it’s great to support small presses and literary journals. However, there are still places you can submit stories at a low cost or even for free. These are my favourites. Some journals will allow simultaneous submissions – this means submitting your story to other journals at the same time, but always check each publications requirements.
opporunity knocks

Keep an eye out in the Opportunities sections of your local writers’ centre and join online writing communities that share publishing opportunities and competitions. I belong to several and select the best of these to share with my writing friends.

If you’d like to be kept in the loop, join my writing gang HERE.

The 10 point plan keeps me on my game and makes sure I’m submitting stories, redrafting and resubmitting and best of all creating new content to send out – that’s the fun part. I write down everything I submit in a special hardcover book I keep at my desk and record when I sent it, and also when I should expect to hear back.

When I get a rejection, I cross it out – sometimes if I’m very disappointed, with lots of thick black scribble. Rejections aren’t personal, they’re stepping stones to success, I remind myself.

snoopy rejection

And sometimes I get a big fat glorious YES! When that happens, I highlight my entry in pink, draw stars all around it and dance like a happy fool.

happy snoopy

Those emails you get accepting your work for publication are worth framing – well at least worth printing out and sticking to your wall for a while. Even the good rejections that come with a personal comment about how close you got, with advice on redrafting and asking for other stories feel like wins. And they are.

So hop to it and start submitting today. Think of it as a lottery. The more entries you have the better the odds.

I’ve just hit my 10 points for this year. How many points do you have out?

If you’d like to be kept in the loop about competitions and journals to submit to plus also get writing hints and tips, join up HERE to become a part of my writing community. I’ll do my best to help you succeed in your dreams to get published.

GOOD LUCK with all those submissions!

Lots of love
Edwina xx

WRITING THE BODY/EMBODYING THE WRITING

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Dancing the writing?

As a practitioner of both writing and yoga, I have long been fascinated by the challenge of putting the visceral experience on the page. For how do you accurately portray the experiences of the body in words alone?

Using specific sensory details is important, without filters such as “I could feel”, “I could hear”, “I noticed” etc. Not, I could feel the sun on my face, but The sun hit my face. Not – I started to cry, but My tears tasted of the sea.

However, when it came to expressing the deepest of human emotions, pure joy, the silent anguish of loss, words have many times failed me.

Over the past few years, I’ve been working with the performance dance students at the Queensland University of Technology. You couldn’t wish for better yoga students – incredible athletes, and determined, sensitive artists. I have nothing but praise for them and the art form of dance. Surely the most demanding of all the arts.

For it is there, through dance and music, that the rawest of emotions can find expression, through the body, through sound. In ways that are impossible with words alone.

Lately I have become intrigued by the idea of embodying the writing, rather than the other way around. I’d love to take the core emotional events from my current project, “Dear Madman”, and create some sort of narrative dance cycle. But where to start?

I’ve been talking with Jennifer Roche, one of the lecturers and choreographers at QUT and she’s willing to let me in on some of the secrets of choreography – the art of story-telling through movement. Can’t wait!

So, how do you write the body? Have you found a way to express those voiceless cries in prose, or poetry?
Any secrets you’re willing to share?