Worthless Waffle, Writer's Mindset

Can you write without inspiration?

Have you been bossed around enough by the fickle mistress that is inspiration? How many good writing hours have you wasted and how many self-help books have you spent your money on in the pursuit of one goal: to write (and write well) whenever you want?

I am sure that some of you out there have long reached the following conclusion: writing on schedule is impossible because writing without that spark of inspiration is impossible.

This post is designed to show you that however plausible your reasoning might be (I am sure you went through plenty of pain and experience before throwing in the towel), you’re totally wrong about this! You CAN write any time you want and you CAN write reasonably well and progress your writing project any time you sit down to write.

Now, before you launch a complaint in the comments below this post, let me elaborate on my reasoning and the circumstances, pain, and personal moments of writing experience that have led me to form this seemingly far out opinion.

In case you are not a regular reader of this blog, the first thing you need to know about me is that I have been writing fiction for just over twenty years. And in all that time I failed to do one thing: finish a full-length novel. However, I gained something more valuable than a finished piece of work in all this time (which I therefore don’t consider a waste).

I gained a detailed understanding of what it takes to finish. AND against my own expectations *drumroll* the key to finishing your project is NOT inspiration. It is NOT genius. It is grit. That ability to come back into the arena even after you have been knocked off your feet countless times and have lost plenty of fights.

The secret to finishing your novel, novella, short story, column, self-help guide (or whatever else your are dreaming of finishing one day) is the ability to sit down at your keyboard and type even when you REALLY don’t feel like doing it. But that’s not all there is to it.

There is a second part. In addition to the willingness to sit down and type, you also need to have a way of overcoming your self-doubt. Shut up the inner critic, don’t give in to ANY self-talk (not even pep talks), and make sure you have a coffee/ tea/ water to sip every time you’re in danger of giving in to your doubts.

Ultimately the secret to writing on schedule is this: all you need is one sentence you don’t hate. That’s it! Once you have that first sentence down you are more than likely to get sucked into writing a whole paragraph – sometimes even a whole scene!

Here’s how I get to that one sentence through my tried and tested writing routine (nearly 1-2 hours of writing nearly every day):

STEP 1:
Decide what I want to get done that day – minimum expectation only, so I can give kudos to myself if I exceed my target. Stacks the odds in my favour.

STEP 2:
Make a cup of herbal tea/ coffee – this is a habit I have established. It signals comfort and tells my brain: “there is nothing to be scared of, buddy.”

STEP 3:
Go to my writing space – I have a set place where I like to write and where I am used to being productive. Bottom firmly planted on my writing stool (good for my back)…tick!

STEP 4:
Open my favourite writing programme (truenovelist.com) – being familiar with the controls of my writing programme helps not distract me from the task at hand: writing!

STEP 5:
Write a rough outline to define the scope for the session – a small blurb or bullet points that detail what I am about to write will do. For me, that’s mostly scene synopses to make sure I know what should happen in the scene I am about to write (I tend to write in spurts of 1000 word scenes, or complete flash fiction one-shots).

STEP 6:
This is where I write that sentence I DON’T hate. It’s magical. Happens now almost automatically, although on some less inspired days I might still have to have 3-5 gos before it actually sticks.

There we are, a 6-step blueprint on how to initiate good quality writing any time you want (with zero reliance on that fickle mistress showing up – just don’t forget to thank her whenever she does decide to flounce into you writing space…it helps!)

See ya next time 😉

If you have found my 6-step blueprint for writing reliably of any help, please let me know in the comments section below this post. Knowing what you like to read, helps me plan more helpful content for the future. Have a good writing week!

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Worthless Waffle, Writer's Mindset

How to get back to writing after a long break due to illness?

While giving up is never an option, the temptation is always there; lingering. From the sight of the smallest problem, right up to big, all-consuming crises (aka when life takes over), fear and self-doubt are always there and ready to pounce!

“You can’t do it anymore,” they shout.

“You can try but you will fail in the end,” they snigger.

“Go ahead, write…BUT it will be bad writing, coz you’re a bad writer.”

I am sure there is many more delightful messages you yourself have received over the days, weeks, months, and years since you decided to try and be a writer and start finishing projects rather than just scribble on napkins. I have had daily memos of this kind ever since I first thought about trying to write a novel.

There are many famous writers out there trying to encourage us. “Write very day,” they say. That’s good advice but is it feasible? For me, it’s certainly not an option. I do aim to write every day and write most days as a result.

But for those of us who also ride the 9-5 job train, there will always be the day when you’re kids get sick, or when a deadline is looming, or when you finish the day exhausted and need to fall asleep on the sofa right after dinner…or the day you get sick.

I went through a very scary experience last year. A sudden dizziness overcame me towards the end of a typical work day. I was struggling to focus my eyes. I was feeling nauseated. My left arm went numb, then my left leg, then the left side of my face…until the entire left side of my body felt heavy and devoid of any feeling.

I was home alone that day. I was scared. I called the emergency services and was rushed to hospital not knowing if I was coming back. Two thoughts went through my mind: 1. Will I see my husband again? 2. What if I never get to write my novel?

This is where I have to point out: we don’t have kids. If we did, I am sure they would have featured in my thoughts.

After 20 hours of tests including a blood test, a urine test, a chest x-ray, a head CT, and an MRI (among others), I was sent home with the following diagnosis: my physical health is excellent, there is no infection and no other physical cause for my symptoms…BUT…the symptoms are real, they will recur, and they will recur every time I am severely stressed.

So, I am playing a game and I will be playing it for the rest of my life. The name of the game? Manage your stress. Meditate every day. Sit in silence for 10 minutes every day. Exercise 15-20 minutes every day. Eat healthy every day. Do breathing exercises every day. E-V-E-R-Y D-A-Y. Forever!

The last few weeks were stressful. I completed a big work project and I didn’t take good enough care of my stress. Now, you know where I was and I why I couldn’t write. On a scale of 0-10, how bothered do you think I am that I have missed blog posts, missed Wattpad updates, and made no progress on my novel?

You’re right, the answer is 0. Because my certainty that I can recover from momentary episodes of my stress-induced symptoms is 10. I have done it before, I can do it again. I have written before, I can do it again. It’s my mantra. It’s what I say to myself when the self talk gets nasty. It’s what I chant in my meditation.

I did this once, I can do it again…so can you.

If this posts helps even one person, I would be chuffed to hear about it in the comments below. If you have your own experience with coming back to write after an illness, or if you are managing any chronic illness whilst being a writer, please share your methods for keeping your writing practice and your writer’s mindset in check.

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Worthless Waffle, Writer's Mindset, Writing Process

How to bounce back from ‘research’ overload?

Even though my planned Christmas holiday from writing dragged on way longer than recommended, I am glad to be back to my normal posting schedule. I hope you haven’t missed my antics all too much and are looking forward to new posts? I’m sorry if you found my silence irritating…the words ran dry and I needed a rest!

The main reason for my extended break from writing was ‘research’…by which I mean ferocious reading of material mostly tangentially relevant to the story I am crafting…by which I mean…I was reading other authors’ works of fantasy and adventure fiction whilst not working on my own.

If you want tips on how to procrastinate, I fear I might be a masterful adviser. Just ask in the comments section below.

There, I admitted it. Relieved to have come to the end of a difficult year, I plunged into a blissful winter break from EVERYTHING. I ate cake (and other sweet treats in abundance), explored amazing story worlds, watched Netflix, felt jealous (and like a bad writer) a lot, and battled self-doubt.

I’m sharing this with you because I promised to share every part of my journey to my first self-published novel and what happened between this post and my last is something that writers sometimes go through. I am fessing up about the most recent time when I felt like giving up – but didn’t.

Think about everything you heard any successful author ever say about rejection. The advice is always the same: keep writing. Start over. Carry on. Or in the manner of Stephen King (just read The Dark Tower): get a bigger nail! This advice also holds up when it comes to rejecting yourself.

You know not to read back your first draft until you finished it but you do it anyway and start doubting and worrying, and rejecting your writing. Like me. The key is to start again. Be kind to yourself. Recharge, write more. At least that’s what I intend to do.

It’s 2021 and if there are any of you out there wondering how to bounce back from the black hole that was lockdown Christmas (at least that’s what it was in the UK) I hope this post helped.

See ya next time 😉

How was your winter holiday? Did you also get caught up in any ‘research’? If you got anything out of this post (or if you read something amazing and want to share a recommendation) let me know in the comments below.

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Writer's Mindset

What to do when your writing stops?

Now, let me get this straight. I don’t believe in writer’s block. And no, that’s not the same as anti-maskers saying they don’t believe in Covid-19. Here’s why:

I know what it feels like when your creativity dries up and you feel for all intents and purposes as if you are blocked…like the words are stuck somewhere but you just cannot get them out. I was recently forced to realise that creativity is the first thing to go out the window when our bodies feel stressed.

Life is full of stressors, especially during these uncertain times. As most writers juggle many commitments (day-jobs, families, daily chores, etc.) it’s not surprising that the essential beam of creativity starts to flicker and sometimes doesn’t shine at all…for long anxious stretches of time.

Avoiding a panic when this happens is hard. Especially when you are in the middle of #NaNoWrimo and suddenly struggle to get a simple blog post written, never mind a couple of thousand words you committed to put down every day of November.

But acknowledging that you might feel stressed can help lift the pressure…even if you don’t feel stressed. Cut yourself some slack. Look for the warning signs and laugh, cry, move your body, or use one of the other four most common activities to signal your body that it’s time to break the stress cycle.

Eventually your creativity will flow back and you will be able to pick up where you left off. I am writing this after a week of absolute non-creative energy and two hospital visits to confirm my stress-related physical symptoms are luckily nothing chronic!

Pay attention to your bodies and take lack of creativity as an early warning sign that you might be stressed. Don’t push yourself too hard, take breaks when you need them and fingers crossed for a productive week ahead.

See ya next time 😉

If you know the signs of burn-out all too well, battle chronic (or acute) stress, have physical challenges that interfere with your writing, or found this post in any way helpful, don’t be shy and leave a reply in the comments below.

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Worthless Waffle, Writer's Mindset

Don’t worry, write happy!

Writers are dreamers! I am sure that you and I are no exception. That’s what makes us strong…and weak. The world wasn’t built for dreamers Being a dreamer is hard…tiring…and often disappointing.

But for those who dare to dream, one special reward awaits. No, it’s not becoming rich. No, it’s also not winning awards or speaking at a writer’s convention whilst brushing shoulders with your idols…although any one of these dreams is entirely within the realm of possibility…for some very lucky ones.

So, what about those of us who will most likely never fulfil our dreams? Should we stop now? Of course not! Our dreams are the fuel for the engine of our imagination…any writer’s bread and butter. A dreamer is rewarded in the moment of pursuit. The journey is the reward.

Feeling happy about the possibility of success (as defined in our day-dreams) is the best kind of feeling. We have no expectation for that in-the-moment feeling, we just let it happen. We don’t judge it, don’t expect it, don’t compare it. It’s not what we dream about but it is what makes even the unfulfilled dreams worthwhile.

Dream big! Write! Never stop dreaming. Never lose hope. And please never beat yourself up!

See ya next time 😉

If this post makes sense to you, or if you have another opinion on the matter, don’t be shy and leave a reply in the comments section below.

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Worthless Waffle, Writing Process

Do you keep writing when the writing gets tough?

The answer to this question should be obvious. If you are a writer coming across this blog post, wouldn’t we be expecting you to emphatically shout ‘YES!’ at the top of your lungs with your fists clenched and a never-say-die attitude straight from the movies?!

Of course! But real life is not a movie and most writers, are sensitive, introverted, treasure seekers rather than limelight-loving superheroes with fluttering capes. Negative comments hurt! Missed deadlines cause guilt! Stifled progress sparks self-doubt! Internal critics nag at us!

Most writers I know (incl. myself) are plagued by self-doubt on a daily basis. Have we done enough world-building? Do we need more research? Have we over-researched our subject? Are our characters compelling? Is the story adequately paced? Is our writing style boring? Have we missed any spelling mistakes? And on, and on the list goes!

It’s Day 4 of NaNoWriMo and I have already missed a day. Neither of the first two days reached up to the daily target of 1667 words and I am already in doubt if I can even finish this thing! Do I want to sit down after work today and keep writing? Not really…

Will I sit down and write (at least for a bit)? Probably…

People say that ‘writers write’ and that’s true but nobody every said writers write easily and happily in spite of all their other life commitments. So let’s console ourselves with these words:

Writing is hard. You often won’t fee like it. But writers always come back to writing eventually… and sometimes magic happens.

Josie Cole, 2020

See ya next time 😉

If you are also having a hard time working on your NaNoWriMo project, know all too well what it feels like to be plagued by self-doubt or have a good technique for motivating yourself to write, leave a reply in the comments below.

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