New beginnings

There is something about September that brings me back to blogging. That ‘new year’ feel, I suppose, that I get far more at the start of the academic year than I do each January. This is natural to me. Harry is at school now, James and I both work at universities, and I am studying again. Until my phone took over my diaries would always run from September to August. There is also something about the autumnal days setting in that brings the anticipation of NaNoWriMo and the motivation to write.

So I am giving this blog another chance. This may be a bad idea, what with my Masters resuming in a few weeks time, but right now I am feeling psyched. I put the boys to bed, ate my dinner while watching James’ flight to New York on FlightRadar24 and suddenly within an hour I had written 500 words and submitted it to a flash fiction competition. Last week I submitted a short story to another competition. This needs to continue. I have only entered short story competitions on a few occasions – last year I vowed to do one a month but I got caught up in other things. Stupid of me really as one story was long-listed and the other short-listed, which was obviously a big boost with regard to my confidence and my ability but not, it seems, to my motivation.

I have so many ideas at the moment and my brain seems so much more open to inspiration than it has been in a long time. Writing short stories is allowing me to get outside my comfort zone (fantasy) and explore different genres and writing styles. One big idea I had when reading last month’s Writing Magazine (this month’s arrived today and thank goodness for six hours on a train next weekend because I still haven’t finished last month’s) I think I will adapt to be my NaNo project, partly because it ties in with my Masters so might, theoretically, make it easier to work on both at the same time. Basically, an article in the magazine made me question why I never write about what I know. I’m not sure my stories have ever been set in a hotel or a cafe, or if any of the characters have worked in those places like I have. I certainly have never covered issues of sustainability and social responsibility, even though this is what my Masters is all about. And it is not like any of these topics, settings, and characters are boring! So this year’s goal is to write a story encompassing what I know. Let the planning commence!

I often read advice to new writers that a good starting point is to write about what you know. If you write, do you find it easier to write about what you know or to explore other avenues? If you don’t write, which way would you be more inclined to take?

Motivating myself and managing my time

I had to take a break last weekend. I didn’t want to. I had my ridiculously long ‘to do’ list and when I have a ‘to do’ list I have to do it all. But, this one was a bit too much… Trying to fit in work, family time, housework and writing has its limits. I put it down to lack of motivation to begin with and then I started to feel down because when I can’t do things I need to do it makes me down which then makes me stressed and tired and, well, I really can’t get anything done then anyway.

I had decided that I would do editing during the week and at the weekend I would work on a short story. I found a competition in Writing Magazine that made me go ‘yes!’ It was the flame of the spark of an idea I have had for a series of short stories for a while. But, that flame quickly died. Everything sounded so good in my head but when I tried to get it on paper it sizzled out. And I certainly wasn’t in the right frame of mind anyway. So, I sat in Caffe Nero, my notebook cast aside, flicking through Writing Magazine.

One piece of advice to myself. When you’re feeling down in the dumps about your writing and want to give up forever and ever because you don’t think you have what it takes, DO NOT look through a writing magazine. Or look at blogs with loads of writing advice (unless it’s because her posts always put a smile on my face). It makes you feel worse.

Well, I got home and my husband sighed and told me that I was trying to do too much, that I always try to do too much. So, for the first time ever, I actually listened to him.

I have been dreadful at prioritising lately which has affected my time management. And, seriously, I am a great time manager so for me this really sucks! I have been thinking that I can do it all because I’ve done it all before. When I was doing my degree I was working full time and pregnant/mother and I was fine. But I look back on it now and I wonder how I did it in the same way I look back on the time when James and I first met and I went to North Wales from North Norfolk (16 hours round trip by train) every single week. Now an hour on a train seems like a life time!

So, I decided that I am not going to work on any short stories (unless of course I suddenly have a great burst of imagination and writer’s frenzy). I will not force myself to do this. Most important is for me to concentrate on editing. Editing, blogging and reading. Editing after work, reading before work, blogging in any other free time (e.g. when James is away or when I have my time at the weekend – we each get to go to a café for an hour by ourselves on Saturday and Sunday). And if I get to a point with editing that makes me want to scream, then I stop. I have a break from it. Not just ten minutes but a day, two days, however long I need.

Another piece of advice. When you’re feeling down in the dumps about your writing and want to give up forever and ever because you don’t think you have what it takes, DO read a book. Get lost in a book. Preferably something ridiculously easy to read, or trashy and cheesy. Something you know you will enjoy and not want to put down, something you know will distract you completely from – what did you need distracting from again?

I did not look at my WIP all of Monday and Tuesday. I barely even went online. And I feel so much better. I have really enjoyed editing these past two days. I have been harsh but not too harsh. I have been able to read my novel with fresh eyes and cut what needs to be cut and spot inconsistencies that I did not notice before. No doubt I will do this all over again several times, but for now, I am happy!