J. L. Nolan: Teller of Stories

J. L. Nolan: Teller of Stories

SARAILLE AQUA
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Feather brush
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Feather brush
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Paint drip brush
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Tape
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Novel inspiration
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Arrow
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Pinterest
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fabulous life ideas
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Dream Weaver
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fabulous life ideas
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fabulous life ideas
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Modern Hepburn
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Start a Creativity Journal

moss in hands

When you begin any creative project, whether it be writing, painting, or cooking an amazing meal, there is something to be said for honoring your own creative process.  Sure you can follow the path of others and there is much to be learned from those with experience in your field.

However the fact of the matter is that WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT.

I know, right?  That is some kind of crazy-makin’ notion going on right there…  Fact is that we are all different.  What works for Jane may not work for Janet and so on.

Get to know your motivation:

Before you even begin to create, take a moment to jot down what it is that is driving you to create in the first place.  Do you desire fame and riches?  Do you want your Mummy/Daddy/ bully to finally acknowledge you?  Do you feel motivated by some divine source to put something new into the universe?  Or are you just itching in your fingers to Do Something?

Whatever it is that is motivating you to create, one thing is guaranteed.  It will be overwhelming at times and ignoring that motivation can be a recipe for disaster in the form of mental unwellness.

Because creativity is the very act that will bring up our deepest fears.  Creating something is, after all, about innovation.  It is about birthing something into the world that has never been seen in that exact form before.  It is about making a statement of independence and offering yourself to the world in a physical form.  It is the ultimate act of manifesting.

Forget affirmations and hocus pocus (although I love me some hocus pocus.  If it helps then why not?)

Creating something is about taking a risk. 

It is an act of courage.

And as such you should record the insights that come with taking that leap of faith.

Start a creativity journal

This can be just a diary which you fill in after your creative time. Or you can make it a work of art in itself. (Beware that this can be a bit of a creative cul-de-sac but lovely nonetheless!)

Answering the following prompts can be fun:

How did it feel to put words on the page?  What did you think of those marks you made on the canvas?  What did that strange spice mix taste like?

What do you need to take this creative act further?

What emotions did this act bring up for you?

Why start a Creativity Journal?

I’m no expert but I know this:  when I examine myself for Truth, I always find it.  Being creative is a great way of getting to know yourself better.  It will familiarise you with the monsters that dwell within your psyche and throw some light on the shadows that you have been hiding from.  Recording this new sense of self awareness will make you stronger and better able to continue on the journey.  It is amazing how our subconscious offers us answers when we take the time to listen closely.

Here are some other ways to use a Creativity Journal:

  1. Record insights from other creative types.  Whether it is from their blogs, books or interviews, creative types love to talk about their ‘process’.
  2. Jot down ideas for future creative experiments.  Jotting it down means that you have caught the idea and don’t need to waster dream space on them just yet.
  3. Interrogate your demons.  Writing down your fears has a funny way of lessening their power.  It’s amazing the guidance that comes through with journaling.
  4. Put in lovely quotes and inspiring images.  Make it pretty.  Creativity is beautiful and often visual after all.
  5. Record your progress.  How many words today?  How much time painting?
  6. Evaluate your experience.  How can you improve it?  What tools could be handy?  How can it be improved?  What went great?

So, do you have a creative journal?  I loved reading about Kate Morton’s notebooks which you can read about here.  Such an inspiration!

Do you journal your own creative process?  What tips do you have for ways to use the humble journal to take your creativity to greater heights?  Share a comment.  I would love to know your thoughts.

Embracing your sloppy first draft

stay positive

So I have begun the intimidating and grueling process of creating my ‘first draft’. And honestly there was nothing more scary than setting out to write that introduction.  As I typed out the words, the voice in my head was screaming rather loudly and words to the effect of “Is this the best that you can do?  It’s terrible.  Go bake a cake instead!

Bear with me while I introduce you to said voice.  I lovingly refer to her as Natalie.  I named her Natalie because it is vaguely reminiscent of both ‘nasty’ and ‘Nazi”.  Natalie is both of these things (and a lot more besides!).  Natalie is responsible for keeping me firmly in the land of the procrastinators for years.  And I mean YEARS.  After all, I am no spring chicken (ahem!) and this is not by any means the first novel that I have attempted to write.  I blame Natalie for the fact that in the past I have resorted to all sorts of life-changing decisions in response to the challenge of writing a novel.

Here, for your amusement, is a little list that I like to call “Ways to avoid finishing a novel”:

  • Started a children’s novel and too scared to finish?  Why not get pregnant instead?
  • Started a romance novel and too scared to finish?  Why not get pregnant again?
  • Started another novel of the ‘literary’ genre?  Why not emigrate to New Zealand instead?
  • Got an idea for another great novel?  Why not retrain as a lawyer instead?
  • Know you want to be a writer?  Why not ditch the law degree and retrain as a therapist instead?

The list goes on.  And on.  That Natalie is a real slave driver, I can tell you.

But finally, Natalie and I had to have a talk.  After all, there was nothing more that I could do to avoid writing.  I had done all that I could to distract myself.

I had a lovely life that brought me joy daily.  But I was still frustrated until I realised that the problem lay in my close personal relationship with Natalie.

Having a heart to heart with your inner critic

Like many toxic relationships, my relationship with Natalie was a love-hate one.  I hated her and she loved me hating her.  I listened to her and she loved to be listened to.  It could have gone on forever but I had had enough.  I needed to get real about what I really wanted from my life.  I had to get real about the fact that ‘achievements’ meant nothing if you couldn’t really give a rat’s arse about the thing that you had achieved.

So one night (0ne of those dark night’s of the soul… I know you’ve had one!) I told Natalie that we were through.  I was gracious enough to let her know that she could hang out with me only if she kept her mouth shut.  And this was the killer, I told Natalie, that voice in my head, that I had decided to write a novel and that I didn’t care if the first draft was awful.  In fact I didn’t care if the fifth/ twentieth draft was awful, I just wanted the pleasure of writing these little words: “The End”.

And so I have begun.  Natalie is still hovering but I am ignoring her and embracing the idea of a sloppy first draft.  I am loving the fact that I can breathe into the story and worry about technicalities and ‘art’ later.

An invitation to create slop together:

Today why not join me?  Gag your inner critic (whatever their name is!) and embrace the sloppy glory of your first draft.  It will be worth it, I promise.

Do you have any suggestions for ways to silence your inner critic.  All suggestions gratefully received in the comments….

 

Finally starting that novel

preparing for the journey

This was the week that I finally got started.  No more excuses.  No more floating round the house finding fruit bowls to tidy and clothes to colour code.  This was the week that I finally sat down at my computer and put some darn words on this skeleton of an idea.

It was – how can I put it – NOT EASY.

In fact, writing that first paragraph felt like torture.  I was second guessing every word.  Every sentence felt rubbish.  Had I not been working on a computer, I would have done that thing where you write a few words then screw up the paper, throw it at the bin, miss it, rinse and repeat!!

So i took a moment.  I made a coffee, did some journaling, and realised that the problem was not the words, it was my attitude.

When you start your novel, release any ideas around perfection.  Release the urge to edit.  Set free the need to be impressive and literary.

Instead of trying to be clever, I set the intention to get out of my own way and allow the story to reveal itself to me.  I stopped thinking as a writer and started thinking as a storyteller.  If the perfect word eluded me, I just let it go, stuck in something ‘good enough’ and underlined it for later consideration.

Fact is that this first draft is supposed to be shabby.  It is supposed to be rough and ragged and sloppy round the edges.  Remind yourself that perfection is part of the editing stage.  At the start, you are just putting words on paper and letting the story tumble out.

Just reminding myself of this made the whole process so much easier.

There is a relief in letting go of perfection.

As soon as we are able to release ideas about how our story should be, we open ourself up to the truth of how our story wants to be told.  After all, your story found you.  It chose you to be the channel by which it comes into this world.  Your job is to just get yourself out of the way and allow the words to flow through you.

There are things we can do to aid this process.

First of all, have some kind of plan.  This will help when you feel a bit stuck and will also give you a bone to flesh out with words.

Secondly, remind yourself that you are doing this because you chose to do it.  But you are also doing this because you feel compelled to do it.  This is part of your journey, but not the only reason for living.  Honestly!

Thirdly, don’t do a single bit of editing.  In fact, turn off spell check and grammar tips on your computer.  Who cares if you have spelled it wrong?

Finally, be kind to yourself.  Breathe deeply.  Relax your shoulders.  Smile.

Embrace the idea of a sloppy first draft.  In fact, relish this idea.  It is supposed to be rubbish.  But it is a lot easier to make something good from a whole pile of words than it is from a whole head of perfect ideas.

This is about making your story manifest in its most raw of forms.  The cooking comes later.  Worry about it then.

For now, my writerly friend, get out of your own way, forget about perfection.

Words on pages, buddy, words on pages!

Are you starting out on your novel writing journey too?  What is your experience so far?  Leave a comment below – it would be fun to share the journey!

Write every day but set yourself a limit

Love this interview.  It makes so much sense and I love how he uses the metaphor of the dog to explain how to train our subconscious to get used to daily practice of writing.

Moral of the interview is to write daily and set a realistic limit.

Great quote:

“Know yourself and say to yourself I am most energetic at this time and that is when I write.”

Enjoy x

How to set a realistic writing target

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Image courtesy of this site

We have all read the importance of setting ourselves a writing target, but today I am thinking closely about the importance of making that target achievable.  Now that Nanowrimo is over for another year (got as far as signing up this year which is progress!!) it would be tempting to think that we could all churn out 50 000 a month, if only we could get up an hour earlier, or imprison the children for an hour or so every day.  Or, that most insidious of suggestions, relax our housekeeping standards a little.

Mmmm I have to say that I do not want to be the kind of writer who festers in her own dirty pajamas, surrounded by mouldy coffee cups and stinking piles of dirty laundry.  As a writer, I enjoy a tidy desk, and as a mother/wife, I enjoy a tidy home, so there is nothing for it but to try and find a way of having it all.  After all, isn’t that what we are all supposed to be able to do as women in the twenty-firsty centureee!

I considered going all manic and setting myself a mammoth target, piling out the first draft in six weeks max and then going into writers rehab but it just didn’t seem like fun to me.  I suppose it is a little bit like running.  Do you do the marathon approach and ‘train’ for it?  Or do you take a gentle jog every day?

To be honest, I know nothing about running because I am pretty sure that I am allergic to the mere idea of moving my body at speed, but as a writer, I can, of course imagine that the metaphor is somehow apt.

I knew that setting a word count target was important.  I also knew that it was impossible for me to write every day.

So here is what I did?

HOW TO SET A REALISTIC WRITING TARGET

1. Decide how many words you would like your novel to be roundabouts.  I chose 100 000 words because it seemed like a nice round number and is about the average wordcount for a decent novel.

2. Decide when you would like to complete your first draft.  I decided that 16 weeks was a good aim.

3.  Divide the figure from 1 by the number of weeks that you have set as your timeframe (2).  In my case that is 6250 words per week.

4. Divide the figure from 3 by 6.  This gives you a day off for good behaviour.  That gives me a writing target of 1042 words per day.  Which I have to say is totally doable.

5.  Create a pretty chart on which you can colour in the columns for each day.  I even set little smaller targets of 250 word increments. When I have written 250 words, I colour in that day up to that number and so on.

6. Buy yourself some gold stars.  When you hit your target for the day, give yourself a gold star on that column.

7.  When you have got five gold stars, give yourself a little treat.  Because you are so worth it, Beautiful!

So there you have it, my handy guide to setting realistic word targets.  16 weeks is like four months.  If you need longer, go for it.

Because you can do this.  And you know it.

How do you motivate yourself to hit a word target in your writing?  All tips gratefully received.  Leave a comment below….

when you fall off the wagon, get right back on again

flowers-widescreen-wallpaper-bicycle-fragrant-wallpapers-image-wallwuzz-hd-wallpaper-18885Image from:  http://cdn.wallwuzz.com/uploads/flowers-widescreen-wallpaper-bicycle-fragrant-wallpapers-image-wallwuzz-hd-wallpaper-18885.jpg

When you fall off the writing wagon, or blogging wagon for that matter, it seems that popular wisdom tells me to get right back in the saddle again.  I confess that, true to my plan, I have desperately fallen off the writing/blogging wagon over the last couple of months.

I make no apology because the fact of the matter is that life got in the way.  I had an overseas visitor and a serious soul-searching date to grapple with and something had to give.  Blogging was the thing I had to let go of.  So I did.  Just like that.  Gone!

A few times, I sat down at my computer and told myself to just write a blog, write a paragraph, just write.  But I couldn’t.  There was nothing there.  The well was dry.

So rather than moan about it, or stress about it, or see it as some sign from the universe that this was all going to custard.  I rested.  I played.  I took little steps like planning chapters, or doing research, or creating character profiles.

Rather than resisting the urge to stop, I decided to go with it and see where it would lead me.

When you feel the need for a rest, listen to it.

So instead of pushing myself and telling myself to be a disciplined person, I listened to my body and gave myself some time off.

I am so glad that I did.  Not only did I decide to tackle a completely different novel from the story that I had originally envisaged writing first, I also discovered the joy of movement.

Instead of sitting in front of my computer screen, I took myself for a swim.

Instead of lying around thinking, I went out walking.

And it felt good.

Because the fact of the matter is that I want writing my novel to feel good.  I want it to be fun.  I don’t want to imbue with the urgency of unrealistic time allocation and reaching targets.  I was able to trust that, in time, those things would put themselves in place naturally (More on this in the next blog post!).

So instead of feeling bad about falling off the wagon, I took the time to recharge and regroup.  I even took the opportunity to alter my course a little.

I am so glad I did.

Today then I invite you to consider how you can use your down-time to make you a happier writer.  That’s right – a HAPPIER WRITER.

Because writing should be fun.  It should feel like soul food.  It should feel satisfying.

How do you keep yourself happy as a writer?  Leave a comment.  Let’s talk!