How to Be a Writer Part 5
Bringing Out The Best in Yourself as a Writer
Bringing out the best in yourself as a writer isn't necessarily something you can or should leave to chance. It takes a certain amount of conscious creativity. But the rewards are tremendous and long-lasting.
1. Point Out Things Near And Far
Like all of us, and perhaps more than some of us due to a lifestyle built around orderly routines, writers can become very 'fixed' when it comes to observing the world around them. Things in the house, their street or on any short journeys can develop a sort of 'sheen of sameness' through the prolonged habit of seeing them. This can have the cumulative effect of dulling the writing imagination. Next time you go out, or even inside the house, try noticing things some distance away or close at hand which you may not have noticed before: the tree on the horizon; the leaf-shaped mark above the door; the design on the carpet; the colours of distant clouds. Your imagination will take notice — and your world will grow more interesting accordingly.
2. Notice Wonderful Things
Similar to the above, try this: pick a patch of garden or outside area of some sort, about a square yard or metre in size. In it, find fascinating things: different colours, tiny leaves, perhaps a small ant, squiggly lines and so forth. Apart from heightening your attention to detail, you will have fun and maybe inspire your imagination to do something creative: drawing, collecting, gardening. Gardens or parks are best for this, but you'll be amazed at what a square yard of apparently boring concrete will reveal upon close scrutiny!
3. Go On Adventures
To many writers, everything can be an adventure. Even going to the shops can be a voyage to excitement. You can make your life much more interesting by framing as much as you can as an 'adventure'. 'Let's go on a Grocery Shopping Adventure!' or 'Time to get started on the Dentist Quest!' or even 'Let's play “Climbing Upstairs Mountain”!' can all have the effect of casting a net of magic over otherwise ordinary, everyday activities. Something you considered mundane can suddenly become more alive.
4. Encourage Drawing And Painting
Practical advice here: leave reams of blank paper and a copious supply of brightly coloured pens or (washable!) paints around the house. Try not to worry about the mess. Then, in the course of an ordinary day, create mini-masterpieces as you go about your routines. No matter how hopeless you may think you are as an artist, let your imagination spill out. You will gain confidence in your creative talents and be happier as well as potentially developing new skills in this field.
5. Try To Avoid Drawing Attention To Mistakes
With all of the above — and indeed, generally — try not to jump on any errors in your own work. Too much criticism, even very little criticism, can result in feeling blunted and negated. Most mistakes that writers make are by accident. They are usually completely mortified if, while whirling around in a creative dance, knock out chapters full of mistakes. Don't make a big deal out of it and you'll win.
6. Keep Fun Charts
Answering emails, getting submissions ready, getting chapters done, accomplishing things — you can have charts for just about anything! The trick is to keep them short and packed with rewards. Draw up a colourful grid — the more colourful the better — and have four or five columns showing the things you want done. Word these in bright ways: instead of ‘Send out three submissions' try ‘Fire off three creative torpedoes'. Instead of ‘Edit another chapter' try 'Magic away the mistakes of yesteryear'. But don't overload the chart — a list of 17 items will rapidly become unworkable. 5 or 6 is better. Then load the thing up with stars and ticks whenever the things get done. Make sure that, when a row of stars is achieved, there are plenty of rewards! Once a chart gets tired from overuse, reinvent it, rewording the items accordingly.
7. Be Funny
Do funny faces for each of your characters. Put on little shows. Make a fool of yourself. Practice some harmless slapstick. Comedy can tell you many things: timing, theatrics, limits and humanity. If you can make yourself laugh, you will not only revive flagging spirits but learn key writing skills.
8. Build In A Variety Of Activities, But Leave Time For Free Play
Many writers respond well to a balanced schedule. By all means plan a variety of interesting activities, but make sure you allow some 'recovery time' between them when your imagination is left free to play. After an intense period of writing a particular piece, free play allows the imagination to awaken and the writer to review different things that he or she has observed and 'make it their own'. Try not to interrupt this free play unless you have to. For your imagination, it's not 'just playing', it is what it does.
9. Go For Walks
Writers who spend a lot of time indoors or engaged in particular routines can easily get bored, resentful and resistive. Take yourself for a short, manageable walk, even if it is to the local shops or around the block; it can help them to re-orientate you. You can start to ‘see the world anew’ and generally become more cheerful and animated. This can act to clear your mind a little and usually makes someone feel stronger and more confident.