In the first six blog posts in the You Can Write! series, we’ve discovered how to make a start on that writing project you’ve had in mind for such a long time. To catch up on any episodes you might have missed, clicked here, then scroll forward through the arrows at the bottom of the first post, or use the images at the top of the blog.
Don’t panic of your writing hits a dry patch. Visit your own particular well of inspiration, even if it’s only snatching a nap. Take a walk. Read a book—although it’s a good idea to choose something outside of the genre you’re working with. The brain has a squirrel-like tendency to hoard things. You don’t want to subconsciously incorporate something from somebody else’s work.
Odd though it sounds, sometimes you can achieve more by trying less. There will be times (if you’re a fan of Red Dwarf, or The Simpsons) when you’ll be tempted to write “I am A Fish” or “S***w Flanders” multiple times rather than face making up the several hundreds, or even thousands, of different words that make up your daily tally. Fine. Go ahead. Write any old thing you like, but try and make it constructive. If you’re writing a book, try a session of journaling instead. If you’re having trouble with fiction, try drafting a non-fiction article about your writing experience. This worked for me, and resulted in me getting the contract to write Struggle and Suffrage In Bristol! Sometimes the simple act of getting a few words down in front of you frees your mind to create a lot more.
If it doesn’t, you’ll still have broken your duck. You won’t be faced with a blank page when you return for your next writing session. You’ll find it a lot easier to whip a page of random jottings into shape than it would be to open up a whole new blank page and start again from cold. Remember Scarlett O’Hara’s maxim that tomorrow is another (and probably better) day–and she was living in a war-zone.
One cliche every list of writing tips includes is ‘write what you know’. It’s a cliché, because it works. Everybody on this earth is an expert in something, and that’s their own life experiences. It’s a rich seam to mine, so get digging.
Instead of stressing about creating something that’s 100% fiction, go back over your own memories and see what inspiration you can find. That doesn’t mean you should regurgitate your life story, and nothing else. Did Shakespeare murder his wife over a pocket-handkerchief, as Othello did? No. Did Thomas Hardy hang children from clothes hooks? No, but both writers used their own experiences of human nature, desire, jealousy, shame and misery to colour their fiction.