I’ve been getting genuinely quite concerned about my brain recently. It doesn’t seem to produce any thought, it just receives information (and a barrage of negativity) from the Internet. Sometimes I can practically feel it frying.
I really want to get back into writing again, but the truth is I have written nothing creative – not one single line – since moving to London over two and a half years ago. For a person who always considered writing part of who I was, this has left me floundering a little. The one goal I’ve had since I was a child was to write a book; now, I can barely write a blog post.
Of course, the six-year-old me just went and did it – fourteen pages, handwritten and illustrated by yours truly, stapled together. As a kid I could sit down and rattle off a poem every time I sat down to write. And sure, 99% of what I wrote was absolute rubbish, but I certainly miss the freedom that simply being a child afforded me when expressing myself creatively. Becoming self-conscious about writing as an adult is exactly what will make sure it never improves.
Maybe creativity really can disappear, but I know that if someone said this to me I’d tell them that’s daft, and they just have to find it again. If a good way to help ourselves is to imagine we’re helping someone else, then what would I say to someone who wanted to write more?
Read a lot. To quote Stephen King: ‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’ (This is one I can check off quite confidently at least…)
Allocate regular time to writing. We more readily associate creativity with spontaneous bursts of inspiration, but we can also encourage it. Whether it’s twenty minutes per day or an hour twice a week, I need to make time for it. Blog posts won’t appear from thin air if I’ve decided to catch up on Pretty Little Liars.
See it as a peaceful or meditative exercise. I don’t have much energy left when I come home from work, but it’s hardly aerobic exercise. And rather than turn it into a mental workout, I could just jot down some thoughts about the day that could spark ideas later.
Carry a notebook. I already do this, I’ve just never had the guts to write in it on a commuter train yet.
Don’t delete. Write first, edit later. And maybe don’t re-read too often. (If I didn’t re-read so much, this would have been posted weeks ago, and it really doesn’t look much different than the first draft.)
Talk to people. Or, more importantly, listen. I think other people’s stories are really interesting, often simply because they aren’t mine. A different perspective could be the beginnings of a character; a throwaway remark from someone could become a novel.
Go out and do something else. OK, I do an awful lot of this already, but as long as you are going out, seeing new places, trying new things AND also making time to write about them, then it can be good material.
What do you like (or want) to read? Try writing it.
That great first line that’s been stuck in your mind for the past few months? What happens next? Try writing it.
And if at first you don’t succeed? Try, try again!