Inspiration comes in the most Mundane

I often find that inspiration can be lacking. I think all writers go through this at some point. Sometimes we are so focused and have so much to do, yet trying to think of a story idea to work on can lead to frustration and apathy. I have struggled with this from time to time. I always find that the longer I don’t write for, the harder it is to get back into the swing of it and generate new ideas.

Currently, I’m working on my no zero days policy which is going well. Some days I write thousands of words, sometimes hundreds, sometimes just enough to call it a no zero day. While those days disappoint me I always have to remind myself to take each day as it comes.

I’m trying to enter a lot of short stories at the minute as well as editing my novel and I find that my biggest source of inspiration for this is my partner. I bounce ideas off him or tell him what the call is and he’s usually really great at getting my brain sparked and getting me writing. We seem to be on the same wavelength and we both wonder at odd things and pose silly questions to each other, you know those ‘what if’ questions. It never fails to get me thinking and that’s what I need. That’s what everybody needs. Something–or someone–who sparks your creativity.

A couple of things I do to spark my creativity:

* talk to my partner.
* pay close attention to my dreams.
* ask myself and others and situations the question: what if.
* look at my everyday life and the people in it.

I keep a notebook of my ideas, things I might want to work on in the future, things that interest me but I don’t have time to work on. It means that even if that spark hasn’t worked for me at this point, I know it might in the future. Sometimes just going back through that notebook is enough.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Circle of Trees: the characters

A short while ago, I wrote a blog post telling you about my latest novel in progress which I call the Circle of Trees (for the moment). I haven’t done much editing on that in the past few weeks, mainly because I’ve been working on a host of short stories (and a novella) for submission to anthologies.

However, I’m getting back to the point of not being so over-run with shorts that I want to enter, that I’m going to have more time to go back and edit again and it got me thinking.

When the idea for the Circle of Trees was born, the idea of both Francesca and Bryony grew with it. Two female lead protagonists whose relationship develops over the course of the novel and yes, they do become partners. It’s the first piece of fiction of a substantial length that I’ve written whereby I have same-sex characters who become at item. I knew, as soon as I saw them in my mind, that they would come together. It seemed like a natural course of progression and they are so well suited to each other.

The story follows Francesca and her belief in the supernatural. When Bryony goes missing, the only thing she can think of doing is going after her and bringing her back. The two have a very natural love story that is both strong and passes through a lot of trials and tribulations. I have really enjoyed writing their story.

Francesca is a down to earth girl, a worrier and someone that takes things to heart. Bryony on the other hand is a little more carefree, loves to party and will cross boundaries all the time. They balance each other out throughout the story and their lives and when they come together, it’s a moment that won’t easily be forgotten.

Same-sex relationships, although becoming more of the norm in today’s society, will still face criticism. There are some that don’t believe in it, some that don’t agree with it and some that don’t mind. I’m of the mind that if two people are in love, why does it matter what sex they are? And Francesca and Bryony are perfect for each other, the way that Rose and Jack from Titanic were perfect for each other despite their difference.

How do you feel about having a relationship of two characters of the same sex in a novel? Would it put you off reading? Would it make you pick up the book? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Routine and Comfort Zones

Routine is something that is carried out on a regular basis, usually in the same way. It could be almost habitual. Most of us at one time or another fall into routine. That’s not at all to say that it’s a bad thing. Majority of jobs are 9-5 and you go through the routine of getting ready every morning, working for eight hours and driving home during the rush hour traffic. You get into the routine of enjoying having weekends off but moping on a Sunday night because you’re going back to work the next day. There are many different types of routines in life and many different types of people who practice them.

Routine used to be something I needed, a solid structure and a plan moving forward. Moving into a working world where I work a variety of shifts a week, have different days off every week and have to structure my day according to other people has changed the way I view it. Sure I still love a bit of habitual daytime but I am embracing the change that comes with my job.

And I’m taking it into other aspects of my life. I have never sat and written at a particular time every day. It just wouldn’t be feasible for me. When I started my No Zero days as my new year resolution, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to say, ‘At 9pm everyday I will sit and write.’ Instead, my writing is dictated by my day and I’m okay with that. Changing things up in terms of the times I write as well as the places I write always keeps me on my toes. Sure there are days when it doesn’t work so well and my word count is minimal to say the least, but there are days when I find I’m in a certain place and it just hits me and I’m able to write and write and write.

I think there is also routine in our daily lives in terms of comfort zones. Nobody likes being pushed out of a comfort zone. It leaves you with that horrible, icky, insecure feeling and you constantly worry about whether you’re doing the right thing at the right time at the right place. I used to be a stickler for staying in my boundaries. I hated doing anything out of the ordinary that I wasn’t sure of or didn’t understand. Even in my social life, changing the pub we were meeting at was a big gasp moment for me. Now, working in the field I do, I have grown in confidence because I know I need to be that person. I’m there to support people and they need somebody strong to be that role model. That is what I’ve become. I face challenges outside of my comfort zone on a daily basis and yes I do still get flustered and angry and even scared, but I do it and then you know what, the sense of achievement that I get in that moment is amazing.

Do you have particular routines you follow? Do you prefer to work in a habitual way or do you go with the flow of your day/week? How about your comfort zone, how far is too far?

Forgive and Forget

My plan for this year was to write more and blog more. It’s actually going great. I’ve hit huge word counts each month (that I probably wouldn’t have if I wasn’t pushing myself a little more) and I’ve been blogging once a week. Sure, sometimes my posts are a little far between each but I’m there and that’s a big achievement for someone who couldn’t pen something in her blog once a month or on a regular basis.

Last week I didn’t get around to doing a blog post. I was leaving it until the weekend when I planned to catch up, but unfortunately, something happened that has prevented me from doing this. Something unexpected.

While I’m a little bummed about missing a goal I set for myself, I’ve also forgiven myself. After all, life is a chaotic mess sometimes and we can’t always guarantee that things are going to fall into place every time. They’ve actually worked out really well for me so far so I actually can’t complain! Therefore, I am moving past and moving on and saying hello now.

Things with me are going to be really hectic in the next few weeks anyway what with a hen party coming up followed by a week in New York! I’m busy packing for both (trying to be organised and stay ahead) while also trying to make sure I’ve done everything at work that I need to do and that it will all be wrapped up before I go away. I do struggle leaving work a little. It plays on my mind because I want to know the people I work with are going to be okay. You know?

But I will leave it go and I will enjoy myself. And in that same note, I have also decided to end my lent early. It’s not something I’ve done before (intentionally) but I have decided that since I’m going to be on holiday I want to be able to enjoy it fully, not be having to worry about what I’m eating or having to say no to something I really want to have. Therefore, my biscuit ban ends on the 1st April!

I still plan to try and write some when I’m away, particularly when I’m on the plane (on the six hour flight) and hopefully even just a little every night. I’m so excited for going away now, it’s been such a long time since I’ve been abroad and seeing somewhere like New York is going to be an amazing experience!

What do you have planned in the next few weeks? How do you work around things when they don’t work out? Do you shrug and move on or does it grate on you like it does me?

Cathartic Process

It’s taken me a while to come to this decision and I’ve been thinking about it long and hard. For a lot of years I kept a journal. I didn’t write on a regular basis, at least not towards the end, and for the past three years or so I haven’t kept one at all.

When I thought about it, I came to the realisation that I hadn’t kept a journal because I didn’t need to keep a journal. You see, I used my journals as a way to vent. I would sometimes write when I was happy, when I was feeling brilliant, but mostly I found that I was writing when I was sad or upset or angry or lonely.

When I first started writing I thought it would be interesting to go back to them, re-read them when I was a little older perhaps, but now I know that if I read back through those journals it would do nothing but help me relive some of the bad memories I have and I realised how much I don’t want that. My life is good, I’m happy and I don’t want to be reminded of the bad times. Why would I? Sure they’re a part of me but then I moved past them.

So I made the decision that I’m going to burn my journals. I haven’t gotten around to it yet (and the hardest part is knowing that I’ll be burning some of those pretty notebooks) but I’m preparing myself for it. Burning seems a very apt way to go through the process, allowing the paper to become nothing and therefore all of the bad things and memories I have to evaporate with them. I can’t wait to do it.

Do you do something when you need to vent? How do you handle it? What about keeping a journal? Are you a daily journal writer?

Working and Writing

I don’t know about you, but I’m not lucky enough to be able to write full time. I don’t expect to be able to write full time either and if I’m honest, I think I would become a major expert at procrastinating should it ever become the case! I work full time in order to support myself and my partner. I am lucky enough to actually really love my job. I am a support worker in a job where I meet new people regularly, work with some of the best colleagues I could ask for and I’m given full autonomy to make my own decisions and get on with my work. No two days are ever the same and I like that. I absolutely love it.

On the other hand, my job does get pretty tiring. I work a shift pattern of earlys, mids and lates. It’s a pattern that just recently came in too so I’m still trying to get used to it but after a full month run through I have to say I quite like it. The problem I’ve found so far is that, through my early shifts I come home still full of energy and raring to write. Which is obviously great.

The mids, I’ve found so far, have been the worst. The shift spans the middle of the day meaning I don’t really have a lot of time before or after work. I come home tired and struggle to write anything at all. The lates give me a little more time in the morning to write but of course it means I need to drag my ass out of bed and make a sustained effort to stay awake and write! (Okay, it’s not that bad considering I’m really a morning person!)

On top of this shift pattern, if you remember I’m going for a no zero day. So far I have succeeded (except one day in January) and I’m proud of myself but at the same time (particularly when I did those mid shifts) I found that I was maybe writing a couple of hundred words, if that, per day. And that really bums me. When I write I like to sit down and really crank out the word count otherwise I don’t feel like I’ve achieved much. Of course it won’t happen everyday but so far this month, my word count is pretty atrocious compared to January.

I have a lot of short stories on the go with ideas spinning through my mind as well as edits on a novel and I get frustrated when I don’t have time to sit and write (or edit). This weekend I’m off and as well as everything else (housework, DIY, gym, socialising), I hope to get some major writing done.

Do any of you work full time? What is your day job? How do you manage writing and working full time? If you don’t work, do you have any suggestions for us?

No Zero Days

If you read my last blog post about resolutions, you’ll know that one of mine was to have no zero days. I’ve heard it before, inspired by a friend of a writing website I use regularly, and I remember him saying to me that as long as you write something it’s better than nothing. I’ve always toyed with the idea but always thought that I couldn’t achieve it. I mean, we all have days where we’re so rushed off our feet there’s hardly time to think or so busy at work that we skip our lunch, right? But, on the same level, I haven’t challenged myself to write a certain number of words a day which makes it less daunting.

For example, over the next three days I’m at work with one relatively normal shift and then two twelve hour shifts. There’s no way I could sit and tell myself I have to write 1000 words that day. It just wouldn’t happen. However, if I sit with a bit of paper and tell myself to write the next paragraph of the story I’m working on, I’ll do it. A few words and then I’ve scored another no zero day and added to something I’m working on. It’s a win win situation really.

One thing I decided I was going to do was keep a tally of how many words I write per day. It means I can look back to it and check out when my best days were and why and also calculate how many I’ve written over a week, a month, etc. I didn’t decide this until day three and I hadn’t totalled my word counts for the first two days so they are rough guestimates but still, you get the idea.

Yesterday was so far my most productive days. I wrote 1820 words. I felt like I was on a roll, the words were flowing onto the page and I had a moment in my mind that I wanted to reach before I stopped writing. It worked well for me. Today I’m feeling a little more lost but I know I’ll write something!

And I’m done!

Well that’s it folks, I’m done, finished and satisfied. I spent all morning and half the afternoon working on the final edits for my manuscript and I got it done. My baby has been sent off now and that’s that. Now it’s just a waiting game.

It’s a little strange now to think I won’t be working on this or thinking of it day in day out as I have been, wondering about this paragraph or that storyline and whether I need to alter a line here and there. But I find myself already asking, what next? I think I’ll soon become lost without this daily input of writing/slash editing. Perhaps I’ll give myself a few days off, after all, it was a lot of hard work but then I’m heading straight into Nano prep in October (come Wednesday) and after that the actual novel writing. So perhaps that’ll be the next thing. I’m already forming ideas for my next project and I think that with the help of my brilliant editor for this manuscript, I will be able to do a much better job on the first draft next time around. I think I’ve learned a lot of invaluable information I’ll transfer over and it was stuff that could only be learned by doing. So thank you, Missy, again, for being such a wonderful and thorough editor!

The rest of the day will be spent chilling and then eating tasty bolognese with family followed by delicious cherry pie and perhaps a cheeky rum or two in celebration!

Day 100 of 100!

You might remember me blogging about writing 100 stories in 100 days or have seen my guest blog spot here:

http://incompetentwriter.com/2014/04/14/write-a-story-every-day-for-100-days/

I finally finished! Today, May the 13th, was day 100! I have to say that I have been through some thick and thin moments. Sometimes I’ve been so bursting with ideas that I had to keep going. Sometimes I’ve been so tired that the thought of writing anything has been almost ludicrous. Sometimes my muse has simply left me alone for a while and I have stared at a blank piece of paper–or screen–for a long time. But nevertheless, I reached my goal. I did have a few days off (which was allowed) and it seems that my goal changed slightly from writing short stories everyday to just writing. I started a new novel and got it up to forty pages before I hit a wall (editing required before I can continue). I wrote a lot–and I mean a lot– of short stories. Some of them were so short they were micro fiction, others were longer. I even started participating in a story with another author which we are adding to bits at a time. It has been one hell of an experience.

Would I do it again? Yes. I think so anyway. Not for a while. Would I continue on to do the 365 day challenge? Not right now. I recently got seconded at work and my new job is keeping me both busy and tired so for now, I’m going to pat myself on the back, enjoy my moment of creativity and take a rest. I’m sure I’ll be back!