Hello darlings! I wanted to share with you my one true love in life: writing. I am currently at the University of East Anglia studying english literature and creative writing and while I enjoy the literature side at times, I am always in a desperate attempt to get as much writing in as possible. I have wanted to be a writer since I was in primary school and whilst I am always trying to improve, I have picked up little morsels of knowledge along the way from various books/internet sites/people/my brain. This isn't the gospel truth, but maybe it will trigger something if you're experiencing the infamous writer's block, or just wanted to give creative writing a try.
- Get yourself a journal. Or two. Or ten. If you like writing your family and friends will continually give you journals and notebooks as gifts for your birthday and then again for Christmas. It will not be humanly possible for you to fill these journals by the time you get a new batch. But you like pretty journals. In fact you can't part with them. You must find a use for every single one. You stumble across a writing technique you will use for the rest of your life... I have an observational journal (The little red moleskine. Moleskines are like creative writing porn FYI) which is completely uninhibited, I write anything and everything in here without second guessing it. Quotes, diary entries, words I like, doodles, thoughts, overheard conversation, rhymes, plot ideas, character sketches. I like to think of it as the 'creative' side, without restraint. But then you take the raw ideas that all these things trigger and curb and mould it into something that functions as a story or a poem. I do this in my writing journal (this one is from Paperchase). If I can't stop thinking about something I will then take the rough first draft and type it up, refining it once more. I'll probably do this with every single chapter.
- Write. With a pen. This is my own personal preference, but if you're a writer, get a bloody pen, and a piece of paper and don't go near a computer until you have the idea out. I don't really understand writers who don't write, it makes me worry that it will die out and one day we will never learn to write, only type. DON'T LET THAT HAPPEN.
- Read. Everything. All the time. Great writers are great readers. They are all influenced by each other, don't feel you are 'copying' someone's work, there is a fine balance between blatantly plagiarising and taking a style/idea that you love and making it your own. Everything I have ever written I can pinpoint the writer or writers that have helped me start an idea, or to continue and improve on it.
- Go so far out of your comfort zone you are metaphorically drowning in distress and self-doubt. You have a style, or a type of character or a setting you like. You're good at it. You've refined it and you enjoy doing it because it's easy. NOW DO THE OPPOSITE. I started off writing very dark pieces of prose writing (when I was fifteen and starting to write seriously). Always a male protagonist. Never any dialogue. Always trying to fuck with my reader. Always in present tense. I had read Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' and had this moment of 'oh my god, that was the most amazing thing I've ever read, I want to write like that because nothing has ever struck me like this, oh my god dystopic futuresssss'. I then read Chuck Palahniuk's 'Invisible Monsters', which disturbed me to my very core (please don't read this at fifteen, it may provoke your sombre disposition). These two books, along with general feelings of teenage angst and unhappiness (no-one understands meh?!?), produced some scary dark shit. I have honestly spent the last five years trying to undo that. It's as if it imprinted itself onto my writing consciousness and I have to fight to write happy, chirpy stuff. Even if I'm feeling happy and chirpy! I took a poetry module, I forced myself to try the fantasy genre and wrote from the point of view of a child. Basically, make yourself really uncomfortable and you'll probably produce the best thing you've ever written.
- Stop with that 'first sentence exercise' bullcrap. If you've ever done creative writing in a teaching setting you'll have experienced week one: first sentences. This is where you get given a list of first sentences from famous novels and then told to continue the sentence. It's all about beginnings and that yeah, cause we're like beginning the course? OH MY GOD STOP IT I GET THE SYMBOLISM, PLEASE STOP TREATING ME LIKE I CAN'T GRASP THE CONCEPT OF WRITING FURTHER THAN THE FIRST FLAMING SENTENCE. I don't know what my advice is here. Hmm. If that happens to you, kick up a fuss or something? For the good of us all.
- Begin a life-long friendship with your thesaurus. Seriously, that shit got me into university.
- Don't isolate yourself. On the whole, I think writers have the tendency to be introverts. You can join a creative writing group through school or university, Norwich has a few community creative writing groups, so I'm sure other cities will. And if not there's always the internet (I spent a few years obsessed with a forum called The Writers' Circle). This advice is nothing new, but I actually found it really nerve racking to let myself speak for myself, instead of letting my writing do all the talking. It's the same as moving out of your comfort zone, you'll be so much happier after you've done it even if it was a struggle.
- Writing prompts. Know when to use them and when to just write something (procrastination queen). Obvious prompts are looking at paintings and listening to music. And they really do work. But most of the time my prompts come from things I've written in my observational journal. For example I read a poem where fallen apples were described as 'mushy corpses'. I wrote this down months previously, but having just read a novella in which the narrator was an eight year old boy, things came together and I wrote a poem from the perspective of a young boy whose father owns an orchard. Then when I had to produce a piece of coursework a few months later I created a short story from the poem. I edited it, added to it and changed it a hundred times, but essentially all of that writing came from those two words. Never underestimate how your imagination can spin the tiniest thing out of control.
Let me know all your creative writing experiences, I love reading about it just as much as I love talking about it!