Author Archives: Writerlygem

How To Calm Your Anxiety down

how to calm anxiety down
How to calm anxiety down

The question of how to calm anxiety down became one of the biggest of 2020. In fact the overarching events of the difficult year cast an umbrella of uncertainty over people from all walks of life. Nobody went untouched in some way, shape or form and anxiety became a collective experience shared by many.

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness usually marked by an emotion of worry or fear. According to the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) average mental distress levels were 8.1% higher in April 2020 ‘than it was between 2017 and 2019.’

I am no stranger to anxiety myself, however, this didn’t stop global events from heightening my experience of the dreaded emotion. Here’s how I manage anxiety when it rears its ugly head.

Slow Down to Calm Down

Take the time to be still and take stock of how you are feeling. Try to pinpoint which exact thoughts are making you feel this way. You won’t be able to find a solution if you can’t pinpoint the problem in the first place.

Put Pen to Paper to Calm Anxiety

Write to help calm your anxiety.

Next write your worries down. Writing bullet points or even creating a spider diagram can act as a tool used to assist you in how to calm anxiety down. Making the issues tangible can allow you to address them and make plans to tackle them in a more practical manner in due course. Writing can be a very therapeutic exercise. Check out my previous article on Writing Project Ideas for Adults.

Do Some Exercise

Take up exercise to increase endorphins and calm your anxiety down.

Doing exercise increases your endorphins which are the hormones responsible for our happiness. For a more in-depth explanation on how endorphins actually work, check out this article.

This is where getting your body moving comes in. Why not calm your anxiety with a quick burst of physical activity? You can go for a brisk walk locally, schedule in a gym session, go for a run or do a YouTube Workout video such as this one, completely free of charge.

Listen to Some Music

Create a special playlist to help calm down your anxiety.

Wondering how to calm anxiety down instantly? Use music as therapy and pop on your favourite tune. Music is powerful and it can connect us to both positive and negative emotions. Identify the music that uplifts you. Why not create a Spotify playlist to help calm your anxiety.

You might want to find music which:

Energises you

Makes you feel optimistic

Makes you feel nostalgic

Makes you feel completely relaxed

Overall, you want to craft music lists that take your mind off of your anxiety and lift your mood to a different state, even if temporarily.

You might want to craft several lists that have you feeling different positive emotions.

Just Do It!

Sometimes, we feel anxious because something is looming over us. We know we have a chore or task to do that might fill us with dread. There’s a document to sign or a phone call to make. When we leave these tasks undone, it leaves more room for our minds to wonder and for us to maximise the actual significance of them over our lives. I am very guilty of doing this. I can procrastinate over things until I start to worry about them. When this happens, I will usually make a quick list, either mentally or on paper and commit to ticking off those boxes at some point, even if it takes me weeks or months.

None of the suggestions I have given provide permanent solutions on how to calm your anxiety down, however, through personal experience, I can attest that they can definitely help. What methods do you use to calm your anxiety?

Let me know in the comments below!

Best Tips for Writing a Book Now

tips for writing a book
Tips for writing a book.

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and you need tips for writing a book. One thing is for sure, this process will not be a walk in a park, but it can be a very insightful and enjoyable journey if you take the right steps to make it happen.

Years ago, I wrote a short story as part of a Creative Writing module on my degree course. About three years later, I decided that I wanted to turn my short story into a novel. It was a long process of trial and error but below here are my tips for writing a book.

Are you ready for the journey of writing a book?

Tips for writing a book: are you ready to write a book?

The first thing you need to realise is that this is a large commitment. Ask yourself are you passionate enough about your book to truly commit to the time needed to complete it? The first of my tips for writing a book would be to establish your commitment to writing your book. You need to immerse yourself into your storyline or subject matter depending on whether it is fiction or non-fiction. I write both and I personally find it easier to create a world with fiction and get lost in it while I write. Of course, running into issues such as writers block and writers burnout is inevitable but I have some highly effective tips for dealing with this.

Create a schedule for writing a book and stick it

Writing a book: create a schedule.

This is probably the queen of all tips for writing a book. You must write regularly and to some type of pattern or schedule or you will lose momentum completely. Writing a book is like starting a car, you need to get the ignition started and keep the engine moving with fuel. How you fuel yourself in the writing process is dependent on the positive habits you take up surrounding your writing. Sticking to a regular schedule will help you get into a motivational rhythm which will make it more likely to achieve writing a book. You can be as strict or liberal with your schedule as you like depending on what is realistic for you; it could be three evenings a week OR 6pm to 8pm from Monday to Thursday each week. It is entirely up to you, though I would encourage that you create a writing schedule which will form a habit which will enable you to eventually achieve your goal of writing a book.

The great Maya Angelou had a little known routine that she stuck by for most of her writing life. Here’s what she said of her writing routine, which is illustrated in this Business Insider article:

‘I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses.’

Now it’s time to figure out what routine might be conducive to help you achieve your dream of writing a book.

Makes notes like crazy

make notes
Writing a book: make notes.

Another of my tips to writing a book is to make notes. Lots of them! Knee deep writers will understand this all too well- one of the most effective tips for writing a book is making notes. Notes bridge gaps between scenes and chapters. Chapters bridge gaps between a work in progress and a whole book. Books don’t write themselves, you need constant material to write to and the most progressive way to do this is to make notes. I have previously discussed the importance of making notes in this article. In a Guardian article, writer PD James speaks of his tips for writing a book:

‘By the time I begin writing, the plot is there and there’s a chart which shows in which order the things come so that the structure is right. But that will change, as new ideas occur during the writing, which makes the writing very exciting.’

In writing fiction notes can be used to:

Create descriptions of characters

Write scene ideas

Convey the emotions of characters

Plot the next few events in a novel

Describe the scenery of a setting

Write about spontaneous plot twists

In non-fiction writing notes can be used to:

Create chapter content ideas

Write anecdotal pieces

Write case study ideas

Sketch graphical ways to present information through mind maps, charts etc.

Organise ideas with bullet points

Believe in Your Story

Do you believe in your story enough to see it through to the finish line? If your answer is yes, then you already possess a vital component to your potential success in writing a book. If you have the conviction and belief in your own work then you have already overcome a large part of the hurdle to writing a book. I achieve this by only embarking on writing projects that I am genuinely interested in and passionate about. This is what creates the buzz and fun which spurs me to keep writing until I have finished a project.

Take Your Time

An important thing to remember when writing a book is to pace yourself. Depending on what you are writing and word count, how you schedule your writing and other external factors a book can be completed in as little as a few months to years to complete. It took me many years to write my first book because not only did I keep putting it down for a few years at a time but also I was slowly learning the process of how to become a prolific writer and actually create the volume and quality of work that was needed to complete my story.

If you want tips for writing books used by some of the world’s most acclaimed authors, check out this Goodreads list.

Have you ever considered writing a book and which tips would you use to help you? Let me know in the comments below!

good writing habits

6 Good Writing habits to Develop Now

Good writing habits during uncertain times

I made a good writing habits article during the Covid-19 Pandemic a few months back. However as the UK enters another Lockdown period and ongoing restrictions in many countries across the world remain, the subject unfortunately remains a relevant one. I would be lying if I said this hasn’t affected me. My writing style is largely based on immersing myself deep into my writing craft, however who can ignore a worldwide pandemic? As a result I have continued to formulate tips which enable me to write strategically and incrementally, giving myself time to be human and to not pressure myself. I have formulated good writing habits during the Covid-19 pandemic in order maintain my craft. The first UK Lockdown that began in March 2020 was unlike anything we have ever seen or experienced in our lifetime. Restricted to our homes and only permitted to leave for one hour of exercise per day, it was one of my biggest challenges. I have an immense gratitude for having gotten through it but it has been very trying. There have been times where I have had to stop watching the news in order to steady my anxiety about the uncertainties of what they are now calling the new normal. I have to be really honest and state that as a writer it takes a lot of resilience to keep going during these times when there is the ever-looming possibility that this really is the new normal. Read on for my six tips.

Keep Getting your Exercise

good writing habit
A good writing habit can be getting out for exercise and fresh air.

Take the time out to get fresh air and exercise. It doesn’t have to be major cardiovascular exercise. A simple walk will do. You just need to get your endorphins going to stimulate your productivity. Believe it or not while this isn’t directly related to your writing it will put you in a good headspace to start facilitating good writing habits.

Write lighter

A looming project can feel pretty heavy when we have other worries on our minds. Take up a writing project like one of those I’ve suggested here in this earlier post. A light-hearted writing project that you can use as a hobby can be relaxing and ease some of the anxieties that come from pressurising ourselves to perform in our main writing projects.

Don’t focus on what others are doing

When England went into its first lockdown period in March 2020, I was completely inspired to see people on Social Media pushing themselves to be the best version of themselves. I saw people consistently releasing top quality content, achieving health and fitness goals, finding endless ways to entertain themselves and others in the process during a very restrictive time. While I exercised regularly, I did not achieve any major feats and that was okay. My focus was on trying to mentally navigate what was happening and the shift of society as a response to Covid-19 in what is now known as ‘the new normal.’ We are all trying to cope with things the best way we can and when we compare our goals and achievements with others it can blur what is actually important, which is the fact that you are trying your very best (even if it doesn’t feel like it) given the circumstances.

Time your writing

If you think it feels too overwhelming to develop good writing habits, start off with short stints of writing. Anything from ten minutes of straight writing to see what you come up with is a great start that could lead to more. It’s about finding something that you are passionate enough about to want to continue.

Make a checklist to motivate yourself

In a former blogpost I listed some of the benefits associated with making lists, including a sense of achievement. Sometimes, even making a simple list and completing a number of tasks within your project can make you feel better about yourself.

Take it one day at a time

Writer’s guilt is a real thing but now is the time to be kind to yourself. Employ tips to help yourself to create but stop putting pressure on yourself to write if you feel uninspired. You can always pick up a fun writing project or even put your bookworm hat on for the evening. Remember writers need to read!

Have you developed any habits during the lockdown period to help you with your creativity? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Creative Writing Projects For Adults

Creative writing projects, creative writing ideas, self care, writers,
Creative writing projects can help adults to unwind and destress.

Creative writing projects are a great way to unwind and destress. Quite often, thinking of creative writing exercises might bring back middle school memories. However there are plenty of writing projects for adults which are designed for the purpose of good wellbeing and self-care.

The Covid-19 epidemic has affected people globally. Never before on such a massive scale, have people needed to collectively start prioritising self-care in order nurture their mental health. Understandably as the Lockdown eases in some areas, many of us are still cautious about going out and feeling restless and anxious at home

Below I have listed 5 creative writing project ideas for adults to help foster mental well-being. The benefits of embarking on what need not be more than 10-minute writing exercises, are endless.

These benefits include but are not limited to:

Easing stress

Allowing you to be productive

Improving your writing skills

Contributing to improved mood

Fostering a sense of achievement

Allowing for escapism

Below are some writing prompts to get your project underway.

1. Diary Writing

how to write a diary, diary writing examples.
How to write a diary.

You could kickstart this project off by thinking about a really good memory or time in your life. The objective here is to give you a boost and build on your positive feelings. Dig deep to find a memory of a self-affirming or euphoric moment in your life which boosted your self-esteem and overwhelmed you with feelings of wellbeing. Once you have immersed yourself in that memory you will find yourself present in it. You might even laugh or smile.

Alternatively you could start a themed diary writing project which zooms in on one particular time in your life. It could be when you went to school or college. It could be around a time when you were socialising around a particular group of people. Think of that lived experienced through sounds, smell, sight and your feelings at the time. Now write about it!

2.Short Story Writing in a Genre you Enjoy

How to write a short story, short story writing examples, short story ideas

Ever wanted to write a short story solely for your own enjoyment? Now would be a great time to start to write on a pet project for the sole purpose of your own entertainment. Why not start now? As you’d be writing for yourself, you wouldn’t have to worry about reader expectations. Therefore the story can go wherever you want it to! Have fun.

If you are unsure how to start, check out these detailed tips here.

3.Write a Monologue

Think about a topic you are passionate about. Really passionate. Then write a monologue on it. Let loose- remember this is for you only, NOT an audience. Nobody has to ever see it. Be as cynical or dry as you want to. Take the time to express yourself. To take it a step further you could film yourself reading it.

Some topic ideas to consider…

Social inequality

Relationships

Sexuality

Finance

A memorable experience you had

A cultural reference

Music

4.Set aside your free time to write some affirmations regarding your writing.

writing affirmations, writing affirmations examples
Writing affirmations examples.

Examples for writers might be:

I am proactive

I am productive

I am prolific

I engage my readers

And so on…

5.Write a blog article for yourself. The more random the better!

Here you get to let loose on the most obscure or mundane (to others) topic. It could be something as silly as why you don’t find ice-cream refreshing on a hot summer’s day or an unpopular opinion such as why you wish people would just leave the Friends sitcom in the 90’s.

Why not give yourself some reflective self-care that also sharpens your writing pen by embarking on one of the projects above.

Have you ever embarked on a personal writing project for yourself? Would you consider doing it? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Compelling Female Character Traits

A compelling female character isn’t hard to find. She is probably overrepresented across a plethora of genres, particularly in commercial fiction. Her character traits are irresistible to readers who want to find her in different books again and again. So how do you create your own compelling female protagonist? In this article I am going to highlight five key character traits a writer needs to develop in order to create a gripping female protagonist.

I once read a commercial fiction book centred around what I thought was a compelling female character. In the story her best friend and boyfriend had slept together and by the end, she eventually found it in herself to forgive her friend and rekindle her romantic relationship with her man. As a reader I was bewildered. I felt unsatisfied with that conclusion, one which in my eyes didn’t point to the strength or growth of the character. I was new to writing at the time and thought, is that how it really goes? What I had wanted was one of two conclusions: the first being my female protagonist having kicked both of their butts before saying good riddance, having realised her self-worth. The second of my preferable conclusions would have been that she made peace with those who had hurt her but refused to take back the cheater, (perhaps) wishing him well instead.

You see, we tend to enjoy the learning curves of characters. A large part of fiction writing is conveying the growth of the protagonist. Even a perpetual doormat needs to stand up for themselves, lest the readers eventually abandon them. As a writer, I can’t think of anything juicier than concocting how my potentially compelling female character might gear up to collect their self-esteem off the floor and take their power back. Of course, in Literary fiction, this doesn’t always need to be the case as happy endings aren’t guaranteed. However generally speaking, female protagonists must be compelling. I have outlined the five traits of the most captivating types of women in fiction.

Imperfection

The imperfections of characters add to a reader’s intrigue.

Nobody likes a perfect character. After all, what would be the point of a story if it was driven by somebody’s total perfection? Stories where everything goes right for the main character aren’t the ones we tend to read. On the contrary, the most compelling stories see our heroines fighting through the issues they face. Imperfection is a virtue. Considering that none of us are perfect in real life, imperfection is a relatable trait. Whether it’s a physical flaw that might bring on self-consciousness and a need for gradual self-acceptance or a poor habit like persistent lateness, readers tend to become attached to characters they see themselves in. Habits such as clumsiness, paranoia, laziness, overtalking and overthinking are traits which humanise characters and bring them to life.

Humour

One of the 5 compelling female character traits.

What is life without humour? Dull, that’s what. A character who can look at the bright side of life, offers dimension to a story. They have the ability to make light of their disappointments, even if momentarily. Additionally, humour is seen as a character strength in our society; a bit like intelligence or athleticism, it’s yet another item to add to the bag of tricks that we carry with us through life. Furthermore an easy-going character who doesn’t take everything so seriously makes it that bit easier to carry a storyline.

Check out this article which links laughter with likeability.

Integrity

Integrity is a character trait worthy of applause. Particularly for female characters who choose to project their voices.

Integrity is a trait that has earned many a character the respect of their audience. A protagonist who has unwavering morals is a memorable one. Standing up for what they believe in: Piping up at the racist joke in the office, refusing to be somebody’s booty call when they want a boyfriend or not taking back a cheating partner are all examples. Of course, they don’t have to start out so strong and ballsy, we are all human with weaknesses. Integrity is often borne out of challenges and adversity and it is always rewarding to see a character learning to have more integrity. This leads me to my next trait…

Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a relatible trait in fictional characters.

We all have weaknesses and some of us are more vocal about this than others. I love the fact that so many public figures are open about their insecurities. Especially after years of the media having made them feed us the narrative that they were perfect. This is no different to characters in a storyline. Vulnerability is an emotion that we can all relate to and it often resonates with us when we see others experiencing the same.  

Inquisitiveness

Inquisitiveness is a trait that many compelling female characters possess.

Female protagonists who are naturally inquisitive about the environments they encounter make us want to go on a journey with them. Imagine a story where nothing piqued the character’s interest: not a job advertisement, nor that handsome stranger or the opportunity to travel: things would get boring pretty quickly.  Inquisitiveness can act as a catalyst for a character’s journey, thus the overall plot, making for a more intriguing read.       

Check out some of my reads here.

What character traits do you like to see in fictional female characters?                                                                                       

How to be a Proactive Writer During Covid-19 Lockdown

Trying to be a proactive writer has never been as challenging as during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Navigating my writing life during Covid-19 has been a minefield. Trying to be a proactive writer has never been so challenging. I have to be honest, this pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside down overnight and I am not unique. Life has become about keeping safe, checking in on loved ones via technology, home schooling (if you have children), adjusting to new routines and ensuring you have enough groceries at home. For some of us, writing has fallen to the bottom of the list of priorities at this time. Alternatively, for others it has birthed inspiration and a window of opportunity for extra writing time. We’re all different and as a result of these new conditions being imposed on our lives, our motivations to write may have changed or been affected for better or worse.

If you’re a writer, you may fall into one of three categories:

The inspired writer

Though you may be prone to low mood at times, given the circumstances, your writing life remains healthy.

You have taken this time to immerse yourself in your projects and remain inspired despite the challenges facing you. You have cultivated a writing space and routine whereby you can flourish and write prolifically. Though you may be prone to low mood at times, given the circumstances, your writing life remains healthy, possibly even healthier than before lockdown. The extra time has afforded you the opportunity to be proactive with your writing and pursue it aggressively.

The demotivated writer

you are trying to piece day to day life together much less focus on being a proactive writer.

This new way of life is so alienating that it is hard to know what to do right now. You haven’t necessarily fallen into a routine and you are trying to piece day to day life together much less focus on writing. You may have thought about it but haven’t had time amid your new host of duties, to actually pursue it. Alternatively you may be thinking about the fact that you are not currently writing and guilt tripping yourself over it.

The stuck writer

You may be experiencing writer’s block or writer’s burnout due to stress.

There is too much angst and worry in your mind for the ideas to be flowing right now. You might have begun to sit down to writing sessions but found that you have writer’s block or writer’s burnout. After all, there is a lot that might be on your mind during these strange, surreal times.

I myself have fallen into all three categories at one point or the other during this Covid-19 pandemic. What is occurring globally with this pandemic presents like a trauma in our lives, even if we don’t realise it. We are all having to withstand the dramatic overnight change of being in a state of lockdown. Subsequently we are all reacting in different ways to this new dimension of stress. Please know that it is okay if you’re not writing now like you used to, there is good reason. You will pick up that pen, laptop or notepad again and write up a storm. And for those of you who are writing up a storm, great! Stay inspired and active.

If you need a spruce to get your writing back in gear and become more of a proactive writer, consider some of the exercises below instead of immersing yourself into projects that you may currently find stressful. The excellent thing about exercises is that they don’t ask much of you, it’s all practice, idea generating and sometimes relaxation.

Here’s a list to help you flex those writing muscles again, no pressure!

Set goals

Think about what you want to achieve with your writing within a particular frame of time. It can be in the coming weeks, the next few months, even the next year. Come up with a list of realistic bullet points, things that you can actually achieve and feel immensely proud of once you have ticked them off.

Mind map

Create a mind map focusing on a set aspect of your writing such as a blog idea, a character profile, the events of a chapter or an idea for a new poem.

Revisit

Go back to some of your older work or an earlier draft of what you are working on to see how far you have already come. Sometimes it is an art in itself to stop and look at what you have achieved and give yourself credit for it. Also, learn to appreciate and use your own writing as a form of entertainment.

Read!

Many of us writers are also bookworms so I don’t have to tell many of you out there twice to just sit down and read once in a while. It’s a blissful part of life that is as inspiring as it is entertaining. Need I say more?

Note-taking

Observe life around you. What do you mean, I hear you say! I Am talking about observing the journey you make from the bedroom to the bathroom or the way the water bubbles in your kettle as you wait to make that morning cup of tea? Well, actually yes. Now might be the time to micro-analyse your environment, something might come out it inspiration-wise, honestly, challenge yourself and give it a go. Stare at a plant, look out of your window, play a piece of breath-taking music and see where your mind goes. Then take notes.

Check out this article for 30 more tips to get you motivated to write.

It has become an art to balance all of the things that we are suddenly responsible for. Previously our lives were cut into neat portions, (even if we didn’t think they were) of work, home, the school run, relationships etc. Now these things have blended into one mass and landed in our living rooms and we have been left to turn them into a productive, efficient schedules. Except we are not all perfect and we will all achieve this to varying degrees and that is okay. This is a skill that I am still learning to acquire but with some of the tips I have outlined above, I am beginning to return to my writer’s life.

How has your writing life been affected by these strange times? Are you as proactive as ever or have you found that you have slowed down somewhat? Let me know in the comments below!

Edit Your Novel in 4 Steps

Edit your novel in four drafts.

Pulling your hair out wondering how to self edit your novel? Then look no further. Read on to learn about my four step editing process. Here is how I do it in three stages.

First Draft

Unleash your untethered creativity in your first edit.

Think of your first draft as a bush being allowed to grow as it wants: with wild flowers, thorns and overgrown vines. At the first draft stage, you can unleash all of your untethered creativity without worrying. At this point, it is a blank canvas that you can fill with anything that you want to and no matter what, it should be a fun process. Its impulsive like scratching an itch! I enjoy letting my stories carry me where they want to at this point and also seeing where conversations between characters go. Now is the time to say what you want, create the characters you want and make them behave how you want- or how they want for that matter!

The only rule to heed in order to edit your novel at this point is a rough plot line. You need a protagonist dilemma or yearning for something which pushes the story forward. This also gives momentum to the relationships that your protagonist has with others.

 you also need to build towards something significant. Anything before this is a steady climb up a roller coster but with your first draft, its a journey that you can build organically without worrying about narrative rules.

You can plan your writing or write spontaneously. My own writing process consists of a bit of both and I find that the combination of these two techniques keeps my writing sessions fresh and varied:

Second draft

Make scenes more dynamic in your second edit.

Here is where you do your pruning. At this point that overgrown, beautifully untethered bush (your first draft) will need some TLC. With your second draft edit, you will need to begin to tame and shape it. Check out my previous article, editing tips to keep you motivated to drive you forward at this stage.

Although the second edit should be fun, this is where you will need to employ the most mental muscle to edit your novel during the second draft process. I liken it to spring cleaning- you get to move things around and still be creative at this point. Not only are you weeding out the extra fluff, but you actually get to make scenes more dynamic or intriguing by reconstructing character conversations and enhancing the descriptions of settings. Now is the time to do your narrative justice!

Top tips

  • Look out for inauthentic dialogue. Would someone really say this? Do I really need to add those slang words which might age my work down the line?
  • Think about the overall shape and pace of the story. Does it take too long to get to the action? Are the peripheral characters given enough or too much screen time in the story?
  • Are you creating empathy for the right characters? Or do you want to leave this up to your readers to decide who they are rooting for?
  • Do you have chunks of text that need to be scrapped altogether and left on the cutting room floor?
  • Do you have scenes that would be better featured at a different stage in the narrative?

Once you have taken all of these editing factors into consideration and applied them where necessary, you are onto your third edit.

Third Draft

Success at fixing major structural issues on the third edit.

Hopefully, if you have followed all of the points above to edit your novel, you will have achieved considerable success at fixing any major structural issues. Look at your third draft as a polishing exercise. By now, anything that needs to be adjusted should hopefully stand out clearly as you edit your novel.

The third edit will require you to make executive judgements about things like dialogue and tone. It’s time to sweep up or tweak any unfitting or inauthentic dialogue and see what needs adjusting in places. Your third edit will enable you to cement the overall feel and direction of your story and it is pretty exciting to see your work really come together.

Fourth Draft

Your fourth and final draft will be of a much less creative nature. Think of this as the polishing and dusting phase. Now is the time to employ your proofreading skills: look out for grammatical and spelling errors. Check for any jarring repetition of certain adjectives and adverbs. Once this final sweeping process is over you can go back over and read your work and hopefully enjoy doing so!

If you want to see the end result of this four step editing process, you can ready my short story Filling the Void here.

How do you find the editing process? Is it something you don’t mind doing or do you dread it everytime? Let me know in the comments below.

Stop Writer’s Burnout in it’s Tracks

Writer’s burnout often affects a writer’s creativity and state of mind.

Okay I admit it. I am about five seconds away from writer’s burnout. No, it is not because I suddenly hate writing. I have simply put my writerly fingers into way too many pies and I am juggling writing projects like a performer along the London Southbank. The problem is, I never really learned the art of juggling and it is demotivating. My lifestyle doesn’t allow for it and it is going to take a lot of planning and writing productivity to pull this off. How am I going to do it? Read on to find out.

Not being able to get past a hurdle

Writer’s burnout is usually a bigger issue than writer’s block because it is more than not being able to get past an objective hurdle in your work-in-progress. It is more about the writer’s state of mind and ability to create based on it. I’m probably being dramatic, l do not suddenly hate my fiction and non-fiction work and it’s not that I can’t bear to look at it. More so, I am up to my ears in writing different projects and it is simply easier to bury my head in the sand rather than face what is in front of me. Hence my own specific type of writer’s burnout has ensued.

I have set out some Do’s and Don’ts that I would like to share in hopes of inspiring anyone else who’s in a creative rut now or experiencing writer’s burn out.

Don’ts

Don’t bury your head in the sand if you have writer’s burn out.

Don’t bury your head in the sand like I have. It only makes the problem seem bigger. I have had one writing project that has been collecting dust for absolute months. As a result, picking it back up seems like a bigger deal than it needs to be. If this is you, I would say get straight back to it- pick a date as soon as you can in order to get to grips with it. Set that date and deal with it now.

Don’t write it off completely unless you really feel that there is nothing to gain from it. Moreover, if it is beginning to affect your mental health- at the point where your health is being compromised, then I would suggest considering getting some help and putting it on hold.

Do’s

If you have writer’s burnout share your concerns with other creatives.

Do share your concerns with others. A problem shared is a problem halved indeed and it would help to see if anyone else shares your frustrations or has any suggestions that might help you out with your writer’s burnout.

Do Look at it from a different angle. Don’t tell yourself that you have a big task ahead of you.

Break it into smaller chunks

Writer’s burnout can arise when a task seems undoable.

Writer’s burnout often arises from our view that a project has become unmanageable and is no longer enjoyable. If this is the case, break it down into smaller chunks. Paragraph by paragraph if necessary. As a fiction writer, I break my work down by scenes and if necessary, I will also break those into two parts so that I have a measurable way to make note of my progress.  

Nearly there

Beat writer’s burnout by facing tasks head on.

I currently have a pet project that I am near to finishing but writing one of the last few scenes has driven me towards Writer’s burnout for weeks now. This has happened because there was one scene that I kept building up in my head that I know had to be done but for whatever reason I just didn’t fancy doing it. A few days ago, I faced it head on and realised it needn’t have been this overwhelming task. I cut it down and now that I am in the middle of writing it, I have started enjoying it again! If you are still unsure whether or not you have suffered from writer’s burnout, take a look at this extensive article.

Are there any aspects of your creative process that you find difficult? Have you ever experienced writer’s burnout? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Ordinary People by Diana Evans.

Have you listened to John Legend’s classic song Ordinary People recently? If you haven’t, I suggest you take a quick listen now- it will give you a four-minute summary of the themes which punctuate this Literary Fiction novel. The narrative begins in the hills of South London suburb, Crystal Palace amid the social backdrop of the Obama inauguration party where the holders; two successful brothers themselves invite the interchangeably beautiful and accomplished people that they know. Instantly, Diana Evans zooms a lens into a social scene filled by black British professionals such as lawyers, actors and media types. The beginning is racy, not your usual start for most novels, smack bang in the middle of an exciting event where euphoria and celebration is high. Subsequently, that’s the beauty of it. I found myself positively, overwhelmed and excited for what was to come in a story which angles the black British experience from an alternative angle. Evans even signposts a number of songs being played during the party such as PYT by Michael Jackson to really get a glimpse of the nostalgic excitement of the party mixed in with the newness of having a first black president.

Melissa and Michael, a trendy married couple are attendees of this Obama party. They are described as being on the ‘far-side’ of youth, yet clinging to it. Herein our story is set. Let’s briefly go back to John Legend where in his song, Ordinary People he mentions reaching past the honeymoon phase. This is exactly where our protagonist couple lie. Melissa and Michael are burrowing further and further into the crevices of a cosy middle-class life, cushioned in an inner London suburb, Sydenham. They have two children, one a baby, so they’ve achieved their 2.4 children quota and the white picket fence. So what exactly is the problem? Well, exactly those things- the monotony of life, the inner trappings of responsibility when you are still hanging on to the remnants of your glistening youth by the threads.

I love Michael’s character. Though I have met too many Michael’s to recall in my own Black British life, I don’t recall ever reading about someone like him, a suave British born black man of Jamaican heritage, with lashings of dashing swagger and handsome charm. His youthful personality is sweet and brought a smile to my face. His wife Melissa on the other hand is colder, more considered and less emotionally reciprocal to his affection and need for it, this made her less likeable to me but of course, she has her reasons why.

An interracial couple Damian and Stephanie make up the other near protagonists. In response to Michael’s confident swagger, Damien certainly creates less impact. He wears ill-fitting suits and is described as having a thickening tyre around his waist -another signifier of the reality of busy married life with parental responsibility and lesser time for self-care than the former couple. Damian cuts a sadder figure than his best friend Michael. He is grappling with grief and a lack of closure from his lonely, deprived upbringing with a Trinidadian father who he watched decline before his own youthful eyes. He seems to be marred by this. On the contrary, Stephanie, his English wife comes from a more affluent background and a functional, if not imposing family who have expectations of Damian. Can Stephanie use the formulaic nature of her own upbringing to sew her husband back together? We’ll have to see.

In this book, Evans dynamically weaves the couples together to create interesting twists and turns for the reader.

Though the book champions themes from parenthood and grief to ageing, Ordinary People at its crux is centred on identity. The social and genetic make-up of the characters is a central theme throughout the story and seems to overpower the plot, but isn’t this what Literary Fiction is about? Being that fly on the wall and really being able to zoom into a character and all their flaws and motivations. Through its main characters, Ordinary People is a Venn diagram of sociological and Literary discovery of how we come to be who we are, from factors that are mostly beyond our control. It is who our parents were to us and how they brought us up and where. It is how this impacts the romantic and platonic relationships we have with others and what we allow our lives to become as a result of it.

Above all, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was an experience. These characters really could have been friends of mine. Furthermore, it really helps that Diana Evans has told this story through a backdrop of music and the text is dotted with head nods to artists such as Jill Scott, Michael Jackson and a Tribe Called Quest, all of whom I grew up listening to. This book is successful in offering a lens into the socio-cultural experience of Black British professionals in modern London and it’s a breath of fresh air.

5 Perfect Writing Habits to Take up Now

Change your writing output with these five tips.

I wanted to share five proactive habits aimed at helping you to achieve your writing goals for 2020! So without further ado lets get straight to the point.

Organise your projects

We feel less stressed when we are organised.

Identify what your main writing projects will be this year. It’s difficult getting things in order when they’re all just hanging in the air. Instead of letting your mind wonder and beginning to worry, start to name, categorise and subhead your projects into groups.

Here’s your chance to get visually creative by using mind maps, Venn-diagrams, flow charts and tables. I tend to keep it simple by using spider diagrams and bullet points as they’re hassle free and can be completed in no time at all.

According to Psychology Today, clutter can have disastrous effects on our stress levels. For example, when we know we aren’t as organised as we should be, we begin to harbour anxiety about our productivity and our feelings of negativity can spiral. Being disorganised also stifles our creativity because we are not using methods such as the ones mentioned above (brainstorming, diagrams etc.) in order to get rid of the excessive clutter which acts as a stimulant for stress. When we know we are putting systems in place to organise our projects and make space for them, we begin to feel less stressed.

Write your thoughts down

Let those thoughts and ideas flow onto the pages.

Fiction writers’ minds are always flowing with different ideas. Even when we have writer’s block, it’s often because we don’t know how to execute a pre-existing idea. Try to write a stream of consciousness and let those thoughts and ideas flow onto the pages. In addition, research suggests that there are physical benefits of putting pen to paper. In his breakthrough Psychological Science article (1997), Writing about Emotional experiences as Therapeutic Process, Dr James Pennebaker found that personal journaling contributed to greater physical and mental wellbeing.  

Make lists. Lots of them.

It helps to make lists to help you remember unfinished tasks.

It can take a lot of orchestration and string pulling to actually achieve your goals. So isn’t it great that the human brain apparently loves to make lists? According to Russian psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, the brain has a fixation with unfinished tasks and is actually better at remembering tasks that need to be done rather than completed ones. This sounds about right. How many of us have those niggling mental reminders about the complaint we need to make, the refund that we need or that left out shopping list item? More of us should be presenting our writing goals as lists; multiple steps which bring our ideas to fruition- they’re an absolute no brainer and written tangibly on paper at that!

Make note of relevant websites, ideas, YouTube tutorials programmes that you might forget otherwise. Anything that holds relevant information and ideas for inspiration needs to be written down and you’ll be well on your way to getting your plans into action.

Summarise your writing sessions

Note what went well and what could have been done differently next time. Evaluate them and use these summaries to enhance your writing experiences and increase productivity.

Talk to other writers

Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely craft.

Writing can be one of the loneliest crafts but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of writers worry about their process and whether they are doing it right. There is no right way of writing but its comforting to hear other writers speak about their process and mention what works for them. Look for an event on Eventbrite or Meetup and add a social element to your writing. The #writingcommunity on twitter is also golden with tons of advice and information for writers of all disciplines and degrees of experience.

What organisation techniques do you employ for your personal projects? Let me know in the comments below!