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How to Get Motivated in 5 Steps Now

how to get motivated
how to get motivated.

If you’re wondering how to get motivated, why not start here and read through these five tips to help you get back on track.

We all have goals, tasks and necessary errands that need to get done. It doesn’t matter what they are, we all need help from time to time, conjuring up the motivation needed to achieve them. Your goal could be as simple as getting round to making that application or as large as writing a book. If you do happen to be writing a book, check out my previous article on this.

Think of motivation as something that you need to ignite within yourself at set times instead of something you should always have. There is a time for everything, including having relaxation time, so If you hold the belief that being motivated is a state that you should always be in, then not being motivated can be, well, demotivating and it becomes and endless cycle. I hope that wasn’t too much word salad for you!

Instead, it’s important to know that we all go through different stages which require different levels of motivation. For those times when you find it difficult to pick yourself up to complete the important tasks, try these six tips.

Tip One: Who will you be if you keep this up?

How to get motivated, visualisation method.

How to stay motivated you ask? Use this visualisation method. Look at yourself as you are now. This could be in a literal sense by looking in a mirror if your goal is a physical one such as personal grooming or fitness related or in a more figurative sense by taking time to think about where you are in life right now and the distance between yourself and your goal or task. If you don’t take action where will you be a year from now? I know when I do this, it kickstarts me towards taking the steps needed to get started. The last place you want to be this time next year is even further away from your goal. Use your currently untapped potential to warn yourself of the not so pleasant results to come (an unrealised you) in the future if you don’t act soon.

Tip Two: Write it down

The simplest way to get motivated is to get organised with a good old pen and piece of paper. I have previously mentioned in this article how beneficial it can be to make lists. However, how many of us are actually listing our goals and then listing the actions needed in order to make them happen? This simple, no thrills method, makes all the difference- let me be a testament to that fact!  In fact any written form, outlining your goals and plans are a valuable way mapping out a clear way to achieve them. Check out my previous article, detailing how to use different methods to do this, here.

Tip Three: Start a small exercise routine

Want to know how to get motivated within a matter of days? Start up a small achievable exercise routine. Don’t overwhelm yourself as it’s always good to start small for two simple reasons. The first being that a small simple routine will help you stick to it. The second being that if you can stick to it, you have then kickstarted motivational energy, that energy can then be used to fuel other goals. Work on one goal at a time until that goal no longer feels like a goal and instead becomes a habit, then work on the next one and so forth. This is a process that can take months but if you remain consistent, you will see your motivation levels increase.

Remember: Motivation can be contagious so when you have achieved it, you can then turn to other goals and start transferring that energy and discipline towards them.

Some ideas for simple work outs are:

A light dumbbell routine

A low impact YouTube video

A ten-minute stretch routine

Breathing and posture exercises

Tip Four: Create a Vision Board

Vison board enthusiasts know just how to get you motivated. Yes, ten people have probably suggested this before me but vision boards really do work. According to Psychology Today, pursuing goals that keep you motivated will increase the likelihood of you achieving them, hence the major tip I’ve outlined  above about the benefits of starting out small.

Tip Five: Visualise your end product

This visualisation technique is similar to Tip One, except it is in the reverse. This time imagine your end product. How will you feel once you have achieved your goal? Imagine how you will look physically after achieving it. What positive lasting impact will it have on you and your perception of what you can achieve?

Remember, it takes one small, sustained action to motivate yourself towards one particular goal. Take the faith of a mustard seed approach and pick a time to start that small habit. Then take small actions to water it like a plant each day. Go easy on yourself and slowly but surely you will start to see growing results!

Do you have any tips that keep you motivated to share goals? Let me know in the comments below!

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Beat writer’s Blues in 3 steps

Beat writer’s blues in 3 simple steps.

Writer’s blues is inevitable. We’ve all been there, dissatisfied over the snail-like progress of a project, the persistence of writer’s block or doubts about our competence. However with just three steps designed to change the way in which you look at yourself as a writer and your work, you can begin to say farewell to writer’s blues.

Create a mission statement

Just as a company or a school has a mission statement, write one for who you are as a writer. A mission statement is a set of values and objects which tie into one another in order to achieve a particular goal. Your mission statement might look something like this:

I am a Science Fiction writer working on a standalone novel. My aim is to create an in-depth novel with compelling characters and I will achieve this by attending a writer’s workshop and enlisting beta readers during the process. In order to maintain my artistic licence, I will not pressurise myself with deadlines and will work towards an overall attitude to enjoy the organic writing process, however long it may take.

A blogger’s statement may sound a little different:

I am a food blogger who contributes to a lifestyle blog. My aim is to create twice monthly articles on my experiences with food and I will achieve this by frequenting at least two food festivals or markets monthly and taking snapshots alongside notes, adding them to a log. In order to achieve this goal, I will select my content from these logs and upload my articles on the first and third weeks of each month respectively.

See? Each person’s mission statement will look different and writers need to know this. If every writer was privy to this and created their own mission statement, we might be able to write off Writer’s Blues altogether. Instead of putting pressure on ourselves to perform to invisible standards that nobody has of us, we could actually create our own reasonable standards.

Now what might those standards look like I hear you say? My answer is that they need to be both realistic and conducive to your wellbeing. Don’t burn the candle at both ends trying to create a mini-series or thrice weekly blog articles because not only will they burn you out, but consequently your content might also suffer. Instead, evaluate what works best for you, put it in writing and then act on it.

Trust the process (Fiction Writers)

Cast your mind back to a time when CD’s were the most popular format and think about how often some of the most successful music artists used to put out albums. It was about every 2-3 years. Some highly acclaimed artists would have gaps between albums far longer than that but nobody would complain. Want to know why? Because the value placed on their work superseded the need for a quick cheap thrill of a mediocre album from them.

Depending on your genre, the same goes for fiction writers. Lavish over your project, give it that extra time it needs and don’t yield to the pressure of getting it out there for the sake of it.

There’s something romantic and quaint about stepping into that role of writer. Of needing an endless supply of tea or coffee to keep you going, of staring into space in the middle of the day, concocting a scene or that next storyline, pyjama days the list goes on… bask in it all! It’s a beautiful process.

Allow yourself to get lost in other content, guilt free

I am definitely guilty of this. I am a writer and a bookworm but there’s always a battle because whenever I get tucked into a book, at the back of my mind every now and then, a little voice will say, shouldn’t you be writing? Ignore it! Your interests fuel your passion so perusing other content might give you that inspiration or boost that you need once you’re back in the writing seat but don’t feel like you have to choose one or the other. There’s a time for both and both are definitely beneficial.  

Say no to writer’s block

Seriously, I mean it. In my article 5 Actions for Writer’s Block I urge readers to reject it completely. By this I mean, if the ideas aren’t coming, put that pen or laptop away and take it out another day. Give your mind the opportunity to generate ideas organically by stepping away for a day, a week, a month. Moreover, don’t be pressurised into performing. It’s this feeling that is at the crux of writer’s blues. Reject it and come back when writing actually feels good again.

I hope these suggestions have been helpful in helping you beat writer’s blues when it rears it’s ugly head. Let me know in the comments whether which of the above steps you would consider using and whether you think a mission statement would help you out!

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What Inspires Me to Write?

The beautiful glowing tones of the leaves, showy and shimmery before they make way for the icy winter are what I look forward to.

It is well and truly into autumn now and I must say that as a writer I find the season especially inspiring. The beautiful glowing tones of the leaves, showy and shimmery before they make way for the icy winter are what I look forward to. I wanted to share a list of several things that inspire me to write.

People and places

I admit to being a keen observer because I enjoy watching life around me. Strangely enough, because I enjoy bearing witness to mundanity, this helps me as an author of Literary Fiction. My genre isn’t about racy plotlines and exaggerated drama. In fact in this article I wrote, I discuss the fly on the wall perspective of the genre. Something as simple as watching someone call after someone who has dropped their wallet, or watching a person purchase something for themselves, no matter how simple can make you think in a writerly way.

Food

I used to be a major foodie. I’m not sure what’s going on at the moment but I can never quite seem to get around to eating dessert these days. Nonetheless, the experience of food to me is quite significant and I enjoy inserting this into my narratives. I write more about this here. You can get lost in the texture of your food, it can spur on memories and give you something to look forward to. If it doesn’t inspire an idea, at best it can inspire some useful writing exercises!

Music

Music is my first love. Writing was always there but came much later as something that I felt capable of doing. I don’t actually incorporate music into my writing sessions which probably sounds strange given my love of music. But that’s the thing, I love it so much that music wins every time! With that said, I find it much easier to use music as a resource for prompting and writing exercises.

As you can probably see, it doesn’t take much to inspire me to write. In fact, the more boring the detail and subtle the nuance, the more likely I am to actually pick up on it it’s a good thing I don’t try to write action packed stories!

Writers, bloggers, creatives what inspires you to write?

Let me know in the comment section!

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Editing Tips to Keep You Motivated

As most writers will know, it’s inevitable that at times, our motivation levels come to a standstill.

Motivation is a key issue that affects writers. Many of us get ideas and set about crafting them into a work in progress.

 I’ll sheepishly put my hand up and admit that whilst I brainstorm and loosely knit my ideas together before a project, I am not a diligent planner. Instead of creating pages and pages of neat plans and diagrams and character profiles, I definitely get straight to mucking in. I like to think of my process as a plate of spaghetti and meatballs- it’s somewhat messy- but I like it that way because I have a lot of strands and meat to draw from at all different angles when I’m writing instead of sticking to a storyline plan.

It’s all great when momentum builds but as most writers will know, it’s inevitable that at times, our motivation levels come to a standstill. I wanted to share with you about how I recently remedied this with one of my works of fiction.

My protagonist was invited to an event at a bar (for the umpteenth time in the story) and I was wondering how I could muster up the enthusiasm to create yet another bar scene. Especially when my protagonist was hesitant about going in the first place. I didn’t blame her, I, the writer was sick of her going to the bar and the prospect actually made me lose my motivation to write for several days, so I put my project down.

Then a solution popped up in my head, a very simple no-brainer that I would encourage all writers to employ. I ditched the bar scene entirely! Consequently, I felt an instant weight off my shoulders. Sometimes certain scenes are very necessary, however when we plan to execute them in unoriginal or unimaginative ways it can make us feel demotivated to write them. If this is the case, DITCH the scene- but allude to it instead like I did- you can do this in a number of ways. I call this pre-emptive editing and it helps you to get over the demotivation hurdle.

3 Editing Tips to Motivate you

Tip One

Create an inner monologue with the character reflecting on or thinking back to the scene. Here you can add as much or little detail as you like depending on what works to drive the storyline forward.  

Tip Two

Enrol characters in conversation about said scene and have fun with what details they offer up about it. You can insert humour, tension, excitement- whatever emotions are relevant.

Tip Three

If you are writing in the third person, employ an omniscient voice to fill in the gaps about what happened. This could take up just one paragraph instead of a whole scene (you know, the one you were dreading writing in the first place?)

This works best using the past perfect form of the verb, for example:

Evan had spent the best part of an hour strolling around the palladium before he spotted Lina canoodling with another man. She had been leaning against him, one open palm resting on his shoulder as they watched the sunset.

So in effect, you cut out the scene that you were dreading writing in real time and find a way to allude to it authentically, instead.

For those of you who are stuck in a rut with a particular scene, I hope that this inspires you to adjust it in a way that motivates you to write.

Non-fiction writers- have you ever taken a U-turn when writing a piece? How did you go about doing this and were you happy with the end results?

Let me know in the comments below!

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How Toni Morrison’s works Inspired me to Write

Her rich narratives inspired me to write with depth and without constraint.

When I recently saw Toni Morrison trending on google my stomach flipped. How likely was it that she was trending because she had broken the internet with a controversial picture or been involved in some tasteless topical scandal or a public spat with a peer? Highly unlikely. Toni Morrison was a Nobel prize winning writer who stood on the platform of her integrity to inspire others and scatter her gems of wisdom among us literary types. So when I saw her trending, I thought the worse and sadly I was right. Her recent passing has really saddened me, not only because she was arguably one of the greatest writers whoever lived, but because stumbling on her work as a child is what inspired me to write. It might sound odd but for the longest time I always considered it a privilege that my favourite author was still living and breathing while I was.

An Early Introduction

My introduction to her work came through a copy of the novel Paradise which I found laying around one of the spare rooms in my grandmother’s house. At my young age, a lot of the sentence structures and dense metaphors were beyond me. I was unfamiliar with words which read like art. My first encounter with how she wove her words together so abstractly intrigued me and I hoped to one day access her stories.

I was second time lucky when the motion picture of Beloved was released. A part slave narrative about a woman named Sethe who (now freed) is haunted by the child she sacrificed in her infancy. Sethe lives with her surviving daughter Denver When a mystery woman named Beloved appears out of nowhere and wreaks havoc on their household. Oprah Winfrey bought the rights to the novel and  starred alongside Danny Glover and Thandie Newton in the 1998 motion picture. I was captivated by it and it soon became one of my favourite films. Of course, the novel was even better.

A Life’s Worth of Writing

Toni Morrison did with words, what I hadn’t thought possible. She wove intricate portraits that humanised the suffering of a historically oppressed people. She brought the narratives alive that compelled people of all backgrounds to sit, up, take notice and empathise. Moreover, she inspired me to gather my experiences and spill them onto blank pages through one of her most memorable quotes:

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

I absolutely adore this quote. It’s nurturing and yet earnest about the need for us writers (arguably the biggest procrastinators) to be proactive in creating the art that we want to consume instead of waiting for what may never appear. She did exactly this with her own work and thank God she did! I can’t imagine a world without her stories in it. Morrison juxtaposed the traumas of slavery with the infinite possibilities of newfound freedom in Beloved, she liberated her characters without minimising their suffering.

In The Bluest Eye, which I discussed in this previous post, she holds up many mirrors which enable us to see how little black girls view themselves both internally and externally, how their beauty and worth is viewed both within and beyond their own communities and the external factors which help to either shape their strong sense of self-worth (Claudia McTeer) or lack thereof (Pecola Breedlove).

Her works serve as historical artefacts; fictional ethnographies that speak to the very real socio-historical experiences of black women and yet can engage everyone. Her stories are many things at once: harrowing, brutal, awakening, educational, honest, beautiful. I’m just grateful that she inspired me to pick up something that I love- painting pictures with words. And for that I am truly grateful.

Have you ever read anything by Toni Morrison? If not, which writer’s work has inspired you the most? Let me know in the comments below!

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Being a Writer in a Heatwave is Hard

Extreme weather is bound to have an effect on your writing sessions…

Being an author is hard work. You only have to eavesdrop on the conversations of writers to get my gist. You will hear soundbites such as writer’s block, lack of motivation, I’ve just discovered I hate my protagonist etc. It can really be a labour of love but I believe that getting through all of those emotions and the practical debris of the craft is what really makes a writer. You get to show what you’re made of. There is a huge factor that makes writing hard and that we sometimes can’t control and that thing my friends, is life.

In my last article I spoke about creating the perfect writing environment. Sometimes however, the elements have ideas of their own. The UK has recently been in the midst of a heatwave (as has the rest of Europe)- at its’ peak hitting temperatures as high as 38 degrees. You can imagine that at that sweltering point, opening windows and operating fans have had zero impact on me creating my perfect writing environment. You know things are bad when you’re sitting still and the weather decides on your behalf that no matter what, you will wilt like an ice cream. In short, my writing has suffered somewhat but I have to be okay with that because I am human.

Good intentions, not so great outcomes

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, your writing plans conspire to go south.  I started my week as I meant to go on despite the furnace-like temperatures and aimed to transfer that same motivation to my work. However, this heat has made me feel physically faint and exhausted during the nights when I would usually be writing and so I have had no choice but to listen to my body and give it a bit of a break.

I am somewhat of an organic writer and that works for me, however if this UK heatwave returns, I will need a bit of reinforcement in order to push ahead. I will propose two tactics to my usually organic writing process:

Word count

I will enforce a minimum wordcount on myself. You don’t do this? I hear you say- The answer is not really. I write when I am inspired and enthused and when I am not, I stop. That way you stop Writer’s block dead in its tracks as I discussed in this previous article. I definitely do check how many words I have written after a session though as I find it useful to know.

Write notes ahead

Sometimes feeling unmotivated to write doesn’t mean that you should stop writing altogether. Why not write up some notes that will keep you ahead of the game in the next session? My manuscripts are full of incoherent paragraphs containing disjointed sentences and singular words. They act as a guide to my next scenes and thought they would look illegible to anyone else, they act as a beacon for my storylines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up really pleased with myself because I have more insight into where my project is going. Being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel is a huge incentive for us writers.

So, when the going gets tough, what tactics would you propose to keep yourself going?

Let me know in the comments below!

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.