Tag Archives: Writing

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!

Five Actions to Take When Writer’s Block Takes Hold

Any writer can attest to the fact that writer’s block is a tortuous predicament.

No writer ever wants it to happen to them but the truth is that if you are human, writer’s block is inevitable! The good news is that you don’t have to torture yourself by staying within its clutches. willing it to go away or metaphorically banging your head against the wall isn’t necessary- I promise. Back in March I wrote an article about how I find writing inspiration. The practices I mention can be used as back up tools when the dreaded writer’s block strikes. Any writer can attest to the fact that writer’s block is a tortuous predicament. that’s why it helps to step away sometimes and refuse to play ball. Step away? I hear you say. I can assure you I am not mincing my words with this specific solution to a writer’s universal dilemma. Here are my five suggestions for actions to take when writer’s block looms and dims your bright ideas.

Step Away!

When the thinking cogs aren’t working, never force them. Doing so merely adds to the feeling of frustration and helplessness at being unable to move forward.  It’s time to step away and reach for inspiration somewhere other than the crevices of your mind.

Go out for a walk and observe the weather and the smells carried by the breeze or the still air. Spot the signs of life as you walk past homes; something as simple as the whiff of laundry detergent or the aromatic spices of a homemade curry could spark an idea and set your writing wheels back into motion.

Have an Experience

Make a marked effort to experience something new: this is the fun part. You can be as adventurous or as in the box as you want. Been meaning to visit a different part of your city or refurbished establishment? A restaurant serving food you’ve never tried? Go! Drink in the sights and flavours, inhale life around you- feel the ambience.

On the contrary it could be something as simple as tasting that new Macchiato fusion you’ve been meaning to try. The flavours could strike a chord and catalyse a new idea- perhaps the sweetness reminds you of an indulgent childhood treat which could lead you to think about the associated emotions…think about what content you could conjure up from that single experience. Testing new waters in any capacity can stimulate new thoughts and thus ideas in the process.

Release Some Endorphins Through Exercise

Endorphins are the ‘happy hormones’ released after aerobic exercise. They lead to the onset of a positive feeling in the body that boosts energy, lifts the mood and can lower symptoms linked to mild depression and anxiety. It can also improve sleep.

Now think about the alleviation of all of these symptoms and the potential they have to hit a variable that could be leading to your writer’s block- Perhaps the stresses of life are clouding your creativity or tiredness is impacting your ability to conjure up or process new ideas. Raising your serotonin levels through exercise could potentially offer improvement in these areas. Even a slight shift in your mood could change your approach towards your craft during a writing session.

Read a Book

What better way to push Writer’s block to the side than to read the work of someone else who successfully beat it? They got through writer’s block and so will you once you give yourself the opportunity to step back, take stock and reup on your ideas.

Make Random Lists

Seriously. The more random, the better. List ideas could be anything from top ten desserts to five of your happiest moments to worst songs to dance to. These ideas might help you strike gold for your next article or scene/chapter outline. You could use the tiniest component from a list to help you develop your next piece of content. Forming multiple lists may help you to strike gold and even if they inspire nothing the first time around, you may go back and find that your next piece of content was staring at you the whole time- from that random list.

What do you do to help lift writer’s block and what action from this list are you going to try the next time it strikes? Let me know in the comments below.

Amazing Things Happened When I Read My Old Fanfiction!

Fanfiction: there is a great amount of freedom in writing whatever the hell you want to, without the constraints of genre conventions…

Believe it or not I started writing fanfiction by accident when I was about 13-14 years old. In fact, at the time I didn’t even know what it was. I went to a friend’s house and she started reading a fanfiction story she had written about her favourite boyband at the time and conveniently inserted herself into the narrative. I found it to be a genius concept; I was boy crazy, I was also fixated with a string of male celebrities who I never stopped sounding off about to anyone who would listen. So what happened when it suddenly occurred to me that I could write all of this stuff down? I ran away with it and created my own world where I lived at the centre.

So guess what I ran into recently after rustling through my old papers? Yep. My whole preteen fanfiction collection written on lose bits of lined paper, carefully folded together in my Graphic Products folder from about a century ago. Am I glad to be such a nerdy pedant who keeps this stuff? You bet, because I had lots of fun going through my fanfiction. Here is what I learned about myself and my writing.

Don’t you know the world revolves around me?

My writing encapsulated a preteen world where EVERYTHING revolved around me. As someone who wears motherly cardigans and sensible trousers on the school run, I found endless entertainment value in the girly glamour of my narratives. I seemed to wear an awful lot of spaghetti straps, string bikinis and ‘boob tubes’ which were popular at the time.  More notable was the constant gaze of others on me. Though it wasn’t explicitly stated, I appeared to dabble in performing as I sang at an awards ceremony as mouths opened in awe as I ‘moved swiftly and stylishly to the music.’ I couldn’t imagine writing myself into such an indulgent narrative now but that’s the beauty of unabashed youth. You say whatever you want to say and not what is necessarily best to drive a story plotline forward.

I am so delicate I just might break

Feminism? Don’t be silly- I need boys to fawn over me all day, every day. Their attention means absolutely everything. This is what my old fan fiction tells me about my younger self and I think that is completely fine.  My concept of the role of a woman hadn’t been defined yet and there is nothing wrong with that at all. It is very interesting however, to see how old-fashioned notions of how women should act and be perceived permeated my work. I hadn’t quite navigated the concept of female empowerment and overzealously concocted an ongoing storyline of a damsel in distress whom a number of suitors where trying to court. I often fled scenes in floods of tears at the littlest slight and once even ‘tripped over a small rock’ only for the fall to be broken by my celebrity crush. Ah, those preteen days of crushes and daydreaming…

I used fanfiction as proactive escapism

At thirteen I hadn’t yet discovered my narrative voice or how to empower a protagonist. In fact, I probably didn’t know what a protagonist was. I didn’t know about the conventional lines of crafting good writing, so I blurred them. My fanfiction was driven around my pre-teen boy crazy existence and I created a fictional place where I was at the centre of it. There is a great amount of freedom in writing whatever the hell you want to, without the constraints of genre conventions. I had no consideration for character integrity and general regard for the writing craft. All of that went out of the window and it made for extremely entertaining writing. I was writing for myself and myself only. This is why I look back at my fanfiction so fondly. It is still so exciting to read the work of someone who was unafraid and uninhibited by the writing craft.

Fanfiction as therapeutic

The beauty of fanfiction is that it feels therapeutic to write what feels good as opposed to what is good for the story. Through fanfiction I got to set my teenage angst aside and create a fun, girly world which reflected my interests at the time and for that I am truly grateful.

What do you think of fan fiction? Have you ever read or written any? Let me know in the comments below.

Finding Writing Inspiration in your Everyday Emotions

Writers! Can you think back to a time when someone really disappointed you or elicited a strong emotion? Weave that into your work.

As a writer you have the advantage of finding inspiration in your everyday emotions. These emotions can be the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow or the lemonade in the evening, after a day of sucking on bitter lemons. Only If you know how to manipulate them. Nobody likes to feel like garbage but let’s be real, life is full of challenges and pivots and we will be tested. Find comfort in this one true fact: those negative emotions can act as the pieces of meat that tie the soup of your story line together.

Here are two ways in which you can turn negative emotions into inspiration for your fiction writing:

It can fuel a plotline

Remember that rude shop assistant you encountered the other day? The one who glared at you when you asked where the hummus was? They have the potential to be a fine resource of inspiration. I can see you shaking your head but seriously, hear me out. What about that commuter who knocked into you on Tuesday morning? If none of these scenarios ring a bell, think back to a time when someone really disappointed you or elicited a strong emotion? Gather your thoughts and squeeze that lemonade because you’re about to add a spoonful of authenticity to your work in progress.

Consider the following:

How did the scenario make you feel?

What is the physical description of the person in question?

Step outside of the scenario and consider or imagine (if you don’t know them) what type of person they normally are. Could they have been really stressed out or do you think this behaviour is a part of their normal personality?

What was the setting like? Was it crowded and claustrophobic or spacious? What was the lighting like?

Writing it all down and adding to your inventory

Now that you have a bank of inspiration from your experience/s sentences, begin to jot down notes and words.

Do you have a character in mind that you can project a similar emotion onto in order to push your storyline forward?

Did they feel the emotion from somebody else or did they elicit it?

What was their subsequent reaction?

If you’re unsure, begin to plot down possibilities. You don’t need to have a clear outcome from these exercises. They are merely designed to provide a source of information which you can draw from at any time.

Forcing your character into action

Now take yourself out of the scenario and transfer it to a prospective character. You can have a character in mind or create one. Remember, this doesn’t have to be a main character at all.

Think about what triggers their emotions? Is it the same factors which trigger yours? If not how are they different?

Think about where your character can go with this. Brainstorm the possibilities for embedding this into scenes or storylines. It could be a minor part of one scene or could be a major conflict which creates the story arch. It is all dependent on what you gain from this exercise of digging from past conflicts.

Turning reality into fiction

It takes a box of odds and ends to embellish a work in progress. Taking the good with the bad ensures that you’re collecting resources to draw from at all times. So how will you react to an unsavoury situation next time? Jot it down and think about how you can transfer it to your work in some small way. You can even file it away for future use if it doesn’t fit into your existing work in progress. Is there a situation that you can think of which could inspire your current work? Tell me in the comments below!

WRITING FOOD INTO FICTION

Recently I’ve been thinking about the significance of writing food into fiction. Yes, that arguably minute detail that often gets neglected in a story. But is it so minute? Eating plays an integral role in most people’s lives whether our relationship with it be problematic or the joie de vivre. For me it’s a little of both, however that hasn’t stopped me from appreciating descriptions of food as a book lover over the years and incorporating it into my own fiction writing.

A CLOSER LOOK AT FOOD IN FICTION

This fixation with descriptions of food in fiction came about when I read books as a child and began to associate feelings with the descriptions. Feelings which I still distinctly remember today. For example, I have a vivid memory of reading The Perfect Hamburger by Alexander McCall Smith as a ten-year-old in class one day before lunch time. The vivid descriptions of the character’s pursuit to make the perfect hamburger with the right selection of ingredients had my stomach rumbling and made me crave burgers! That precious memory has never left me and it’s all owed to the ‘minutiae’ of food in fiction. Who says that a fiction story has to be all plot and characters? I would argue that the subtle ways in which they relate to something such as food really can offer a broader sense of who a character is and offers yet another branch for analysis for book lovers.

EXAMPLES OF FOOD IN FICTION AND NON-FICTION

Through the often-overlooked lens of gastronomy, we get to understand what it is that drives a character, how they react to scenarios, how organised or disorganised they are or even how healthy their bank balance is. For example, The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell’s non-fictional ethnographic pursuits into the life of the working class of Northern England led him to the home of the Brookers. His description of breakfast in their home included a ‘pale fried egg’ and bread and butter which ‘always had thumb-marks on it.’ I always found the vivid description of the food utterly repulsive yet brilliant in communicating the squalid nature of his lodging abode. On the contrary ‘runny fried eggs’ are used in Toni Morrison’s Beloved as main narrator Denver recounts a second-hand story about her absent father and how ‘a plate of soft fried eggs was Christmas to him.’ Food becomes the medium through which we understand the distance between herself and her father and how this distance metaphorically becomes smaller with an endearing recount about his favourite food. This makes him appear more present and attached to her life in some meaningful way, however trivial.

HOW I WRITE FOOD INTO FICTION

As a writer who is a self-confessed foodie, I find it hard not to write food into my fiction. There is something comforting about rendering an appealing description of food into a scene. It’s almost like a piece offering to a character, something for them to relish. I must admit, upon reflection, I don’t seem to incorporate unpleasant experiences of food or food of an unappealing nature in general. Certainly nothing like the disgusting bread and butter offering Orwell received in The Road to Wigan Pier. A consistent pattern that I have spotted in my works is that food represents relationships. In my upcoming collection of short stories, food consistently rears its head. In one story, a family express their gratitude when the husband returns home with soggy bags of fish and chips, especially the burdened housewife who no longer needs to cook. In another short story I have written about Post-Natal depression, a new mother has forgotten to cook and love expresses itself when her empathetic husband takes over and gently suggests they pick a take-away of her choice instead. Elsewhere in the collection an estranged mother and daughter have a brief run-in over what they are going to order, a detail I used to represent the awkwardness of their encounter. The mother eventually settles on what the daughter is having, showing a willingness to cooperate and make the meeting run smoothly. Here food moves away from being a medium of pleasure to more of a negotiation barometer of how much are we going to get on today? As a writer I definitely find food to be an alluring tool to map out relationships that characters have with themselves and their issues and how this arises from the presence of food or whether food becomes a remedy to aid this. The latter becomes apparent in one of my stories where a woman battling a failing relationship and disused gym membership turns to food for comfort.

FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD

I find descriptions of appealing bites to eat too difficult not to include and as a reader feel it enhances the experience in a very subtle sensory way which can sometimes be taken for granted. As a booklover, the small details really catch my attention so if a protagonist is in a café, I want to know what they’re having. On a superficial level it adds decoration to a scene. It’s oddly satisfying to be privy to the contents of a character’s meal. For me, the more attractive the better as opposed to the mundane or repulsive.

CHARACTERISATION AND FOOD

On a deeper level it can add to the characterisation aspect of a story. For example, if a character has chosen to eat something superfluously indulgent or on the contrary meagre, It leads us to think about why this is the case. Simply writing food into fiction can inform us about the underlying circumstances of a character and of an extra layer of intrigue. It can support the theory that a character is greedy, self-medicating, rich, broke or whatever else the writer is attempting to convey through their choice of words.

A SPECIAL PLACE FOR FOOD

Food will always have a special place in my writing. It’s too interesting not to and I’m sure many (well, perhaps a humble percentage) of my fellow writers would agree. Additionally, as a bookworm I am certainly grateful for the morsels offered up in my favourite reads. Let me propose this to my bookworms out there: the next time a scene includes a description of food, don’t skim over it. Think closely about what is being signified, it might sound boring but it could actually enrich your reading experience! Seriously, try it. I promise it won’t bite.  

I Rarely Look for Inspiration in the Middle of a Fiction Project. Here’s Why…

As a writer, inspiration is something that I don’t often look for. I know it sounds strange as us writerly people are known for digging and delving through the crevices of life to find hidden gems that serve as inspiration. I, on the other hand allow inspiration to come to me in spontaneous form. I let my ideas flow at whatever ungodly time that they pop up and then capture them. Remember the BFG? Rahl Dahl’s giant who was also a dream catcher? He used a net to catch good and bad dreams to put into bottles and store in his cupboard. As an author I take a similar approach because forcing myself to conjure up ideas just highlights the fact that writer’s block is around the corner. Instead when my ideas and inspirations pop up, I take note and capture them.

Never Let an Idea Go!

It’s really important to never let an idea go as a writer. Many of us can attest to scribbling on receipts in the supermarket when our phone battery has died. Better yet, miraculously holding that idea in your head before you reach home looking vacant, mumbling to yourself and dodging conversations with others in the process so as not to drop your genius idea. I have been known to spend the wee hours of the morning writing illegible notes on my phone’s notepad when I should be sleeping. Worse still, when the notepad ran out of space, I made notes in the form of text message and sent them so that they would be saved – maybe that’s just my dramatic #writerslife, however you get my drift. Writers do crazy s**t to hold or retain ideas in our heads when pens aren’t near!

That spontaneous eureka moment of inspiration

One of the upsides to not looking for inspiration is the feeling you get when it appears. That magical eureka moment releases some serious endorphins and that feeling never gets old. A few recent instances stand out in my mind. Take for instance a period of writer’s block that came about a few months ago. It was regarding the main character of my upcoming novel and a male love interest. I wanted them to go on a date but the thought of conjuring up a samey restaurant scene- which I knew was needed- left me feeling really uninspired. I deliberated about the scene and even started to dread writing it which made me postpone working on the project altogether. I didn’t want to move forward without having written it because it was pivotal but I was also too uninspired to write it. The break I took enabled me to work on other projects in the meanwhile and though this may sound cliché, I allowed myself to trust the process. I didn’t know when I would feel inspired to press on with the scene without deeming it a chore but I didn’t allow myself to ponder on it.

Inspiration Will Always Come and When it Does, it Feels Great!

When the idea did eventually come, it was instant. I found myself looking out of the windows of a vehicle as it crawled through traffic one day and the road happened to be one lined with restaurants, most prominently South Asian restaurants. A lover of this type of cuisine, rich curry dishes in cartons began to spring to mind. Did I fancy a take-away curry that night? Nope. My main character and her man did though! Out of nothing, a hiccup in the construction of my novel was remedied without me once ever having to suffer the ails of writer’s block.

This recently happened again when my main character was returning home to get on with some errands whilst considering major life choices. I wanted to document her journey home from the address that she had previously been staying at but couldn’t think of anything other than a monotonous description of her walking through the street, holding her bags and possibly catching a train or bus. Then one day the idea of her bumping into someone significant came to me and I decided to zoom in on the details of their interaction opposed to her journey home, the prospect of which, even bored me to oblivion.

I make it a thing to grasp at ideas that pop into my head IN THE MOMENT during a work in progress. Never take it for granted- being a human being, you might actually forget it and that could be disastrous for progress. So, unleash your inner BFG and capture those ideas and treat them like the magic they are.