Saturday, May 02, 2015

Weekend Wildcard - Back to Basics

This weekend at The Pink Heart Society, founder Trish Wylie talks to us about how going back to basics helped her break through the wall which had been stifling her creativity, making every word painful to write...

Sometimes we all need to take a step back. It could be from a difficult situation or a relationship which isn’t working or revision notes before an exam or when life is simply getting on top of us and we’re finding it hard to cope.

We’ve all had stressful times and it’s not always possible to take a break from them, sometimes we simply have to trudge through until there’s light at the end of the tunnel. But when the opportunity comes along or you hit a point when something’s gotta give, I’ve discovered going back to basics can make a huge difference.

It’s no secret I’ve had difficulty with my writing for the last few years. Family troubles didn’t help, nor did my battle with depression. But as I found ways to deal with those things, it made me think about what I could do to get back on track with my writing.

The first thing I did was read. Sounds simple, right? All writers are readers before they write their first book. But when you’re buried under deadlines and trying to find a balance between work and family, the teetering TBR pile in the corner of a room can start to gather dust. I also had a tendency to read work related books – books on craft and career - instead of reading purely for pleasure.

So, step one was to pick up books I wanted to read for fun. I started with one a week, then two. If I found a series I loved, I often read the next book in a series from cover to cover in a couple of days. And the really good ones reminded me what I love most about reading:  The Story.

Then it hit me. While trying to hit word counts and themes and fitting my stories into the parameters of a particular line, I seemed to have forgotten the story comes first.

The next step was removing as many distractions as possible. I got myself into a routine; did dishes and laundry and made sure all those little chores which can seem terribly important when you’re stuck in your current WIP, were out of the way. I thought about the best time of the day for writing. 

Mine used to be at night; I would work in the dark and sleep for most of the day. But the lack of sunlight wasn’t helping my depression, so I had to adjust my body clock. I knew animals had to be fed by a certain time, neighbourhood kids would come to do pony things after school, my friends were more likely to visit in the late afternoon/evening; so it made sense that the morning became my writing time. And I made sure EVERYONE knew that.

Then came the big one: The Internet.

I know it’s a tad ironic to be talking about unplugging from the Internet in a Blog. But as many writers have discovered, it can suck hours out of your day. Switch it on first thing in the morning while you have your coffee and after checking emails, Twitter, Facebook, updating your blog and commenting on your friends posts, you can suddenly discover it’s lunchtime. And how many words have you written in your WIP by then? Yuh-huh...

Keeping in mind my writing time was now the morning, I became strict about what I could do on the Internet. Check emails for anything urgent was fine. It takes ten minutes, tops. Anything else can wait until after my daily word-count is done.
What I discovered next, was unexpected.

I’ve known for a several years, every time I sat down at the keyboard and opened the Word file for my WIP, there was a ‘block’. I’d re-read everything over and over and over again. I’d over-edit, for hours. The solution came to me courtesy of a power cut. No electricity = no computer (and as an added bonus it also = no Internet). I killed my laptop a few years ago and due to the lack of writing progress, have been unable to afford a new one. But it wasn’t going to stop me writing. I had a pen and paper! And my friends, now it’s the only way I’ll EVER write a first draft.

I don’t know if it’s because there’s only so much room on a page to edit or because removing all the distractions allows me to focus or because after all the reading I’ve done, I’ve regained my love for story-telling. It could be a combination of all the above. But what matters is I’m writing at least ten pages a day and I’m LOVING IT. 

What’s more, I can write anywhere. I don’t need to worry about how much battery I have left or where I’ll find the nearest power outlet. Have pen and paper, have flask for coffee, can travel. On good weather days I can go outside, sit somewhere remote and beautiful and focus on the story. On bad weather days, I can sit in cafes or libraries or pubs or in front of a warm, cosy fire with a blankie over my lap and focus on the story. I don’t have to worry about people reading over my shoulder – in fact, if they can read my scrawling handwriting on the days the scenes are flying out of my head, bravo to them! Sometimes I’ll listen to music on my IPod, sometimes I’m write in silence, but what matters is #amwriting. 

And my output in the last four months has been greater than it was in the last four YEARS.

That’s not to say I don’t still have a few problems to overcome. While typing up my finished first draft, I’ve discovered I still have a bit of a problem with over-editing at the keyboard. But I’m working my way through it, it is getting better and I can’t complain. After all, at least now I have finished first drafts to work on, right?

I’m a great believer in everyone finding what works best for them. We simply have to make the decision to look for it and be open to trying new things. For me, it was more about old things, going back to basics and remembering what I love most about story-telling. Now, as summer approaches and with my head full of stories I want to tell, I plan on spending a lot of time outdoors. So, if you’re in Ireland this summer and you see a woman writing the old fashioned way in a forest, by a river, at the beach or sitting at a table outside a cafe, there’s a pretty good chance it could be me!

Have you suffered with writer’s block, found a solution that works for you or had your writing/reading life transformed when you unplugged from the Internet? Does getting back to basics sound like something which could work for you? What about getting back to nature – will you be outdoors this weekend? If so, let us know in the comments!

Trish is thrilled to be preparing for the release of her first Indie book later this month. Only Oscar will be available from all the usual EBook outlets and as a treat for all her friends at The Pink Heart Society, she’s giving us a sneak peek at the back-blurb and cover.

Can the first boy she fell for be the man she needs?

Callie Morris has a plan to make dating simple. She doesn’t think finding Mr. Right has to be complicated. But before she can get started, her girlfriends insist she take a good, long look at her BFF, Oscar Levinson,  to eliminate him from the running.
The last thing she expects to find is a spark of attraction. What’s more, it appears to be mutual!  

Turns out, there’s more to Oscar than meets the eye. He’s been keeping secrets - hiding who he is and what he does. When the truth is revealed will Callie discover what she needs was standing in front of her all along, or will her worst fears be realized as his new life begins to tear them apart?

To keep up with the latest news and more info on Trish’s new series you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. A marvellous and moving post, Trish. I know what a wonderfully freeing sensation it is when you step away from the keyboard, and make that decision to set your own agenda. Like fire, computers are great servants but terrible masters. Wishing you the very best of luck with 'Only Oscar'!