Thursday, 19 September 2013

Getting Too Comfortable

This is the first of my *proper* post-Festival of Writing blogs, so I thought I'd begin at the beginning. After all, it's a very good place to start. (Yes, I'm mixing my references, but it's my blog so I'll do what I want.)

On the Saturday morning, the first event was a keynote address from Adele Parks. Now, I must confess, I have never read any of her books, but I will be making the effort to. She spoke about her journey to being the successful published author she is today, and was a compelling speaker. There was one small point in particular that really resonated with me, however, and that was when she talked about her writing dropping off for a little while because she became too comfortable in her life as it was.

In the last six months I've gone from being really fired up about my writing and its potential to completely avoiding adding anything to the story. Before going to the Festival, I actually said to myself 'If nobody's keen on this one, I'm just giving up'. (Thankfully, someone did like it, but that story's for another day...) I thought this change in attitude came because I was being realistic - if I hadn't found any success so far, was it really likely to happen? Might as well just call it quits and not bother any more.

No! I had such a lightbulb moment last weekend when Adele Parks said those two words, "too comfortable" - that's exactly the problem I've been having! I enjoy my day job, which is more than many people can say. My little flat is really nice, and I like living where I do. The rest of my life is pretty good, and I don't have many worries about what I'm going to do or how I'm going to improve my situation. Sounds cushy, right? Not as far as my writing is concerned. For many people, maybe there isn't such a thing as "too comfortable", but for any artist there's got to be some sort of friction, some kind of working edge that's pushing you on to create, to change the world as you see it.

So, if my life is comfortable, how am I going to keep bringing myself back to my laptop and writing? I think an awareness of the situation will definitely make a difference - then, when I am coming up with endless excuses not to write, I can find a way to squash those excuses and just keep at it. Making a list of reasons why I write and why I want my novels to be published is another way I'm trying to keep myself going. I'm still riding high on the positive atmosphere of the Festival, so right now it's easy to write, but when that dies off I'll have to keep reminding myself that my life shouldn't be comfortable until I run out of stories to tell.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Riding High On Words! Post-York reflections.

The weekend of 13th-15th September was the annual Festival of Writing in York, run by the Writers' Workshop. Three days of mini-courses, workshops, keynote speakers, one-to-one sessions with agents and book doctors, competitions and a gala dinner, attended by writers and publishing professionals from around the UK and beyond. There are no words to describe just how incredible this experience is. 

I feel like my whole attitude to writing has turned around this weekend. I've had a big dip recently, but I'm finally back to the stage where I spend my day excited about writing later on, planning what I'm going to add to my chapters. There are so many things I can blog about, so I'll save a lot of the big things for future posts, but I wanted to do a quick blog this week while I'm still getting my head round everything. So here are a few things I've learnt this weekend:

  • Published and unpublished writers have a lot more in common than I realised.
  • It's really not that hard to walk across a room and talk to someone.
  • If you keep working at it, you will undoubtedly improve, provided you listen to advice.
  • Sometimes all you need is one other person to look over your work to figure out the improvements that are required.
  • I'm not as rubbish at characterisation as I thought, but I do need to put time and effort into making my characters engaging.
  • Writer friends are some of the best friends I will ever make.
  • Every Pixar film is a trail of tears with excellent story structure.
  • At the Gala dinner, the best table to sit at is the #funtable. 
More to come!