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Finding a Place to Write

A year and a bit ago I and my fiance moved into our first home. It took a while to get settled, but we’re finally happy with the place.

OK, I’m happy. The other half is still moving things around. I don’t really like change, it’s a whole thing. I’m getting off point.

The biggest challenges I faced include replacing a built-in-fridge, getting a second-hand futon (fully-assembled!) up a very narrow set of stairs, and of course, finding the perfect spot for me to sit down and write.

Your writing space can mean the difference between sweet success and that other, dark, harrowing thing.

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Failure, that’s the word

Traditional writing advice suggests your work area should be free of distractions, but not barren enough to stifle your creativity. You should be comfortable, but your space also needs to be practical.

My own search hits a few different rooms, which I’m now going to take you on a journey through, but where I finally end up might just surprise you.

The Study

The new house came with a study? Problem solved, right?

Not quite.

“Study” is actually a pretty generous euphemism we use to avoid telling people, this is where we keep all the video games and the second Playstation. Study just sound more…adult.

The best part is the previous owner had this cool multi-coloured mood lighting installed which helps set the tone for whatever I’m working on.

It does have a desk, but it’s littered with all sorts of gadgets and games, all fun, but not exactly conducive for productivity.

I used this room for a bit, but the numerous distractions and the lack of desk space was killer in the end.

Final Score: 5/10

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I was going to provide actual pictures of these rooms, but that would require cleaning

The Conservatory

The conservatory makes for a beautiful writing space. It’s where I envisioned myself getting to work when we were buying the house. Whether looking at the nice view of the garden or having the blinds drawn to create a cosy atmosphere, the room is just brilliant to write it.

But damn it, it’s just not meant to be.

The room has some hella-comfy chairs, but no desk. That means any writing means having a laptop on my lap—and that means less time writing and more time spent worrying about the damage I might be doing to my fertility.

Final Score: 0/10

Notworthit

Not worth it

The Dining Room

The dining room is…serviceable. It has chairs, a table, no immediate threats to my swimmers. Nirvana right?

It’s practical. But so is an ironing board, and neither set’s my world on fire.

Final Score: 6/10

The Kitchen

Yes, this is where I ended up. Hang on, hear me out – it’s cooler than it sounds.

There’s a corner of our kitchen with a breakfast bar we seldom used. I was walking past one day…and inspiration hit.

Think about it. It’s close as you can be to all the local amenities. Snacks and drinks on demand. Plenty of desk space. There’s even a shelf overlooking the garden I’ve decorated with some notebooks and ornaments.

I’ve got a miniature zen sand garden I can rake when I’m stuck on a paragraph. A little quill and ink pot (stylish but not for actual use, I’m a lefty). A raven figurine I think I got from a Game of Thrones Monopoly set. The whole thing is pretty chill.

If you haven’t got your own writing space, take a look at your house with a fresh pair of eyes. The kitchen was the last place I expected to end up, but now I couldn’t be happier with my little corner of the world.

OK, the stools could be comfier, but hey, they keep me humble.

Final Score: 9/10

What does your writing space look like? What have you decorated it with? Do you put more stock in comfort or practicality? Let me know in the comments.

– H. L

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How it Feels to Finally Finish Something

Last night I finally finished the final draft of my entry for the writing contest I mentioned a few weeks ago. A short story a little less than 2000 words might not sound like much, but it’s the first creative project I’ve completed in five years and I could not be more chuffed.

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My mind right now

I won’t hear any more about the contest until October, but rest assured I don’t intend to take it easy until then.

I’m writing my first novel! The project is still in its infancy so I’ve not got any specific details to share at this point, apart from the fact that I am very excited.

I finished the first chapter over half a year ago, and I found myself baffled by how easy it was to write, and how pleased I was with my own writing, two things I don’t get to experience often.

Despite this, I didn’t pick the project back up after that first chapter. But, now that I’m making more of an effort to make time for my writing, it’s full steam ahead. As I said, still very early days—but at least the train has left the station.

When it’s finished I intend to shop it around, and then possibly go down the self-publishing route if I get no takers.

My long-term goal is now getting this book to completion, but I have lots of other things I am working on in the meantime, all of which revolve around this blog.

Tales from Inferna is an ongoing web serial; part writing exercise, part homage to the pulp fiction genre. You can read more about the project at the link.

Formally launched this month, Issue #1 is available to read now, with Issue #2 on its way at some point in September. A must read for any science fiction, horror or dystopia fans.

inferna

How did the world end up like this? How did we survive? Most importantly, what’s hiding in the sands?

I am also putting the finishing touches on a flash fiction which I’m keen on hosting on a different writing blog for some cross promotion. I’ve got my eye on a place, but if you’re reading this interested and you have your own blog feel free to contact me and maybe we can get something set up. The easiest way to reach me is on my Twitter @Handsomelies

I need to give a warm thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and get involved with the blog this past month—the likes, comments, and new followers have all been incredibly encouraging, and have kept me going whereas other times I’ve quit.

Let me know the content you’re enjoying, the stuff you don’t, and anything new you’d like to see. I am determined to make something of this place and this is the time to help shape its future. Do you want articles like this writing tutorial or more feature pieces such as when I blogged about my notebook addiction? Maybe you like the mix.

This month is the most I’ve written in years, touch wood, I’d like to say I’ve finally got my groove back.

How has your month been? Let’s celebrate some successes and bury some failures. Hit me up in the comments below.

– H. L

 

Making Time to Write

You’ll notice the title of this week’s blog is making time to right, rather than finding time to right.

In my experience, if you go about your week waiting for the perfect time to sit down and write, you’ll never actually get anything done. It’s an easy excuse to blame the malicious voice for my inactivity the last five years, but at least some of the blame has to fall on my shoulders.

Between my day job, spending time with my fiance, visiting my family, chores around the house, the garden, exercise, and actually daring to sit down to watch some TV and play a video game every now and then, I’m not left with a great deal of excess time.

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I lose like two hours every week just enjoying myself on the toilet

Since I’ve committed to updating my blog once a week, I’ve not actually found any time to do any non-blog related writing. Terrible, I know. I’m never going to get anything done this way, and I can’t exactly run a weekly writing blog if I never actually write anything. That’s just madness.

With that in mind – I’ve decided to keep a very public record of just how much writing I got done in the last week. Shall we?

Day the First (Friday) – Mixed results. While I did manage to drag myself out of bed early, it was to fix a couple of mistakes I’d found on last weeks blog. I should mention that I had a self-imposed writing deadline for a short story that expired today. The plan was to knock it out before work, but that was a no-go now. I had plans later to go to the cinema to see Ant-Man and the Wasp, but I’d surely have time to fit in a little writing after the film, right?

Nope, missed my deadline. Damn you, Marvel.

Day the Second (Saturday) – I woke up at a decent time, but it’d had been a long week at work and I didn’t have a choice, my body wanted a lie in. Not an auspicious start to the day, and unfortunately it set the tone for my productivity, Saturday was a wash.

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Actual photo of me from Saturday

Day the Third (Sunday) – Nope. I wasn’t just tired from work, I’d hit writer’s block for my competition entry. I was dangerously close to the word limit but nowhere close to my ending. This needed to be fixed and frankly, I didn’t the energy to do it. I procrastinated, I did chores, I did everything but look at my work – and because of this blog, I was fully conscious of that decision. Yay.

Day the Fourth (Monday) – I knew the logical thing I needed to do. Sit down and write. Get my story finished, and fix the word count in the editing. I know that’s what I should do. But knowing that apparently doesn’t make it any easier…

Day the Fifth (Tuesday) – OK, It’s just embarrassing now. I was very tempted to trash this whole blog post at this point. I did sit down to write, I just didn’t get down any of those pesky words. I did some editing research, and I did some work on this blog entry – but no actual writing, again.

Day the Sixth (Wednesday) – I did it. It feels like I did the literary equivalent of shitting the bed, but I finished the first draft of my story. I don’t feel good about the work right now, but I know that’s natural. It’s the first draft I’ve finished in some time, and bugger me if I’m not a little proud.

Day the Seventh (Thursday) – What a difference a day makes. Clearly, I’m very bad at finishing projects, but boy do I love starting them. If every book was just the first three pages, I’d have written a million. With the short story finally done I actually managed to knock out a flash fiction in a single night. That’s in addition to putting the finishing touches on the blog you’re now reading. Go me!

Final Verdict: Definite room for improvement, but at least I ended on a high.

I only managed to wake up early one day, and I wasted a lot of evenings lamenting about not writing. While sharing this is a little embarrassing, it is useful. If I’m more conscious of my foibles I should get better at overcoming them.

There is after all, always next week.

How did you get on last week? Did you put me to shame or slip even worse? Give me a shout in the comments below.  

– H. L

Author Stats of an Amateur Writer

#Authorstats is a wonderful hashtag I discovered the other day – published writers are sharing the statistics of just how many years it took them to succeed. All of the garbage books they had to write, all of the rejections they conquered, every step of the arduous journey which kills off so many in the first couple of steps.

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This graph represents the number of stock photos I look at over time

When you start writing it’s not finding the time to sit down and get words on paper, it’s not learning some of the finer details of grammar, and it certainly isn’t thinking of ideas. The single hardest thing an amateur writer has to contend with is the malicious voice that lives within all of us:

You don’t know how to write. Delete the whole thing and start over. In fact, don’t bother. Your writing has no message. Your characters are pale imitations. Your dialogue doesn’t sound authentic. Have you even formatted it properly? Is any of it even formatted properly? Learn how to do that, and all the other stuff you’re not sure of. Learn all of it perfectly before you write another word. You’re going to embarrass yourself otherwise.

For me, that voice froze me solid for almost five years. I hear it every day when I’m at work in my office. It’s often the first thing I hear when I wake up, and after a bad day, it’s the last thing I hear before I sleep.

Today, I’m going to give you my author stats. Unlike the great inspirations, my story doesn’t come with a happy ending, because spoilers, I’m not a published writer. It’s not wasted time though, the last eighteen years have helped me find my formula, not for success, but for perseverance.

If you make it to the end, I’ll even share it with you.

2000 – I’m eight years old, and I’m in English class. The teacher got us to write a story. The first constructive feedback about my writing I remember: Have you ever thought about writing a story without guns or knives? I was also chastised for drawing periods much, much larger than they needed to be. Intellectual snobs.

2001 – I write a rap, not featuring any guns or knives. The teacher loves it, so much, in fact, they tell me they’re going to put it on the school website. I don’t have the internet, but I’m given a printed copy, and to my horror, I see some the words have been changed to help the piece flow better. I asked them to change it back, but I lose my first editing argument.

2003 – My sister gets a computer for Christmas. It very expensive, and she’s not really sure how to set it up or what to do with it, and bless them, neither are my parents. Eventually, I find some sort of word processor on the thing and I’d use it to write. One day my dad discovers a poem I’d written about marching soldiers. He tells me it’s bloody good, and him saying that sure made me feel bloody good.

2004 – One of my friends gives me a floppy disc with a story he’d written. I find this act of transfer amazing, and I’m quick to reciprocate, for a brief time we start swapping stories.

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We were just like cowboys around a campfire, only with floppy disks and without the constant fear of dysentery

2005 – My parents enter the 21st century and finally get the internet. Like any teenage boy with his first access to the web, you’ve guessed it, I engross myself in reading and writing Harry Potter fanfiction.

2007 – I move on from fan fiction and, amazingly, begin an even more embarrassing hobby, the world of fantasy wrestling leagues, or e-feds, as they were known. For those (everyone) not aware, an e-fed was a roleplaying website where you would create a wrestling character, be booked in matches against other people, and for some the reason the winner would be determined with a writing contest, of all things. Think Dungeons and Dragons, but for wrestling nerds.

2009 – I enter a local writing competition, you can read more about this one here.

2011 – I’m a year into studying a Business degree at University, I’ve not written anything for a long time. The malicious voice has seemingly won. I don’t know it yet, but a lack of a creative outlet is making me pretty miserable. I go into my second year determined to join a society, and I find a small improvisation drama society. The voice is hating this, it’s determined to convince me I’m an imposter in a sea of creative types. It urges me to quit before they find me out as the fraud I am.

But I don’t quit. I don’t quit because for the first time in my life I am surrounded by people who are nurturing and encouraging my spark. Instead of expelling me, they welcome me with open arms. I start performing comedy, I start acting, I start writing again. The voice isn’t quieter at this point, it’s gone.

2013 – I have the winning pitch, and so I’m selected to write and direct the societies of end-of-year production. It’s a tremendous amount of responsibility. It’s the biggest show they put on all year; the whole thing is a whirlwind which definitely deserves a blog post of its own in the future. The show ends up being, in my opinion, a modest success.

2014 – University is over. I move back home, away from my friends, away from their encouragement. I job search, I start work, I stress. I gain weight.

2015 – The voice is back. Thinking about joining a local drama group? They’re filled with an older crowd, you wouldn’t fit in. You were never any good at acting anyway, everyone was just too nice to tell you otherwise. Even if you could act, you’d need to lose weight before you got back on stage. The show you produced and directed wasn’t even good. You were an imposter. Quit these dreams and live in the real world already. Quit. Quit. Quit.

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Quit

2016 – I quit.

2017 – I create this website. I write the first post, ‘A Moment in Inferna.’ I think it’s OK. But try as I might, I can’t seem to write anything else I consider better than awful. I start looking at it again, and I wonder if my first post was OK at all. Actually, I start to think it’s quite bad.

2018 – Well hey, you made it. My sad, sole post was the only thing posted on this blog until three weeks ago.

The voice is still there. I didn’t fix it, because I don’t think it’s something that can be fixed. You have to accept and ignore it and move forward.

It’s nagging me even I as write this sentence, to delete this whole post and start again, or even better to quit the whole damn thing. 

I’m not going to though, not this time.

I’m energised. I have big plans for my writing and for this blog, and for the first time in a while, I’m getting stuff done.

It’s time for that formula I promised. Not for success remember, but for perseverance:

Fear of Unfulfilled Passion > Fear of the Malicious Voice

Something for you to think about until next Friday. Now, how about you give me something to think about, or even better something to blog about, in the comments below.

– H. L