Why As A Writer, I love Teaching

Publishing

Annette Young

When I became a full-time writer…a million  years ago, I never (for a single moment) imagined that my former teaching role (for creative writing and journalism) would catch up with me once more but, I have to admit that I am very pleased that it did. Writing can be incredibly isolating, it’s certainly all-consuming. The hours vanish while lost in make-believe roles and fictional scenarios and scarily, the days begin to merge into one. While my job as a writer is incredibly varied, (I could be writing a course for a client in the morning, and, in the midst of a science fiction scene in the afternoon), it does require my absolute focus. There’s no time for clock-watching or of being bored. It’s just my imagination and the task at hand. In fact, I work far more hours than I ever did when employed. 

I do try to get away from the home office when I can and can often be found with my laptop tucked away in a corner of a local bar. There’s a good reason for this, the noise, the hustle and bustle of holiday-makers and locals alike detract from the quiet of the office where the silence can actually be deafening. Plus, I am drawn toward observing life as scenes play out in front of me. This way, I remain grounded, with one foot in reality, yet with my imagination firing up on all levels. In the same way, teaching also does this for me.

Having recently hosted a Novel Writing Course in the UK, it made me remember that every personal experience, every rejection letter in the early days and, subsequent publishing successes, are all important lessons to pass onto those who have a real desire to learn. The publishing industry is tough, it’s also more than a little fickle. Clarifying what works and what does not can help to save those new writers from months of hardship or failure. 

I am honoured and grateful to be in the position that I am. I love writing, I love helping other writers towards publication and I love teaching generally. How many people get to live the life they dream about? It’s only fair that I give back to other writers and, to all who wish to learn. Teaching is satisfying. I get to meet some wonderful like-minded people and then when it’s all over, I get to take those experiences and the shared memories back with me so I can enrich my own writing.

 

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Writing Tips – What To Do When Your Brain Says Go Away!

Brain

Annette Young - Authorby Annette Young

I love writing for a living. It’s not always the easiest job, but for me, it is the most satisfying. Even on those days when the words fail to come, I know it’s just a temporary lull in my creativity. There are days though when you may start to wonder whether a stick of dynamite might be the only thing that will explode your brain into operating again. I know from experience that there are a number of things that can stop productivity – too much stress, too much alcohol, not enough sleep, and, perhaps surprisingly, a lack of deadlines nipping at the heels.

There have been times when I have pinned myself to the chair, gazed in desperation at my blank screen, rubbed my head furiously, and even growled at myself a few times, all to no avail. Eventually, I have moved away from my desk, resorting to a last method, relinquishing the hoover from its cupboard prison, preferring the mundane action of cleaning, to the desperation of trying to write.

So sitting down waiting for the words to come, is not really the answer. It’s not writers block per se, it’s as if the brain is taking time off, but often when you need your creativity the most. Like today, I knew today was going to be tough. I woke up with a headache, I didn’t feel energetic or creative but I had so much work to get on with it, I wasn’t even sure where to start. I hate days like this when even the slightest task is like climbing a mountain.  Annoyingly, I even turned down the chance for a day out in the French countryside because I  needed to get my head down and to get on with it. In reality, the day out would have probably done the trick, but I knew that I couldn’t spare the time.

My tricks of the trade to overcome that fuzzy, foggy headed feeling include this selection of writing tips:

  • Switch projects, choose a different writing task and this will free those words.
  • Write a to-do list. Works well if you are overwhelmed with the workload.
  • Edit. If you are writing a book this is easy. Spend time editing a previous chapter and this will have you buzzing with ideas in no time.
  • Drink water. You might be dehydrated and fuzzy minded as a result. Have a bottle of water next to you on your desk.
  • Get outside. Just a change of scenery can click your brain into gear, breathe in some fresh air and let the oxygen revitalise your brain.
  • Exercise. When I can’t think, I go out onto my terrace and practise my yoga and switch off the creative process, when finished, I feel better, more in control.
  • Pick up the hoover, nothing will make you want to write more than having to do a bout of cleaning.
  • Read. Flick through a magazine, look at the reader’s letters, imagine writing a reply or actually do so if it gets those words onto paper.
  • Write down all the reasons why you love to write. By the end of your list, you will at least have remembered your attachment to the written word and feel more motivated.
  • Watch the news. Write a torrent of words that describe how you feel about the latest atrocity.
  • Visualise.  Think about your story, your article or your book, try to bring it all to life, but don’t think about writing.

You will find that once you have stopped the, ‘ I can’t think’ thought process, the words will come. Sometimes, the brain just needs oiling so that you can get those words out. Your brain might say go away, but you need to try to trick it to make it perform.

You may  have many more tricks to overcome those stagnant writing moments, feel free to share them in the comments section.

Write Little and Often – Even if You Have to Nail Yourself to the Chair

make yourself writeby Annette Young

Nailing yourself to the chair is a kind of extreme way of making yourself write, although there have been times when I would have almost considered anything to try to make myself get into the writing mood. I do know how important it is to keep the flow of words coming even on those off -days when a writing task that might take one hour usually could easily treble to three. Without doubt, there will be times when the last thing you want to do is to be creative, you are tempted with a million reasons to do anything but write and yet, you can’t give into this mental lethargy. You have to do something to get those words out of your head and onto paper .

I got up this morning, went into my office, took one look at the ever rising pile of paperwork and almost walked straight back out. My brain felt muddled, I couldn’t think about the workload and the deadlines, in fact, they were probably the reason why my brain said no -not happening today. If I had forced myself into the chair and started working, progress would have been very slow. Instead, trying to look marginally awake, I headed straight out in the hopes that it would spark up some sort of creative thinking.

It worked. Scurrying clouds lined in silver gave way to glorious sunshine and a golden glow to everything, the flowers, the blossom,even the grass developed a more vibrant shade of green. Instead of thinking, I just allowed myself to become a part of the scene. I took the pressure off myself to perform and instead, just inwardly absorbed.  I carried on walking for a bit and cleared my mind,  mentally dusting off cobwebs from my brain.

I watched a plane fly overhead cutting a trail through the clouds and imagined just for a moment where those people might be going, then, giggles broke the silence, and I watched a young girl chasing after her dog as it scurried down a quiet lane enjoying the game. As I turned I saw an old man, his face lined, eyes kind, sitting quietly, contemplating life and observing. He seemed comfortable in his spot, relaxed.

This is what we have to do sometimes as writers.

Sure there is a time to sit yourself down and go through the pain of writing when the words won’t come, but at other times, escape, just for a little bit. Tell yourself that this is part of the writing process. We may live in our imaginations but sometimes, we have to take a deep breath and touch base with all that is around us.  Then when recharged, we go back to our writing space and we sit and let words flow, even if the words mean very little and are disjointed. We have to write little and often and then we can usually beat the creative slump, and the words flow suddenly thick and fast. But on the days where it is impossible, go outside, and take ten minutes to connect with the world, take a few deep breaths and remember that as writers we capture the essence of all that is around us. When those all important minutes are up, we get back on the creative track and we let the words out.