By Stephen Lord
Our regular volunteer, Stephen Lord, discusses his most valuable resources for writing.
The most important resource I have is my writing group. Writing is a wretched, solitary and miserable business even on good days, and I couldn’t be without a support network of like-minded souls. They are beta testers, fact checkers, idea bouncer-offers and good mates all at the same time. If you’re not in a group, join one. If you can’t find one that’s into your sort of writing, start your own. It worked for me.
The following are more survival tips than resources per se, but still worth a mention:
Music. I find Pink Floyd helps my concentration immensely, but tastes may vary depending on whether or not you’re a frustrated hippie. Play something, usually but not necessarily instrumental, that helps you find your way to the zone and stay there as long as possible.
Trust your instincts. Plot in detail with the logical left hemisphere of your brain, then use the intuitive right hemisphere to write the first thing that comes into your head based on what you’ve planned. NB: This hemisphere thing works the other way round if you’re left-handed. I learned that the hard way.
Most important of all, RELAX! You’re making stuff up and writing it down, not curing cancer. Treat your writing as sport, then you’ll have fun with it and that will show in the work. If you think of it as make or break or break/life or death, you will choke, freeze, panic and do nothing just so you can avoid making mistakes. I’ve been there, done that, bought the T-shirt and done time on a therapist’s couch because of it. Trust me.
What resources for writing can you simply not live without? Are you part of a writing group? If yes, how has it helped?
Stephen Lord was born in Adelaide and has spent much of the ensuing time- after he learned he couldn’t play the guitar to save his life- reading, writing, daydreaming and making a nuisance of himself lurking around university English departments. He is hard at work on the first in a series of murder mysteries with supernatural undertones.
If we’re talking resources, I think the most important two are a notebook (with writing implement) and just the want to write.
It’s amazing how many people find out that I’m a writer and say, “I’ve always wanted to write, but… [insert lame excuse here].” If you want to write, just write. It doesn’t matter if it’s complete rubbish; there’s no rule that says you have to show people what you’ve written. Write and write and then write some more.
That’s where the notebook comes in. Even if it’s just 1 word, write it down. I’m a strong advocate of writing something every day. I have a personal minimum word count (200 words), but that’s me. You don’t need that. What if there’s nothing to write about? Then write a review of the book you’ve just finished, the TV show you’ve just watched, the bus ride you’ve just had. Listen to a conversation and try to transcribe it. Describe the tree in front of your neighbour’s house. Write a list of every Beatles song you can remember (without cheating on Google). Just write.
Oh, and as a resource it will eventually help to have some understanding of rules of the language in which you write. (http://stevengepp.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/on-the-tools-of-a-writer/) Having recently been offered the editorship of an anthology, the amount of writers submitting who don’t know the basics of their language and want to be seen as professional is stunning. Yes, I know an editor is supposed to fix mistakes, but not when there is a mistake on every single line. But that’s a personal bugbear.
Anyway, well done, Stephen. Nice list.
Great tips! Unfortunately there are no writing groups in my area that meet outside of business hours.
Sounds like you need to start your own! Even if it’s a Facebook group like Sean does below.
I am part of a writers group that I travel to Adelaide to participate in every month or so, I live in the mid north of the state and in the fortnight that I can’t make it down we skype me into the session. We also use the FB groups function.
Wow! The idea of using Skype and Facebook is terrific. Keeping connected is key!
Good to hear from you Stephen. Happy writing.