Tag Archives | creativity

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Berlin April 10

Catching up on my stored Instapaper* articles, I found a piece describing some of the (often strange and ritualised) ways in which acclaimed writers write.

Having spent the last few months twisting around myself, trying to organise the ideas and plans for my novel without going crazy, wondering if it was normal to spend so much time planning that the actual writing of prose seems to be the thing I do least, sitting at a desk buried in layers of post-its and index cards, writing in notebooks overrun with more arrows and crossings out than words – breathe, Rhian, breathe – to read about Ishiguro’s flow-charts, Mantel’s showers and Atwood’s scribbles has reassured me that I might be sane. Or, rather, normal. For a writer. Maybe.

Sounds like I have the ‘create whichever system/state of chaos you need in order to beckon and then trap your ideas’ part of novel-writing right, so all I need to do now is try not to flinch at the prospect of getting my prose anywhere near the level of those masters.

(Um, yes. I only want to read really bad fiction at the moment, stuff that makes me feel superior. Badly punctuated, excessively descriptive, heavy on the speech tags? Bring it on! Cliched or nonsensical characters in overwrought settings? Yes please! I’ve had to put my Maggie Stiefvater* backlog to one side, as I can’t handle the prettiness right now).

The article is here, and if you enjoy reading about the writing process then I recommend the Paris Review interviews – a fascinating collection of interviews with artists and writers, in several volumes. Volume 1 is my favourite, featuring Hemingway, Capote, Dorothy Parke, Joan Didion and Kurt Vonnegut.

*Instapaper ROCKS. Especially if you’re trying to reduce your time online, but don’t want to miss out on good reading. It’s especially useful for me because it syncs with my Kindle.

When I see something online I want to read, say an article about literary agents or a blog post about female YA writers, I click to send it to Instapaper and then The Magic Instapaper Fairies compile everything I’ve saved and email me a mini-newspaper made up of them.

So, I can give myself five minutes to scan Twitter, send any interesting links to my Instapaper account, wave at my friends and then get back to what I was supposed to be doing offline. The next morning, my Kindle receives a document containing anything I tagged, and I read it on the train. I don’t find myself online for hours reading when I should be writing, but I still get to keep up with interesting articles at a time I choose. LOVE. IT.

*the beginning scene in Linger, when Isabel comes into the bookshop? It slayed me, it was written so well. So much is conveyed without ever being explicit – I had to stomp around the house, loudly Giving Up Writing, before I could pick up either the book or my writing again.

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yawn

 

yawn

© spencer77

I read an article recently about ‘How To Be Creative’ which said,

Get Groggy.  According to a study published last month, people at their least alert time of day—think of a night person early in the morning—performed far better on various creative puzzles, sometimes improving their success rate by 50%. Grogginess has creative perks.

As anyone who’s lived with me, worked with me or talked to me before noon will tell you, I am not a morning person. But this groggy thing made sense to me. I thought it could be like working in that creative haze I get sometimes, when the words flow and I write cool dream-y stuff without trying. That most often happens when I’ve got a fever, so a way to recreate that without ‘flu sounded like something worth setting the alarm for.

So, I woke up early today and tried to write whilst groggy. Sat at my desk at 7am (which is extremely early for me), without coffee, and tried to blog. Then I tried journalling, then fiction. They all sucked. I suck. Mornings suck. My brain-fingers-keyboard interface needs coffee. To be honest, even with coffee I tend to stay fuzzy til about 2pm.

This post is here to prove that I once tried this – and am therefore excused from trying it ever again. It is now 9am and two hours of writing crap hasn’t been the best start to my day. To the coffee machine! And/or back to bed.

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Music to Write Girls By

photo © luca

Much typing here at writingislovely towers as I try to get this nth draft finished, in order to begin on the next and meet my deadline. Each draft adds more words, more detail, another layer of paint. Plenty gets cut, too, but please let’s not dwell on wordcount today.

This week I’ve been working on my heroines. Making them strong on the page, making them 3D – even though two of them are, at least in this telling, villainesses. Well, they need detail too, don’t they? Why would all the other characters cower and scatter at their approach, unless they have real substance? These ladies think they’re in the right, they think a Happy Ending is the one where they win and everything and everyone that was once in their way lies blackened and ruined. So, I’ve been spending time with them, imagining them centre stage, figuring out new nastiness for the violent one, new vanities for the cruel one.

And my ‘good’ heroine? Gah, she kept crying through one of the first, skeletal drafts. She didn’t like the forest, or being far from home, and she was worried she would lose and everyone would laugh at her. Okay, I see her point – but the heroines I like to read about, and the ones I want to write, have more courage than that. Of course they don’t like the scary forests, who would – the clue’s in the name, scary – but they figure out winning ways to get through it, tossing about quips and feats of cunning while they are at it. Hmmph. It is not as easy (of course) to write a character who is heroic, yet real, as it is to read one. Someone relatable yet still fantastic enough to warrant a tale. I’m getting there, but it will take a few more drafts ’til I am satisfied.

So. Here are some songs to write heroines by – whichever side they are on, good or evil. I didn’t want anti-man songs, or love songs if I could avoid it – the songs should be about how ace they are, not how rubbish boys are. These are songs that give me a swagger, so I hope that’ll be the case for your characters, as well.

As usual, if you don’t see a player please follow this link to 8tracks.com

(8tracks can only play songs in the same order twice, something to do with copyright & licensing. Here’s the tracklisting for the first couple of listens:

Wang Dang Doodle – PJ Harvey
Not Too Soon – Throwing Muses
The Littlest Birds – The Be Good Tanyas
Gone Again – Patti Smith
Walking Back to Happiness – Helen Shapiro
Rock ‘N Roll – Elastica
Monster Hospital – Metric
Feed The Tree – Belly)

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Music to Write Words By


I knew this post about background music was coming up, and I thought about trying to appear learned, discussing studies and suchlike and making a serious point. I was going to do research and links and everything.

But you know it already, don’t you? Background Music = Good. It can transform a load of tedious work into a sing-a-long-a-coding afternoon, it can help you input stats faster, or take you to that ‘zone’ where you concentrate and create. Either you have favourite tunes that you turn to, or you prefer silence but have to play something to drown out the traffic/CBeebies/howling wolves.

Here’s a mix of some songs from my ‘Writing’ folder – they are all wordless, so you won’t start singing along or find that the phrase you thought so original and poetic is actually a Ride lyric (yes, that has happened to me).

I live within earshot of two nurseries and two garages, but that’s not the only reason I have special ‘writing music’. I know that pre-mixed, timed playlists help me focus. The selection I’ve linked to below plays for about 30 minutes, and that’s important. It’s easy to get myself to sit down for half an hour, and while the mix is playing I don’t look up. I don’t need to look at the clock, or my phone, or anywhere other than my notebook or computer screen, because when it’s time to finish I’ll know – the music will end. And I’ll have half an hour of work done.

The music in my writing folder has been played so often now that certain songs sound odd unless I have a pen in my hand. That’s important, too; ritual is good for creativity. My brain knows that The Mercury Program or Tristeza always mean writing, and switches to work-mode faster that way.

Have a listen, let me know what you think, and sort out some playlists of your own. Tweet me your recommendations. They don’t have to be wordless (recently I’ve been playing a lot of Sonic Youth when writing, there’s something motorik about Daydream Nation that trances me out nicely), and if you always get your best work done to Hue + Cry, no one else has to know – just make sure it’s easy to press play when you sit at your desk.
(if you can’t see the player, I think it’s to do with Apple browsers. Have a listen on the site instead while I figure it out).

(8tracks can only play songs in the same order twice, something to do with copyright & licensing. Here’s the tracklisting for the first couple of listens:

1 Stolen Moments – The Six Parts Seven
2 My Only Swerving – El Ten Eleven
3 Dayvan Cowboy – Boards of Canada
4 So Long, Lonesome – Explosions in the Sky
5 Lori – Amiina
6 Open Sea Theme – Sven Libaek
7 Golden Hill – Tristeza
8 Isi – Neu!)

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