Every year I attend two local writer’s festivals in my area. My favourite takes place in a little town nestled along the coastline. A cosy park huddled on a hillside is the picturesque setting for this outdoor event. The undulating roof of the stage bows beneath leafy trees that line the pebbled trails weaving through the garden, and the briny air and faint splash of the surf restores vitality during a long day of listening and conversing with readers and writers.
This year, I settled back into my seat, eager to hear one particular author. Her book was a passionate story of betrayal and forgiveness in a war ravaged country, sweeping readers into the hardship and heartache of each character, loathing and falling in love with the flaws of humanity. She walked up to the podium on the stage, mumbled a thank-you into the microphone, opened her book, and began reading her selected passage. Disappointment swelled up in my chest. Her passionate and evocative writing was lost in the lifeless drone of her voice; she made no eye contact with her audience, as if she was home alone uttering her own words by rote. If I had not already read her book, I would not offer it even a cursory glance based on her presentation.
I think it is the ardent desire for many writers to publish and be honoured with an invitation to talk about their work. Writers must be active in marketing their work; it’s important to be able to present an energetic and passionate reading. Not everyone is skilled at public speaking, and we are not all actors, but we should be prepared to present our work with enthusiasm.
As a writer, if I know I will be expected to read from my book, and certainly if it’s my first presentation to an audience, I would take the time to choose my passages and practice reading them out loud. Speaking in front of an audience can be daunting, but if you have faith in your work and have taken the time to prepare, you will sing. Writing takes practice, not just in creating the words, but in bringing them to life with your passion.
Any creative endeavour requires breeding a little bit of selfishness. Writing is a lonely occupation that requires focus. It’s necessary to shut out the rest of the world in order to get your work done. The time you put aside for writing should be a sacred time where you can yield to your own vanity. It’s a time to forget the last conversation, stop thinking about errands, kids, parents, dinner, future vacations, work, household chores, etc., and crawl into a creative shield for a few hours.
Writing from home can be challenging; people have the impression that when you work from home you are available to them at all times. It’s important to lay down boundaries and create a working environment for yourself. Make it clear that this is your time, reserved for your work. If there’s a room for you to escape, go inside, close the door, and turn off the phone; if home is too much of a distraction, go to a coffee shop or a park; if you write on your work break, leave the office to avoid interruptions from employers or co-workers.
It’s essential to find some time in your day to cater to your creative self – cultivate your boundaries, etch out a sacred space, disconnect from the commonplace and slide into your own zone. The world, and all its diversions, will be there waiting when you return.
Do you have a favourite time of day or night to write? A period where your energy is at its peak? Most writers have a time of day they favour for writing; sometimes it’s dictated by routine, other times its just impulse. My favourite time is in the morning. I enjoy the peace of the dawn, before the day swells into a storm of phone calls, work, errands, friends and family. The morning feels like it belongs to me, my coffee, my notebook and my keyboard. There is a freshness in the unsullied beginning of a new day that stimulates me. I wake buoyed with vitality brought on by the lingering images of a fading dream or that exhilarating brain wave that woke me in the middle of the night. At the beginning of each new day, I am inspired with the promise of new discoveries.
I will always take advantage of any time I have to write, night or day, but it’s in the mornings where I have my most creative spells.
To write, you must have courage.
I do not meet forks in the road, only sharp, curving roadways with jutting blind corners. Sometimes I speed recklessly around sharp angles, heedless of the crash, and when I leave the road, I plunge into a surge of adrenaline, colliding into new and forbidden moments – sometimes those falls bring great joy; sometimes they are the tragedy I would like to forget.
Other days, I creep, hesitating before rounding the bend, and like wading through icy water, I feel the piercing stab of my decision, teasing me, calling me a coward for clinging to the wall.
It is not the false security of the wall at my back that saves me, it is the open air, the drop into endless possibilities; it is the freedom of taking a chance, propelling me to new places; it is the knowledge that if I land in darkness, there is always another curve to navigate.
An idea comes to you in the middle of the night; you drag yourself from the comfort of your bed and write it down before it fades away from your drowsy brain. The next day you sit down to review what you have written and wrinkle your brow in disappointment. This idea sounds familiar – hasn’t this already been done? Of course it has. Should you give up on it? Not necessarily.
It’s a safe bet that almost every concept a writer devises has been utilised or recycled at least once; with all the thousands of writers, and all the topics in the world, inevitably, your brilliant idea was already composed and presented in some capacity. The best way to make an idea unique is through your own writing style. Elements in your story will fluctuate with your own voice, transforming your narrative into its own unique existence. No one tells a story the exact same way; no one will have the same writing style as you, therefore an idea, even an old one, can be reinvented. Ideas are born out of existing notions, like a bough emerging from a tree trunk. Many ideas will branch off into their own life. Ideas come and go, but they have all been imagined by someone somewhere.
There are no original ideas, but there is an original approach to the story you want to tell. Find the foundation and climb onto your own branch.