Summer is a lively season, full of afternoon excursions, visiting friends and family, sunset walks along the beach, and long evenings lingering on patios with refreshing drinks revelling in the beauty of the world. Summertime is the time when friends and family emerge from hibernation and your social calendar is unexpectedly overflowing with new obligations. It’s a wonderful time of year to celebrate life and spend time with loved ones. The downside to all this socializing is that it appears to snatch those coveted hours reserved for writing – but it doesn’t have to. This is the time when you need to become more organized in carving out those precious moments to keep working. Life and sunshine have returned to the earth but this doesn’t mean your work has to suffer – it just requires a bit more attention to finding the time to write. A little bit of vanity is a writer’s prerogative. I’ve written before that we have to be selfish in order to finish our work, but it’s just as important to find a balance in life. As much as we would love to be cloistered away in our own little worlds, there is a real world out there that helps feed our ravenous imagination, and without it, we would eventually find ourselves starving for those vital details that infuse life into our writing.
Enjoy the summer, step outside and allow the world to contribute to your thoughts, discover characters in the people around you and find those pockets of time for writing and creating – as you fall into the rhythm of summer, you will discover a balance between the outside world and the creative world of your own imagination and your writing will not suffer.
Titles are the headline to your stories. The title of your piece is the first thing a reader sees, and it can be an effective way to invite them into your story. The right title will always be remembered. Before I launched my first blog (The Old Lady in My Bones) I spent weeks writing down ideas. There are thousands of blogs in the world, and I wanted a unique name to make it memorable. The right title will stick in a reader’s mind, giving them the power to spread the word and introduce more readers to your work.
I enjoy the challenge of creating titles. I always begin a piece with a working title, and sometimes that title will be the right one from the start; sometimes I can build the story around the name; other times my title will change as the story develops. Before I make a final decision, I will revisit my story and search for key words that provide a small hint to the story’s subject. The title works as a magnet, attracting the reader to your story. Crafting a title is a very personal task. The title connects the writer to their project, and as a reader, I always enjoy the challenge of uncovering the connection between the title and the work. Sometimes the connection is obvious; other times, we can’t glimpse the relationship between the content and the title, but we understand, on some instinctive level, that there is a reason the writer chose to give this name to their story.
Finding the right name for your story or project can sometimes be a frustrating chore, but take the time to work through it, try to have a bit of fun with it, and have faith that sometime throughout your creative process the right title will emerge.
I’ve spent some time in physiotherapy clinics – physiotherapy is truly fascinating. Therapists teach patients exercises that help to strengthen muscles in the body. In the beginning these exercises can be challenging – you may only be able to do five sit-ups a day. Therapists help to lessen patient anxiety by teaching them more is less – start out with a little bit each day, and slowly increase the repetitions each week, or when you start to feel comfortable executing those movements. It takes time to prime muscles, but by exercising a little bit each day, they will become stronger.
The same technique can be applied to writing. You can strengthen the different elements of writing by working them a little bit at a time. Writing is conditioning the mind – just like exercising the body, the more you write, the better you will become. The hardest part is always in the beginning. The creative process takes time to cultivate. It doesn’t come naturally to most people. Start out with one small writing exercise a day. There are several writing prompts in books and online that can help you employ the different elements of writing and strengthen your imagination.
A day will come when you’ll be able to come to the desk and your mind will instinctively know where to discover the pieces that connect and shape the story you want to tell.
A few weeks ago my partner was out on our deck, potting and planting seeds for our yearly herbal garden. It’s inspiring to catch a glimpse of those first green sprouts as push their heads up through the moist earth and reach towards the sunlight.
Just like a garden plot, stories begin with a small seed of an idea planted in our imagination. The germination period is our brainstorming phase, as we try to assemble the nucleus of our story, much like a seed incubating in the earth. Language is taking shape in our mind, slowly pushing through each section of our narrative until, one fine day, it bursts through in lyrical splendour. Sometimes it only takes a sprinkling of words for our initial inspiration to blossom – other times it can take pages of free-writing before our idea is ready to swell on the page. Once it has burst through the mire of our vision, it’s ready to take on a life of its own. Now we need to water, prune, and sow to ensure its development.
Sometimes it can take a long time before those first baby shoots pop up– patience is a necessary evil, but once they’ve made it through the first stage, they will start to bloom, and then it’s up to us to cultivate their growth.