Restarting Your Creativity: Part III

PART THREE: FINDING MOTIVATION

Some advice I was given (and tried my best to follow) is to write something, anything every single day. Writing is like sport, and like any sport you need to practice to get good. Sometimes this might be a few thousand words, sometimes a paragraph or a sentence or even a single word. Everyone works in different ways but the surest and strongest way to get started is to do just that. Start. And everything starts somewhere.

These are some ways in which you can find your motivation today!

1.) Clean your workspace

It sounds counter-productive and sometimes it is. If your workspace isn’t how you want it, it might put you off for days, weeks, or even months. Clean it. Tidy it. Make sure it’s not a distraction.

2.) Set yourself a challenge

As with finding time, challenges can be very handy to motivate you. If you need to get 3,000 words done by Friday and you have a friend holding you to it, you’re not going to want to disappoint that friend. Generally you have an understanding of your own working ability so it is up to you to set yourself a goal or challenge that you will realistically meet. If you are a slow writer you might aim for 500 words or a page a day, or if you’re a quick writer a few thousand words might not be too ambitious. But a challenge that works for you won’t necessarily work for everyone.

 

3.) Enter a competition

Competitions give you deadlines not just for a word count but for a polished copy of whatever it is you’re writing. Working towards this deadline, in theory, means working towards a deadline of at least one week ahead and then taking the time to edit thoroughly before submission. Even if you don’t end up entering your work you put the time and effort into creating it.

4.) Ask a friend or family member to read your work

This would also appear on a lot of lists of what not to do. But in the end you want to be motivated right? You want to hear about how much talent you have and how wonderful you are. So get someone who loves you to read your work and bask in their praise. Hopefully, if you push on, people who don’t know you will also want to praise you.

5.) Tell someone about your writing

In telling someone about your project you’re making it real. They might remember and ask you how the writing is coming along. Plus, if you’re talking about it you’re thinking about it, and if you’re thinking about it you’re working on it. Don’t worry if it comes to nothing or if you switch from one project to another, just keep voicing those ideas.

6.) Read good books

Writers are always encouraged to be constantly reading. The advantage of this is you’re surrounding yourself with good writing, which encourages you to also produce good writing. As I mentioned in Rediscovering your Inspiration, reading something that provokes you (in a good or bad way) is also helpful. It encourages you to do better and to respond to the work. The caution here of course is to let yourself read bad books, but not bad writing. Bad books make you want to do better (and destroy your faith in humanity), but bad writing is just… bad.

7.) Read literary magazines

Find out what’s going on in the writing world and stay in touch with it. Know it’s where you belong and stay there. You might write highly experimental literary fiction and find places like The Lifted Brow and (increasingly) Voiceworks a great comfort. Or you might prefer Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, or Overland, there are plenty of literary magazines out there. You might even just want to stay up to date with Tulpa Magazine (we have a newsletter, you should sign up!). Whatever you decide to do, keep literary magazines in mind—we certainly have plenty to offer. Tulpa is currently free to read, and other places (if you don’t want to pay subscription fees) are generally available in your library.

8.) Stop reading

Yes I am contradicting my earlier point. If you’re like me (constantly reading) you might find that this motivates you to write. You’re so used to being in a story that you need to write just to get back into the zone. You’ll be desperate to finish your project just so that you can escape back into a good book.

9.) Have a plan

Some writers are pantsers and some are planners. Know which one you are and how much planning you need to have done in order to succeed. If you’re a pantser hold on tight to your idea, sit down, and start writing. If you’re a planner, like me, you might want to have a highly detailed plan and over-write the hell out of your piece. As long as it works for you it works!

10.) Have a write-in

You might work best on your own but there is seriously nothing like writing with others. Hearing other keyboards going, pens scraping paper, having the occasional chat and talking about your work is always a wonderful experience. I’ve personally found this can also work well with visual artists because you’re all doing something creative and losing yourself in your work in the same way. Writers SA run a write-in called TWELVE each quarter where you spend twelve hours working on a creative project. Alternately Simone Corletto and Mhairi Tocher run a regular virtual write-in called the YA Jungle which you are welcome to follow along with. To find out more check out their website.

One of the biggest things I would like for you to take from my Restarting Your Creativity series is that you are more than capable of writing. You can finish your project. You can find the time, inspiration, and motivation to fulfill your goals. There are so many things you can do to get yourself ready to write but the easiest and most effective thing to do is to just sit down and write. Make the time, get inspired, and get motivated.


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

 

OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:

Part I: Finding the Time to Write

Part II: Rediscovering your Inspiration

 

Restarting Your Creativity: Part II

RC_Rediscovering-Your-Inspiration_Illustration

 

PART TWO: REDISCOVERING YOUR INSPIRATION

Being a writer is scary business and what most people tend to ask is what project you’re working on now. But what if there isn’t any current project? What if you’re just pottering around and looking for inspiration? Well I’m here to tell you that inspiration is everywhere!

In my first-year creative writing class we were told that when a “normal” person looks at a tree all they see is a tree, but when a creative person looks at a tree they see a range of things: colour, shape, texture, smell, sound, life… We recognise that there are endless things happening inside, on, and around the tree. I’ve always found this interesting when thinking about inspiration. There is so much around us to be inspired by that we often don’t know where to look or even begin looking.

Here are some ways in which you can find inspiration today:

1.) Go outside. I mean it. Don’t just look out your window.

Like the tree analogy it’s always great to get outside, breath in the fresh air, and look around you at what you can see. There might be a bird zipping through a nearby tree, but how would you describe it? How would you get the motion, noise, and impression onto the page? Piri Eddy’s ‘The Bus Stop of Innumerable Displeasures’ is a great example of using this technique.

You could go for a walk and write about what you see. Write a walk poem and see where that takes you. Who would be walking the same route? Why? What would they be thinking of? Are they trying to reach something or someone? Or are they trying to escape?

2.) Go somewhere new

I always find that going somewhere new ignites creativity. You don’t even have to go far. You might just hop on a bus to the next town and have a wander. Just go somewhere unfamiliar. While you’re trying to find your way around you’re also trying to take in everything. Most times in fiction you have an outsider character, and this is a good way to embrace this situation by letting yourself get and feel a little lost. You’ll find you’re trying to take in everything at once and that’s just what your character is doing too!

3.) Talk to a stranger

Remember how as a kid you were always told not to talk to strangers? Do it. Every single person you know and have ever seen is a wealth of information on something. You just need to get them talking and find out what. Every single person you ever interact with can help you with your writing, even if you simply notice one mannerism that is somehow different or intriguing. You can use that in your writing. Think about what it means.

4.) Go people-watching

Similar to talking to strangers, but without having to talk. This is very much a sport for introverts. Those kids on the train discussing their friend’s girlfriend? They’re your inspiration. The babies learning to walk and talk? Doesn’t that teach you something? The strange Russian man on the street giving you dinner recommendations in your own town? He

is inspiring! Who is he? What is he doing here? Why did he come to Adelaide? These are all questions you can start asking yourself to ignite your creativity!

5.) Look up writing prompts

This is perhaps one of the easiest options. Use a prompt. There are plenty of generators online and the AWC does a monthly competition called Furious Fiction where you’re given an image and asked to write a 500 word short story beginning with what you see. If you don’t have access to the internet you can also use books, photos, and objects as a writing prompt. That blue zippo you saw on your walk home? Where did it come from? What’s it’s story? Was it dropped by accident? Was it thrown away? Did someone have a fight? Is this someone’s way of quitting smoking or cleaning up their lives? Or does it belong to someone who likes lighting fires?

6.) Have a conversation with your characters

Does this sound stupid? Maybe, but you’re a writer so who cares! You probably know that all your characters have their own unique voices, knowledge, and habits. Which means it’s safe to say they know more than you do when it comes to themselves. Whether you treat it as if they exist in a parallel universe or just in your head, you can always sit down and have a conversation with them. Sometimes it helps to do this on paper—and I wouldn’t be too worried if they start abusing you. They’re a part of you and what is a writer other than self- deprecating?

7.) Be your character

I like to pretend that I am my character sometimes. I do everything that they would do (within reason) and get a feel for how they think. If my character knows a language I want to know the language too. If my character likes science, I want to know all about their interest in science.

8.) Free write

The aim of free writing is to not overthink it. But guess what, you’re a writer and you’ll probably overthink it until you get used to it. Free writing is writing whatever comes into your mind without worrying about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Sometimes this will be entirely useless, but other times you’ll strike upon a gem of a phrase, the start to a scene, or overcome a problem you’ve been trying to solve since you were eight years old. When you free write it can be about anything or anyone. There is no right and no wrong way to do it. You just write.

9.) Indulge in some other creative practice

Paint, sing, play guitar, sew, make something—do something that is creative but has nothing to do with writing. You’d be surprised (even if you’re not good at whatever creative pursuit you try) at how much it helps to reset your mind. Art is all about expression and when you can’t seem to express yourself in one way, you should try to do it in another.

10.) Read a provocative writing book/post

This is my little secret. Generally, the idea is you read something about writing to inspire you, instead I think you should read bad advice about writing which will provoke you. For

me it’s Harry Bingham’s How to Write, which I do not own on principle. I came across the book at my local library when I was doing my research project in high school. I’m not going to tell you that the book is bad, I haven’t attempted to read it since, but there were certain quotes and passages I found provoking. I found that this particular book goaded me and during a write-in with Writers SA I came across the book again. And again, it encouraged me to get things done. So, read books about writing. Get to know which ones are good, which are bad, and which motivate you to succeed.

11.) Hang out with other writers/creatives

In part one I discussed the idea of a writers group. This is something which is good in all three respects (time, inspiration, and motivation) because you’ll be constantly challenged by your peers. When you talk to other writers or other creatives in general about their work it tends to be inspiring. Certain words or phrases lead you back to consider your own work and how you could be as together and as motivated as your fellow writer.

12.) Have a shower

Showers are a good way to reset your mind and body. In the shower your mind will often drift, and you’ll find yourself considering problems and scenarios both in your everyday life and your character’s. In the shower you can plan the next steps of your writing and get clean at the same time!

With any luck some of the above points will help you to rediscover your inspiration. Inspiration can be tricky sometimes, but it’s never gone completely and there are plenty of ways to rediscover it.


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

 

OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:

Part I: Finding the Time to Write

Part III: Finding Motivation

 

Imposter! – Making Sense Of, and Combatting, Writer’s Doubt

I don’t think I’m good enough – I don’t think I’ll ever be good enough. I feel like I don’t belong, like an imposter. How long until someone realises that I’m not like them? That I’m not a real writer?

Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or an accomplished writer, chances are that you’ve experienced these kinds of thoughts. Imposter syndrome is incredibly common among creative people and is often the source of much anxiety and dread. It can take several forms, all of which deal with feelings of self-doubt.

‘I’m not as good as…’

Often it can be a matter of feeling inferior, of comparing yourself to the ‘greats’ of the literary world and finding that you just can’t measure up. You find yourself looking at your work as if it ought to be the next Harry Potter and find yourself extremely put-out when it’s not even close. You might not even compare yourself to the prodigies of the creative world. You might find yourself feeling inferior around your circle of writing friends. They seem so confident. You’re certain they’re going to do well – much better than you ever could. You feel like a fake – you’re pretending to be one of them but really you’re just a wannabe.

The best way to overcome this feeling of inferiority is to take a step back and realise that you aren’t the only one who feels like they aren’t good enough. The truth is that even big name authors feel the sting of inadequacy from time to time. It’s also important to remember that being a writer isn’t about being the best of the best – after all, those kinds of distinctions are subjective. What matters is that you create the best work that you can. Your work is uniquely your own and can’t be compared with the work of others. Your success can’t be measured in the same way as someone else’s. Especially when it comes to the unruly and unpredictable world of publishing. Never measure your worth as a writer by things as superficial as how many books you’ve published or how many followers you have on Twitter or Instagram. Look at your own personal milestones and be proud of what you’ve achieved while working your way towards doing even more.

‘I just can’t get it right…’

Another form of doubt is in the quality of your work. You’ll find no harsher critic than yourself, or so the old adage says. It’s not uncommon to find yourself looking at your work and thinking that there is nothing to salvage, that every bit of it is rubbish. But before you delete that manuscript or burn that notebook remember that no work is perfect. Perfectionism is a writer’s worst enemy and, unfortunately, one of their oldest bosom pals. Everything always seems to come together nicely in our heads but then turns into a poor imitation when we see it on the page. Nothing is as poetic, as dramatic or as lush in detail when we write it down – and that’s just plain disheartening.

Many, and I mean many, writers get hung up on their own imperfection. They want their creative project to be perfect! They’ll write and rewrite in the hopes of making their work exactly as they think it should be. While this seems an admirable goal it’s also a sure-fire way to never finish anything. I myself have rewritten the opening chapter of one manuscript fourteen times and, it pains to me say it, it still isn’t perfect. But I have to ask myself if it ever will be, or, if perfection is really a goal worth striving for at all.

Of course the answer is a resounding ‘no!’. Every book you see when you walk into the library or the store is imperfect. At some point the author has realised that their work will never reach perfection and that it doesn’t need to. A good book is a good book. It doesn’t need to be the best thing to ever happen to the English language. It just needs to be something that the author is proud of and that readers can enjoy. It doesn’t hurt to lower your standards if your standards are unachievable. Perfectionism only gets in the way of your work and leaves you feeling like rubbish. Throw that sucker in the bin and write because you love it and because you have a story to tell – a story which, like you, isn’t perfect.

‘Do I even have what it takes?’

There are days when you feel like you were born to write – this is your calling, after all. Then there are days when you think that you are the world’s biggest fraud and, what’s worse, you’ve managed to con even yourself. You don’t seem to have any of the skills or the natural talent of other writers. So what makes you think you have any chance of succeeding at your craft? You might fumble your way through a few workshops, maybe read up on some writing blogs, and find that you are way out of your depth with this whole writing gig.

A good writer always aims to improve their craft, gain new skills and try new things. There is always room for improvement. Everyone starts in a different place with different skills, and different writing strengths and weaknesses. If you feel like you’re at the bottom of the ladder don’t let that stop you from writing. You have to start somewhere to get to where you want to be. Embrace the chance to develop your skills – see it as a welcome challenge rather than something that separates you from the pros.

Doubt is an ever-present scourge of writers everywhere but it can be managed. The most important thing to remember in times of self-doubt are that writing is something you have chosen to do because you enjoy it. It means something to you and what you create should be a product of your passion and determination. There is no bar by which to measure your success compared to others because your own writing experience is unique. There will be times when writing is hard, perhaps even impossible, and nothing seems to work. But remember that there is always time to edit, to improve and to grow as a writer. The journey is just as important as the finished product at the end.


Words by Lisandra Linde

Lisandra is an editor, writer, and Hons. student. She has been an editor and designer for Empire Times Magazine and runs advertising and promotion for Speakeasy Flinders and Quart Shorts. She writes Fantasy and essays and frequently performs at spoken word events around Adelaide. She tweets at @KrestianLullaby