Sunday, 5 March 2017

Staying Motivated When You’re Skint, Pissed Off and Your Protagonists are Stalking Your Nightmares

You’re skint! You’ve been working on the same soul-hungry, ink-draining, end-dodging novel/screenplay/collection for so long that its characters have started to lurk around the corners of your nightmares and jump out at you with their demonic hair and crazy weapons of doom. When you wake up they’re still there, demanding your attention even though it’s a sunny day and you’ve been told there are actually real people in the world. You’ve starting to compare yourself to people your age, from your best mate to J.K. Rowling, both of whom have achievements that far outweigh your own. You’ve started to hide from your laptop because it’s looking at you all the time and you’re sure you can hear it calling you. Why aren’t you writing? You can’t run from me forever! You walk into the library and your heart sinks at the sheer volume of books confronting you. What could you possibly have to say that hasn’t already been said? And no one’s reading them anyway. You’re battling to produce a masterpiece that will end up in this large-print, pensioner-fingered graveyard before it’s even lived a life. All is lost!

But you know deep down that this is what you signed up for. You know that you can make a killing but not a living with a pen, so you drag yourself through the lean years. You know that there will be days when your characters salute you when the sun goes down and you can snuggle under your duvet as a hero of the craft, so you tolerate the struggle. You know that the majority of writers find success later in life and you’re in no hurry, but how can you keep your sanity in the meantime, when your self-confidence has buggered off in a taxi with your talent and you’re sitting on the floor thinking the unthinkable – of getting a proper job? Maybe this will help …

Read Something Awesome
This could be the book that you’ve been waiting to hit the shelves, a biography by an author who has been through what you’re going through, or your favourite book, which you’ve already read one hundred times. There is a danger of falling out of love with books when your own has had you in a headlock for so long, so be good to yourself and get into bed with a classic.

Do something Awesome
I waste a lot of time when I should be writing and I end up doing nothing. I think I’m fooling myself, but I’ve got my number. Watching ‘just one episode’ on Netflix, cleaning the house from top to bottom, alphabetising my shoes; this is not writing and I am fooling nobody. If writing just isn’t going to happen then better to be honest about it and go out into the world than spend a day wracked with guilt and zero productivity. Go have a good time and feel good. Go and do something awesome and inspiring and your creative world will reap the benefits anyway.

Make Contact with Awesome People
Write a letter (yes, a letter) to your favourite author. Why? Because they might actually write back to you with words of encouragement. Because it will make you feel good to reach out. Join writing forums and get Tweeting, join a real-life writing group to meet other writers who have pulled half their hair out over questions of point of view and characterisation. Get support.

Try an Awesome New Medium
If you’re a novelist, have a go at writing a screenplay; if you’re a screenwriter, try your hand at poetry; if you’re a poet, see what it feels like to develop a play; if you write comedy, get serious; if you are a literary author, lighten up; if you tend to write long, sprawling sentences, see what short bursts are like. Go further still; if you usually tell a story with words, try doing it with music or art, film or dance. There are many ways to tell a story and so many creative spaces in which to park your beautiful mind.

Write to Your Awesome Self
I read this tip in a book many years ago and it’s such a charming idea. Quite simply, write an emergency letter to be opened in times of deep dejection and distress. Write it when you’re feeling great. You’re the best writer ever. George Orwell and Virginia Woolf had a love affair and you were the result. There has never been a writer quite like you. Write it all down and go into specifics, remind yourself of what inspired you to write in the first place and what you would like to achieve with this project. Be kind to yourself.

Need help? Hayley Sherman has been supporting independent writers for nearly ten years as an editor, creative consultant and ghost-writer. Visit for more details.

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