Writing About Writing | Easy Inspo for Writers’ Block Sufferers

 

So you have writers’ block. Whether you’re a blogger, creative writer, journalist or any other kind of writer, it happens to the best of us and boy is it bad when it does. There are times when nothing seems to get the inspiration flowing; no level of playlist making, book reading, exercising or meditating on mountain tops helps (okay, I may not have actually tried the last one and I know you’re all laughing at the idea of exercise, work with me here). Don’t panic, there is still some hope for you yet!

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I’ve been writing properly for about 5 years now, and in that time I’ve been struck with writers’ block several (hundred) times. In that time, I’ve done what I’m sure many writers do; tried thousands of fruitless google searches to motivate myself, given up and binge watched box sets instead until another idea pops up. I have, however, collected several unique and interesting methods of writing, ways of getting new ideas and general tips for getting over writers’ block – so while I do still succumb to the box sets more often than I should (I am in fact searching for the remote so I can put Merlin on as I type), here are some ways that can be used to deal with the dreaded curse.

Written Prompts

Okay, this is an obvious one, but definitely effective. Oneword.com is a site dedicated to this – they have a new one-word prompt every day. The set-up of the site allows you to write as much as possible on the word in 60 seconds before submitting it to their forums, however you can of course just as easily use the word without setting a time limit. Setting a limit can be useful, and of course you can extend and edit after the minute is over, but it isn’t everyone’s style.

If you’re looking for inspiration for an existing story, it can help to pick several mismatched or random words, and attempt to use them in a single paragraph, page or chapter. There are a lot of websites and sources (including other blogs) that have lists of words – I pick a list, then use a number generator and pick the words in line with 5-10 of those numbers. To get you started, have a few words on me – do with them what you will:

Stale

Jewellery

Ice Cream 

Undesirable 

Boiler

Strength 

Rain 

Jasmine 

Lucid 

Possibility

Photographic Prompts

I recently finished reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (come back on Wednesday for my review!). Ransom Riggs used photographs not only to inspire his work, but wrote them into the narrative. The peculiar children are based on real photos from Riggs’ collection, which are featured throughout the book. This is a style of writing that I’ve only tried once, but which can make for an interesting experience for both writer and reader – and with an image already there you don’t have to worry too much about description and focus on the story, which can be helpful when inspiration is waning.

Try this on for size:

 

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I’m sure it would seem a lot more mystical without my dog there, but there we go.

Music/Poetry

Try doing the same with music or poetry. Many writers use others’ works, particularly poems, as inspiration. They don’t have to be at the forefront of your work, but you could take the meaning or even just a line you like and turn it into a piece.

Found Pieces

Found poetry is where you take existing texts and use them to create something else – this could even work for prose. I once wrote a poem only using text messages from my inbox.

Be Nosy

Listen to conversations, people-watch, pay attention to things that seem interesting in your day to day life – you’d be amazed at where inspiration can come from. In the summer before my final year of university I worked at a charity shop. One day I watched an old lady eat her sandwiches on a bench outside under an umbrella on one of the hottest days of the year. 18 months later and I’m still working on a piece centred around that scene.

The Sky’s the Limit?

Try setting a time limit, or trying to write something to an exact word count. My first assignment for a university seminar was to write a love story of exactly 101 words. You could try only writing sentences with an odd number of words, or start every sentence with the same letter. Writing to strict rules can be difficult, but it’s also a really good exercise and could help get the imagination flowing in the way you write as well as what you write.

And if none of those work…

Take A Break – You Deserve It.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back, have a breather, and come back to your work with fresh eyes. Whether you go to work on something else or finish the aforementioned box sets, a break can be beneficial.

 I hope this has been somewhat helpful in curing writers’ block, or providing some new ways to approach writing. These are all things I’ve tried and while they don’t always help, they are a challenge and fun to try. Let me know if you give any of these a go and how useful you found them! (Or useless, as the case may be). 

See you soon,

 

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Devil’s Playground

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Devil’s Playground is an action-packed novel centred around Mia Sawan, American-Lebanese spy for mysterious company The Firm. A Christian banker is crucified in Beirut, then the 10-year old daughter of a powerful mayor in Azerbaijan is kidnapped. Both crime scenes have tags linked to a known criminal, but Mia isn’t so sure it is an open-shut case – or of what the link between the two actually is.

The idea for this novel is incredibly strong. This has been well thought out, researched and it is clear that the author knows his stuff. The start of the novel, for example, is shocking and incredibly powerful. Mia’s character is a strong willed, intelligent, sex positive woman of colour and I wish we could see more of these, especially coming from white male writers like Kidson.

I love the concept, and was looking forward to reading the book. Unfortunately for me the writing didn’t quite match the strength of the ideas. The text tells an awful lot, and is very open – considering this is a book about covert investigation, this isn’t the best match. It is difficult to find a good balance between getting your intentions across and over-explaining, and in Devil’s Playground this hasn’t been perfected.  I also found that while some things were over-explained, such as what Mia wore, others weren’t discussed enough. I would have liked to have seen more of “The Firm”, and some more scenic description – it may not be as exciting as the action packed scenes we saw so much of, but I believe it would’ve added more depth and realism to the book. It is set somewhere that for many Western readers is a mystery, so it would’ve been nice to have had a better picture painted of the settings. It may be that I don’t read action often, but I find that scene after scene of action gets tiring rather than having the desired effect. When every page is written to shock or excite I find that I desensitise and lose interest. Of course there are rest breaks, but the text is very fast paced.

Overall, the novel had a controversial but gripping plotline, however I felt that this was let down by poor editing and a mismatched writing style. This is very easy to do and I admire the clear amount of knowledge and thought put into the concept, but the writing distracted from the story too much for me to fully enjoy it.

See you soon,

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Last Post: Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Amber Shadows

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Amber Shadows


‘You’ve dropped your book.’ He reaches to the floor.

   ‘How clumsy of me.’ The blond sticks out his hand. ‘Thank you.’

   ‘Figley’s Book of Ciphers. Ha. Not planning on fighting Fritz with that, are you?’

   ‘Gracious, no.’ The blond man laughs. ‘Gift from my father when I was a boy.’
The Amber Shadows is a novel set in Bletchley Park during World War Two. The novel centres around Honey Deschamps. Honey works in Hut 6, transcribing decrypted German messages. Aside from her top secret work, war raging on and reclusive billet family she lives a relatively normal life. She’s embarrassed by her mother’s flamboyant lifestyle as a dancer and entertainer, who in turn is embarrassed by her daughter’s plainness, she goes out with her friends and enjoys a drink and a laugh…then she’s approached by Felix.

Felix works for a neighbouring hut to Honey’s, but the huts rarely communicate unless it is work related. It is surprising, then, when he and his greyhound Nijinsky approach her with a parcel that he claims was delivered to his hut by mistake. This is the first in a series of mysterious parcels that appear to be from Honey’s long lost Russian father. 

The book starts off strong. The setting provides that juxtaposed combination of mystery and idyllic scenery, mixed with the wartime pride in our country that Brits lap up. Saying that, however, the book is under no illusions about the reality of war – I usually have reservations about war time fiction, however this is done very well. There isn’t really the glorification seen in some war time fiction, the characters simply…live. They really do make do and mend, but this isn’t seen as particularly good or bad – it’s just the way it is. On the flip side, there are some very dark moments and these are portrayed sensitively. Historically it is clear that Ribchester has researched both the Park and the time period extensively. There is some lovely attention to detail. 

This is a book that, much like the Park, holds its cards close to its chest. The secrets of the packages and the questions the readers ask aren’t answered fully until the very last moment. This is one of those books where all is revealed and you suddenly realise there were clues staring you in the face all along – even in the characters’ body language. In some ways this is jarring, and I was left feeling like the pacing was off. One has to wonder whether this was the intention all along – in true Bletchley Park fashion, information is revealed as and when it is needed.   

See you soon,


Always in the Write | Why I Chose My Blog Name

I’ve had a lot of compliments on my blog name, and being honest I’m actually quite proud of it – I think it might be the highest quality thing to come out of the cloud of dissertation preparation that was November 2015!  At the time I was thinking about what the hell I was going to do come graduation (tip: don’t take 8 months to figure this out and still not come up with anything!!), and decided that a blog would at the very least keep me writing, even if I wasn’t in a relevant job. A stroke of genius while trying to think of decent literary puns led to me saving Always in the Write on WordPress. I left it to be picked up when I had more time. I didn’t have more time until May, but I did pick it up – which if I’m being honest was a bit of a miracle. Looking back I probably should’ve planned ahead and written at least some ideas down in the months between coming up with the name and actually going live, but I’m not that clever. At least I went and did it, and I haven’t given up yet.

 

 

 

Here we are, still. I’m not in a relevant job yet, but the blog still motivates me to write. I’m invested in this now – this isn’t just a way to hone skills or something that looks good on a CV, this is something I truly care about and want to do well.

That’s great Ro, but why did you choose the damn name?

On to the name itself, there are several reasons I chose it –

  1. As I said before, I love a good pun.
  2. I AM always in the right. Ask anyone.
  3. I wanted this to be about my writing. I didn’t want to lose my love of writing (and reading) and I thought that if I had it in my blog name I’d be more inclined to, y’know, write. I committed to going into a writing job after initially planning on going in to teaching – keeping writing as a focus in my life and blog is a way to ensure I don’t lose focus or touch with my goals.
  4. Hello, it’s genius. I’m a genius. Perfect match.
  5. As cheesy as it sounds, it felt right. I’m a big believer in my own intuition and I had a good feeling about this name – perhaps like wands the blog name chooses the blogger…or I’m just a genius (see point 4)

I really like my blog name. I think it’s cute, clever and sums up what I want the blog to reflect – good quality, interesting writing and lots of books! I did think of it while the goal was to have a more creative writing focused blog, but I still think it fits me and my written voice well.

That’s my opinion, what’s yours? How did you choose your blog name and what do you think of it now?

See you soon,

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Last Post: Review Wednesday | Purple Hibiscus

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Review Wednesday | Purple Hibiscus

Mama had greeted him in the traditional way that women were supposed to, bending low and offering him her back so that he would pat it with his fan made of the soft, straw-coloured tail of an animal. Back home that night, Papa told Mama that it was sinful. You did not bow to another human being. It was an ungodly tradition, bowing to an Igwe. So, a few days later, when we went to see the bishop at Awka, I did not kneel to kiss his ring. I wanted to make Papa proud. But Papa yanked my ear in the car and said I did not have the spirit of discernment. The bishop was a man of God; the Igwe was merely a traditional ruler.

I don’t normally talk about what brought me to read a book on here, mostly because a lot of them were simply there or looked good/pretty. With Purple Hibiscus, however, I think there needs to be an exception. Many of you may have seen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Newsnight back in November, discussing the US election with Robert Emmett Tyrell, founder and editor-in-chief of conservative magazine ‘The American Spectator’. Tyrell was unable to see racism or even real fault with Trump’s campaign rhetoric. When Adichie responded he accused her of being emotional – and therefore apparently incapable of intelligent or logical thought. Adichie explained, quite calmly for a woman effectively being told to sit down and shut up, that as a white male he is in a privileged position and cannot define racism. Even if he could, all evidence points to Trump promoting hateful and dangerous attitudes towards people at disadvantage; people of colour, immigrants, disabled people and women. The way Adichie held herself with grace and elegance, despite being visibly upset and angered by these remarks was admirable. She dealt with this situation beautifully, especially considering that she was unaware she was to be on the show with another guest until she arrived. She is a strong, smart woman and her writing in Purple Hibiscus reflects this.

Purple Hibiscus was Adichie’s debut novel, first published in 2003. The novel is told through the eyes of fifteen year old Kambili’s, a Nigerian Igbo girl. She, along with her brother Jaja and mother, lives in the shadow of her overbearing and strictly Catholic father. She has an almost outside view of him – she is enamoured by the charitable, God-loving exterior that her wider community sees, but struggles to consolidate this with the abusive, cruel-hearted man only seen within the walls of their compound. Her world is flipped upside down as she begins to see through his shiny exterior.

What strikes me about this novel is its incredibly strong voices. Kambili, while submissive and oppressed by her father speaks eloquently – a reflection of both the character’s strict education and the writer’s own tone. She rarely actually says more than a few words, but her internal narrative is intelligent and mature. Of course this is in part Adichie’s personal writing style shining through, but fits Kambili well. Her Aunt Ifeoma is fiercely passionate and confident, laughing loudly and standing fearless in the face of both her brother and the prospect of losing her job. Her grandfather, Papa-Nnukwu is peaceful and respectful of his son’s faith, but strong in his own traditional indigenous beliefs while JaJa’s fiery temper increases as he becomes more disillusioned by his father’s behaviour.

Her Papa is by far the loudest voice, unsurprisingly. Of course this doesn’t, however, make him the strongest character. He is overpowering, speaking over those he considers lesser and ensuring he gets his own way – no matter the cost. We are shown shocking acts of violence and cruel outbursts, particularly against his wife. She is deeply afraid that as such a popular figure in the community he will be seduced by a younger woman and leave her, but believes that giving him another child would prove her worth. He is more concerned by his image, though I’m not sure whether he is concerned with his image in the eyes of God or the eyes of the clergy. He often appears to use religion and charity as leverage to work his way up the social ladder, rather than a way to please God, and yet insists on saying long, sermon–like grace prayers. Perhaps he just likes the sound of his own voice.

Throughout the novel I was prone to comparing it to The Poisonwood Bible, and in many ways they are very similar. Religion and colonialism are strong themes, and it was interesting to see such a similar story told by a native African voice. I intend to compare them in detail in a future post, but I will say this – the sensible, intelligent Kambili is a much stronger 15 year-old than American Dream obsessed Rachel Price.

I’ve rewritten this several times and still feel like I could revise it all day and not do the book justice, but I truly loved Purple Hibiscus – it is a harrowing, well thought out and engaging novel with a lot of heart. Read it and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

See you soon,

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Last Post: Always in the Write | I’m Back, Baby!

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Always in the Write | I’m Back, Baby!

Hello, hello, hello!

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Look at me, actually publishing things – how swish! I’m so glad to be back, I’ve truly missed posting and sharing my thoughts with you guys. I’m back and ready to share what I’ve been working on over the past few weeks with you. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, I’ll admit, but taking the pressure of having to post off has helped a lot. I’ve had the time to re-evaluate what I’m doing, work out what isn’t working and how to fix it.

Good for you Ro, but why should we care?

Well, I’ll hopefully be posting more regularly and with higher quality content. I’ve been thinking about how to achieve this, knowing how damn lazy I am and what little time I have. I’m struggling to find a perfect solution, but I think cutting down how often I post, just for now, is a good idea. I rarely managed to post on ‘Fandom Friday’ anyway. So here’s what’s going to happen:

  • I’m keeping Review Wednesday as is. It’s the one day I manage to keep up with, and doing a weekly review is good for me.
  • I’m not posting on Monday and Friday any more. Instead, I’m doing Saturdays, at least right now. Maybe I’ll go back to Monday-Wednesday-Friday again soon but for now I need to know my limits and work around my schedule better.

What will the result be?

Well, I’m hoping to produce better quality, longer posts that are closer to what I want to be putting out into the world. I have some strong opinions (I am a strong woman, after all – comes with the territory) and there are things I’m always saying ‘I could write an essay on this’; so why don’t I? I want to have less posts that I see as ‘filler’ compared to what I want to put out. Look forward to seeing more creative pieces, more think pieces, and of course more reviews.

Okay, what else?

I want to be around more. I feel like I’ve been a terrible Teacup lately, abandoning my beloved chat just as Mama Teacup has FINALLY come back to blogging (catch Breanna over at Too Cute For Life). I want to engage with the blogging community more, especially my favourite bloggers, & I hope that in getting more organised I’ll have more time to get on to twitter chats, meetings etc. and read more blogs. Once I have a better schedule properly in place I might put one night aside a week specifically to get reading & commenting on more blogs. You can’t expect people to like you if you don’t give anything back, right?

One last little thing. I think I’m gonna be more relaxed about taking breaks – taking two weeks to plan and knock a few posts out has been really good for me & hopefully the blog. I’m not going to be scared any more about stopping if I need to – in blogging what I’ve learnt is that quantity is good but quality is better.

Anyway, that’s the plan. I’m getting my butt into gear and working it out – I hope you’re as excited about it as I am.

See you soon.

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Last Post: Always in the Write | Seven Month Itch?

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