I had a script meeting in the pool this week. True story.
Doesn’t that sound Hollywood?
The reality is more prosaic: the pool (above) was the public lagoon next to the shopping mall in the ‘master-planned community I live in, and the script meeting was with my writing partner, who I have known forever.
This is all part of my plan to Make Writing Fun Again.
Somewhere in the past few years writing became a chore. If I was going to achieve my goal of being published or produced by the time I was 50, I needed to knuckle down! Pick up the speed, and pump out the work! Except I didn’t. I developed a real aversion to my own writing. I kept kicking myself for being lazy, but the real problem was that writing just wasn’t fun anymore.
It was Brisbane author Kim Wilkins, at a session at Genrecon three years ago, who put the idea back in my head that writing should be fun (I was slow learning this lesson!). She described plotting at her dining table with a glass of wine. I do recall trying that a couple of times but that wasn’t the answer for me.
After achieving very little for a very long time, I’m now making steady progress on a couple of projects at once:
- The script (well, treatment, so far) we plotted between Christmas and New Year and now we’re about one-third through the first draft.
- I’m also, the editor tells me, near as dammit done on a 5000 word short story I’ve been working on for an anthology my local writing group is producing. It’s the first time I’ve written a short story longer than 1000 words, and its been a real learning experience. I’ve had more scope to be expressive, but that came with more scope to make mistakes.
- And as of today, I’m 1800 words into the second draft of a science-fiction novella I plotted in November.
What’s made the difference?
I focused on making writing a joyful process for me, so I’ll look forward to it, instead of doing anything—even housework—to get out of it.
First of all, I made writing social again.
Working with a writing partner, something I haven’t done since the nineties, freed me up from my self-critic and allowed me to recognise how much I’ve learned over the years.
Belonging to a writing group is a different dynamic. Some members are vastly experienced and accomplished in comparison to me, and that can be intimidating, if I’m honest. On the other hand, there are younger people and people who haven’t yet attempted long form that I feel I have something to share with. Over time, you can’t help noticing we all experience the same up and downs, and we focus on encouraging and supporting each other. The effort we put in critiquing each other’s work really shows up in our own. I’m a chronic ‘head-hopper’. I generally do it without noticing, but now I’ve seen it in other people’s work, I’m more conscious of it.
For the novella, I took motivation from NanoWriMo. By the time I decided to try to write it in November, it was the last week of October and everyone was way too ahead of me, with detailed schedules and character profiles, when all I had was a short story to rewrite. I used the collective energy to spur me along, and create a sense of urgency.
The other thing I did was embody my writing.
Our bodies are intrinsically linked with our cognitive processes. When I was writing this blog regularly back in Brixton, I had a writing desk set up by the window in our spare room. After a time, the mere act of sitting down at it switched on my creative flow. This is an example of the mind-body connection.
Our brains mistake information for knowledge. Let’s call it the Olympic Gymnastics Syndrome: 216 weeks out of every 4 years, most of us pay zero attention to gymnastics. Come the second day of the floor routines, we’re all instant experts, exclaiming at the poor landings and the awkward body flight…without really knowing what it takes to perform those moves, or even how that reflects their skill.
I tend to be a bit ‘in my head’—I’ve told my doctors’ cancer made me realise I’d spent most of my adult life as a ‘bodyless head”, investing years in developing my intellect but largely ignoring my body. With a new perspective on my body, I’ve come to believe that learning can’t truly happen until you get your body involved.
You can watch all the Youtube videos you like on a topic, but it’s the practice you do with your body that really demonstrates what you know.
So: instead of sitting down at a desk, like I do all day at work, I turned my home desk into a standing desk. I prefer to write longhand anyway, but I switched that up a bit too, and have created my plot charts on big sheets of butchers’ paper with index cards stuck all over them. I stand in front of the wall and have to stretch up, and bend down. I put music on while I write, and often have to break to have a boogie. I get out my coloured pens and pencils and draw pictures related to the story. And I take myself to the pool to write, and to the park, and generally do what feels good.
It reminds me of how I used to spend my time alone as kid, and it’s made writing fun again. Hopefully over time my brain will become habituated to this as my creative process, and I’ll regain that easy flow I had going.