Monday, 30 May 2016

May Reflections

There’s still a little blossom on the trees and there are daisies everywhere. Hurray for May and all the goodness it bought with it! I hope you had a lovely May and that June is as bright and beautiful as it can be. Here are a few things I’d like to share with you…


‘Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.’ - Roald Dahl

Being open to happiness and good fortune is the secret to finding it. Pay attention to the moments of magic in your life this month. Those moments might be little like when my Peter Rabbit obsessed nephew and me spotted a fluffy rabbit hopping through the grass on a walk. I look forward to finding the magic in Love from Boy: Roald Dahl's Letters to his Mother. Anyone who has ever loved the fantastic Mr. Dahl (i.e. everyone) will love these personal letters.

After reading She Came to Stay I was eager to read more Simone De Beauvoir so I was delighted this month to read her gem of a short story ‘The Age of Discretion.’ It tells the story of an ageing academic who is facing irrelevance in her career as well as unhappiness in her family life. De Beauvoir beautifully explores the relationship between growing older and the need to keep on learning.

This month I discovered that the editing and polishing process of writing a novel is quite difficult! When you’re writing something you have to cheer yourself on and keep going despite your insecurities. Editing calls for a more critical voice which can be disheartening at times. During editing you have to hold on to what you love about what you’ve written and why you wrote it in the first place. Having this sense of confidence will keep you afloat.

Focus on…Treasuring Memories
Though it’s important to live in the moment I think it’s also lovely to remember the good things. This month record and celebrate the sweet memories, moments, special days and happy things that have made you smile. Treat yourself to a beautiful photo frame for a special picture. Keep a scrapbook for those amazing days out. Savour and treasure the good times.

Things to look forward to in June:
1. Smelling beautiful roses
2. Homemade lemonade
3. Picnic Hampers filled up with treats!

How was your May? What are you looking forward to in June? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Inspiration: Seeking Inspiration

Inspiration, noun. A breathing in or infusion of some idea, purpose, etc. into the mind; the suggestion, awakening, or creation of some feeling or impulse, esp. of an exalted kind. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Where do ideas come from? How do you find inspiration? These are questions that anyone embarking upon a creative life seeks to answer. Even on those days when we feel blocked the inspiration is there. It is something inherent – we breathe in inspiration and breathe out creativity.

Inspiration is infinite. It can be found in the big and the small. It is free and available for everyone. It can strike us like lightning or frustrate us with its illusiveness.

Find it in the work of other artists. Read poetry. Visit galleries. Revisit favourite novels. Learn from the masters of your craft. Make them your mentors.

Hunt for inspiration in nature. Be outside and study the rhythms and patterns of the natural world. Clear your head and collect ideas as you go walking.

Delve into the biographies of people. Be fascinated by the ordinary and the extraordinary. Imagine living their lives. The mingling of imagination and empathy forges compelling characters.

Find inspiration in the visual. Find the story and the words behind pictures. Focus on small details, the clues that will lead you to the story that’s waiting to be told.

Study and harvest your past. Memory is powerful. Use your own experiences as the foundation. Delve through the catalogue of events, incidents, mannerisms and quirks you’ve recorded in your mind.

Seeking inspiration means being curious and open to ideas. Learn to mine for the gold of inspiration everywhere, in everyone and in everything.

Where do you find inspiration? Let me know in the comments section below!

Read more posts about Inspiration from The Literary Lady:

Monday, 23 May 2016

Writing Exercise: Setting the Scene

‘We are the children of our landscape; it dictates behaviour and even thought in the measure to which we are responsive to it.’ -  Lawrence Durrell

Environment is inescapable, it shapes our beliefs, our habits, our thoughts. A strong setting can say just as much in a story as the words of your characters. Use these exercises to explore the power of setting.

  • Find random images of places – lighthouses, planets, sheds, deserts, cafes – write for ten minutes about who you could imagine living in these spaces. Tease out the links between these places and their inhabitants.
  • Find an environment you know very well. Take a memory from this place and entwine it with your description of it. Let’s say you choose your childhood home: how does the description of your staircase change when you incorporate the memory of slipping on the third stair up as a child?
  • Look at this quote from The Creative Writing Coursebook: ‘Writing with a secret agenda gives a prose a pulse, a hidden but very real sense of animation. John Gardner in The Art of Fiction describes an exercise in which you are asked to describe a barn as seen by a man whose son has just been killed in a war. Do not, he says, mention the son or the war or death. “if worked on hard enough, a wonderful image will be evoked, a real barn would stand before us but one filled with mysterious meaning.”’ Use this principle to describe a place from a character’s perspective.
  • As this great article shows houses can make brilliant characters in their own right. Take a building or structure of some sort and give it a personality. Write about it like it’s a character in its own right.
What do you think of these exercises? Do you have any favourite setting exercises? Let me know below…

Thursday, 19 May 2016

How to Keep a Writing Journal

A while ago I talked about keeping a journal (you can catch up with that post here). Have you ever thought about using a journal specifically for your writing? It’s a great way of bringing together your ideas and helping you move forward in whatever you’re working on.

What can you include in a Writing Journal?

  • Ideas. Whenever you have a good idea get it written down in your journal. Over time you’ll build up a bank of ideas that you can turn to during creative dry spells.
  • Specific notes. If you’re a writer that likes to make a lot of notes, then having key points to help you in your writing is a good use for your journal. This could include an extensive guide to your plot and character profiles.
  • Activity Log. I’m a big believer in small, daily acts of progress. If you assign yourself a particular amount of words each day keeping a work log will track if you managed to do that. Use your log to note down problems you encountered, actions you need to take and things you want to work on the next day.
  • Quotations. As you’ll see in this post I love a good quote. I like to scatter inspiring quotations across my journal as encouragement.
  • Visual Stimuli. Images can be as powerful as words for creative inspiration. Use photos, paintings, magazine cuttings etc. to capture the mood of the thing you’re trying to write. If you need to write a vivid description of a place, object or person having a visual reminder of your subject can be really helpful.
  • Research notes. Keep any notes you make from research in your journal, this way you have all the information you need for handy reference. Keeping notes is also a great way of whittling down stacks of research into its most important points.
  • Reference. Consider having a reference page of websites, books and blogs that you find helpful. Be sure to include The Literary Lady!
  • Schedule. If you’re in the final stages of finishing a big project a schedule can help you to focus on particular chapters or scenes that need your attention. Try assigning yourself a different chapter to work on each week.

Do you have any ideas for what to keep in a writing journal? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 16 May 2016

Asking For Feedback: Tips for Writers

There comes a time in every writer’s life that they need to ask someone else to read their work. Asking for feedback is scary because you open up the door to criticism, rejection and indifference to your beloved creation. Reframe your fears and think of it as an opportunity to learn and to be a better writer. These pointers are things to consider to make the process as easy as possible… 

1. Be specific. When you ask someone to read your work always be specific about what you want feedback on. For instance, you may get a manuscript back full of spelling corrections when you actually wanted to know if the plot was any good. Likewise, if you want your grammar checked out it might be a disheartening when they tell you they think your prose needs work. 

2. Ask the right person. Be careful when you choose who you want to critique your work. This one is completely up to you. You might want someone who you know and love to read it, or you might want someone you don’t know so it’s more impersonal. You may want to find a member of your target readership or another writer. Whoever you choose let it be someone you really trust. Most importantly, be lovely to them, give them time and remember they’re doing you a favour. 

3. Make sure the time is right. Be mindful about when you send your work out for feedback. If you’ve just started a piece of work sending it out too early on its creative life could be damaging. Characters are not yet fully formed and the plot may still be hazy. Hearing criticism this early on could lead you to abandon it altogether. Get to know the project and let it bulk up before you expose it to the world. 

4. If you’ve ever been a student you’ll know how annoying it is when you’re given lazy, vague comments at the end of an essay. If the person giving you feedback says they don’t like something, try and get them to be specific about what it is exactly that bothers them. It might help if you give them a feedback form to fill in or ask them to give their feedback in person. 

5. Finally, when you get your feedback try and be open to criticism and advice, but remember that it’s just one opinion and that any writing issue is salvageable. 

Do you have a process when you ask for feedback? Who do you like to ask for feedback?

Monday, 2 May 2016

10 Artist Date Ideas

As it’s Bank Holiday Monday I wanted to write a fun, uplifting post and there’s nothing more fun and uplifting than an Artist Date. For those of you who are unfamiliar, an Artist Date is a concept thought up by Julia Cameron which appears in her brilliant book The Artist’s Way. She describes it as ‘a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.’ An Artist Date should be fun, playful, exciting, nurturing and designed to be quality time between you and your creativity. A date doesn’t have to be expensive or over-ambitious but it should be something you find joyful. Artist Dates make you happier, more creative and more in tune with yourself. Try them out and see what a difference it makes. Here are ten of my ideas to get you started...
  1. Go fruit picking and then make something yummy with all that lovely fresh produce.
  2. Indulge your inner child by having a day of childhood. Read your favourite children’s book and eat your favourite childhood treat. (Times like this I really miss Woolworths’ pic’n’mix)
  3. Write a letter to one of your favourite people.
  4. Buy a plain top and customise it with your own embellishments.
  5. Start a list book of your favourite things, like favourite films, books, people, shops, places, animals etc.
  6. Plan out your dream holiday/wedding/home/garden/or whatever takes your fancy. Illustrate with magazine pictures.
  7. Go somewhere you know well and take photographs as if you’d never visited it before.
  8. Ponder who would be your ideal dinner party guests.
  9. Treat yourself to a new nail varnish colour and a face pack. Have a little pamper session.
  10. Go the library and borrow five books about things that interest you. Spend an hour or two reading through them and see where this new knowledge takes you.
Which of these ideas would you try? Let me know in the comments section below!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...