Five steps to get you writing right now
Writing coach Jessica Page Morrell helps you kick-start your writingwith these tips
1. Set up shop: Ever since Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One's Own , women have longed for their own space to write in. We need a place all our own. Behind a closed door, we shut ourselves away from distractions to pursue ideas put to words. If you don't have an office, commandeer a corner, occupy a makeshift desk, borrow a cubicle at a library. If you share office space with family members, declare official office hours for yourself. Don't make excuses, make plans and create a workspace that calls to you.
2. Tools of the trade: Writing requires investing in yourself and just as a carpenter buys hammers and jigsaws to complete his job, so must a writer. Start with a good dictionary and study books on grammar and style. Study information online and buy books about techniques in the genre you're working. A neat shelf of reference books is a constant reminder that you're a writer, a comfort and inspiration when you're stuck.
3. Carry a writer's notebook: Always. Record those sudden insights and flashes. Pay attention to weather, record the first breath of spring or the muffled magic of a snowfall. Write about people, a colleague who drives you crazy, your sixth-form boyfriend, in-laws and childhood bullies. Write about your memories, beliefs and questions, but remember this is not a diary. It's a canvass, a safe, deep place to throw words together with Jackson Pollack abandon. Practise character sketches, scenes, poems. Write about grief, loss, jealousy. Write about the bugs, creatures and flowers. Write about how you imagine life in the 1800s or the Middle Ages. Write about places, worlds far from your own, populated by cowboys, sheiks, philanthropists, gypsies, Arctic explorers, royalty, conquerors and orphans. Never go into the world alone - arm yourself as a writer.
4. Read: Most of us came to writing through our love of reading. Writers must be constant and omnivorous readers. Never feel guilty about time spent reading because the rhythms and music of language, mysteries of structure and storytelling, will somehow slip into your consciousness as you read. Stephen King writes, 'Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn't, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page.' So while reading, note the point of view, voice, pacing, and fictional structure. Examine how Hemingway's sentences work. Notice the tone and mood that Edgar Allan Poe steals into a story to frighten you.
5. Enter the life: Surround yourself with writers. Meet kindred spirits in writing classes, online chats, at message boards, bookstores and critique groups. Attend book signings, writing conferences and workshops. You are not alone, the community of writers awaits you.