Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I'm not really eavesdropping ...

OK, I am. I'm out and about, and as I pass you, you say something like, "She told him he had ten minutes to get his stuff and get out", or "I don't know how to tell him how I feel", or "Listen, kid, nobody asked you to be born." I hear you and I wonder what the story is behind those words.

There is a cartoonist in Melbourne who eavesdrops and then draws a cartoon each week in the Sunday Age - Oslo Davis. Funnily enough, his cartoons make me laugh and wonder about people, but they very rarely make me want to write. Perhaps the drawing takes away the urge? Or maybe it's simply that what intrigues him doesn't intrigue me.

Nonetheless, I do listen. And I watch. Sometimes it's better not to hear what they are saying and rely on body language. I do this a lot. Hence the way my boss rolled his eyes once when I asked a question told me a heck of a lot more than his answer, or anything he's done since! I watch the way people sit - arms tightly crossed, heads shaking while they agree with someone, the smile that makes their face look like they are in pain.

I listen to people make promises, pretend they are brave, protest loudly while they twist and squirm in their chair, tell lies while their bodies say they are totally hiding something. I listen to tone. Those who are loud but are whining like small children saying "Not fair". Those who lay down the law but use words and a tone that show their fear. And the people whose smile really does light up a room just because they are genuinely good, happy people (not many of them these days).

I gather up story ideas from all kinds of places, but very often from things people tell me - or half-tell me. Snippets of memory, of family secrets, of something that deeply affected them. I gather them from stories in the newspaper, too - I once wrote a whole novel based on a sentence from an article about a New York murder. I wrote a whole verse novel based on a social psychology experiment I was told about - the end result bore no resemblance to the original story whatsoever. It didn't matter. The spark was what mattered, what got me thinking, creating characters, making a story, taking huge leaps and bounds with ideas to create something big and meaty.

I have a lot of family stories of my own. After many years of believing I had nothing to say about my own life, apart from in a few poems, I have started writing memoir pieces. One day perhaps my grandson will read them. For now, it's a way of keeping some family history and memories intact. So often the past is dismissed. How many tons of family records, letters, photos and mementos have been tossed in the trash by family members who don't care or think it's better all gone and buried? When you have a family where your parents and grandparents are all gone, suddenly you see how many stories have been lost.

So if you feel the urge to write your own stories, your family stories, or even just to try and preserve things in some way for future generations, do it. And if you write and you hear something that lodges in your brain and won't let go, that you keep on hearing like an echo - let it grow. It could be a novel.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Online writing courses

I had to go back and correct a link in an old post, and I ended up reading a few others I had written more than ten years ago! It was an interesting experience. I hadn't realised I'd written so much about various writers' festivals and sessions, to start with. But I also found a post on online courses - it was written just when Tracey Rolfe and I were first creating online units for the Professional Writing and Editing course we teach in. I've decided to update the post and put it here, for things have changed indeed. Now everyone is doing it! Online writing courses, I mean.

Where I work and teach, there has been a constant push to get us to provide our courses and/or subjects online, particularly so we can offer them to overseas and remote/rural students. While some people shudder at the idea of studying via the computer without the stimulation of the classroom, I actually did most of my degree by off-campus delivery (no online technology in those days!) and recognised then and now that what made it work for me was the terrific study guides and course materials.

In some ways, writing is a great thing to study via the internet. When this push first started, they funded some of us to go online and become students for a while, testing out for ourselves what worked and what didn't. I chose to study the Writer's Digest Advanced Short Story course, and really enjoyed it. Mikki Hayden was the instructor, and as well as a structured series of units, I had access to their online library of articles and resources. What made this course especially memorable for me was that 9/11 happened about four weeks in, and several people ended up dropping out because of different ways in which they were affected by it (family or friends dying, living close by, etc). They did explain this to the rest of us, and then we all took a deep breath and kept going with the course.

So, in creating new materials and writing new content for my units, I keep all of these experiences in mind, plus the knowledge that students these days are much more used to using technology and the internet for study and fun. Many students are not able to attend face to face classes, for a variety of reasons. We started offering online units back in 2008, and in the past four years, our online student cohort has grown in leaps and bounds. Part of the reason for this is that more than half the TAFEs offering Professional Writing no longer do so.

Thus, our online writing subjects are now, as they were back then, available to anyone and everyone who has a computer and an internet connection.  Still, not all courses are the same. MOOCs have taken the world by storm, but statistics show less than 5% of people ever finish the MOOC they sign up for. Some that I have enrolled in (and yes, not finished) were just a series of videoed lectures, not very engaging, although often interesting. Some lectures were an hour long, just as if they'd been transported from the lecture theatre into a small room with a camera. 

These are things to think about when you create an online course. How do you replicate a great classroom discussion about plot and pacing in a historical YA novel, or repetition and irony in a poem by Billy Collins? Or the experience of workshopping a chapter of your novel, or your poem about death that was based on your uncle dying last week? In the classroom, the teacher is able to push the discussion along, or introduce a new idea quickly, or temper someone's comments when they've become less than constructive. How do you do that online when mostly it isn't happening in real time, so a rude comment can be up there for several hours or days?

All good questions, which is why we keep going off and doing more training and talking about these issues and how to resolve them. (Sadly where I am, it seems training now is all about making cookie cutter videos, which we are resisting. We know the way we do them works.)

But beyond that, I think offering subjects online provides a great resource for any writer who wants to increase their skills, get some unbiased feedback and feel like they're not so alone. Even a writer in the middle of a huge city can feel isolated and depressed about what they're trying to achieve. Who cares? How can I know if I'm on the right track or not? Is this story any good? A good online course is like a classroom in that everyone is learning together, sharing ideas and problems, and a good teacher helps that along via the Discussion Board. For us, the DB is vital in most subjects. It's where I get to know my students, help them engage, respond to their ideas and comments. Hopefully it's where they start to feel part of a class.

When I did my degree, a large part of it was focused on writing - it was the first time I was able to get feedback on my stories and poems from experienced writers/readers who didn't know me from a bar of soap. So their comments were, to me, more valid because they weren't there to pat me on the back - they were there to show me how to improve.

This year (2018), I'm working on creating online content for three different subjects - writing for new media (blogs, websites, etc), a Diploma creative arts industry subject and a core unit in using Word that everyone has to do. The content for each is very different, but I try to write materials as though I am speaking to the class. I'm about to experiment with recording something that I think would be explained better that way. Ten years ago, internet speeds for uploading and downloading wouldn't have allowed me to do this.

Personally, I hate cookie cutter courses that run you through a whole lot of stuff to read and then give you questions to answer to test your understanding. Creative writing, to me, doesn't work that way. The closer I get to creating a classroom online, with interaction, ideas, writing to share and (yes) fun, the better I think it works.

(Pencil photo 
Davide Guglielmo)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Resilience and writing

We hear a lot these days about resilience in children, how to encourage it, how to make them stronger, as if there is a magic spell to be woven. After a lot of research on over-protectiveness and anxiety issues in children, which I won’t go into here, I concluded that growing resilience is a long-term endeavour, perhaps even life-long. It grows through testing, through meeting challenges rather than avoiding them, through feeling the fear and doing it anyway (which was the topic of a lot of self help books a few years ago).

It’s hard for parents to let go, to let their kids make mistakes, feel afraid, fail, be a loser sometimes. Of course kids will stuff up. We all did, and we all do now. To use another well-worn phrase, that is nevertheless true, the only thing worse than failing is never trying in the first place.

I keep this in mind with all of my writing students. It’s not up to me to decide who is a ‘real writer’ and who isn’t. Why should I judge a writer’s dreams? If I were a magazine editor (which I have been, of a poetry journal) or a book publisher, I could only make decisions about the manuscripts in front of me, the ones I have to decide will or might sell. I still couldn’t make a decision on whether the writer was a writer or not. Because people learn and grow and improve their skills, and what might not be publishable now could well be publishable in five years time.

We all know this, just as we know that it takes perseverance to be a writer. I used to use that word a lot – now I want to use the word resilience. Resilience to me means both strength and resolve, it implies perseverance, but it also means the ability to bounce back, or walk back, or crawl back. To take what is dished out or what happens to you, and recover.

You can’t recover if you start out afraid and anxious and worried, and with no innate or learned ability to grow and overcome. If your childhood has been about being told you will not achieve anything, or that you’re not worthy, that’s what you have to overcome as an adult. That childhood experience wasn’t about helping you learn resilience, that was about cutting you down. Or if you lost at something and were told, ‘Of course you are a winner, everyone who tries is a winner’, you didn’t learn to lose and get up again. You knew in your child’s heart that the platitude wasn’t true, and so now you have nothing solid inside to fall back on, to stand on so you can eventually stand up again. You have to learn to lose, and then learn that you can and will do better next time, not that next time your parent will find someone who will let you win.

Resilience is not ego. Ego says, ‘I’m great already and I don’t need to learn, I just need somebody intelligent to recognise my greatness, my genius.’ There are lots of egos in writing. In my classes these are the people who refuse to learn grammar and punctuation, because their genius will shine in spite of poor sentences. They are the people who won’t participate in workshopping, or who dismiss everyone’s feedback. They are the ones who don’t collect their assignments with the grades and comments on them because they don’t want to acknowledge there is more work to be done.

In a writing class, where there is workshopping, it can be the scariest thing to put your work out there for others to read and comment on. A good workshop is supportive but critically constructive and helpful. Only the egoist presents something they think is already perfect, and waits for the pats on the back (which usually don’t come). In a good workshop, everyone sees everyone else doing the same thing – being afraid but putting their work out there, receiving feedback, offering feedback, trying to learn how to do better.

Then the class finishes and it’s just you and the publishing world. This is where resilience really comes in, when you have to face rejections. When you have to put your heart into your writing, and then receive a form letter that says ‘No.’ There are a lot of ways for publishers, editors and agents to say no. You have to believe in your own voice, your own need or desire or compulsion to tell a story, your own ability to tell it in the best way you can. While understanding that your best at this point might not be publishable.

Ego might say, ‘What do they know? I’ve got friends who say my stuff is terrific, so I’m going to self-publish and sell millions.’ Resilience says, ‘I’m not there yet, but I will be one day. I’m going to learn more, try harder, write better.’

Craig Harper, a personal trainer who is now a motivational speaker, talks about how what we are told about ourselves in childhood becomes hard-wired into us, and how overcoming that wrong belief is one of the hardest jobs we can tackle. If what you heard as a child is some form of ‘You can’t do that’, whether it’s ‘You can’t do that because you’re hopeless’ or ‘You can’t do that so let me do it for you because I’m afraid for you’, growing your own resilience will be one of the biggest and most important things you undertake as a writer.

It may never get easier. You might have to meet that challenge every day of your writing life. You might have periods where it gets the better of you and you give up writing. I’ve seen some people give up and never start again. There will always be some reason you can recite about why, but at its heart, the reason will be back in your childhood. That’s what you have to overcome – not a lack of talent or a publishing industry that’s ‘against you’. It’s all about you.

As children, we grew resilient by being allowed to try new things, face what we were afraid of (even if it was only a scary story), or simply have a go. That didn’t mean we did it all alone. Our parents were there to pick us up, put a Bandaid on our knee, dry our tears. After we’d tried our hardest. I’m glad I grew up on a farm where I could pretty much run around and do what I wanted (within reason). It wasn’t a perfect childhood by any means, but I’ve come to believe it gave me a lot of benefits that I hadn’t realised before now.

Can we unlearn childhood self-beliefs? Can we become resilient as adults? I think so – like I said, it’s a lifelong challenge, to keep getting up when you’re knocked down. It’s not too late to learn. A supportive group of friends, using affirmations, creating small challenges and goals that teach you how to achieve and learn and grow, perhaps even a good psychologist who will teach you ways to become resilient. Facing your writer’s fears on a regular basis – sending things to competitions, sending them to journals, sending them to publishers. Workshopping in a good group. Finding an accountability partner or mentor who inspires you not to give up.

Resilience is not set in concrete. That too easily cracks or shatters. Resilience is made of rubber. Or find your own metaphor – the tree that bends instead of breaking perhaps.
I don’t want to end this with some kind of motivational homily, so I’ll just say go and read Phillip Larkin’s poem, ‘This be the verse’. If nothing else, it might make you laugh! (But just warning you there is a four letter word in it.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dealing with creative burnout

I’ve been reading articles about creative burnout – what it is, how you can tell, what you can do about it. Most of them deal with short-term burnout. The kind you feel at the end of a big project, along the lines of, ‘Oh, thank god it’s over, that nearly killed me, I did great stuff but now the tank is dry.’

Some people never feel like their tank is dry. They keep coming up with new ideas, they look forward to every day, they find ways to deal with procrastination, they might have several projects going at once … does that sound like you? I think, if it does, you are also quite good at pacing yourself and staying organised. You don’t have last minute meltdowns when a deadline approaches, you take time out or you have other things in your life to balance out the intensive work periods.

Things I have read that are designed to help the feeling of burnout include: take a break and go away for a few days; put aside everything and read or watch movies; go to see things that will inspire you again, like museums and galleries and exhibitions; go to places like the beach or the mountains. All good for when you’re exhausted from a project and need to restore yourself.

But what if your creative burnout goes deeper than that? So that a nice weekend or week away doesn’t really do anything? What if you are at the point of asking (continually), ‘What is the point? Who cares if I write/make art/create these things? If I stopped tomorrow, nobody would even notice.’ This goes way beyond natural despondency. This is not solved by well-meaning people saying, ‘You should just focus on writing for the enjoyment and love of it, and forget about the audience/publishing part of it.’

There is a very good book for this deep depression about your art, your writing. It’s ‘The Van Gogh Blues’ by Eric Maisel. Maisel writes a lot about creativity and fear and depression, and has some insightful things to say about it, along with a wide range of case studies that he shares. If nothing else, the book can show you you’re not alone. He talks about working out for yourself what matters – why you create, why you have stopped, how you feel and how to work through what matters and then move back to your work.

All the same, he’s not really talking about burnout. I think true creative burnout comes from years and years of working creatively, working at staying inspired (yes, often it does require work, the work of feeding the heart and mind), constantly coming up with ideas and creating art/stories/books, revising, re-envisioning, starting over, working with great ideas that fizzle out, presenting your work to an audience, marketing what you do and have created, talking about it, showing it, gathering new ideas, journaling about your ideas and process.

And then you get to the point of ‘so what’. 

It’s not even that you have run out of ideas, it’s more that you lack the impetus to take the ideas into something tangible. You have a list of projects you could be working on, but will anyone want them? Will anyone care? The effort of pushing through procrastination, fear and inertia is beyond you. Life around you seems to hold even more problems than before, but you can’t deal with them or brush them off by creating, in the way you used to. And other writers, who are still writing and feeling excited about their work, seem to be speaking another language now.

Yes, a lot of this is depression, there’s no denying it. If you are depressed, either because of the burnout or you felt that way anyway and the burnout makes it worse, knowing that doesn’t help to solve it. Because at its heart, deep creative burnout has no easy fix. In a world of instant gratification, instant supply of happy pills if you really want them, instant supply of excuses and reasons when you need them – nothing will fix it except time.

Like grief. There is no time limit or time recommendation on grief either. It just is, and you slog your way through it and come out the other end somehow, and some people don’t.

So what are my suggestions for deep creative burnout? First of all, recognise it. Sit alone for a whole day, or at least a few hours (completely alone with no phone or internet) and try to reach right inside yourself and work out how you really feel, and perhaps why. You could talk to a psychologist or counsellor, but it would need to be someone who ‘gets’ it. Try Maisel’s books, or other books on the topic. See if you can find someone else who has suffered from it and talk to them. 

Then try all those simple fixes (things that have re-inspired you before) and keep at them. Do lots of them on a regular basis, as your ‘therapy’. Recognise and accept that this is going to take a while. Be kind to yourself. Read a lot – read things you might never have tried before. Write or create in ways you have never tried before. Do a course in something completely different and new, like motor mechanics or art history or philosophy. Do activities with people who have nothing to do with writing or art. Listen to music that makes you feel great. Do ALL of these things.

Only write what you feel inspired to write. Don’t try to write ‘seriously’ (as in writing in awareness of audience and/or publication). Have an ideas book to capture things in, but don’t feel obliged to use it unless you really want to. Journal if you want to.

Hopefully at some point you will find yourself writing again and feeling no pressure, and looking forward to the writing. You will have a project that excites you, that makes you feel again like it’s all worthwhile. But I also hope that by then, you will have turned the corner of ‘why am I bothering’ and found your ‘destination’ – your reason for creating. Whatever that is. It has to be your reason, I think it has to relight that little fire inside you, and give you back the joy and inspiration.

It’s a long, hard road back to the little, warming fire again, when all you’ve had for months is ashes. Good luck. I’ll see you somewhere along the way.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Recommended reading

The problem with getting to the end of the year and being asked for recommendations is that it tends to be the most recent stand-outs that come to mind. So I'll start with those, and try and cast my mind back for future posts!

"Clear to the Horizon" by Dave Warner. I started reading Dave Warner after seeing other people recommend his crime novels (and then someone said he was the most under-rated crime novelist in Australia so ...). I picked up "City of Light" by lucky chance in an op shop, and enjoyed the somewhat hokey depiction of Fremantle in the late 70s, main character Snowy Lane, with Aussie similes leaking out of the story left, right and centre (but a lot were quite funny). Then I managed to get hold of "Before It Breaks" which is a different character - Dan Clements - based in Broome. So "Clear to the Horizon" brings Snowy and Dan together in a bunch of crimes up around the Broome/Port Hedland/Derby area.

People always talk about crime fiction being a genre that makes the most of location, and Warner does a great job (kind of put me off travelling in the WA outback, to be honest!). We begin with a serial killer in 1999, snatching girls who are never found again, then move into the present day with a missing billionaire's daughter (Snowy's job as he's now a PI). Segue to Dan with local drug dealers and then a series of robberies by someone who can outrun just about anybody.

As with any good crime novel, the various crimes are interwoven and skilfully used to lay clues or send the reader (and the investigators) up the garden path. I really enjoyed both the setting and Warner's ability to keep all the various threads and crimes and suspects under control. We get to meet a range of local characters as well as blow-ins, mixed in with crucial iron ore deals and lots of money and drugs in the wrong places.

It's been a while since I read a crime novel that I really only put down reluctantly, and took any opportunity to grab it up again and keep reading. My one quibble is that Warner's novels are published by Fremantle Press who seem obsessed with small font sizes that make for hard reading.

"One Would Think the Deep" by Claire Zorn
I'm not a fan of tricksy titles, even when they are from quotes (all right, so I will excuse Adrian McKinty's latest novel). Plus this YA novel was about surfing, and I have zero interest in that.

However, the book has won major awards, and so I decided to give it time and read with an open mind. I'm really glad I did. Sam is not in a good place, with his mum dying on him, and then finding that the only place he has to go is to live with his aunt and two cousins. Two out of the three don't want him there. But Minty, his surfie cousin and loveable guy, welcomes him with open arms and takes him into the surf, sure that it will cure everything.

Not so, of course. Sam has violence issues, he's deeply grieving but no one seems to understand that. It's the Aussie "suck it up" syndrome that means he has to bury his feelings until they rush up screaming into the light. And people get hurt.

I was worried all the way through this novel that Zorn would take the easy out - something "magical" would happen and Sam would be a new person with a new hope-filled life. I'm glad she didn't, and I'm not giving away what she did with Sam, but it's satisfying and real. The writing is great, the surfing stuff is not overdone (but expertly conveyed), and the emotional heart of the story is sound.
(And there is no cover image because Blogger is being very stupid today.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Why LinkedIn is not really working for me

Back in the day (around 5-6 years ago), I decided to sort out my social media and various other connected things and work out what to do with it all - how to link it together, what were the best platforms for me, how it might benefit me.

At the time, I experimented. After a few months, I realised Twitter was OK but not something I wanted to spend a lot of time on, whereas I liked that FB at least showed posts for a bit longer than a few seconds. It was useful to read about others who were saying most people ended up preferring one over the other - it's just what works for you.
Since then, FB has changed the way it works to the point I almost can't be bothered because of all the sales stuff that ends up in my feed. Very soon, FB is going to start making itself irrelevant.

I continued with my blogs and websites - I'd set things up there that also mostly worked for me. And I reviewed LinkedIn and decided to use it more, setting up a better profile and entering more information so anyone searching for me about my editing and writing services would find me.

So what has gone "wrong" with LinkedIn? I am getting more and more requests to connect from people I have never heard of, who are in industries that have no connection to writing and editing and books whatsoever. Recently I've had requests from people who only use their first names, again with no connection to my work areas at all. That's so far from being professional, I don't where to start with it!

From the small information I've been able to glean (by wasting time looking at profiles), all of the people who ask to connect for no obvious reason are one of the following:
a) they want to sell me something (and anyone who I connect with who immediately sends me a message wanting to promote something to me has their message deleted)
b) they think I can be useful for something but I can't see what
c) it's about connecting for other reasons (like "romance") - before you think I'm paranoid, I can tell you I have now deleted FB Messenger on my phone after trying it twice and being spammed by males wanting to hook up.

I also have to say that I can't see the point of connecting to writers from the USA and UK whom I have never heard of, and who clearly have no idea who I am or what I do. We're unlikely to connect any other way, so more and more I am deleting their requests (and again, often if I say yes, I get a message asking me to buy their book).

I think there are good things about LinkedIn - it sends me jobs I might be interested in (even though I'm not really looking ... yet), and it allows me to have a CV on my page that may lead to work opportunities. But saying yes, willy-nilly, to all requests, defeats the purpose of it, I think.
What do you think? What's your experience of LinkedIn been?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Students write about their writing course

I love how at this time of year, our Diploma nonfiction teacher, Michelle Fincke, asks her students to write about what they think/know they have learned while studying our course. Usually I post them one at a time, but these are all so different that I think they are a great example of "give a class a topic and every single one will approach it differently with their own style and voice".

Which is exactly what we aim for. We don't aim to produce cookie-cutter writers. We aim to teach skills and techniques, professionalism, and having confidence in your own voice. So here goes:

Anne Richardson​ on five things she's learnt from her writing course.

When I was in my mid-fifties a career change beckoned. Following my nose rather than a well-thought out plan, I enrolled in a professional writing and editing course. I had no clue when I started, and don’t have much now, but here’s what I know:

There’s lots to learn.
Genres, platforms, ethics, history, technique, craft, industry standards, grammar and punctuation…some of it you can choose, but lots of it you just have to know. Get your running shoes on. It’s hard to keep up.

It’s hard work.
Who knew how many hours it would take to write a 50 word bio, not to mention a blog, or a short story?

Your inner critic is on your side.
Keep a weather eye on her. Cultivate an equal relationship and make sure she knows who’s the boss.

You can’t do it on your own.
You’ll need to be brave and get used to sharing your work. The feedback of people you trust always makes your work better, even if it’s just because you know why you’re ignoring them.

You can’t do it all.
Learn everything, then pick the eyes out of it. Find out what you’re good at, what lights your spark and write that.

Anne Richardson

Image result for images of i am a writer

The start of the year on a university campus is full of students becoming disillusioned by the realisation they had picked the wrong course.
Not a lot of thought went into my decision to study writing, but here are some of the major points I would consider if I was making that decision now.

1. Grammar is important
In my first semester studying writing, I saw many students attempting to debate rules for use of grammar with my teacher. They insisted they had been taught different rules and
further refused to accept what they had been taught was wrong. Don’t do this—it doesn’t impress anyone and you’re probably going to look like an idiot.

2. The story you want to write isn’t always the one you end up writing
Having an idea of what you want to write and how it’s going to sound is good, but it isn’t a guarantee. Often a piece of work will take shape through the editing process and you will
discover that what you originally wanted to say and what you finished up with are not the same.

3. Not everyone who wants to write is cut out for it
Many hobby writers expect writing to be fun and fulfilling, which it can be. It just isn’t right away. Writing takes discipline, scrutiny and persistence. To properly, correctly articulate a message, to convey the right emotion and to have your words resonate is difficult. Keep in mind that underneath the prestige and perhaps fame you might be chasing, there is a mountain of hard-work that most people are not cut out for.

Emmanuel Giakoumakis

11127201_10206556475134706_8567167505085211335_n"Criticism is the heat that tempers writing"
Here are Stefan Downey Najdecki's thoughts on studying Professional Writing and Editing at VU.

The Five Wisdoms of a Young Writer.
If I had five cents for every time someone said “Writing is easy” or “I want to write a novel” I don’t know how much money I would have because I haven’t kept count.
However, writing is not easy and you won’t find it easy after reading some of the things I’ve learnt in the last years studying Professional Writing and Editing at VU but one of them might make it less of a challenge.

1.Know how you write.
Some authors forge diagrams and rustle into the wilds of extended backstories, down to knowing the name of their Hero’s (or Heroine’s) childhood soft-toy. These writers are ‘plotters’ and only start typing when they have a map of where to go.
Others fly by the seat of their pants, jumping headlong into the blank page and come out the other side drenched in thousands of words. These ‘pantsers’ type to their heart’s content and heavily edit later in the process.
Know which of these two you are, then write accordingly. The struggle to write might just be dislodged with knowledge of the Hero’s teddy-bear or an hour-long dive.

2.Beg, Borrow and Steal
Tolkien loved Norse Mythology, George R.R Martin took from the blood-red War of the Roses and E.L. James loved Twilight. Every author needs fuel to power their imagination, but you can’t find it staring into the abyss of a blank page.
Read widely into genres and nonfiction that you would never have picked up before your quest as a writer — flicking through Mills and Boon could reward you with the most stunning ideas for a high-fantasy epic or the report by the Financial Review on milk-powder imports spur a neo-dystopian poem.
Imagination comes from the most unlikely of places.

3. Learn grammar like I never learnt French
Just as I never got my five-cents each time someone commented on the ease of writing, I never was awarded my five-assarius curse upon grammar. Romans be damned.
Grasping grammar on a high level requires a whole new language-set to identify problems. Predicate Adjective, Demonstrative Pronoun & Present Perfect Continuous, all sound baffling without the framework behind them. Writing may be the tool of emotion and creativity but “It doesn’t feel right” won’t help the placement of your commas.
Good Grammar is good communication and the better communicated your ideas are, the happier people will be to enjoy them. So come at Grammar with the mindset of a language you’ve never known, not the witticisms that survived from primary school.

4.Criticism is the heat that tempers writing
Cook a cake, slave over an oven and hear someone say “That’s nice!” Try not to yell at them as the subtlety of the flavours couldn’t make it past their chilli-burnt palate. The same applies to writing.
Find someone who knows how to jump into your brain for just a moment and tell you what your writing is lacking. Workshopping, or Writer’s Groups, help chip off any imperfections that your writing has. As you also help others chip off theirs. The duality of learning from other’s mistakes and correcting your own is taken with a solemn step to polishing your work.
A writer in my course didn’t take advice, nor did they give advice, and their work could not prosper. Let others help you lift your writing higher up.

5.Just do it.
I sold-out for a few more five-cent pieces, but Dan Wieden & Nike are right.
Find the time in every day to write. Write something. Spend half an hour describing the feeling of mushy banana on your gums and you will have flexed your brain and progressed with your RSI. Each throw away paragraph digs deeper into the nugget of perfect writing underneath it.
This also means that you need to find the time to write. No scented candles, hand-pressed orange-juice or more-than-six-hours-sleep should be needed. For each time you sit down and just type is another moment you can steal away the day reading about milk-imports.
The perfect condition will never arise, nor the perfect author. Perfection is in every step forward.
So step out into the world and get writing.