I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been a great summer for the word count. Finding myself at the end of a mammoth edit for one novel and fiddling around with ideas for a new one has not exactly led to an outpouring of sentences. Always a bit of a ‘should-er,’ I find myself getting a little grumpy about this, feeling like a failure, why don’t I go back to the full-time day job, the same old doubting voice that threatens to topple me from my perch.
In the spirit of the freakishly warm bank holiday we’ve had, the impending doom of the September start to a new term, and the fact that I’m all lined up to have a jolly time with some well-loved family and friends this evening, I decided to take a lighter view of my efforts. I’ve compiled a list of things that have proved beneficial, even if I can’t write them down on my beautiful ‘word count of the week’ sticky that hovers over my desktop.
Blogging: If you’re out of ideas to blog, read around some topics that get you thinking. The Guardian’s ‘This Week in the Patriarchy’ or The Guilty Feminist podcast is usually enough to get me angry or passionate enough to trot out a few words. I’ve managed to put out a blog on my site, every week, for 15 weeks. That’s not bad going.
Reading through a new edit of novel: Now this is definitely writing-related. Even though the thought of actually going back over the damn thing to make the changes I’ve identified fills me with dread (how I hate my opening chapters, I’ve read them so many times!), at least the edit is done. The scribbles can be turned into beautiful things when I am feeling a little more positive about the stupid thing.
Going on holiday: While not in itself a writing achievement, surely there are pockets of experience, descriptive phrases to be garnered from my exposure to sunlight, or maybe just allowing my mind to unravel and loosen out a bit.
Going to carnival: While I couldn’t drum this year, I still managed to take part in a Banda show, see the wonderful Batala Mundo drumming their hearts out, and bust a few moves to some sound systems. Music is the food of inspiration, no? Just imagine how rhythmic my sentences are going to be…
Reading: I’ve expanded my reading to books in translation, non-fiction books and guides, as well as the ever-present run of literary fiction. Look at me, expanding my knowledge and understanding of the written word. That’s bound to help, right?
Lots of yoga: I’m on day 22 of 30 days of yoga, and haven’t missed one yet. 30mins to start the day gets me going in the morning and stretches body and mind. Once karma has been achieved, it’s only a matter of time before my scribbled notes turn into organised prose. Bound to happen.
Relaxing: Ok, sometimes I’ve been in full ‘why can’t I think of anything?!’ mode, but there have been whole mornings I’ve abandoned to walking around and finding new corners of London (who knew there was a nature reserve by King’s Cross station?) and generally taking in the atmosphere of this amazing city. In my new, zen state, I will undoubtedly leap into action. Any day now.
Thinking: Rather than thinking about the next sentence, or the next word, or my setting, I’ve allowed my mind to wander. A lot. From the brilliance that will be my next novel, to the final tweaks on the current one, it’s all visualised, all there, potential practically dripping from my fingers. It’s also allowed me to look back over past summers, past lives, look forward to new ones, and generally give the mind as much of a stretch as the body with all that downward facing dog. Oh-so-stretchy mind, let’s do some writing now, shall we?
It’s far easier to pick yourself up on things you haven’t done. A bit of a moan has its place, but let’s not forget that psychology changes your physiology. Believing that you have spent your summer storing up and preparing for the next brilliant piece of writing is far more likely to lead to future success than considering it time wasted. So the next time you feel like you’ve ‘wasted’ time, think about turning it around – how has it benefited you in a wider sense? How could it ultimately help you to achieve your goals? Make today the day you banish ‘should’ from your mind, at least until tomorrow.