Oh how my word count fluctuates! I am in awe of people who post about #5amwritersclub on Twitter, seeing writers share their daily achievements while I’m barely into my first cup of tea. I just can’t do it. I’ve long accepted that my ideal way of working is to fluctuate with my energy – times of intense writing followed by times when I barely reach for the page.
Having said that, I’m starting to think that, sometimes, I might be using that as a bit of an excuse to write nothing at all. The other issue is that I seem to get the idea that unless I’m writing a ‘big’ project that has some sort of final destination (book, competition, journal), it’s not worth working on. Definitely dangerous territory.
So in my recent ‘fallow’ period of writing, I decided to try a different approach. Writing in the gaps. Here are the five ways I’ve managed to still keep some creative thought going.
The most recent addition to the extensive boot collection
1. Writing Letters
Yes, I know, very old school. But it’s not like I’ve just been writing letters to my Nan (although I have also been doing that). Instead, I’ve been looking around and choosing things to write to. Body parts. The tree outside my window. The flower that’s growing in my gutter. My favourite was a letter addressed to my feet where I talked about all the places we’ve been. It also resulted in a bit of a revelation about how I see my footwear and perhaps why boots are so important to me. Definitely a fun way to get the creative thinking going.
I don’t usually write poems. Perhaps I get put off when I read brilliant poetry, or when I see fantastic slam poets, or maybe I just like waffling too much. Rather than rattling off a whole story, I decided to take ideas and work them into a short poem. I now have one about a snowman my daughter made with a carrot from my mum’s garden, baubles in a tree on the pavement and a grumpy swan that hissed when we weren’t quick enough with the food. A good one for making sure every word counts.
The Christmas walks were very scenic but incredibly squishy underfoot. There’s inspiration everywhere…
3. Morning Pages
At times when my creativity was low, I just put pen to paper and set a timer for three minutes. A nice short amount of time that suddenly felt huge when I was a minute in. Because I just let my thoughts wander, it led to a few surprises in terms of what I was thinking, and also provided a good release for feelings of angst I’ve been having of late (join the club, right?). Not sure these will turn into actual pieces but I think the process was making space for other things that might be hiding back there behind the crowded thoughts.
4. Descriptive Snippets
This was something I think I probably did with my Year 8 students when we went on a guided nature walk to inspire our writing. I sometimes wonder I try to be too ‘grown up’ with my writing rather than doing something like this. I went for a walk and made notes on all my senses. Then, when I got back, I turned my ideas into a little something. The squelch of my boots after this very muddy weather was a lovely sound and image that I spent a good few sentences dwelling on.
Not surprising I was inspired by this beautiful trifle
Ok, technically this is also a poem, but it gets its own category for being the silliest and most enjoyable. Like I did when I was in school, I wrote words down the left-hand side of the page (in this case it was TRIFLE, YULETIDE and WINTER WONDERLAND). It produced all sorts of interesting ideas and gave me a valuable insight into how my brain works. Who knew I associated laundry with Christmas? Worth it for the laugh, if nothing else.
I hope you are finding some time to squeeze things in the gaps, whatever they may be.
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