n Things … I’ve learned about writing, by not writing.

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May 5, 2014 by jcfarnham

I haven’t blogged for a while. That cannot possibly escape your notice.

Thing is, guys, life happened (hard) and I got pretty burnt out on the whole thing. The “whole thing” being blogging, writing, music and art of pretty much any kind. Even when I wanted to write, I couldn’t find the motivation to do so. I felt like I was doing absolutely nothing worth while.

So I stopped for a bit. Simple. Actually that segues quite nicely into my first point:

1. Sometimes you just have to give it a rest. 

If you’re so burnt out that you can’t muster the motivation to open your preferred word processor and get those mother loving words out of your mother loving head, then you probably need to give it a rest. Go somewhere. Do something. Anything. Refresh yourself and try again later. This feeling is your brain trying to tell you it doesn’t want to play ball.

Yes, sometimes you do have to ignore that voice in your head and just push through. Self-doubt can quite often make you think you’re burnt out when in reality you’re just looking for a good excuse. But sometimes it’s quite probable that “pushing through” will do more harm than good. This is what’s known in the trade* as setting your one good brain cell to implode.

2. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

This one is so simple it probably goes without saying. Yet, if personal experience is anything to go by, it’s worth repeating. Daily. As often as possible. If writing is a chore then you are quite honestly writing the wrong thing. That or you’ve forgotten exactly why you started writing in the first place. Only taking time for yourself can remedy this.

3. Plenty of other things are also important.

There is nothing more important than getting your bum in a chair and writing, except … you know … the rest of your life. Don’t get bent all out of shape because you’re living instead of writing. In fact, don’t get bent out of shape because you’re writing instead of living either.

The number one rule of this whole being a writer thingy is…

Do what you need to do, except when you don’t.

Prioritize, people.

4. What’s the best source of story fodder? Life.

If you spend all your time holed up in front of a desk somewhere pounding away on the keys and little else, be prepared to suck.

It’s funny though, we’re told time and time again that actual writing is what’s important. When you stop trying and start living instead you’ll find that all the best ideas come to you. Listen to your brain. Your brain knows best.

5. Writing isn’t just fiction.

Since my long arse attempt to slow it down on the fiction front and recharge, I’ve taken up copy-writing. Let me tell you, my friends, that’s a whole other box of kettles of fish, but it is however exceedingly interesting stuff. Infuriating an awful lot of the time, but interesting.

Of course it’s turned out to be way more than just a new source of income. To make it writing blogs, product descriptions and the like you quickly find you need to figure out how to research effectively. That’s a readily transferable skill, that.

If I’d never had the chance to take stock of my life, I’d never have started this freelance copy-writing lark, and I’d never have learnt what I now know about time management, research and… well, the list goes on.

Point is… you can learn a lot by writing out of your comfort zone. I don’t just mean blogging. Go write a newspaper article. I don’t know, writing a set of instructions on how to build flat pack furniture without any missing parts could probably teach you something too.

6. I don’t care what “they” say, forcing it is dangerous.

I’m firmly against forcing writing, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving you an excuse. If you can’t do it, you just need to figure out the problem, fix it and move on.

If instead you decide it best to bash your head against the brick wall your manuscript has become well… All I’ll say is that you can really, really get your wires mixed up if you start stressing too much. That’s a problem. Take a step back and figure shit out.

So there you have it. Just some of the things I’ve learned during my time off. I can’t say I’m back in the swing of things. It takes a while to get your fiction writing fitness back, but we’ll get there in the end.

One step at a time.

*Of course, when I say “in the trade” I mean “in my head”.


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