Creativity & writing tips for bloggers

Writing does look easy!

But ask any writer – however much they love to write, it can be a bumpy journey.

And if you’re a blogger with a post (or 10) to write, the struggles can sometimes make you forget the Joy of Blogging.

So, in my role as Ambassador for Joy, Flow & Ease in the creative process, I’ve collated a few of my favourite creativity coaching techniques – especially for my fellow bloggers.

Enjoy!

MAKE-IT-EASY PREP WORK

Make notes

Keep a notebook or file of ideas.

Whenever ideas occur to you, write them down as soon as possible,

Inspiration often strikes at unusual times, so to make sure you don’t lose these gems, acquire the habit of making notes.

Use whatever you have to! (Napkins are a notorious favourite of millionaires… ;-))

If it’s inconvenient or feels like a chore, be motivated by how easy it will make your writing process.

I find the Notes app on my phone is usually the most convenient and close-to-hand, as well as a physical notebook and pencil at home. I then transfer my notes to the relevant homes in Evernote.

• • • 

Sow the seed
Give your blog post some calm, relaxed attention, as early as possible.

Just begin pondering it a few days before you plan to begin writing.

Jot the title or a few words down on the blank page a few days before you need to start, and pin it to your board or wall.

In the days before you plan to begin, write the blog title or idea on a sticky note and put it where you’ll see it before you go to sleep.

You could also keep a note on the dashboard of your car – driving is a great time to ponder new ideas.

(Just make sure you pull over safely if you need to write things down!)

If you’re heading out for a run/walk/workout etc – write down the blog title and keep it in your pocket.

Physical exercise can be very inspiring, so make you have your notebook ready for the downloads.

• • • 

GETTING STARTED

When you’re ready to sit down and begin writing…

Explore your notes

Hopefully, you’ve already got some notes and ideas to begin with. Just explore these to see which ones naturally grow and evolve. If any feel difficult or confusing, move onto the next.

Build on your notes, adding any new thoughts and developing your favourite ideas.

• • • 

Create a mind map

Mapping out key points or the intended structure of the blog can help you stay on track and keep your writing clear.

However, if you feel inspired to go off in another direction, go with it. If ever the words come pouring – don’t stop them!

Then afterwards, you can assess whether the new material is relevant, or perhaps for a different post.

Use your mind map to check back in to see if the new ideas fit with the original intention.

If they don’t add to the clarity or flow of the blog you’re working on, file them for later use. (You may have just written the next blog post instead!)

• • • 

First draft first

To get words onto a blank page – just focus on producing a first draft.

Aim to simply get the words out of your head onto the page – in any order.

Don’t worry about structure – that will emerge as you review your notes and ideas.

You can polish and edit and refine once the core material is in place.

• • • 

WRITER TIP:

Writing is essentially a two-part process of downloading ideas, then refining them.

It can feel like a struggle to do both tasks at once, but there are different techniques of switching between the two modes.

Writers vary – some like to do nothing but composition for a long time, then edit days later.

Others like to switch back and forth between the two modes as they go along.

Experiment with which method feels right for you.

• • • 

KEEP GOING

If you feel stuck or run out of ideas…

Use prompts

You can often bypass your resistance by using sentence prompts such as:

I want to write about…

Or:

If I knew what to write, I’d write about…

• • •

Move

Try changing your location, working in a different environment. If possible, choose somewhere inspiring, beautiful of refreshing.

Moving your body also helps to boost your creativity.

Can you take a break for a short walk or a few yoga poses?

• • •

Lights & sounds

To stay calm and inspired as you write, play some music designed to enhance the creative process. (Spotify is great for these kind of playlists.)

If you love candles, keep one on your desk and light it as a symbolic gesture that you are ready for some focused creative work.

It can also serve as a meditative focal point when you need to think through an idea or phrase. (Gazing out of the window is also great for this.)

 

Take a breath

If you feel yourself getting frustrated with your writing, just take a few moments to close your eyes and breathe deeply.

When you focus back on your work, you’ll have a clearer head and feel less of that creativity-sapping frustration.

• • •

Tidy up

Whenever you hit a block or feel confused about what you’re writing, a great trick is to stop for a few minutes and have a short tidy-up.

Clear the papers on your desk or tidy your workspace.

Doing a mundane task that you can do on auto-pilot gives your mind a chance to rest and percolate ideas.

And creating physical order can lead to clarity, helping you find more order in your writing.

• • •

Use your sleeping mind

If you can, review your notes/draft before you go to sleep, with the intention that your subconscious mind will take over and work on it.

You’ll be amazed by the new ideas that ‘mysteriously’ pop into your head the next day.

You may even wake up with the perfect phrase or structure – so make sure you have a notebook by your bed.

• • •

GETTING FINISHED

You’ve written your first draft, you’ve edited and polished – but it’s still not quite finished.

Here’s what to do to get that blog post ready for the world…

Leave & return

When you leave a piece of writing and return to it later, it’s much easier to see any muddled sections or clunky passages.

After working so closely and intently, we get word blind and don’t see inconsistencies or glaring errors.

So, your writing will always be better for a rest.

When possible, plan to finish at least the day before the deadline so you can sleep on it.

(This also trains you to not leave things to last-minute which is stressful and saps the joy from the creative process.

• • • 

Know when to stop

This is tricky! We naturally want to keep tinkering.

But there comes a point when we need to let the work go and do its work in the world.

Practice tuning into your intuition for help with this. Is that inner voice urging you to make some vital improvements? Or are you just resisting the decision to stop?

This is a difficult skill for all creatives, so go easy on yourself and be prepared to practice and gradually get to used to knowing what’s right for you.

• • • 

Get a second opinion

Ask someone else to take a look at your writing. They’ll spot things you’ve missed.

They may also have some suggestions that inspire you to make the post even better.

• • • 

Rescue your darlings

As you edit your posts, get in the habit of keeping any of the good writing that you cut.

It may not have been right for that particular blog post, but it could find a home elsewhere.

It may even spark a whole new post of its own. (I’ve written a blog post about this idea if you’d like to explore more.)

• • • 

Hopefully these tips will support and inspire you with your next blog post, as well as make it ever-easier to create further posts in future.

(Because relaxed, calm and happy bloggers make for better blogs. 😉 )

 

Happy blogging!

Danielle

 

PS I’ve got a whole series of these Make-It-Easy tips for the many aspects of the creative process.

So, if you’d like to find more joy, flow and ease in your creative adventures, sign up for my Tonics For the Creative Spirit email series.

Details below!

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12 ways to survive (and enjoy) NaNoWriMo

12 ways to survive (and enjoy) NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo

twitter aquaLike most great challenges, the secret to a successful NaNoWriMo is in the preparation.

A little forward planning and consideration can make an amazing difference to your results and your experience.

So here are some suggestions for a few lifestyle tweaks and preparatory efforts, to help you not only survive NaNoWriMo  – but actually enjoy it…

1. What can wait?

Unless you’re lucky, it’s not every month you spend intensively working on a novel.

So November is going to be an unusually busy month!

If you plan for that, ahead of time, you can create some lovely breathing space in your schedule. (Doesn’t that sound good…)

So, what can wait?

What can you let go, for now? Give some thought to anything that you can put on hold – just for the month.

Are there any things that you normally do, but aren’t essential to the smooth running of your life?

Can any other hobbies be put on hold? Can any responsibilities be temporarily delegated or scaled back?

Are there regular activities that can wait for a few short weeks? For example, dinner parties, shopping, getting lost in a book…. They’ll all still be there in December! And you’ll be free to return to them with a new appreciation, and a sense that you fully deserve to indulge and enjoy them.

The run up to NaNoWriMo is a great time to simplify, but this is actually a great thing to do at any time of year, as you might discover that a number of things you ‘just do’, aren’t actually worthy of your time and attention, and you’re ready to let them go for good.

So cast an enquiring eye over your timetable – without panic or urgency. Just assess. No drastic action. No drama.

Simply review how and where you spend your time – what serves you, and what can be suspended as you devote November to your writing goals and dreams.

• • • 

2. Look after your main asset: you

To simplify is good – but if you have a healthful and supportive daily practice (e.g. exercise, meditation, journalling, inspirational reading etc…) – now is not the time to let that go!

You will need both internal and external strength to help you navigate the challenges of the month ahead.

And if you don’t already have a daily practice?

Since you’re adopting a new regime for this month, you may like to include something small and relatively easy to implement that will support you on a daily basis.

It may seem like another task for a busy month, but it could be a wise investment of your time if it increases your energy and productivity.

• • • 

3. Special measures

Now is a good time to call in any favours.

If you are always the one helping out the other parents, team-mates or workmates, now is the time to ask them for help. They’ll probably be thrilled to have the chance to give back.

“Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.” 

~ Proverb

Besides, people love to help a person who is up to wonderful things. So, if you explain your plan, you may find they’re not only willing to step in and help out, they may be cheering you on from the sidelines, too.

And a little social accountability can also be a motivating force. For those days when you’re tempted to let things slide, the prospect of facing a supportive friend or colleague may give you the nudge you need to get over the resistance hump.

• • •

4. Stock up

Stock up on supplies. Unless you find cooking therapeutic, relaxing or ideal for pondering tricky plot puzzles, plan ahead for your basic maintenance.

Stock your freezer and cupboards for the month, so that you’re not drawn away from vital book-pondering to spend precious concentration units on; What’s for tea?

(By the way, if you’re a snacker – blueberries are supposed to be good for creativity.)

• • • 

5. Join a support group

Being in a group of like-minded people with a similar goal is a proven tactic for staying the course.

In-person weekly meet-ups can be an inspiring boost. Or daily check-ins online can also help you feel less alone in your challenge.

Do whatever works for you, but notice the effect of the groups or networks you belong to. How do they make you feel?

If they leave you feeling energised, motivated, inspired and confident – check in with them on a regular basis.

But if you feel drained or prone to Compare & Despair – give them a miss for a while.

• • • 

6. Get to know your muse

In the weeks before NaNoWriMo, spend a little time monitoring when and where you get your best ideas.

These are your Muse Magnets.

If you always come back from a run full of new character ideas, you know what to do when you’re stuck with character problems.

Or it may be that driving, gardening or showering work for you. Any mundane chores you do on autopilot can give your subconscious mind the rhythm and quiet to suggest some new plot twists or solutions.

Get to know which activities calm your busy mind and enable your muse to make contact.

This is priceless info for any creative and will really help you stay inspired during the demanding weeks ahead.

• • • 

7. Keep notepads everywhere

Whenever you lean into a creative project, it begins to grow and take over more of your thoughts and attention.

So when you dive in head first during NaNoWriMo, it’s an almost total immersion. You flood your conscious mind with your story, and as a result your subconscious mind will very helpfully keep working on your story even when you’ve had enough.

So keep notebooks handy to catch all the new ideas and insights and solutions that will keep floating up to your consciousness as you go about the rest of your day.

• • • 

8. Get sleep

It’s tempting to think that coping with less sleep will give you more time.

But what you need for this month is quality energy; not just time at the page, but quality time where you can concentrate, plot, imagine and string a half-decent sentence together.

So skimping on sleep is counter-productive. (<<< and I don’t use bold lightly!)

Ensure you maintain good quality sleep, and you will reap the benefits in terms of energy, focus and concentration.

If you want the best version of you – fit, well and ready to write – getting enough sleep is essential.

And your loved ones will appreciate this one – a cranky, stressed, overtired writer-under-pressure is not often a joy to be around.

Besides, if you’re clever, your sleeping time need not be unproductive downtime….

• • • 

9. Utilise your sleeping hours

With a little forward planning and intention, you can actually make productive use of your restorative sleeping hours.

By reviewing any daily quandaries just before you go to sleep – posing a clear question to your subconscious mind – you can hand over the puzzle to your mind as you sleep, very often being rewarded with the solution as you wake up, or during the course of the following day.

It takes a little practice to harness this powerful creative source, but if you’re planning to sleep every night anyway, why not begin to practice?

• • • 

10. Balance input with output

NaNoWriMo will call for a considerable amount of creative output.

To keep your creative spirit balanced and happy (rather than drained, spent and exhausted) don’t forget to do the things that inspire you.

Remember to play, have fun, relax, spend time with people (real ones) – do the things that fill you up.

These simple daily pleasures may seem superficial, and candidates for stripping back from your timetable, but these are the valuable sources of life that feed your creative spirit – and it’s going to be hungry over the coming weeks!

So you may even need to replenish these vital stores more than ever.

• • • 

11. Visual aides

Before you begin NaNoWriMo, spend some time getting clear on why you are doing this.

It’s not an easy thing to do!

It will challenge you. It will take over your heart and mind for the coming weeks. You’re planning to devote large amounts precious time and energy to this project.

So why do it?

You may not know why exactly, just a sense that you want to do it – and that’s more than enough.

twitter aqua“I want to do it because I want to do it.” 

~ Amelia Earhart

But if you can imagine the benefits, the fuel behind the desire, it can be a powerful tool to keep you going through the inevitable wobbles.

And if you can create a visual representation of your Why, and keep it somewhere you’ll see it daily, it can really help you to stay clear, focus, grounded and on track.

So, what’s your Why? And how can you represent it?

Maybe mock up your favourite bestseller list to see your name on the top. Or a picture of the TV show you’d love to be featured on with your new book. Or maybe it’s in honour of a loved one, or a long-held dream.

Whatever the reason, find or create and image that you can glance at and know instantly why you’re doing this.

• • • 

12. Pre-empt The Wobbles

The Wobbles – those thoughts and moods that make you doubt your dreams and goals, and your power to achieve them.

We all face them, they’re part of the creative journey.

They may be unavoidable, but it’s possible to limit their power to throw you off track by pre-empting them.

Anticipate the usual suspects; e.g. thoughts like; what’s the point?… I’m no good at thisIt’s a waste of time…. (add any more that regularly come up for you.)

Then, when you are feeling calm and confident and capable: Go through each one and argue the opposite.

You can do this.

The human brain loves questions, so ask things like: Why is this a good use of my time? …Why am I good at this? … What are some really good reasons to do this?

Tap into your Why (see above) and the reasons you’re taking on this incredible challenge.

Get all your ‘arguments for’ in writing, where you can refer to them during the upcoming weeks.

So whenever a doubt pops up during NaNoWriMo, you can calmly say; Hello, I’ve been expecting you – and I know just how to deal with you…

• • • 

So there you are! I hope you find these tips helpful.

If you have time before November, play around with these suggestions to see which ones work for you.

And if you’d benefit from more comprehensive support, please do get in touch. I’d love to help you get your book into the world.

Enjoy NaNoWriMo!

I look forward to hearing about your new novel.

May the muse be with you. <3

Danielle

• • •

PS. If you’d like more goodies for lovely writer types – sign up for the free Writers’ Corner email series. Or join me for a free mini-ecourse designed to help you #writethatbook.  Details below!

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My self-publishing adventures: Q+A

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When I launched my ebook From Wannabe to Writer earlier this year, I held a Facebook Q&A event and I thought it would be helpful to compile the answers from that, as well as answers to reader questions I’ve received over the last few months. 

Hopefully it will shed some light on the self-publishing processes and options – and show how even a naive little wannabe (like me) can navigate them… (more…)

Writer’s Corner: Rescue Your Darlings

Rescued darlings.png

         

You know when you’re editing a piece of your writing and you come across a little something that you love – it’s one of your favourite parts of the whole text – but you know, deep down… it doesn’t belong there?

Your instinct is shouting ‘Cut! Cut! Cut!’

But, you argue, it’s such a lovely piece of writing. It’s one of your best descriptions. It’s so witty and clever. It’s precious.

Even if it is stopping the flow or causing confusion….

What to do?

The conventional wisdom is to kill your darlings.

This Writer’s Rule is inspired by the quote from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch; “Murder your darlings.” 

And William Faulkner; “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” 

And Stephen King“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

In other words, those bits that you especially love: delete.

What writer would ever want to do that?!

I know the sentiment behind this is useful – if your darling is somewhere it doesn’t belong – yes, you should get them out of there. But kill them? Is that really necessary?

I believe there is a happier alternative – one that will improve the quality of the writing (by getting rid of what isn’t working) but also make for a less tortured writer. (Angst does not necessarily equal good writing.)

Create a ‘Rescue Your Darlings’ file

Here’s what to do;

1. You bravely extract your little darling. (Which, in another place or time could be your finest work.)

2. You paste it into your new file: a dedicated home for errant darlings – those little gems that you love but aren’t quite sure where/if they belong. 

3. You heave a sigh of relief.

The piece you were working on is now free to get back on track. Your beloved snippet is safe from the vicious X-key. And you don’t feel like you have to tear out your heart and soul to be a good writer.

But then – what to do with all those darlings?

They may find another home, some time in the future. (They will summon you when the time is right.)

Or the file could be a source of inspiration on slow writing days.

Or you may use it to bolster your confidence during the inevitable lows, when you are telling yourself that everything you write is rubbish. (Watch how quickly Self-Doubt scarpers when faced with a file full of your darlings.)

The truth is, though – you may never rehome them. They may languish forever in your RYD file.

But the idea that they are safe – for now – will enable you to make the right decision to cut them.

Which will mean that the piece you were struggling with will work so much better and read more smoothly – without the agonies of dilemma.

And no darlings had to die in the process. 

Danielle

 

• • • 

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 • • •

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My rollercoaster ride to becoming a writer : The highs. The lows. The short-cuts.  

If you’ve ever wanted to write a book….

If you’d like to shortcut your learning curve….

If you want to truly believe that it’s possible to go from wannabe to successful writer…

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” Smart people learn from their own mistakes.

The really smart people learn from the mistakes of others.”

                             ~ Brandon Mull

 

 

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