I’ve just added a new string to my bow: as part of my business I now offer a Writing Advice service as well as proofreading, editing and writing assistance.
This came about because in the course of proofreading and editing book manuscripts and other documents, I found I was spending a lot of time explaining my changes and edits to writers, and making suggestions as to how they might improve. It was giving me a great deal of satisfaction – I love the idea of giving a fellow writer a helping hand – but it wasn’t giving me a very good return. I wasn’t charging for giving this advice, and without sounding mercenary, I started wondering why not.
I don’t presume to know everything about writing – in fact, I’m sure I know very little. When I read a fantastic book by a great author, I read in awe (and sometimes with envy), wondering how they learned to coax such magic out of mere words. As well as bringing me tremendous joy, it breaks my heart a little, because I doubt I could ever be that good. Nevertheless, I can share what I know.
You don’t have to be brilliant to offer help. You just have to be willing to share what you know, and to be open to learning more yourself.
Today, then, today I’m offering you five tips on how to start writing when it’s the last thing you feel like doing.
- Set a timer for ten minutes, then write whatever comes into your head. And I mean whatever. Don’t censor yourself, don’t worry if it seems too simple or silly, forget about proper punctuation and grammar for the meantime. (I can’t believe I just said that.) At the end of the ten minutes, look over it and see if there’s a kernel of an idea you may be able to use sometime. If not, at least you’re warmed up.
- Write a paragraph about why you don’t feel like writing. There! You’re underway. And it might make you laugh.
- Write down the ten people you most love or value, then the ten things you most love going, then the ten places you most want to visit (or go back to). Then put together ten opening paragraphs for ten imaginary novels. See where it takes you. Example: “Peter came to the end of the novel, then placed it on the pillow with a sigh of satisfaction. Getting up from the futon, he stretched lazily as he walked to the window and gazed down at the blinking city. Tokyo was waking up.” (My partner; getting to the end of a good book (and staying in flash hotels – I used two); Japan.)
- Write a short letter to yourself, telling yourself why you should keep writing. End it with “With love, [your name].” Writing can be so hard; so solitary and sometimes so very daunting. Let’s be kind to ourselves.
- Don’t think. Just open your laptop or notebook, put your fingers on the keyboard or your pen on the paper, and start. Sometimes we writers can navel-gaze to the point of ridiculousness. (What should I write? Why don’t I want to write? What’s wrong with me? Is this writer’s block? What is writer’s block? Does it even exist? Do I?) Sometimes we just need to get a grip and get going.