Sunday, 30 April 2017

5 Quick Writing Ideas

Maria A Smith

Are you in the middle of a creative slump? Has the creative well dried up? Or do you just need some inspiration? Most writers feel blocked at some time during their lifetime. Don’t worry it won’t last for ever, and there are things you can do to get yourself unblocked. 

Maybe you just need to change where you write, or when you write, or perhaps it's what you're writing? 
Have you tried talking it over with a writing buddy? Or doing something completely different may be enough to get you back on track again. Or perhaps you need a little inspiration to get you started. . 

Here are 5 quick writing ideas to get the muse flowing again.

1. Free Writing - Pick up a pen and write, don’t stop, simply write, forget about spelling, and grammar just get anything that comes into your mind written down. Do this for five minutes, and if you’re stuck starting, write ‘I’m stuck, I’m stuck until a word pops into your mind, then write that down and another will follow. 
Afterwards, look through what you’ve written and find a phrase or a sentence, something you can use. It may take a few sessions before you can use free writing effectively. 

2. Random First Line Prompts - Generate one by either opening the nearest book and reading out the 7th sentence such as I’ve just done; ‘She decided to go to her father’s grave to ask his advice.’  Or pick out the first line of dialogue you see on the page. ‘I’m ready to try again, if you are?’ Use either to begin your writing. 

3. Write ten ‘factual’ statements about a character you don’t know yet. Write them quickly, like I’ve done here.
     1. He wears different wigs.
     2. He like to be called Billy
     3. He has a poodle
    4.  He drinks far too much
    5   He used to be a conductor
    6.  He is married to Joan
And so on, until you have ten statements, then write one sentence about your character and more will follow. 

4.  Write about your favourite childhood toy? 

5.  The most interesting place I have ever been to was? 

The bottom line is - you overcome writers block by writing. Give my suggestions a go and let me know how you get on, whether you’re blocked or not. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Only You Can Make Yourself Happy

Clumber Park April 2017 - Maria A Smith

If you’re not feeling tickety-boo about yourself, or your situation, maybe it’s because you’re not happy? Perhaps it’s time to stop focusing on the negative things, and instead focus on what really makes you happy. When it comes to emotions, what meaning you give to things and what you focus on, control the way you’re going to feel. If you feel negative about what you’re doing, it’s going to eventually make you unhappy. 

So if you don’t look forward to going to the gym, and feel it’s something you’re obliged to do, then find another exercise. Stop beating yourself up - the gym isn’t your only option, you could join a running club or go to a yoga class instead, or walk to and from work every day. Stop doing stuff that makes you feel unhappy and grumpy. 

Likewise, if your goal is to write short stories, but you’re not enjoying it, reset your goals. Write a novel, or a poem, or try you hand at articles instead. You’re still a writer, and you’ll be happier finding something you enjoy writing. 

It’s the meaning of things that make you happy, not the things, and if you can change your mindset, then you’re on your way to happiness.  

I’ve had a very happy weekend away (which is why this post is a little later than usual) I’ve been recharging my creative batteries at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. The weather has been beautiful, and I did lots of walking through the ancient woodland. Life slowed right down, allowing me time to refocus and I’ve come back feeling energised.
Have a good week and let me know what makes you happy? 

Squirrel at Clumber Park  - Maria A Smith

Let's Build a Den!  - Maria A Smith

Anyone seen the bats?  - Maria A Smith 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Pause and Plan

Last week I hit the pause button and took stock of my writing life. What I've been doing since the beginning of the year isn't working for me. I set out with good intentions in January, however I've lost my way, and it's time to reorganise and go forward with a different plan. Easter is a good a time to begin the process, it's a little like starting afresh on January 1st, and already I'm feeling more energised with my decision. I've been thinking about how I'm going to recharge my willpower batteries, and how I'm going to build good habits, so I've made a list. 

  • Sleep - I really must get at least 6.5 hours sleep every night because any less is no good for me, and it's a struggle to get through a working day, let alone do any writing. 

  • Diet - Making healthy choices will give me more energy, and I've already started. Adding more fruit and vegetables to my diet, and less cake! I haven't cut it out completely, because a little of what you fancy now and again does you good.  

  • Hydration - Drinking water helps you to think and focus and you'll be more motivated. It's also a natural headache remedy, and in my case, drinking more water eases backache too. Don't believe me? Try it yourself - increase your water intake this week, and see the difference. 

  • Walking - Just five minutes outside in the fresh air makes a difference to our mood. Especially if we are close to nature. 

  • Exercise - Other stuff apart from walking which makes you feel energised. I like pilates, and stretch classes. You may do something else to get your endorphin fix. Whatever it is, it will make you feel better about yourself. 

  • Tell a Writing Buddy - Get someone on side to cheer you on from the sidelines. They'll be your moral support when times are tough, they'll gee you along and help you get back on track when things go wrong. 
I've no doubt there are many more ideas I can add, this is only the start - What can you add to the above to help me stick to my new plan?

Happy Easter! 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Catching Up

Wow! What fabulous weather we've had this weekend. It's definitely lifted people's mood, and great to see folks enjoying the outdoors, and because it isn't as often as we'd like, you have to make the most of it, at every opportunity.

In the last week I've managed to catch up with lots of writing buddies, which is fuel for the creative well. On Friday I saw the ladies from the Leicester Chapter of the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) for lunch, where we exchanged happy chatter and lots of news. It's uplifting to hear how everyone is getting on, and listen to their plans for the next few months.

Saturday I went to my writing group and got some useful critique on a short story I'm writing for an anthology in aid of Cancer Research. I haven't written a 1000 word story for a long time, and it hasn't been easy! The theme is 'Identity' and after three failed attempts at different ideas, I finally got going and wrote 1750 words. Which resulted in me spending two evenings trying to get the story down to the required word count.  It was 1250 before I read out, so now this coming week I will tackle my revisions and get the word count within range.

In the afternoon, I met with my #writingchat friends over at Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottinghamshire, and we had a catch up in the cafe, followed by a stroll around the reserve. It's good to hang out with other writers, and there's always a lot of creative energy and a little bit of madness which helps.

Writing Plans 

I'm reading through my novel, it's not right, and I need to cut more stuff out altogether as it really isn't doing anything to further the story. Also, several of my writing group are going to meet up at the end of the month to help and assist each other with novel issues. In readiness for this, I need to revamp and circulate my synopsis by the weekend.

I'm Chairing the meeting on Easter Saturday, and need to do the advance admin and write a 150 word flash fictions piece, in the next few days.  I haven't made a writing 'to do' list yet, but I will be doing as soon as I finish this blog post. Things get done if they are on a list.
Time is precious and non of us can afford to spend our free hours doing things we really don't want to do, or stuff that isn't relevant. And with that in mind, I'll be doing a quick check to see where my time is being spent. Like many writers, I'm brilliant at procrastinating, and lately have slipped into bad habits. Too many things are getting in the way of my writing, and other things I want to do.

Is it time you identified what is important to you and what is not? I'm growing my list of unimportant things I need to ditch, such as taking too long over my household chores, and watching box sets into the wee small hours. I need to get good balance again.

Have a good week - Keep writing!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Start Fresh

What a week that was...

A bit hectic, with work and all sorts of other stuff. But I made it to Friday and have just spent a couple of days away in the caravan. Our first outing this year and I'd been looking forward to the break for weeks. We went to a small site on a working farm, where we were made to feel very welcome. In fact we spent a lot of time in the farm shop cafe eating and drinking, which hasn't done a lot for my waistline, but has made me feel happy and content.

Strange isn't it, how we know when we need a break. It was lovely to be out in the fresh air again, and not have to concern myself about looking at the clock, and even better not to have to think about, or cook what we were going to have for tea. I've come home recharged!

There is much to do, and some tight deadlines are looming but I'm going to try my hardest to do what I can in the time I have this week. It won't be oodles, but I'm planning to write a 1000 words story, a 150 word flash piece and do some other writing related stuff as well as another blog post.

I will of course still have to go to my day job, and do other necessary stuff too, lets see how I get on. I'll also have to work off all the homemade meals I ate over the weekend.

I feel that Spring has sprung! And plan to do lots of things.

Do share what you've been up to?

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Simple Things

Calke Abbey March 2017 - Maria A Smith

I'm a little late posting, and it's nothing to do with the clocks going forward either. It's been one of those days, in fact it's been one of those weeks. Actually, March hasn't been the best month, but hey ho, that's life, and I positively refuse to be beaten!

The internet has been up and down here for the last few days, and I'm caught in the loop of resetting it, in between trying to follow the online instructions my provider suggests. But of course you can only follow these helpful web pages if you have web access! And why is it so hard to find their telephone number? Argh! Having no internet is as bad as having no washing machine, mine packed up on a spin this morning, I had to  drag sopping wet laundry out of the drum, and put it on the line to drip dry. At least it's bright and cheerful here, and hopefully the clothes will dry.

Other calamities have happened this week, too many to mention. Mostly along the same lines as the above. However, I have much to be grateful for too, and I've had some lovely things mixed in with the not so nice this week.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know I was burgled at the beginning of the month, and amongst other things, the thieves stole my jewellery and cameras. This made me sad, mad and everything in-between, but apart from my feelings, it's a pain not having a camera or a watch!

Yesterday, at my writers group, one of the ladies gave me a watch, she said she saw me checking my wrist for the time last week, and wanted to give me one of hers. How kind is that?

The evening before I was looking for some old sneakers to wear in the garden, imagine my joy when I found an old camera in the bottom of the wardrobe. Okay, it's not as good as my stolen one, BUT, it means I can take pictures again.

I'd planned to catch up on housework on Saturday afternoon, however, I simply couldn't wait to get out and about in the gorgeous sunshine promised by the weather woman the evening before. So after my writers group session, instead of driving home as planned, I detoured and set off for one of my my most favourite places,  Calke Abbey in Derbyshire.   Just over the border into the next county, it's like a different world. The air quality for someone with asthma is fantastic, you notice it immediately, I love breathing in huge lungfuls whenever I visit. It makes you realise how polluted our towns and cities really are these days.

I nipped into a supermarket on route and got myself a picnic lunch, I ate it surrounded by beautiful countryside, watching people enjoy themselves. It's lovely to see children out and about, and there wasn't a mobile phone, or other gadget in sight either.

It's my first visit this year, and everything is waking up, and I wanted to explore as much as possible in my three hours. The park is immense, plenty of wide open spaces, lots of interesting old trees, walking routes, deer, not to mention the main attractions, the house and gardens.

It's lambing time, and this weekend, we were allowed down into the penned area on the farm to see the new arrivals. There were also lots of new mummies in waiting, and outside on the parkland lots of infant lambs grazing under watchful eyes.

The gardens do look a little spartan, you can see the staff have been kept busy. The house looks magnificent as always. I didn't go in this time as I wanted to make the most of the outdoors. It gladdened my heart to see so many people of all ages enjoying the parkland. I walked up and down hill, and clocked up three miles according to my pedometer. I wished I'd stuck my walking poles in the car, as some of the hills were a challenge, and my calves are hurting today, but it's worth it.

On my way back to the car, I visited the tea room, and had a pot of tea, but managed to resist the cake! I've put on a few pounds, so need to resist. Although, there may be cake later today. It is, after all Mothering Sunday. Well that will be my excuse.
There will also be writing later, and throughout the week too.

How did you spend your weekend?

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Finding Your Purpose

Do you want to be more intentional? It's not easy trying to juggle everything, but if you can create good habits, you have a greater chance of being successful.

Define Priorities

Sit down and think about what you really enjoy doing,  Write a short list of the three things that are most important to you. In my experience people are only ever successful in things they really feel passionate about, so get your thinking cap on, and decide if that is writing, perhaps it's poetry, flash fiction, or writing a novel, in which case, stop putting all your energy into the other stuff.

Set a Schedule

Define what you are going to do with your time. Time is precious, so plan in advance how you will be spending it. A good habit to get into is to plan in the evening what you intend to do the next day. Make a simple, don't overload yourself with a long list, keep it short, put it into practice and work through it with enthusiasm. Striking a line through a task is very satisfying.

Don't give into your excuses about not having time to write. If you want to, you'll find the time. Be committed and follow through.


This week I intend to look at my novel synopsis and see if I'm on track with the rewrite.
Produce a piece of flash fiction and sub a piece of fiction. I'll also be listening to an audio book, and catching up on podcasts. What's on your list?