A writing prompt advent calendar, woo!

Here’s a little silly little online advent calendar to make you smile while you’re procrastinating writing. Just click on the right date and your prompt will pop up box will pop up. Set a timer (5-20 minutes is good) and write non-stop. It’s excellent writing practice, will give you new ideas and it’s a great way of warming your brain up in the morning. Think of it as being like doing piano scales, only fun. And if you fancy a bit more, or want to get back into writing but are looking for a bit of support, let me point you towards the Writer’s Block Detox, which sends writing prompts and other exercises right into your inbox every day for 4 weeks. Enjoy!...

The ultimate productivity hack for writers (that I don’t want to hear)

Mornings? Ugh I’ve always hated mornings. We had to get up before 6 for our school bus and I had the same conversation with my mum almost every single morning, words I barely knew I was saying through the mental fog: ‘It’s too early, I don’t want to go to school today.’ ‘I know. Let’s just stay here in bed today.’ Then she’d leave me alone for a few minutes before waking me a second time with a cup of tea. My mum is ace. And very patient. Later I discovered it’s really hard to do important but non-urgent work at work, the thinky stuff. You’re constantly interrupted by phone calls and people asking for things, and it feels like you spend your whole life fighting fires rather than doing your actual job. So I started, very grudgingly, arriving an hour early sometimes to work uninterrupted and discovered it was by far the productive part of the day.   It’s just the same for creative work. People say that they don’t have time to write, that there are always a thousand other things that need to be done that seem more urgent and that make writing too easy to put off. Well, there’s one very simple thing you can do that will massively increase your writing productivity. Get up early.   Noooooooooo! I know, mornings are hideous, you already have to get up early for the kids or that thing that pays your bills… but it’s by far the easiest way of carving out time for writing. And you don’t have to get up hours earlier either, even 30...

Why writers should never say should

I’ve given myself time to write and come away to Bali to do it. It’s scary and arguably not sensible (‘are you sure it’s a good idea to quit your job in this economic climate?’) but I couldn’t be happier about finally taking my dreams seriously.   I’ve stopped doing all the things I think I should. It’s not that I don’t feel the pull of it and worry, but the feeling of freedom overcomes that. I feel like a little bird who’s been set free, and I don’t care how cheesy that sounds.   ‘Should’ is such a horrible word.   It’s compelling, subtle and insidious. It’s also complicated. There are many things writers think they should be doing instead of writing, like focusing on your work, putting your family first all of the time, doing the cleaning. After all, we all know how few writers actually make a full-time living so it’s a selfish pursuit for most of us.   But who’s really telling you you should do this stuff? Chances are that the people you love want to see you happy and fulfilled, and if that means getting takeaway on a Sunday because 3-9pm is your writing time, they probably wouldn’t have an issue with it. It’s you who feels guilty.   If you think you can’t write because you’re putting in overtime at work, then it might be true. You be so busy that you can only afford a small amount of time at the weekend. But think about why you’re really doing the overtime. Is it because you feel guilty about spending time on...

November’s Retreat

Well, here we are again. Since my last retreat update, the Urban Writers Retreats have turned 3 years old! I can’t honestly say it’s been easy;  many times I’ve thought that if my aim was to create something cool and make a little money, I might have been better off getting a bar job and taking up painting.  Sometimes I end up spending all of my time working on the retreats rather than writing, which rather defeats the object. But, aside from the fact that I’m terrible at painting, seeing how happy it makes people to walk away with another chunk of novel done and hearing that ‘oh, what a great idea’ from writers, knowing I’m able to provide the sort of space people long for, tells me this is a good idea and that I should persevere. And, of course, I’m one of you. I’m one of the people who wants to write but who sometimes finds it hard to make room for the writing I really want to do (and am therefore a little scared of). I know this benefits writers because it benefits me. And so my little retreats, after starting inauspiciously in a room with a half-dead mouse in the corner (a story for another time perhaps), have made it through 3 years. And this year I’ve rediscovered them. I’ve started doing things my way, with afternoon tea and wordcount horseraces. I ran an online bootcamp earlier in the year, and while it’s fair to say I’m still working out how to do those things with a better approach and not end up feeling like a...
Pick up your pen and join a writing challenge

Pick up your pen and join a writing challenge

How would you feel if you wrote 25,000 words in a month?   Is that your normal routine or does it seem a long way off? For me, it feels like quite a stretch. It’s only 1,000 words a day, and even gives you a few days off, but have I been doing it regularly? No. Life just gets in the way.   My poor notebook feels very unloved.   In April I took part in the Screw Work Lets Play 30 Day Challenge. You pick your own challenge which, crucially, must be something you find FUN, and work alongside 200 other people to produce something tangible in a month. Being told to have fun – I can get on board with that.   I built a website from scratch when this challenge happened in April, one I’d been wanting to make for ages but had put off because I didn’t know quite how to do it and was a bit scared of how it would turn out. It was the combination of the overall ‘we can do this!’ feeling alongside weekly accountability check-ins with a small group to hold myself that I really liked. And having something solid to show at the end of a month is such a brilliant feeling that I can’t wait to do it again in October. This time I’m going to write 25,000 words of a novel, and will be hanging out in the writing group on the forum.   True, I could just sit myself down and do it without joining the challenge. But honestly, would I? Experience tells me that the...
June’s retreat

June’s retreat

For a long time this blog just held ‘useful stuff’, resources and tools. Then I found the first Urban Writers blog and remembered that I really enjoyed sharing something a bit more personal, so thought I’d post a couple of photos from yesterday’s retreat. I haven’t really taken any of people working or our breaks because some people might not want their pictures up, but it was such a beautiful day that we had both lunch and afternoon tea outside. We were completely full and it was a lovely bunch, almost all people I’ve not met before. This is what my 5-year old nephew helped me to make on Saturday (scones and badly-lit lemon drizzle cake):     I thought it was time to add a bit more fun to the retreats, so we had a wordcount horserace. The name seems to fox people, but actually it’s kind of self-explanatory. You take a horse (or a giraffe or a monkey) and move it along the racecourse, which is marked with wordcount milestones, as you write more. It’s more to do with being part of a game and challenging yourself than about being competitive with others, and I particularly like the horse that’s going backwards:   Yes, it’s daft, I know. But it’s cute so it’s staying. Afternoon tea was another new element that I’ve been thinking about for a while, partly to combat the afternoon slump and partly because, well, who wouldn’t want a writing retreat with afternoon tea? It just seemed like it would be a lovely thing to do, and it was. Here they are waiting to be eaten. Om nom...