Saturday, 11 August 2012

Wanna be startin' somethin' - just anything!

Afternoon! This is an article I wrote for The Indie Exchange, which was published on July 27. It's all about procrastination - you know, you wanna do something, but there's a little something niggling at you and stopping you from doing anything!!! A kick up the butt is something I often need! How about you?  

“Dedication is what you need”, sang Roy Castle at the end of The Record Breakers when I was growing up in the 70s, but procrastination seems to be what I got. Not a good gift for anyone. I say this glancing around my room that really needs tidying, papers that need sorting and a letter desiring the post box!). At least I manage to feed my cat on time! But then she does meow to remind me. If only she got me to write too!

Which brings me to: what is inspiration after all? Well, it’s all around us, so they say. Inspiration can be found in everything. I used to think I never finished a book because I wasn’t inspired or I had writer’s block or the glittering Holy Grail of Creativity hadn’t waltzed into my head and said “Boo!” I think it was my own laziness, self-doubt and lack of perseverance that was shooing it away.

Like many people, including you, I guess, I started writing when I was little – stories for my class in junior school. One early memory is of my teacher reading out Mrs Pepperpot. How we loved this book! Mrs Pepperpot had a secret – she sometimes shrank to the size of a... you guessed it... pepperpot, and yet she didn’t take this as a drawback. No way. She got herself out of sticky messes and even gained the ability to talk to animals – yay!  That was the ultimate when I was a kid – talking to animals! Let’s face it, for a while I even thought I could. Anyway, our homework was to write our own version of this story, so I did, starring my classmates. Teacher read it out and my friends liked it. I guess that was the start of something. My little dream of being a writer.

As I grew up, I would write lots of little stories or daydream about them. I was a professional daydreamer. I started writing poems when I hit 16 – they seemed easier. I’d just imagine things and characters, or look at something and write one. They were short, written like fast flashes of inspiration, which is what they were, I guess. Anything longer seemed to evade me, and it went like that all the way through my 20s and into my 30s. Okay, I’d start things, but I never finished them.

Then, at 32, I found myself redundant. I’d written a poem about my cat. It was cute, maybe cheesy. Anyway, the poem turned into an idea, and that idea turned into a story. In about five weeks I’d written a roughly 30k book. How? I think I may have found a magic seed and then it sprouted into a beanstalk... no, it was just the combination of not having a job for a month and suddenly having nothing to do. So I wrote. The little Holy Grail was shining. The hamster wheel was spinning. In a gleeful cloud of inspiration, I sent some chapters off to one publisher. They turned their nose up, I put the book away and my little wheel stopped spinning.

Fast-forward to 2011. I won’t reveal how old I was then cos I still haven’t got over the shock of it myself! I’m just 30, honest! (nose grows). Anyway, I’d still only written that one book. I’d started another, but, hey, you know me by now, it isn’t even half done!

My cat interrupting... and, hey, nothing got done! :)
However, in the words of Magnus Magnusson, and after my boyfriend discovered kindle (reading an article about you can guess which female writer), I thought “I’ve started, so I’ll finish”. I dusted off and typed up this one book I had written, and self-published it. I also went through all the poetry I’d written since I was 16 – and really there’s some drivel in there – and put a collection together.

I can’t describe the high of finally doing this. Even if no one read them, I’d achieved my lifelong ambition of publishing a book – okay, I’d done it myself and it wasn’t in a bookshop, but I’d done it. At last! Better late than never! I remember feeling so happy, like this little hole that was my unfulfilled ambition had now been filled.

But, a funny thing happened... it made me want more! I wanted to write more and more, like The Magic Porridge Pot, which never stopped flowing. I wish! I like my oats. Luckily for me, I discovered some book groups on Facebook, full of like-minded people who wrote, thought, ate and dreamt books. They were all as obsessed and excited about books as me, and they were full of tips, help and inspiration.

By the way, have you discovered NaNoWriMo? Not “Nanny Who?”, but a writing competition where you type or scribble as much as you can for a month. I did it last year and it was a total kick up the proverbial inspiration point. Instead of waiting for the thing they call a muse, you have to write... like right then, even when you don’t feel like it. Staring at a blank screen with no idea of a plot, you just write whatever gibberish comes into your head. And, guess what? It’s kind of freeing! You’re allowed to be freaky, crazy, off-the-wall or whatever. Writing by the seat of your pants is akin to a rollercoaster, except I hate going upside down so having my bum on a seat and my feet on the ground was preferable. And I did write gibberish!

But, back to those book groups... I spoke and listened to authors who wrote about their ideas, their dreams, their strategies for writing, how they carried a notebook around at all times (except in the shower, I guess), how they worried, how they worked, how they loved this writing business. Even though most of them had day jobs, they found time to write – even if it meant in the early hours of the morning when their kids were sleeping – which put me and my feeble excuses and procrastination to shame. I also read many of these authors’ books and they’re very good. Knowing the person who wrote one also gave an extra edge to the reading experience.

This sharing, caring attitude was pure inspiration. Last year I wrote four books. This year I wrote a book of haiku, which was something new for me. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done any of that without the inspiration I found from the authors and readers in the Facebook book groups. I kind of hope I found my dedication at long last. It’s funny where you find inspiration. It really is all around... for everyone to find.

The Indie Exchange is a really cool website to check out if you are interested in anything to do with books and writing. You can find it here:

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