I dithered for a long time before writing this article, then inspiration struck just as I was falling asleep last night. As a writer, I keep pen and paper by the bed, so I was able to jot down a few notes to type up today.
It reminded me that the best ideas usually come to me when I’m most relaxed.
Think of that drawer we all have, full of clutter such as old pens and instructions for the kettle-before-last. If you empty it out, it will soon fill up with new stuff. Nature abhors a vacuum. When you stop trying so hard and empty your brain of thought, something will come to you, I promise.
Tip: Relax! When you let your mind wander, it will settle somewhere soon
I often get great ideas while listening to live rock music! You’ll often see me at the back of the gig, scribbling into my notepad.
If I happen to get an idea while driving, I phone my landline (hands-free of course) and leave myself a message on my voicemail.
And sometimes I even find inspiration in the bath!
Tip: Be aware which environments inspire your best ideas and be ready to capture them before they escape
I did some of my best writing on a creative writing course with Sue Townsend (author of Adrian Mole) on the Greek island of Skyros, surrounded by sunshine, goats and olive trees. In fact, one morning I woke up and wrote a poem that wasn’t even in my own handwriting! Sadly, you can’t always go on holiday when you have a writing task to perform. We professional writers have the discipline to write something adequate any time, anywhere. We also work well to a deadline!
Tip: Note the time of day when your mind seems to be most creative
When I’m suffering from mental ‘overload’, I might go for a walk through the local park to get some fresh air, then sit and look at the flowers for a moment. Whatever is top of mind when I come back to the office guides me what to do next.
Tip: When you’re completely stuck, do something completely different
Like make-up, the secret of good writing is not what you put in; it’s what you leave out. In order you get started you can write absolutely anything and edit it later. This is the joy of cut-and-paste ‘word processing’ compared with typing or handwriting in the old days when I was a trainee journalist.
Tip: Start in the middle or at the end and add the introduction and heading last
All professional writers edit their first draft, maybe several times. So don’t even try to write a finished piece in one go. Instead, follow the suggestions in the ‘planning’ article I wrote last month.
Tip: Plan your writing before you start
Sometimes hurdles such as writer’s block are there to test our resolve. Sometimes they are a sign that you’re trying to do the wrong thing.
If you can’t make up your mind which way to tackle a topic, and have narrowed it down to a choice between A and B, then it probably doesn’t matter which you choose — just pick one.
Tip: Trust your intuition and go for it!