Hello fellow scribblers and would be scribblers, my name is Alison Wells. I’m a psychology and communications studies graduate but first and foremost I’ve learned in the past couple of years to call myself a writer and this has paid dividends. This year I’ve managed to complete a short story collection, a novel and been short-listed in several major short story competitions.
You can read more about my progress and about balancing life with writing in my personal blog Head Above Water – www.alisonwells.wordpress.com
The title of the column? Random Acts of Optimism. Well it’s a concept that is dear to my heart and as such is also the title of my recently completed short story collection. In this column I’ll be focussing on the fact that writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum and exploding the myth that you need to sit at the computer or with pen in hand waiting for the muse to strike. If you want to write, you’ve got to just do it but each and every time it’s an act of optimism. Will it be any good? Will it say what you set out to say? Will you ever feel confident calling yourself a writer? Will you be able to convince others that it’s something that should be taken seriously? But it isn’t easy, there’s this thing called life that gets in the way. Very few of us will ever be in a position where we can give up the day job, especially in these straightened times, we have to work around our current situation.
I have four children. The eldest is just turning ten and the youngest three, the others are eight and six. The toddler is still at home with me and once the kids come home it’s go go go until late. Some of you will work either full or part time or have other responsibilities for loved ones or in clubs or voluntary groups. Some jobs can sap the energy out of you, crises occur within the family. And someone in the midst of that you want to write, you need to write but you can’t find the time.
I read an interesting article recently by Sara Collings on the subject of parenting and ‘me time’. She quotes a Zen Master who suggests that ‘me’ time doesn’t have to be only those occasions when parents are free from the children. He relates the story of a Dad who grew to consider even the time spent with his son at homework as potentially interesting and fulfilling. While personally speaking it will take me some time to feel Zen enlightenment while helping with homework the core idea is useful and relevant for us as writers. We need to shake the idea that our writing time has to be compartmentalized. We need to find ways to always be in our writing head. That way we begin to think about our projects at any time of the day.
1: First and foremost see yourself as a writer
Engage with other writers in writing groups or online through networks such as www.inkwellwriters.ie or on twitter or by visiting and commenting on writer’s blogs. You will discover many interesting writing opportunities, competitions and even writing prompts. You will become savvy about what people are interested in reading, what kinds of stories are winning competitions, what’s going on in the publishing world. You will ‘think writing’ in a professional way.
2: Have a writing project you can share with others
Be constantly involved in a writing project through a self or externally imposed deadline. I find the group challenges such as NaNoWriMo www.nanowrimo.org and also FridayFlashhttp://jmstrother.com/MadUtopia/?page_id=577 (on Twitter) and my monthly writer’s group excellent for getting me to create and present work on a regular basis and exchange feedback.
3:Write a little every day, let ideas ignite.
I have found that once writing is a regular thing, even if it is only for a few minutes a day you nfind yourself keeping the ideas in your head and forming associations between writing times for example when you are making the dinner, commuting, hanging out the washing, having a shower, walking to meet someone or collect children. For more see 5 Ways to be a writer when you’re not writing.http://alisonwells.wordpress.com/2009/10/14/5-ways-to-be-a-writer-when-you%e2%80%99re-not-writing/
4:Ideas are like butterflies, make sure you catch them
You’ve heard it before, but its so true, keeping notebooks beside the bed, in your handbag our jacket pocket, using the recording facility on your newfangled phone even. I know from experience that you can create a short story out of a line that just pops into the head but by the same token you can lose that same story if you don’t write that line down (and you never remember it later!) By orienting yourself to the capture of ideas, you become more aware of fleeting thoughts that if jotted down can develop into something wonderful later.
If you haven’t started, don’t wait. Choose an idea that fascinates you, jot down notes, listen to music, or to conversations, see a show, relate it back to your idea. This won’t always happen consciously but the more you do it, the more it becomes automatic. You can attend to the world and it’s concerns and still be in your writing head and when you do get some time to write it will flow more freely.