It feels like a gazillion years have whooshed by since I wrote on my blog. A few grey hairs and worry lines later and I have a new topic to talk about… always a silver lining, eh?
I might be greener than a bunch of unripe bananas when it comes to writerly expertise, but there’s one thing I believe I’m quite accomplished at. In fact, I’d go as far to say that if they dished out qualifications within this particular discipline, I’d be receiving my Ph.D.
And no, I’m not talking about humiliating my husband or embarrassing my kids (although I’m relatively deft at both, I’m nowhere near proficient at claiming any titles in those regards).
I’m talking about procrastination.
I excel at it.
Of course, gaining mastery skills in sitting on my arse wondering where I’m going in life rather than actually doing something positive to take me somewhere, I feel I’m now well versed in understanding what drives excessive worry and turns a person into a dribbling internet junkie (at least, for me, anyway).
So here are personal techniques I’ve used to get out of the stinky funk that is the procrastination bog.
1) Lists. If you’re like me, someone who watches their food budget, but buys stationary like a multi-millionaire, you’ll likely have a folder/diary to write daily tasks in. Use it. Make lists. Tick them off. Daily. Don’t just buy that smart looking pad—fill the bloody thing out!
2) Use guilt effectively. If you’ve got something to do and you’re struggling to get it done ask yourself: will I let someone down if it’s not done (including yourself)? If you answer yes, suck it up, buttercup, and get it done. Why? Because you’ll feel like an absolute wanker otherwise. And no one wants to feel like a dejected wanker. I’ve gone into wanker-mode more times than I care to think of, and I can tell you, it’s not a nice place to be. Leads to all sorts of mental self-flagellation, lies, and pity parties (where no one else wants to hang out with you).
3) Give yourself two minutes. If you’re past the wanker stage and currently wallowing in a pond of sludgy procrastinating poop, pull yourself out for a moment. You don’t even need to shake yourself off or towel-dry your hair. All you need to do is spend just two minutes on the task you need to get done. That’s it. Just two minutes. The likelihood is, once the minutes are up you’ll carry on past the time you’ve given yourself. If you don’t, that’s still two minutes closer to the end goal. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
4) Instant gratification. I’m not really sure how this fits into procrastination, but it does… sort of. Anyway… we all like that sugar rush when we eat a tub of ice-cream. But we all know that diabetes is just another bucketful away. Ask yourself whether suckling on the sugary teat of mindless moments is worth it? If, in a year time, you’re still doing something that hits you with detrimental endorphins (or whatever the happy chemicals are), what would the consequence be? If you’re spending endless hours on YouTube rather than writing (or whatever long-term goal you’ve got cooking up in your noggin), think about what you could achieve by switching off the Internet, burying your mobile in a sandpit, setting fire to your iPad, and ergo delaying that soul-sucking instant gratification of watching cute kittens barf?
5) Rewards are good. Written that chapter? Spend an hour reading or drinking wine. Done that exercise? Have a pedicure… or tattoo! Rewards are underrated, overused, underused and all out of sync. Reward yourself when you’ve achieved what you’ve set out to achieve.
6) Read a book. Even though I’ve crowned myself as the Doctor of Procrastination, I’m no expert. Nothing beats reading a book on the subject, particularly if the book is written by a professional. Self-help gurus and snazzy life coaches are everywhere and easily accessible. Just don’t get sucked into becoming a serial-self-help-addict. There comes a point when you have to step up and do it for real.
7) If all else fails. My go-to personal advice on everything is this: we are a speck of dust on a spinning rock in the midst of an unfathomably infinite universe. So don’t waste time fannying about. And don’t bother waiting for the right moment to begin—it will never arrive. Life is intolerably short, so get stuck in.
I don’t know about any of you, but I find when inspiration strikes, hits, materialises… whatever you like to call it, it’s a bit like having that one mate who calls you up and you know, you’re in for an epically memorable night.
We all know that one person who could turn a six pm Friday night bridge-club meet-up into a booze-filled weekend orgy for the over-eighties, right? Okay, maybe that was a slight over exaggeration—still, scientific probability says that if that scenario hasn’t already happened, it will.
Let that sink in for a moment…
Any-who, the point I was trying to make before I got side-tracked by a future my husband would probably like to have, is that no matter how shy you are, how introverted you might be, there’s always that one person who will get you behaving in a way you’d never thought possible. For clarity, let’s call her Nutty-Nora.
Before you know it, Nutty-Nora has you running around the dancefloor in nothing but your trousers with a weirdly euphoric feeling of invincibility as you sing along to Chumbawamba. Obviously, this is a metaphorical analogy which has absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever.
Well, that’s how it feels for me when I’m sitting in my little wooden hut in the garden and inspiration strikes. Nutty Nora hits me up with an offer I can’t refuse and I let loose. It’s not always whilst I’m in my hut, sometimes I’ll be driving to work, cooking dinner or listening to my husband talk about… whatever it is he talks about (I don’t know, football, I guess?).
At the first opportunity, I crack-open a notepad and get scribbling.
It’s such a fricking good feeling—not giving any fucks and letting go.
There’s sometimes another mate, though. The anti-inspiration, Sober-Sue. The boring, safe, moaning-mini with all the charm of a pufferfish having a resentful day. The one who bangs on your door after you’ve been on a no-fucks-given bender, when you’re feeling a little tired, in need of a nap and sustenance that contains more than just caffeine.
That’s the mate who not only likes to piss on the smouldering embers of your fire, but enjoys informing you about the horrific fiery accidents others have had whilst following the same endeavours as you.
Sober-Sue, my friends, is the evil twined arsehole of Nutty-Nora.
How do I avoid contact with the fire-pissing-poop-producer?
I don’t. I invite her in for a nice cup of tea and a natter.
Am I insane?
Well yeah, duh! You’re reading this blog… doesn’t take a genius to work that one out.
Anyway, where was I? I’ve digressed. Ah, yes... Sober-Sue might be the evil twin, but she’s just as important and should be allowed to visit too. You can’t expect to hang out with Nutty-Nora 24/7. She’s full-on. She’d drive you crazy. Sober-Sue is there to offer a little clarity, a little grounding.
The two go together like pickled onions and heartburn, kids and bogies, puppies and chewed shoes.
They’re two sides of a valuable coin. Without Nutty-Nora, inspiration would be like discovering a freshly melted tub of your favourite ice-cream—still edible, but rather disappointing. Without Sober-Sue inspiration can take you places you’d rather no one knew about—like naked dancing.
Find balance. Drop expectations. Allow inspiration to take you out once-in-a-while and then, when reality pops in for her visit, you’ll have a fresh batch of creative-produce for her to tidy through.
How long you want either of them to stay or how involved you want them to be is entirely up to you.
This month I had lots of fun writing a post for Ivy Logan’s blog on the importance of pursuing creative activities.
Because, let’s face it, in a world daubed with both big and small catastrophes, it’s healthy to take stock of the simple things that make your bladder weak and heart-rate rise (surely I’m not alone in having undesirable bodily functions from excitement, right?).
You can’t change the inevitable sling-shots of shit, but you can make them a damned sight more palatable if you find a small amount of time each day to pursue the things you love.
If you’d like to read my mind-mumbles on the subject head over to Ivy ’s blog. Whilst you’re there, don’t forget to say hello and check out all of her other awesome posts.
Instead of blogging, this last month I've been spending a little more time with my monsters, as well as the unofficial child of our household (the husband). But I couldn’t resist joining in with the IWSG on their monthly blog hop. They are a wealth of information on all things writerly. I highly recommend any of you lovely writers to take a look at their blog posts and get involved. ISWG post a question the first Wednesday of each month. If you'd like to get involved and sign up (why not? You've nothing to lose!) click here. In the meantime, take a look at IWSG's Captain of the ship/Master of Ceremonies Alex J. Cavanaugh and this months brilliant co-hosts: Christine Rains, Dolarah @ Book Lover, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Yvonne Ventresca, and LG Keltner.
This months question is: what are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?
I thought I'd keep it simple write a list of my top nine pet peeves (because ten would be typical, and I'm feeling rebellious).
1) When my entire house turns into a noisy gamer’s den-come-TV show home… ‘put the fidget spinners and games controller down and get outside and play, kiddos. Mum is trying to write!’ (Parenting fail, I know.)
2) When I'm in the midst of writing a nail biting, tummy-twinging scene, and I run out of coffee. Java-junkies, know my pain!
3) When I think the latest pages I’ve written are good, only to read them the following day and be left wondering whether I had some kind of mental, schizophrenic episode during my last writing session.
4) When I read another author’s work that I adore, and awe turns into that naughty little tyke, envy. And envy leads to the biggest pity-party known to humankind. I am not Neil Gaiman, and never will be. Get over it.
5) When I fail to find a major plot hole and my loving husband points it out, laughing. You win this battle of one-upmanship, Mr. Fitzpatrick, but the war isn’t over.
6) When I think my kids are settled in bed and I sit down to write, only to have mistaken their silent serene sleep for a midnight bedroom-wall colouring session.
7) When I wakeup with an excellent idea and plan to write it down later in the day, and I either forget what my brilliant epiphany was or I’m exhausted and fall asleep, dribbling on the keyboard.
8) When I struggle to write even basic sentences, and it takes me a day to figure out how to eloquently write that John did a poo… just kidding. None of my characters poop on the page, they prefer taking their toilet-breaks in private without anyone reading about it.
9) When I edit and decide to change a tiny detail at the beginning, only to realise that the tiny snowball of a detail turns into a giant avalanche of plotlines by the end. It’s time to crack open the Rocket coffee and get shovelling through.
This week I'm taking part in another IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group) blog. I highly recommend any other writers out there to take a look at this fantastic group here, and popping over to the July co-hosts: Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan.
The question asked by the IWSG this month is: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since writing?
I’ve been loaded with indecision thinking about this, so, instead of answering with one lesson I’ve made a list of ten imperative things I’ve learned (but don’t always adhere to) since I began writing.
1) Surviving off coffee for prolonged periods of time will give you palpitations and paranoia.
2) Whoever penned the advice, ‘Write drunk, edit sober’ should have added, ‘but don’t consume the entire bottle of vodka'. Not only will you get no editing done for days with your post-kid hangover, the chances of you understanding a word you’ve written whilst drunk are slim to none.
3) Procrastination can be fun if you do it right. Do it wrong and you could end up spending four hours watching vines on YouTube. Four hours of your life that you’ll never get back!
4) There is no such thing as flat-out failure. Failing is merely a learning curve lined with silver sparkles. Everyone loves silver sparkles, right?
5) I never thought for a minute writing would instigate a chair obsession. Not all chairs are the same. Get a comfortable one. Backache sucks and codeine is NOT the answer.
6) If I have a (rare) day off I tend to get less writing done than the days I’ve got a gazillion things to do—I’m pretty certain an undiscovered black hole passes by earth and messes with the relativity of time when I’m not working. That’s the only plausible explanation for my inefficiency.
7) Say yes to as much as you can. If you don’t you’ll only regret it later—unless you’re busy with your face in a computer screen not paying attention, and your kids ask for a puppy. Disappointment is hard to rectify with those little monsters. It might cost you dearly.
8) My husband has more patience than a salesman on the verge of closing a deal when it comes to me spending the evenings writing. He does call me Borg, though. But I can deal with name calling from my husband, Cowhead.
9) Never take yourself too seriously. Life’s too short and precious to waste on self-created worry. Paying monthly bills is enough pressure, why add to it?
10) Validation from others is nice but use its uplifting effect carefully. It can be undermined with a couple of unkind words. Writing is subjective. I cannot please everyone.
There comes a time when the motivation monkey is happily swinging from branch to branch with the wind in his face and the world passing beneath him, when, out of nowhere, he loses pace, grabs some rotten foliage, and promptly plummets to earth with a thud.
If he has a particularly lengthy fall he might be left feeling a bit tender. A bit unsure. Looking up, he might see an epic, mountainous climb. Looking down, he might see a soft bed of leaves.
I know what I’d choose.
Does your motivation monkey lose the battle of wills when he takes a tumble? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Mine is so used to falling off track he’s developed a habit of catching some lower branches to cushion his descent—a toolbox of helpful techniques I try to deploy before he reaches ground zero.
First off: why do we lose motivation?
Boredom. Big yawns all round! Who wants to clean the house or cook dinner when you could be reading… or doing whatever it is that flicks your switch.
Distraction. When YouTube distracts… this is like diving into a rabbit warren for me. I could waste hours on YouTube under the guise that I’m learning something. Usually, I start off with something educational and related to my story building—a little philosophy, or perhaps a historical documentary on the rise of the Third Reich… two hours later I’m glued to videos of animals being rescued from abuse, while I eat ice cream and cry uncontrollably.
Overwhelmed. Christ Almighty, I have gazillion-and-one jobs I NEED to get done each week. What’s the answer? Do none of them and pretend they will all go away! Feeling overwhelmed is the biggest motivation killer for me.
Laziness. Come now, don’t be ashamed, laziness is okay in small doses. I like to think of my lazy episodes as holidays from reality. We all need a break now and then. Don’t beat yourself up. However, if people start to comment on your personal hygiene it’s probably an indicator that you’ve taken it a step too far. Now, go and wash!
So what’s the answer?
Well, I had a gigantic list of things I’ve used written down in my note book: from hypnosis and meditation to self-help books and taking regular walks. But I won’t be penning these techniques here.
There are far more eloquently put examples and excellent motivational experts out there (check out some of these videos here and here).
In the interest of brevity, I’ve whittled it down to one question I ask myself when I lack or lose motivation:
If I do it, will it count towards enhancing my life and those around me?
If the answer is no, I find something else to do. Chances are it isn’t all that important, and there will be something else with a higher priority that I need to achieve. Anyone who has been to my house will be able to witness this question in action. I still have walls without plaster… it’s been two years since we moved in.
If the answer is yes, I do it. Well… most of the time. I might need an extra mental boot up the behind. And that comes in the form of addressing my own mortality—recognising that you have a finite amount of time is, without a doubt, the best motivator around.
So, don’t put things off. Get your motivation monkey back up into the tree canopy and start swinging! Because the next time you drop off and dawdle in that comfy bed of leaves, there might be a hungry tiger waiting for you to fall asleep.
Our cat, Dave Lister The Smeg, is a total tiger.
If you happen to have any techniques of your own, please let me know. I like to acquire information with the same passion a person with collectomania gathers possessions.
I've signed up to be part of a blogging group who post a question the first Wednesday of every month. I'd highly recommend writers of any genre to click on the link and check out their insightful blogs.
Insecure Writer’s Support Group
June 7 Question: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?
In short, no.
But, in keeping with my propensity for prattling on, I’m going to expand and say: sometimes… kind of.
Writing is like any other form of creativeness—whether you spend an hour on your hair each day or a month decorating your house in Las Vegas style lights ready for Christmas—we create because it brings us joy.
But we’re social creatures. We like to share.
So, there comes a time when most of us take the leap, strip naked and show off our stuff (metaphorically speaking, of course); however, what we hope to achieve when bearing our most intimate creations, doesn’t always transpire.
And that’s where problems can start to make you wobble.
Primarily, I write because I get a kick out of putting words on paper. I love making things up—when life gets a little tough or when the world’s news sounds like some late-night horror listing, writing makes it all go away. I don’t just bury my head in a rusty bucket of earwig-filled sand, I get to transport myself onto a sun-kissed beach where anything I want to happen happens—I’ve never actually written about a beach, and my stories tend to involve death, but, you get the idea.
It’s all about escapism. And your imagination’s the limit.
Because I love what I do, I want to share it. It’s a little like sharing photos of your kids on social media— you’re proud of those little critters, and you know someone else will see their cute hilarity too, right?
However, creating and sharing don’t always walk serenely hand in hand—sometimes, they end up running, kicking and screaming, in opposite directions. Sometimes your kids, no matter how cute they are, just don’t appeal to others.
If someone doesn’t like what you’ve made/written/drawn/built, then it sucks. There’s no poetic way to put it that doesn’t come off as a little self-absorbed. It. Just. Blows.
Let’s get the awkwardness out of the way, you can call me Narcissistic-Nelly if you like, but I cannot think of anything more gratifying than having someone get that same buzz I feel when I read a good book.
And if they don’t like what I’ve written?
I begin to waiver. I gear myself up to dive into the abyss of self-pity whilst wailing ‘what’s the point in it all?’
Luckily, I have a husband who finds these moments funny; he also happens to have no problem in telling me I’m acting like a dick (he usually does an impression of Stewie from Family Guy and asks how my book is going to hammer the message home). And his humour is a welcome slap to the senses.
There will always be a tonne of people better than me. There will always be people who think my stuff is smellier than a week-old cat turd (everyone knows that cat poop stinks, right?). But if other people’s opinions make me want to quit, then my perspective is seriously skewed and off-track; so, I have a firm word with myself, watch a bit of Family Guy, and trace my steps back to my original motivation for writing: the love of it.
We all suffer from it; It doesn’t matter if you’re the next Hemmingway, Picasso reincarnate, or Joe Blogs with a
passion for beer and porn. Self-doubt is one of those weird, uninvited emotions that strides in, jacks itself into your senses, and then sits back sniggering at you… you can’t get the words out, the paint won’t flow or, well, you know what happens to dangly bits if too much booze is in the bloodstream, right? Not a lot.
It can be crippling and debilitating.
But, self-doubt doesn’t have to be the evil floppy monster who whispers nasty comments in your ear. When you really think about it— when you chop out all the noise and nonsense— self-doubt is more like an untimely bout of wind than a demon weighing on your shoulder.
We’ve all been there…
You knock on the door of someone you’ve briefly met. Someone you view as important. Someone you want to impress; then, just as the door opens, when you hear the latch being turned, your lower intestine rumbles, and out pops a trouser-trump.
No matter how long it took you to prepare, how well-rehearsed you thought you were, self-doubt strikes: was it a simple gust of nothing… or something else? A silent-but-deadly, or the beginnings of a pyroclastic flow of disappointment and humiliation?
That’s the moment—the critical space between possibilities— the one that you’ve magically decided will path your entire fate from here on out.
A) Crack on, in the knowledge that everyone farts and poops?
B) Escape to a monastery, shave your hair, change your name to Hugo and indulge in some self-flagellation?
It’s easy: You hold your head high, smile, and blame the whiff-of-woe on the dog.
Why blame the innocent, randomly placed dog? Because, unlike us, dogs don’t give a monkey’s balls how others perceive them. So… be like a dog.
Stripped down, self-doubt is nothing more than a fear of stinking to high heaven when you’ve tried to path your footsteps with perfume and charm. It’s the loss of control; the worry of how others will see us. It’s voluntarily standing in a courtroom dock, to be judged by a panel of jurors, when no one has even accused you of a crime.
Sure, we might make mistakes: turn out a bit of work that garners all the response of a sneeze; agree to run Rhymetime at work, knowing our voice resembles a wailing cat in heat (just ask the preschoolers I spend every Friday morning singing to); or we might make the wrong decision to get drunk on our wife’s birthday (I’m talking to you, Mr. Fitzpatrick).
Does it really matter? Will you spontaneously combust or be cast from society if people think your musings, voices, and poorly timed drinking habits suck?
No. They might laugh, they might cringe, they might even block their ears with pieces of flesh they’ve stripped from their bones in response, but you know what? Who cares? Really… WHO CARES?
Who am I kidding… I’m a self-doubt junkie. There’s always a little voice in my head that tells me I’m a fraud, a faker and delusional candlestick-maker (I’m not really a candle-stick maker, it just rhymed). We can’t help but care what others think, or worry how others see us, and our work. But, there’s a good, logical reason why. And knowing why is half the battle to defeating that mutated monster.
Okay, I’m no philosophic genius (no matter how much I try to convince my children otherwise) but I believe self-doubt is born out of primitive instinct; the one no longer needed in modern society: to either stand our ground and fight or get the hell away from the scary thing.
Those instincts served us well when we were toting spears and hunting woolly mammoths; but, like an appendix (the organ, not the table in the back of a book) and wisdom teeth, they seem to have become completely surplus to requirements in today’s modern, processed-food munching world (well, at least until the zombie apocalypse happens). Self-doubt is our brain's way of assessing risk and coming up with a response that’s as useful as a chocolate fireplace.
Fear of failing to impress people is a far cry from the fear of getting your arse served up to some apex predator because you forgot your sharp pointy stick on a trip out hunting to feed your family.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when doubt can serve you… self-doubt might be a warning sign to step back and reassess a situation. But. I would use this instinctual reaction with lashings of caution and calm. If something doesn’t feel right, take a break and walk away to gain perspective. Don’t think about it. Meditate. Read a book. Watch a film. Find a willing partner to have some vertical fun with. Do whatever it takes to get your mind into something else. Whatever you do, don’t obsess about doubts. Then, when you come back to it, with fresh eyes and a happy disposition, you’ll likely see the doubt for what it is: primitive, misplaced flight response.
When this fails, when I can’t see clearly—when the fog of gloom won’t dispel—I try to beat it back with a bit of introspection; so, I ask myself two very important questions. Questions, I’d like to share with you…
1) Am I responsible for the nuclear armament of a psychotic maniac who wants to cleanse the earth of the parasitic human race so he/she may breed his/her pet iguanas to take over the earth?
2) Have I bet all my life savings, along with the savings of my parents and grandparents, on a horse named ‘lungless-Joe’ in the hope that the wizard I met last weekend really does have super-powers, and he’ll keep his promise to fix the race at the final furlong using his wizarding skills?
If you answered no too, great! You’re not a turnip either; you can carry on and do what you do. Self-doubt, like any thought, is there to keep you grounded and humble, but don’t let it turn you into a tool of the hapless and hopeless.
Am I doubting the content of this blog (including my terrible abuse of punctuation and grammar)? Of course I am. Will it stop me publishing it? No way. When I turned thirty I made the decision to have a full-sleeve tattoo; a few well-intention people commented about my possible future regret. How will you get a job? What will you do when you get old and wrinkly…? You know the sort of thing. Well, in answer to those concerns… I managed to find a job (that I love). And when I’m old, if my colourful wrinkles are the only worry to plague me, then I’ll be one lucky O.A.P.!
We will make mistakes and we will fail. And then… we will probably fail again. Why is that so scary? We are neither immortal or infallible. The next time self-doubt haunts you, remember: we are made from the dust of stars, living on a tiny planet, in the midst of an infinite universe. So why not throw caution to the wind, put your ideas out there, and damn-well enjoy your time with all the wondrous things this life has to offer?
Wait…? What? I know a tonne about vacuuming, washing laundry and how to botch a family dinner. But I don’t want to write about it… washing skids out of pants just doesn’t do it for me.
On its own— like a meme created by some literary fascist, in his/her evil, ivory tower— write what you know is absolute tosh. It’s out of context. Sure, I might not know what’s going on in my husband’s head— like when I ask him to take the rubbish out and he responds by scratching his left testicle and staring at me with a vacant expression— but, I can learn what makes a man’s mind tick. And then, I can write about it.
Really ‘write what you know’ should be ‘know your subject matter’. Okay, that doesn’t sound as snazzy, but it’s far more accurate. If there’s a subject you want to include in your literary baby and you haven’t got the faintest clue on where to begin… then start off by learning about it.
Learning your subject before you embark on writing should give you two important advantages:
1) It sounds simple, but it offers you an understanding and knowledge. It saves time and stress if you’re already well-rehearsed on the subject matter. So now, when I want my husband to take the rubbish out, I’ve learnt to pre-empt his response by giving him a quick kiss, handing him the black bag and pointing him toward the door. Knowledge is power in everyday life too, you know.
2) You will develop a passion for the subject. And if you have a passion for the subject, your readers will feel those stomach-flipping moments too. But what if you don’t develop a passion for the subject? What if you find yourself nodding off, only to wake in the middle of the night with your head stuck to your keyboard in a pool of your own dribble? Well, then, you probably shouldn’t be writing about it. Drop it. Find something else that keeps you awake at night and write about that instead.
There are a tonne of resources available to you… as good as it is, Google isn’t the only one!
1) Books. It goes without saying that books are, by far (in my humble opinion), the best kind of well-researched resources available— they take time and thought to put together. And if they’re non-fiction? Then, the author is likely to be a subject matter expert. But one thing many people forget is where you can find them… for free. And no, I’m not talking about KU. I’m talking about libraries. How do I know that libraries are underused by writers nowadays? Because I work at one. Seriously, people, they are an amazing resource. And I promise you, if you walk into a library and tell the librarian you’re a writer who needs to research something, they will be happy to help. Murder, bigamy, smelly farts… no subject is too bizarre! We don’t judge. We get it. We understand. We love authors and their brilliant books. It’s our calling… like priesthood. Visiting your local library also relates to number 4 on my list.
2) Podcasts and Audiobooks. I’m an avid fan of both podcasts and audiobooks. If you’re like me: working, parenting, trying to write and not go insane with the lack of hours in the day… then they are a great source of material. You can listen while you drive, walk, do housework. Oh, and did I mention that libraries stock audiobooks too? Just saying…
3) TV Shows and Films. Want to know how people talk? Move? And behave in situations you wouldn’t normally be witness too? Then watch, watch, watch, people. Whoever said TV was bad for you clearly wasn’t referencing writers. Make notes, see what works, what doesn’t work and question the reasons why they shine or flunk (you should watch The Room… it’s brilliantly bad. So much so, I love it). Just remember: staying up for two days straight to have a marathon session probably isn’t the greatest way to get the most out of your research. Pace yourself, my popcorn-munching-people.
4) People Watching. Open your eyes and ears when you’re out. We spend too much time, hunched over, wired up to our smartphones or disappearing into our own heads. I get it, it’s where I like to be too. But watching people is the nugget of all nuggets for understanding how they behave socially. And it gets you out there, in the real world. Connects you with others. Just don’t do what I did and get so lost in thought you get accused of being a weird stalker.
5) Music. Want to know how it feels (like deep, Mariana trench, emotional kind of feels) to be a revolutionary pawn in a world that’s falling apart? Listen to a song about it. It doesn’t matter whether the lyrics are an exact reflection of the subject you’re trying to create, the likelihood is that the tonality and timbre of the song/piece will invoke inbuilt feelings that you can draw on. I have playlists for every character, scene and theme. Let your imagination do the rest.
And finally, if the subject you need to know about is too bizarre and obscure to find any tangible resources? Well, there’ll probably be a YouTube video on it.
But wait, hold those galloping horses. What if the subject belongs in the realms of fantasy? What if it doesn’t even exist yet?
Okay, you want to know what it would feel like to be trapped on an island inhabited by trolls with a penchant for gambling? Break it down. Find accounts from people who’ve been trapped on deserted islands. Read about the psychology of gambling addiction. Listen to stories on trolls… mix it all up with a splash of crazy and then make those little scruffy haired creatures your own. You’re a writer, do what you do best and get that awesome imagination greased up and start connecting the reality and matrix dots.
In summary, this is a basic overview of how to research and learn about subjects you want to write about. Think outside that six-walled box and get out there. There are lots more resources than listed here; if anyone has any other suggestions, I would love to hear about them- feel free to share your own methods in the comments section. In the meantime, peace and love to you all.