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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Can a Stressed Writer be a Successful Writer?

Living in the 21st century is stressful for most of us, despite life being easier than it's ever been. Technology is at its most remarkable, in the forms of mobile telephones, text messages, emails and Skype. You can achieve most things by clicking a button, or so it seems. And although some things have now been made possible, compared to a hundred years ago, one damaging thing is now ubiquitous, and that is stress.

Most writers experience stress at some point in their careers. Most writers have day jobs too, so they worry whether they will have enough time to write a satisfactory amount in a week. They seem to worry constantly about plot lines, character development, copyright, and whether their book will actually sell once it's published. Then there's the added turmoil of marketing - a whole different ball game which the writer must manage efficiently. So it's a wonder the majority of writers don't have a breakdown and give up completely.

But that's the thing about stress, it doesn't always have to have the same result. You can either panic, have a meltdown and never write another word again, or you can accept stress is normal in life now and work your way through things.

The huge benefit of being self employed is you can take a break whenever you feel things are getting too much. But the pivotal point of this blog is to recognise when you've reached that point. If you feel yourself worrying constantly, are prone to panic attacks and have sleepless nights, then your stress levels sound like they could be rising.

Stress is a major killer in the UK. It causes heart disease, eczema  headaches, high blood pressure, some people even say it causes certain types of cancer and diabetes, and those are just the physical effects.

When I get stressed I can't think straight. My brain feels like it's just been wrung out like a wet dish cloth. I get anxious and irritable, and the last thing I feel like doing is writing. For me, my writing flows best when I am relaxed and calm. My creative juices can pour out of of me without encountering any blockages. If I was stessed all the time, I fear I would struggle to write.

But what about you? Are you the same as me, or do you feel that a certain amount of stress helps you get things done?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Can Writing be Taught?

I've been published for nearly a year now, and during that time I have often wondered whether it would be worth my while to go back to college/university to obtain a qualification in creative writing.

But something has always stopped me, and that thought is: how can I guarantee the course will be worth my time, and most importantly, my money? So after a long time thinking this through, I came up with this answer:
  • No college or university course can ever come with any guarantees, no matter what you study. But degrees in creative professions seem less likely to promise a successful career in whatever direction you decide to go in.
Now I am not saying degrees are pointless full stop ... far from it. If you want to become a lawyer you have to study law, and there's absolutely no way around that. If you want to become a journalist or a copy editor, you have to obtain a degree in a specialised subject. But I have always been someone to think that great art cannot be taught.

Creative writing courses might be able to teach you vital grammar skills and great sentence construction, but I honestly think that the most effective way to become a great writer is to teach yourself.  After all, how many best selling novelists can you think of with creative writing degrees? I bet there isn't as many as you might think. Reading voraciously and learning how other writers are successful are two fantastic ways to start off with. Study characters profiles, setting scenes, plotlines and pacing.

And as the publishing industry is changing so much, I think if there was any degree I would love to have it would have to be in marketing. As with most writers, I love to put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, but marketing really stresses me out!

What do you think? How many of you have degrees in creative writing, and are they as useful as some people make them out to be? Please share your views with me.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

How to be Happy

Two weeks ago I blogged about the reasons why it's unproductive to be happy, but I have since thought maybe it is better to be happy for most of the time. If you're the sort of person who is cheerful and just has the occasional 'down' day, then that's perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.

But what if you're someone who find themselves on the darker side of life more often than they see the brighter part? More worryingly, what if this is you and yet you're so used to feeling down, you no longer see it as a problem?

I've read several blogs this week that highlight this problem, and reading those articles has inspired me to do my own take on this aspect of life. Coincidentally, this problem might have just been an issue for me until last week I decided to do something about it ...

Having a life in the 21st century can be extremely stressful, tiring and demanding. It seems it is no longer enough to have just one job anymore, some people struggle to keep their head above water even when they earn a decent wage and work full time. Single mothers have to work and raise their children, while running a house, all at the same time.

Now I do not have the above problems. Fortunately I am financially secure with a roof over my head and do not have children to run me down. I am blessed with time to concentrate on my writing while still having the chance to breathe. But can this actually be a bad thing? Spending most of my time just concentrating on my goals and what I want to achieve by the time I am thirty? Well, yes, it can be, to a certain extent. Here's why:
  • I spend most of my time focused on my next goal that I literally do nothing else apart from work closer towards that ambition. And believe me, this isn't as great as it sounds. I lose contact with everyday situations, people, and life in general.
  • The more focused I am, the more ambitious I want to become, so I go into overdrive, get extremely stressed and snappy.
  •  The longer I continue to repeat the cycle of only focusing on a few things and generally over working, the more I lose sight of the things that once made me happy, contented and relaxed. Because I can only see the carrot on the stick that's just out of reach, I forget who I am and what I live for. 
For the past two and a half years, I have just wanted to concentrate on writing. And as a result I have never been so focused on anything else in my entire life. Day in, day out, I do the same things over and over again. Sure, this is a great method in ensuring things actually get done and not just put off until another day, but after a while it can become extremely boring. I've lived my life like this for nearly three years so it's no wonder I nearly went mad.

But last week I decided to do something different. I had the opportunity to go elsewhere in the country for a couple of days, all by myself. Now this is something I haven't done in over four years, and back then, travelling alone seemed to be the only thing that I did.

During my three days' away, I had the opportunity to see someone from my past life, someone from my travelling days. I was never expecting to see this person again, and it was great to catch up with them. But what made my time away so great was the fact that it gave me the chance to be me again before I became so stuck into writing.

So, if you're worried that you might be stuck in a boring old rut, take the opportunity to get away for a few days and catch a glimpse of another life. After all, it's important to remember happy times.

More blogs on this subject:

Dee's blog:
Susanne Lakin's blog:

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Let's Get Positive!

This post sort of ties in with the post I typed last week. I was buzzing because I received two high star reviews on Amazon and because of those reviews, I was brimming with positive energy.

The way I was feeling last week inspired today's post, as I thought how amazing it is just how a positive attitude can drive you forwards to achieve so much more than you ever imagined possible. When something positive happens, it almost forces you to believe good things can happen. Your confidence receives a boost and you start to think you can accomplish goals that were once previously unreachable. You find yourself with more energy and motivation to get things done, and you want to show the world how successful you are.

So, when life gets in the way of our dreams, how can we still maintain our new positive attitude? Well ...

  •  Have faith in yourself. Make it your mission to make everyday better than the last one, no matter how much criticism you receive. If you write well and someone praises you for it, you'll be inspired to write further in more or less the same way. If you write but receive negative views, analyse their comments in depth and find ways to improve your writing.
  • Keep things in perspective. Every decision you make in life will not be positive and vice versa. People make mistakes all the time but that's only part of being human. To fail is positive because it means you have taken a chance on something. It's just this time it didn't work out how you wanted it to. But maybe in the future things will turn around, you've just got to be brave and push yourself outside your comfort zone to take chances more often. 
  • Socialise with like minded people. Humans' generate energy which other people absorb. If this energy is positive then it'll only recharge your batteries.
So, is your attitude to life positive? What gets you down, and how do you restore your positive energy? What, or who, inspires you the most?