This week, when sorting through my writing notes, I made a very interesting discovery. In one of my journals, I found the initial seed of the idea for my first book, written two years before my supposed eureka moment!
Amazingly, this piece of paper had been completely forgotten about, yet the idea stayed in my subconscious and resurfaced two years later, as if for the first time! While the initial seed differed slightly from what I thought was the initial seed, it was the same idea in essence.
What I’ve learned from this is that some ideas are very persistent and will stay with you throughout your life, begging to be brought into the world. They may lie dormant for a time, but they always find a way to return to you. This is reassuring for a writer like myself who clings on to his notes for fear of losing his ideas – clearly such written prompts are not needed, nor are they re-visited much once written. Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep notes, as you just don’t know what notes might spark your imagination, but I’m merely pointing out how persistent our ideas can be.
Throughout your life, you may have many ideas, some great and some not so great. What I recommend is focusing on the ideas that really sing to your heart. Don’t give a hoot what others might think. If you’re going to express yourself, then it should be something that appeals to you.
You are the judge. You are the gatekeeper of your ideas, who gets to decide which ones are worthy and which are not. But how do you choose what should take priority? Oh, that’s easy! I think you already know deep down which ideas are special. They are the ideas that refuse to go away.
It matters not where you write down your thoughts. Whether it is on the back of a napkin, a scrap of paper or a pre-ordained notebook, what’s important is that you capture your ideas in any way that you can. Most inspired thoughts fade quickly from your awareness, so it is always good practice to jot things down.
You just never know where an insight may lead you. One little sentence could be the beginning of a whole creative project, growing from a seed into a vibrant, fully-fledged piece of work. Some seeds take years to come to fruition, while others do not grow at all. But unless you cultivate your imaginings, then you are not creating the ideal environment in which they can thrive.
Sometimes, ideas are only worth writing down when you give them a little time to ferment in your mind. It can often take a bit of daydreaming before that inspired eureka moment comes along. Trust in your creative process and learn what is worth writing down and what isn’t.
We are all creative beings and we should rejoice in the fact that we can crystalise our thoughts and transform them into great works and projects. Whether you jot things down on paper or a digital device, always make sure there is a place where you can capture your brilliance.
Before I read Show Your Work!, I used to think of self-promotion as something that was dirty and unwholesome. I was afraid of annoying people with too many updates and thought that I might come across as indulgent or arrogant if I posted too much about what I did.
But this guidebook was written for “people who hate the very idea of self-promotion”. Reading it has dramatically changed my perception and I now view self-promotion as simply sharing what you do – thinking of it in this way makes it seem less unsavoury somehow! In fact, sharing what you do – with regards to your work, thoughts and ideas – is really just being transparent about who you are as a person.
While reading Show Your Work!, I made key notes that I will definitely refer back to in the future. If you are someone who struggles to self-promote or have trouble speaking about what you do, then I highly advise you to check out this book. It is packed full of practical advice and really does help to shift your perception. The main lessons I learned from it are as follows:
- Share something small every day, whether it be something that inspired you or an idea that you had. Anything from your creative process that might be insightful or interesting to others.
- Document everything that you do. Take photos, keep a work journal etc, so that you have a wellspring of material to draw upon when blogging or posting updates.
- Focus on your work and get good at what you do. Don’t waste your time and energy trying to gain followers or network. People will come to you if you are good at your craft.
- Don’t hoard your ideas. Post about what you’ve learned and help your fellow creatives, encouraging support and collaboration.
- How to deal with the dreaded question: “So what do you do?”
- Appreciate your guilty pleasures (i.e. that TV show that everyone else thinks is lame) because maybe it will lead to something that inspires/influences your work.
- The vampire test. If something drains your energy, cast it out of your life. Keep the things that boost your energy.
There are so many other things that I learned too. There was also a lot that I already knew deep down, but I just needed some reassurance and encouragement. It is precisely the book that I needed to read and I am enjoying incorporating its methods and techniques into my life. Thank you, Austin Kleon, for a fantastic guidebook!
If you wish to check it out further, then click here: http://austinkleon.com/show-your-work/
This week, I have taken the executive decision to start keeping a little observations book.
In the past, my observations have been all over the place, either just left unrecorded in my head or jotted down onto scraps of paper. As a writer, things often strike a chord with me – whether it’s a particular character trait or some sort of societal issue – so it’s important to capture all of this for future reference, as anything that I observe could be used as material for my stories!
Since creating an exclusive place to record things, I have been making more observations than ever. I now try to take my notebook wherever I go because you just never know who or what you might encounter on your travels! A wry observation about mothers with prams, the way that people tend to ignore beggars on the street, an overheard snippet of conversation – anything could catch your attention!
So why not keep it all in one place? Human memory is terrible at the best of times, so it’s well worth writing stuff down. Hopefully, in years to come, I should have a wealth of notes to spark my imagination and bolster the reality of my worlds. Already, I have made some very interesting entries and I’ve only been doing this for a week!
As a writer, inspiration is very important to me. Without it, I do not get any ideas and I can’t proceed with any new projects.
What I’ve found is that I receive much more inspiration when I stop chasing ideas and just let them develop naturally. When I open myself up, ideas just flow through me as if I’m tuned into some sort of cosmic radio station, tapping into a wealth of inspiration. When I’m connected like this – when I’m in “the zone” as some people call it – stories grow and mature all by themselves!
Some ideas develop more quickly than others. Some form overnight while others take a while to ferment before they grow legs and spring to life. What’s important is that you don’t push an idea until it is ready to enter the world.
The wonderful thing is that all of us have an imagination. All of us can receive creative ideas and get inspired. So I would urge you all to have fun with this mighty gift and push the boundaries of what what you can create! Keep your creative juices fueled by reading books, watching films or whatever else gets you inspired!
When people rave about a book, it’s usually about the characters.
The characters are the most important element of the story, so it’s important to get them right. The plot is important too, but it’s the characters who drive the plot. If you don’t have realistic three-dimensional characters, then the plot feels contrived and forced. Good characters help to create the illusion that the narrative is unfolding naturally. But how do you create these vibrant characters?
What I personally do is take elements from people I have encountered – either in the real world or other works of fiction – and mold them into an interesting character. If you’re already familiar with the type of people that you’re writing about, then it’s easier to breathe life into them. Authors are encouraged to write what they know, and I would definitely encourage you to do that with your characters. There are many different types of people in this world, both good and bad, so take inspiration from everyone that you meet. Your characters will ring true if they are drawn from your own personal experience, even if your story is set in a different world.
There are many things to consider when coming up with characters. What’s their name and what do they look like? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Their motivations and goals? While it’s good to consider all of these things, I try to let my characters form organically before I start putting them into boxes.
And before you begin to write, I recommend that you at least know the basics about your characters. Know enough information so that you can proceed with the story without having to stop every five minutes to ponder over what a character might say or do. As I like to map out my narrative in advance, I always have a basic framework of how the story is going to pan out, which means that I usually know my characters quite well before I get started. But regardless of whether you like to plan or simply go with the flow, you will definitely get to know your characters better as you go along.
After six accumulative weeks of writing, it’s finished!
Even though I knew that I was approaching the end, it only properly sunk in once I wrote the last sentence. I then realised that I have written two books in the space of a year, which is quite the achievement methinks.
Compared to the first book (which took eight months to write), I bashed out this latest yarn in no time! This is partially because the story is quite close to home, but also because my productivity has greatly improved. In all honesty, I am very relieved that this book took less time to write, as I would like to churn out as many books as I can during my lifetime! I have lots of ideas in the pipeline, so it would be nice to breathe life into them all.
But as most writers know, it would be impossible to develop every idea. There are simply far too many – ever-growing in number – and they can threaten to distract you from your current project. However, I have very good tunnel vision so I always give me full focus to my current project.
Now that the second book is done, I am sure that my next project will present itself to me. Out of my idea bank, I always go with the idea that naturally develops in my head… the one that resonates with me the most. At the moment, I’m developing a fantasy series, but another idea may well jump the queue in the meantime.
I’ve never had a problem coming up with ideas. But what to do with them while I’m already working on a project?
Why, jot them down of course! That’s all you can do. Any little insight, observation or idea, no matter how silly. Because later on, when you’re ready to start something new, one of those ideas could come in handy.
Sometimes, it can be quite frustrating to receive a fresh and exciting new idea when you’re in the middle of writing something else. I know that some authors write/develop multiple books at once, but I prefer to do one project at a time for ultimate immersion in the protagonist’s world.
To be honest, I shouldn’t really complain about getting too many ideas, because it’s better than having too few! And all of these ideas are kept in the pipeline for potential future projects, so I’ll never be short of something to write.
The fate of these ideas remains to be seen. Some will inevitably amount to nothing, others will be worthy of development, or may evolve into entirely different beasts altogether. What I do know is that the process of developing an idea, from a little seed into a fully fledged book, is an absolute joy and definitely worthwhile.