Ideas That Refuse To Go Away

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.

 

 

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Finding Your Creative Voice

In recent months, my thinking has been very scattered and I’ve been allowing myself to get wrapped up in all kinds of things that aren’t really that important. This has worn me down, spread me thin, left no space for my creativity to emerge. Indeed, my creative voice has been submerged beneath an ocean of miscellaneous crap, completely drowned out and distorted.

Nurturing your creative voice is so important for an artist. Without it, you feel as though your wings have been clipped. No matter how hard you try, you just cannot take flight for long. This can be very frustrating, especially when you have a story to tell or something to express, but the only thing you can do is work through this challenging period.

My biggest problem is that I don’t devote enough time to my writing. Instead, my energies are channeled into mundane things and not being spent on my one true passion. At the moment, though, I am going through a massive de-cluttering – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and I am finding that as I peel away the layers of dead-weight, I am rediscovering what my priorities are.

As all the crap is being banished from my life, I have been able to devote more time and energy to the things that I love. Already, I have noticed that my mind is clearer and more focused, less concerned with silly trivial things (such as what my work colleagues think about me). I still have some way to go, but hopefully once I am fully unburdened, my creative energies will be able to spring forth unhindered.

Crystalising Your Thoughts

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.

Crystal Dragon Jesus

Recently, I discovered something called TV Tropes, which is an amazing tool for writers. It is essentially a wiki database for all the different elements you find in books, TV, film and other media, covering everything from narrative devices, character archetypes and genre components. All of these concepts are collectively known as “tropes”.

It is so fun just to browse this website, even if you’re not a writer, and enjoy these tropes in all their glory. It seems that every conceivable literary element and device has been given a name. So far, my favourite one is “Crystal Dragon Jesus”, which is when a fictional religion features in the story. Another great one is “Magnificent Bastard”, which refers to super-intelligent and cunning villains (a chess-playing mastermind who always seem three moves ahead).

There is a button at the top of the page that allows you to view these tropes at random, but many entries cross-reference each other and you’ll probably find that your curiosity will get the better of you, especially when the likes of Crystal Dragon Jesus are mentioned so casually in passing! Somewhere on the website, you can also access the periodic table of storytelling, which features some of the most widely-used tropes.

Each entry also includes examples of where these tropes are featured, which is handy for research or if you happen to be searching for a “Weirdness Magnet” or a good example of the “Hand Wave”. Curious, aren’t you?

Whether you’re a writer or just appreciate how stories are put together, then I definitely recommend checking out http://www.tvtropes.org. I, for one, have definitely been converted into a troper! As a writer, it is reassuring to see that you are using tropes that people know and love.. it may daunt some people to know that nothing is original, but everyone uses these tropes in their own unique way. Tropes are the fabric with which stories are woven, forming a common language between writers and their audiences.

Like A Lamb To The Slaughter

Today, I mortally wounded one of my characters, which was difficult for me to do because I have grown quite attached to him. But unfortunately, he was always meant to die… in fact, the whole reason I invented him was so that his death could illustrate an important plot point.

Like a lamb to the slaughter, I nurtured his character precisely because I knew he would be sacrificed. But as the story unfolded, I grew to love his character and found him difficult to let go. He came to life on the page much more vibrantly than I had expected.

I even considered keeping him alive and sacrificing someone else, as it would have been interesting to explore his potential further. But surely the fact that he will sorely be missed is testament to the character I have created? After all, don’t we all have unexplored potential when we die? If he leaves behind a noticeable hole and his absence causes heartache for the reader, then surely that is a job well done writing-wise!

During the writing process, a story can change direction and alter. Characters who were doomed to die can be spared, while others might be bumped off instead. In this particular case, I followed through with my original plan.

 

 

Do You Hate Self-Promotion? Read This Amazing Book To Change That!

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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Don’t hoard your ideas. Post about what you’ve learned and help your fellow creatives, encouraging support and collaboration.
  5. How to deal with the dreaded question: “So what do you do?”
  6. 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.
  7. 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/

 

Writing as a linear process

For me, writing is a linear process. I cannot jump ahead and write future scenes if I’m stuck because the unfolding of a story is so organic that unexpected things happen along the way. New characters can come into the fold, the plot may take a different direction or some scenes may no longer feel necessary. None of this may happen if you begin to time-travel.

Of course, writers are the creators of their own worlds and ultimately can time-travel if they want to (indeed, it may be part of the plot). But from experience, I have found that I never fully stick to my plan as my story comes to life on the page.

I tend to stay true to the main essence of the plot, but often the best parts of my prose come from nowhere. So travelling from A to B, from beginning to end, is the way that I operate. No chopping or changing, no jumping ahead to future scenes, just staying there with my characters from the first page to the very last.

Don’t Lose Your Magic!

I recently watched Joy, the film about the inventor of the miracle mop, which was very inspiring indeed. All such success stories serve to demonstrate that you should always persevere and never give up, for the realisation of your goals cannot happen without constant drive.

What really grabbed me about Joy’s story is that her creativity was suppressed for seventeen years, crushed and stifled by all the commitments and other things going on in her life. I can relate to this creative hibernation because I did not write for many years, but my creativity kept finding other ways to express itself, until I eventually plucked up the courage to write my first proper book.

At the beginning of the film, you get to see how bright and creative Joy was as a child. Indeed, most children are born with such fearless wonder and playfulness, but a lot of us lose this magic as we enter adulthood. It is tragic when someone’s spirit is crushed by the real world, as this person cannot shine as brightly as they would like, nor be who they want to be.

But it is never too late to change things! Joy tapped back into her creative reserves after seventeen years and overcame great odds to achieve her dreams.

Watching this film made me think… if Joy could overcome such adversity, then so can I – and so can you!

For as long as you breathe, you have the opportunity to turn things around. Don’t let your spirit get crushed by life. Don’t lose the magic!

The Fragility of Life

The other day, a car drove past me and one of its tires unexpectedly blew out. The disgruntled driver slowly pulled over and sat there in astonishment.

This incident reminded me of the fragility of life. You can be cruising along quite happily until something unexpected comes along and knocks the wind out of your sails. Indeed, the opposite can happen where you’re just muddling along and a great gust of wind lifts your spirits and elevates you to new heights.

Nothing in life is certain and things are forever in a state of flux. Nothing remains static, so we must embrace change and dance with the flow of life, otherwise we will suffer.

Many people suffer because they resist change or cannot let go of the thing that punctured their tire. But every time that something knocks us off the road, we must make repairs and get back into motion, otherwise we will rust and decay and end up on the scrapheap.

Life is fragile and unpredictable, but this should not discourage us. Each of us are on a special journey, with pitfalls and delights that lie ahead, obscured by the landscape of time, but that is what’s truly exciting in my opinion.

Wherever your road leads, no matter what obstacles you face, keep on chugging along and don’t forget to appreciate the view.

Feeding The Belly God

Four different coloured spoons clamoured around the dish, each wanting to feed the last mouthful of paella to the Belly God.

‘Step back everyone,’ warned Green Spoon, diving in first. ‘This last bit’s mine.’

‘Not a chance, you greedy scoundrel!’ protested Yellow Spoon, knocking him back. ‘You’ve had far too much already!’

‘And why should you be trusted with it?’ Green Spoon asked him, with a mocking smile. ‘You’re old and chipped and belong in an antique shop.’

Yellow Spoon’s eyes bulged. ‘How very dare you!’ he roared. ‘I’ll have you know that –’

‘Stop it, the pair of you!’ cried Red Spoon. ‘Everyone knows that Belly God loves me the most – I should have the honour of feeding Him.’

‘But – what about me?’ Blue Spoon mumbled, keeping his distance from the conflict. ‘You never let me do it.’

The other spoons laughed.

‘Darling, you know you’re far too clumsy,’ said Red Spoon, trying to suppress her giggles. ‘You’d just drop that paella on the floor.’

‘No I wouldn’t –’

‘Stop this petty squabbling!’ demanded Yellow Spoon. ‘There was never any trouble before you three came along –’

‘Back in the good old days, eh Gramps?’ Green Spoon scoffed. ‘Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, but we’re here to stay!’

‘Belly God will be wanting me,’ said Red Spoon, letting out a deep and longing sigh. ‘The way He feels when I caress His tongue – oh, it’s magical.’

Green Spoon sniggered. ‘You are deluded, Red Spoon. Do you think Belly God wants you fawning over Him when He’s trying to enjoy His food?’

‘We have a connection!’ said Red Spoon grumpily. ‘Something that you wouldn’t understand.’

‘Silence!’ commanded Yellow Spoon, stomping down on the ground. ‘This is shameful behaviour. Absolutely shameful!’

Blue Spoon cleared his throat. ‘I don’t think Belly God actually cares who feeds Him – as long as He gets fed.’

‘Don’t be so ludicrous!’ cried Yellow Spoon. ‘It takes talent to serve – I have seen other spoons come and go, yet I remain!’

‘Not for much longer, you old crock!’ Green Spoon sniped. ‘Your days are numbered.’

‘Indeed, that may be the case,’ admitted Yellow Spoon. ‘But it’s been a good life. And I’ll be damned if I let you have the last mouthful again.’

Green Spoon cackled. ‘But who better for the job?’

‘Perhaps we should draw straws,’ suggested Blue Spoon. ‘Let chance decide.’

Silence fell upon the spoons. They looked at each other, terrified by the idea of fair play.

‘Blue Spoon, you yet again spout your nonsense,’ Yellow Spoon grumbled, walking around the edge of the dish. ‘If we did it your way, then you’d be in with a chance!’

‘I promise I won’t drop it –’

Green Spoon howled with laughter. ‘You said that last time. And the time before that.’

‘Just face it, dear,’ said Red Spoon, giggling to herself. ‘You’re simply not cut out for this feeding business.’

Blue Spoon grew angry. ‘How can I learn from my mistakes if you won’t let me practice? You’ve never given me a chance! Ever since I arrived here, all you’ve done is judge and criticise –’

‘All right, young one,’ said Yellow Spoon, in a soft and gentle voice. He and the other spoons were shocked by the outburst. ‘Perhaps we ought to let you –’

‘No!’ Green Spoon barked. ‘Have you completely lost your mind? Blue Spoon will never learn!’

‘There’s no harm giving him the last bit,’ said Red Spoon, taking pity on their blue companion. ‘We’ll be seeing Belly God again in the morning – and they do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.’

‘That’s settled then,’ said Yellow Spoon, beckoning Blue Spoon over to the edge of the dish.

‘Now hang on a minute,’ cried Green Spoon, barring the way. ‘I didn’t agree to this –’

‘You’ve been outvoted,’ Yellow Spoon told him. ‘Now move aside before I feed you to Belly God!’

‘Fine,’ snapped Green Spoon, storming away in a flurry of rage. ‘But don’t come crying to me when he messes up.’

Blue Spoon watched him leave, then turned towards the dish. Yellow Spoon and Red Spoon smiled at him from the sidelines.

‘I’ll try to be careful,’ said Blue Spoon, fumbling as he climbed into the dish. ‘I’m not as clumsy as you think.’

The last mouthful of paella lay waiting for him. Red Spoon and Yellow Spoon watched as he nervously approached it.

‘Go on, dear,’ urged Red Spoon. ‘We’ve kept Belly God waiting quite long enough.’

Blue Spoon nodded. He then stooped down and shovelled up the small heap of food, wobbling slightly as he did so.

‘There you go, lad,’ said Yellow Spoon, hardly daring to breathe. ‘You’re nearly there.’

Blue Spoon saw a few grains of rice tumble off. He tried with all his might to hold the rest of the heap in place.

And then a hand appeared from the sky, swooping down to collect Blue Spoon and his precious cargo.

‘Here He is!’ Red Spoon swooned. ‘Don’t forget me, Belly God – we’ll rub against each other tomorrow.’

The majestic hand lifted Blue Spoon into the sky. The other two spoons watched with awe as he disappeared from view.

Blue Spoon could not remember the last time that he fed Belly God, but he had been practicing in secret, preparing for the day that the other spoons would give him a chance. Now it was time to make up for his past clumsiness.

Belly God’s hand directed Blue Spoon up toward His mouth, which was above His big hairy belly. A large tongue came out to greet him and licked the paella off his metallic surface.

‘Mmm,’ a deep voice boomed. ‘That was goooood.’

Blue Spoon gasped. It was always a pleasure to serve the Belly God.

When the large hand returned him to the dish, the other spoons were waiting for him, barely able to contain their curiosity.

‘How was it, child?’ Yellow Spoon asked him. ‘Did He impart any words of wisdom?’

‘Did He have any messages for me?’ Red Spoon inquired.

‘I – erm –’

‘He probably wondered why I didn’t give him the last bit,’ Green Spoon grumbled. ‘Belly God likes routine. He won’t be happy that it was broken.’

Blue Spoon walked away from his squabbling companions, filled with a deep sense of accomplishment. Every mealtime was a battle, but Blue Spoon was growing stronger.