This week I’ve been lucky enough to witness a small miracle – baby house sparrows, a species much in decline in the UK, hatching in the rosemary bush under my kitchen window. Very interesting, but what does this have to do with writing, you may ask. Absolutely nothing, but I took some photographs and added the experience to my ever-expanding list of distracting time fillers, seized upon so that I can further avoid the inevitable – facing that frightening blank page.
I decided to write them all down, the little non-essential deviations and digressions, to see how much time I was wasting when I should be labouring at the keyboard.
It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words but sometimes my imagination goes temporarily awol when I’m supposed to be creating a coherent piece of writing. Staring at that blank page can be daunting so I thought it might be handy if we revisited some tricks for waking your writing mojo.
Remember those six honest serving-men from Kipling’s Elephant’s Child: What? Where? Why? Who? When? How? They help us evaluate every situation and character and once we’ve got past the seemingly obvious questions about who the character is, what they are doing and how they come to be doing it, we can widen our scope and pose other questions that reveal different facets and characteristics and help us build up a character, a situation, maybe a story.
On the premise that you can’t edit a blank page, get something written down. If you’re experiencing the same kind of angst as me – too much to do and not enough time to do it in – consider this piece of advice I read a while ago: if you gave up just one of your soaps every evening and concentrated on writing something instead you would have the best part of a novel by the end of the year. Now, I’m no-one to talk, I’m a sucker for quiz programmes and whodunits myself, but there is some merit in the idea.
I’ve committed a crime today. I really didn’t want to but they made me do it. Sometimes you just have to murder your darlings.
Jack London said: you can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. So after a staring competition with a blank page I put my metaphorical club over my shoulder and set off to find some stimulation. I can now report that fiddling around with twenty-five different fonts, however satisfying in the short term, is no way to keep up the word count.