Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 34: Spring Cleaning


Welcome to week 34 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here

Goal setting
  1. Take care of you, the writer.
Breaking it down

Find your inspiration (again!)
This week’s post has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with the writer. If you take care of the writer, I believe, the writing will take care of itself.

Writers, contrary to common belief, are not immune to the realities of life. We don’t recline on a chaise lounge all day popping bon-bons and dictating our prose to our secretaries – that only works if you’re Barbara Cartland. And Barbara Cartland was as much as a myth as she was a bestselling romance writer.

Last week, at a writer’s dinner, someone was talking about inspiration. I’m probably going to get some of it wrong, but this was the gist of it.

In Michelangelo’s days, inspiration was seen as something that came from the gods above to an artist – it was an expression of something outside of the artist. In the Renaissance, inspiration was seen as something that came from inside – it was more about self-expression.

I think both are interesting angles on the mysterious process of writing. The truth is, writing is pretty mysterious – we don’t always know where our ideas come from or why we write.

What I believe is that a seed of talent – a tiny, fragile seed, I believe – is given to us as a gift. We need to look after it and not abuse it. The rest is, I think, just hard work. It’s craft.
Seven days
With spring approaching here in the southern hemisphere, I thought it would be a great opportunity for a spring clean. A ‘seven-day detox’ if you like.

This is where my journal or diary can help. It’s time to do a ‘brain dump’ or even a ‘soul dump’. Write down all the negative things – fears, anger, all of it.  What kept you awake the night before? What worries you about the future?

Then, when you’ve done that, write out all the good things that have happened to you – in your life, this year, this last week  Just free write – fill up as many pages as you can.

Finally, finish with a list of affirmations. Write down your top five strengths as a writer and as a person.  You could even do these on index cards or on bright coloured paper. Sometimes there are great inspirational quotes on Twitter and Facebook. Print these and put them up at your desk.

Enemy in the mirror
In Writers Write, we often ask delegates to dismiss their inner critic. For me, I always thought this was the old crone of a high school French teacher who told me I was ‘lackadaisical’ – a good word, I’ll give her that, and probably true of me a lot of the time even today. Other times I thought this critic was some spiny covered monster with bloodied teeth.

The other day I woke up and realised that my oldest and most persistent critic is me.  We don’t always see our ‘blind spot’ and, even when we do, we don’t do anything about it.

Even this year, when I’m so committed to, and focused on, writing my novel, the one person slowing me down is me. It’s like having a coach who doesn’t believe in you – who doesn’t want you to win gold.

If you knew an athlete who had a coach like this, you’d probably tell them, ‘Find another coach.’ That’s good advice.  We all need to believe in ourselves. That doesn’t mean we’re not aware of our faults – we just need to be even more aware of our strengths.

We have to see that mental picture: crossing the finishing line. It’s what should keep us going even on the glum days. Don’t lose your equilibrium. You can do it!
Timelock — 7 days

Spend an hour a day on your ‘spring cleaning’.

5 Quick Hacks
  1. Write down what you need as a person. Then decide what steps you must take to get what you need.
  2. Do the same for your writing. Write down what you need to make your life as a writer work. How will you make that happen?
  3. Create two columns. On the left, write down everything you hate about writing. On the right, write down everything you love about writing. Compare.
  4. Describe what qualities you’d look for in a writing coach or mentor – how can you cultivate those in your own mind?
  5. Ask someone to be your mentor or, if you have the resources, hire a life coach.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘Your characters’ lives should spiral out of control. Never your own.’ — Anthony Ehlers

Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

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