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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Writing About Pre-Writing by Leah Godfrey

Writing about Pre-Writing
by Leah Godfrey 

I suspect that many of Chris’ avid fans are in a similar position to me. Wannabe writers. We know that there is a book in there somewhere. We know we have something interesting and relevant to add. We consume literature like voracious animals, savaging fiction and soaking up facts. We joke about how if we won the lottery, we would move to a small, warm island and ‘write for fun’. When someone compliments us on writing ability (usually in something work related) and suggests we do something about it, we blush shyly, demur and change the topic of conversation.

There is always an excuse; some reason which stops us from taking the first step or making the commitment. For me, there are two. First of all, “I lack creativity”. As of last month, I call bullshit on this feeble excuse. I don’t lack creativity, I lack creative muscle. This became very apparent to me having treated myself to one of the San Francisco Writers Group books – “642 things to write”. I’ve sat down and slowly worked my way through the book, flexing my creative muscles as I’ve gone and adding some serious bulk in a relatively short time. If you haven’t seen these books, pick one up and have a look next time you’re in town – very short writing exercises that don’t half get the juices flowing. I would highly recommend these to anyone in my pre-writing position so that you can call bullshit on that excuse too.

The second reason, however, is a little more practical. I have a pretty decent job and a solid career. If I wanted it to, it would take me places. Unfortunately, I don’t want it to because it’s a tough role and whilst I can cope with the mental demands, the emotional ones are wearing away my soul. I like my soul. I reckon it is quite important. I would like to be doing other things instead, writing for a living being top of the list. Financially though, I am backed into a corner where my life and that of my family is expensive and I need the job to fund everything we have and all the things we want.

There is also the small matter of my currently being on maternity leave with a teeny baby. The maternity pay is not amazing, but there is enough of it that I have been able to take nine months off work. The downside is, in accepting the pay I am contractually obliged to return to my job for at least three months after (or I have to give all the money back). So career-wise I’m not going anywhere until October 2017 anyway….

But this leave has given me plenty of time to think. I have had the opportunity to put in some groundwork. The aforementioned book is a great one page-a-day exercise so stimulate the imagination. I have launched a little blog on what life is like as a second-time Mum
(http://mirrormirror2016.blogspot.co.uk) and have committed to writing a piece at least five times a week, mainly just to get into the habit of writing with any regularity. I’ve bought books which will hopefully inspire and instruct me, including Stephen King’s “On Writing”, Bill Bryson’s “Troublesome Words” and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White. I read this and other blogs about writing with great interest. I have a notebook to hand so that when thoughts come to my mind I can capture them on paper immediately. Perhaps most importantly, I have started to read critically. Before I would read a piece of fiction and become lost in the story, because hey, that is what it is there for. Now, I also try to take the time to pick the book apart and recognise what the author doing at any given point; here is Stephen King effortlessly making us give a shit about a character, here is Olaf Stapledon doing some world-building and here is Armistead Maupin tugging on the emotional heartstrings. With this in mind, I’ve also started writing reviews for books on the GoodReads app, to share my critical analyses and see how they align with the thoughts of others.

There exists in my line of work (and probably many others) what is snappily titled “The Transtheoretical Model”, which refers to the cycle of change and how to help people depending on where they sit on said cycle. It is useful for behavioural adjustments (such as giving up drinking or smoking) or more generalised lifestyle changes (considering going to university) and five stages occur. Precontemplation (awareness but reluctance), contemplation (consideration, looking for the pros and cons), preparation (intention is there, plans are being made), action (what is says on the tin) and maintenance (sustaining the change or new behaviour). An additional stage is relapse which is usually framed, very positively, as the pathway back into the cycle following a blip, be that major or minor.

In terms of writing, I currently identify very strongly as moving from contemplation into preparation. Writing this blog post for Chris’ guest spot is a strong indicator for me that I’m moving towards committing to the idea of being a writer and looking for ways to make that happen. With that in mind, I would not want this to be considered as a how-to guide in pre-writing. I wanted to lay my ideas out there, because I imagine many of his readers will be exactly where I am now. I want to engender a sense of pre-writing community. More than anything, I want tips! Please! Any feedback is welcome. I have 6 months until I can dump my career and I would like to be using that time constructively, in this, my preparation stage.

Thank you in advance. Thank you for reading. Thank you Chris.


About Leah Godfrey: Avid reader, wannabe writer. Recent second-time Mum and owner of three dogs; Tweedledum, Tweedledumber and Tweedledipshit. You can find her blog here: http://mirrormirror2016.blogspot.co.uk/




If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

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