Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. I will talk about the benefits of finding writing groups and being part of a writing community, why writing retreats are awesome and what types there are, and how to use all that is available online to improve your writing practice by achieving your writing goals and meeting new like-minded people.

Find your writing tribe

Most writers are conflicting people – they want to have enough alone time to create their writing masterpieces but also, if left alone for too long, they will get into their heads and worry themselves into writing block or procrastination, avoiding dealing with the difficult, complex feelings that come with creativity.

Recently I read a piece from Irish author Fionnuala Kearney which described her journey to finding her writing tribe after quitting her job to be a full-time author. She worried about how solitary life would be and how she would cope with the lack of human contact after working in a busy office. Every change is hard, even if it’s a desired change. And we humans tend to idealize things up until they happen, then reality hits us and we have to embrace it to move forward. So in the beginning Fionnuala Kearney said she did write in isolation but not long after, she found herself in an online community.

Here’s what she says about it: “To discover that though the life of a writer could be lived in isolation, it didn’t need to be – to come across other people in the same position, other people with the same desires and dreams, other people living it – it was transformative.”

And that is a good point, it’s easier to keep others accountable than yourself so it’s only logical to find another soul struggling like you and swap responsibilities. Motivating one another will lead to consistent, increased productivity and an overall happier writing practice.

Writers rarely view each other as enemies, as rigid corporate competition. There’s a lot of support going around because writing is hard and we don’t want to be alone when it gets most hard. Even if you think about the creation of a novel, or an academic paper, or a copy-writing job, we write alone but the whole process involves teamwork – there are critique partners involved, beta readers, editors, publishers. Getting our writing out there in any shape or form is a group effort and doesn’t leave much room for loneliness, once you get swept up in the process. And working with like-minded people gives us a sense of belonging, which creatives need to stay on top of their inspiration.

Creativity breeds creativity, as I’ve said before, and there’s nothing better than to lift up others and be lifted up in return.

Writing retreats are great

Imagine the benefits of devoting a period of uninterrupted leisure time to pursue your passion. That is possible at a writing retreat. Let’s imagine for a moment that the pandemic doesn’t exist or just maybe think about the future. If you could go write anywhere, with anyone, where and who would you choose? Writing retreats are essentially writing holidays.

If you go for a writing retreat, the benefits you will reap will be well worth the time you put in. If you’re stuck with your routine or facing writer’s block, a change of scenery might be just what you need to gain a new perspective. Being far away from your everyday life with its everyday troubles frees up mental space for you to focus on your project or writer development. If you’ve been writing but face particular challenges in your practice, going on a retreat with a tutor, mentor or other writers can help you troubleshoot that and pick up new writing skills. You might discover a new voice and set out on a completely unexpected writing journey. For many writers, it’s an impossible dream to spend an uninterrupted period of time concentrating on a work-in-progress, and sometimes it feels like achieving a flow state is an indulgence that will never be available. But a writing retreat can give you exactly that, with the benefit of maybe putting you in touch with people who experience similar difficulties and understand the struggle.

There’s a few types of writing retreats, devised by writers to suit those who have different needs. It isn’t what you maybe think at first – picking up all your stuff and going off alone on a creative journey. That would be heaven for some writers but hell for others, so there’s options to suit everyone’s creative practice and needs at the time. So, I’m going to outline the main types but I’m sure there will be other niche retreats that I’ve missed. If you know about an interesting one, message me, I would love to know.

If you’re a writer who enjoys group dynamics and would like to spend a concentrated period of time developing your skill in a particular area with an experienced tutor, a tutored retreat will be great for you. There, a group of participants takes part in workshops and exercises led by an experienced writer or coach. A typical day might start with breakfast and tutored workshop after, some writing time, lunch, another writing workshop and maybe an evening activity after dinner.  If you have a project to work on and need something with a lighter touch when it comes to tutoring, a guided retreat might be a better option. It is for people who want advice and inspiration on their writing in progress. These retreats usually have sessions with a person who acts as a guide or a mentor and offers some in-depth feedback on your writing. Apart from these feedback sessions, the other time is pretty much for you to reflect on feedback, write and edit as you see fit.

If you like the idea of a retreat but the idea of meeting new people doesn’t sit well with you, don’t worry, there’s options for you too. You can go for a solitary, or self-guided writing retreat, which is you giving yourself the opportunity to engage in focused time away from your everyday life. This can be in another country or city, or close to home depending on your circumstances and budget but will offer you many of the benefits of the other retreats. Distance from your usual surroundings will give you a fresh perspective on your work and rejuvenate your creativity.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

I have been announcing little bits about my upcoming romantic thriller The Lavender Phantom but today’s announcement will top them all. The book is now available for pre-sale. It took two years to write and get into shape but there it is now, on Amazon, with a release date. It’s coming on 9th of February 2021 and you can secure a copy of the book anytime from now to the launch date.

There will be a pre-sale giveaway and a cover reveal event soon so if you like things like that, come sign up to my books newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on www.laineydelaroque.com/books.

New reality, new opportunities

Moving on, for most of this episode I have asked you to ignore the fact that we are still in a global pandemic, and while there’s some hope around vaccines coming out and rates dropping, the reality is that we are all pretty much stuck. But, a global pandemic can take our freedom but it can’t take our creativity. Just look at all the NaNoWriMo buzz happening around social media and you will have a glowing example of how writers are still writing.

But times are hard and it’s important we account for that. A life without the writer contact we’re used to, be it a writer friend meetup at a local cafe, a writing group in the pub next door, and cancelled retreats and conferences, can dampen inspiration and motivation. It can wreck chaos into your successful routines, tearing them to shreds with unpredictability. But don’t worry, I got you.

There’s still plenty happening online for you to sink your teeth into and wait out the pandemic gloom. First things first, writing has never been so global. If you’ve always wanted to try something but an ocean or two were in the way, chances are, there’s an online alternative for it already. You should give it a try.

On the topic of learning something new, if you’re curious about things outside of your usual writing practices, give online learning a go. Website www.futurelearn.com collates content from universities around the world, with leading authors and academics from the most famous and obscure of places, providing a vast library of knowledge. You could start learning anything from writing poems, song-writing, psychology to aid your character building, history and much, much more. It’s free so give it a look if nothing else.

If you don’t have the energy to learn at the moment but still want to keep up with your writing in the company of other writers, turn to YouTube or writing podcasts. The latter one you’ve evidently found already as you’re listening to this but there are plenty writing-focused podcasts which can better your writing. Writing Excuses is a long-running one with tons of useful information and regular writing prompts, or writing homework, as I like to call it.

On the YouTube side of things, there’s many authors who do live writing sprints where you can join in. Some examples are author Mandi Lynn and the collective WordNerds but there’s plenty more. Just type ‘writing sprints’ in the YouTube search bar and you’ll be presented with a myriad of options.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Writing social connections of any type can keep you writing when times are hard and motivation is low. They can provide much needed inspiration just by being themselves and sharing the burden of the hard task that is confronting the blank page.

And that’s it for all the wisdom I have at the moment around inspiration and how to foster it. This is the final episode of this season. Listen to the 4 previous episodes for more insight into inspiration and writing. The next season will begin on 8th December 2020. I’ve decided to practice what I preach so instead of a week between seasons, I will take two weeks. I’ve been quite overwhelmed by NaNoWriMo, the podcast and the book editing and publishing, so instead of burning out, I will take some time to figure out my next steps and catch up a bit on things, maybe get ahead even. So I hope you’ll understand and stick with The Pen Garden.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. As a bonus, all of them feature a cute animal and a book recommendation.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how giving writing exercises a go can get you out of a slump and into a new dawn of creativity. This episode is right on time for when a lot of people doing NaNoWriMo start to run out of creative steam. And I’m not saying that in any way to judge, I’m right there with you. Yesterday I had to go back to my semi-complete outline and figure out what happens in the middle of the book. So I had a lot of fun researching and writing this episode and I hope that it will help you as it helped me.

What is brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a widely-used technique to generate new ideas and solutions to various problems. It’s mostly used in academia, business and creative enterprises, though some people also use it to solve life issues.

Scientist Hanisha Besant traced the origin of the practice and its meaning. This is what she wrote: “The word brainstorming was originally introduced by Alex F. Osborn in 1953 through his book Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Thinking. Since 1953, brainstorming as a word has spread around the globe with definitions that vary in the minds of many. The Meriam Webster’s dictionary defines brainstorming as “a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem” (Webster 2015). […] In the broader culture, brainstorming has come to be synonymous with the creative idea generating process.” If you want to go and learn more about the history of brainstorming, check out the full article. It’s an interesting read.

Thinking inside vs outside of the box

I bet you’ve heard it before, to find a new solution you need to think outside of the box. But Prof Ralph Keeney argues that you should think inside of the box before that, meaning you should consider all common possible solutions before reaching for a far-fetched one.

And you can argue that doesn’t apply to writing because we writers want to make everything novel and exciting. Maybe you’re right but I personally like things to make sense. For the past week I’ve been stuck in my novel outlining because I couldn’t figure out why two characters hate each other. I knew one is a crime lord who has contributed to the other losing his career as a doctor. But I couldn’t figure out the event that had led to this outcome. So I binged hospital series in hopes to be inspired by something dramatic and novel to me. I considered euthanasia, ignoring Do not Resuscitate orders, accidental malpractice but nothing fit the character or the medical laws of the place where the story takes place. It was discouraging and I felt that I was getting nowhere.

Then I chatted with a friend and realized I didn’t need a fancy medical reason. In the end, I decided  to make it a human, not a medicine issue – the crime lord was angry in his grief after losing a child so he lashed out at the doctor. Misplaced anger is a very interesting emotion to write about, and I believe exploring the psychology behind it would make my character way more dynamic and compelling. Not that euthanasia is not an interesting topic to discuss, but it didn’t have a place in this particular story line.

Prof Ralph Keeney recommends the following formula when you approach brainstorming: first lay out the problem you want to solve, then identify the objectives of a possible solution. So not what the solution actually is but what it should do to affect the issue. Then try to generate solutions. Make a note of everything and don’t discount simpler ideas. And finally, if you’re still stuck or need some feedback, work in a group. Maybe ask a writer friend to consider your possible solutions or go to a writing group which can help you brainstorm more ideas. 

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

Talking about ideas, an idea I had two years ago has now grown and been honed into a coherent piece of writing. My romantic thriller, The Lavender Phantom, is going to be available for pre-order next week, on the 17th November.

I’ve planned some really exciting events for the lead up to my launch in February, so stay tuned. There will be advanced review copies offered, giveaways with cool bookish prizes, a cover reveal event and of course a launch party. Go to www.laineydelaroque.com/books for more information and to sign up to my newsletter so you don’t miss your chance to win some goodies.

5Ws and 1H

The previous two points were quite general so I want to bring it back to writing. Some of you may know, I’m a journalist by education and when we tackled covering a story, we were taught to always start it with the 5Ws and 1H – Who, What, Why, Where, When and How. There is a practical reason for this – people reading the news might be in a hurry, so we want to convey the most important information quickly. We can get into the details later and people can read them after they know the gist of the story. This was of course before clickbait web articles were popular which can go on forever, stuffed with ads. And I’m a little sad sometimes when I read the news and can’t tell what the story is about from the first three paragraphs, let alone the first two lines. But anyway, I digress.

The 5 Ws and 1 H are the questions which are the backbone of every story: Who did what, when, where and why they did it and finally how they did it. Or it could be: What happened, when, where and how it happened, who did it affect and why it is important. In whatever order, answering these six key questions give you the skeleton of a story. My journalistic training translated into my personal writing brainstorming process.

I often have cool ideas which have no plot attached or see awesome characters in my mind’s eye but have no idea how they could be weaved into a story to showcase their awesomeness. For those times, I go back to the 5Ws and 1H and try to generate as many ideas as possible. Then I sift through the ones I like best and go again, this time adding more detail. I continue adding detail until I have a viable plot idea with at least a couple of strong main characters.

I write fiction so this process is most suited to fiction, but there are definitely ways to tailor it to non-fiction, business or academic writing. Instead of characters, you will need to narrow down arguments, and instead of plots, you’ll need to choose a focused topic to work on. In any case, covering your basics by answering the 5Ws and 1H is useful and can only expand your existing pool of ideas.

Writing youtuber Katytastic has a similar process to mine and she has a very entertaining video on the topic. It’s called “HOW TO BRAINSTORM + DEVELOP STORY IDEAS” and I recommend it for some light viewing around writing advice.

A writing exercise

Now, this can’t be an episode about the benefits of brainstorming and writing exercises without a writing exercise. I love creating them by merging random things. Today is Neil Gaiman’s birthday, so I thought it would be nice to do an exercise inspired by his words. He’s an author who has done a lot for the writing community.

Now, the rules are simple – I will give you a one-sentence prompt and you need to develop a story idea by using the 5Ws and 1H method we explored before. The line is from one of his books but I won’t tell you which one so it doesn’t affect your idea generation process. If you know where it’s from, kudos to you. Your prompt is:

 “The world seemed to shimmer a little at the edges.”

It can be the beginning of your story or inspiration for it, take this prompt as an opportunity to go wild on the page and just create. This is the beauty of writing exercises – there’s no expectation to create something coherent right away so see where your imagination will take you. I’m really interested to hear about what you create with this so get in touch with me after you’re done.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Finding a way for yourself to brainstorm properly will get you out of writing block and will lead to an overall happier writing practice. It’s not always needed but it’s nice to know it’s there in your repertoire. Let ideas stew for a bit but don’t get discouraged if solutions don’t come naturally. You can always turn to focused brainstorming if that happens.

Try writing exercises online or with a friend. Free your mind to let that untapped subconscious power come to you as we talked in the previous episode. And after something starts forming on the page, use brainstorming to fill out the gaps and make it into a coherent piece.

Next Tuesday, I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. There I will talk about the benefits of writing retreats, writing groups and writing friends and how their mere existence around you can be inspirational. So join me on 17th November for the last episode of this season.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious to generate new ideas and problem-solve for us.

Sleep & creativity

Sleep is essential for maintaining creative output. This is something that most people intuitively know, because sleep is essential for life as a whole. It’s also still a bit of a mystery to science, but from what we have gleamed collectively, we know that sleep isn’t just us shutting off like a computer for the night. Far from inactive, our bodies are busy consolidating memories, dreaming and repairing physical damage.

In his book ‘Rest’, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang explains that “as we sleep, the brain shuffles around the day’s memories, moving some from short-term to long-term memory. Visual tasks, emotionally laden experiences, and procedural memories (for example, hard-to-describe skills like riding a bike) tend to be consolidated during REM sleep, while declarative memories (things like lists of words) are consolidated during slow-wave sleep.”

The knowledge of this is important because coupled with the fact that sleep is how the body repairs itself, getting enough sleep consistently is essential for your mental health and creativity. You have to go through a few cycles at night to have a rejuvenating sleep.

The effects of sleep deprivation

There is a somewhat romantic view of the lone writer writing their magnum opus in a cozy candlelit room, with no one around but them and their muse. But as I’ve said in a previous episode, nighttime work presents unique challenges, one of which is the very real possibility that you won’t get enough sleep if you have other commitments in the morning or if you’re a light sleeper.

To further confirm the link between creativity and sleep, we don’t have to look further than what sleep deprivation does to our bodies and minds. Scientists “measured the effects of shift work on the performance and cognitive ability of doctors and nurses. A 2008 study of anesthesiology interns and anesthetists in New Zealand found that after a couple of weeks of having night shifts or on-call duties layered atop of regular duties, their performance on psychomotor vigilance tests dropped.

Not only that, a sleep deficit of less than an hour a night led to declines greater than those seen in comparable groups tested in a sleep lab. This suggests that laboratory studies might be underestimating the impact of sleep loss and that in the real world, the added stresses of making decisions, picking up kids, and trying to lead a normal life amplify the effects of sleep loss. Likewise, studies of night nurses in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, United States all found that as their sleep quality declined, stress levels went up and cognitive performance dropped.”

I’m making this point because creativity is part of our cognitive performance and I have never once been creative after a night or two of bad sleep. It’s just impossible because our bodies and minds shift priorities, and suddenly things like work, art and fun aren’t making the top of the list.

My next two points are a lot more positive, I wanted to touch on the importance of sleep because the pandemic has destroyed plenty of sleep patterns and if you can work on getting a good sleep routine, it will definitely boost your writing routine too. If not, don’t fret too much about it, times are hard right now so let’s be kind to ourselves.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

On the note of self-compassion, have you listened to the bonus episode for this season? There I talk about mental health and NaNoWriMo, though much of it can be applied to any consistent, fast drafting writing strategy you might have. So if you haven’t heard it, go check it out, it touches on 9 mental health traps writers can find themselves into while on a writing deadline, and how to avoid them.

Dreams as gateways to novel ideas & problem-solving

One thing that I’ve always liked about myself is my ability to dream up wacky things. After dreaming, I sift through the weird images and ideas of the night before and pick out anything that might be interesting to write about or might fit in story I’ve been working on. It’s like a free boost of inspiration. Science agrees with me. “Dreams are just thinking in a different biochemical state,” says Harvard University psychologist Deirdre Barrett, author of The Committee of Sleep. “In the sleep state, the brain thinks much more visually and intuitively.”

But how do you foster that? How do you make sure you remember your dreams and don’t miss out on this free mental resource? One practice many people have, both creative people and people who are working through any issues in their life, is keeping a dream journal. It’s particularly useful if you have very vivid, disturbing dreams which can haunt you for days on end. Wake up, put it down on the page, forget it so you can continue with your life. Then you can always return to your journal to process the experience and look for any good idea nuggets.

If you want to have a good sleep and dream, avoiding alcohol and caffeine is also wise, because they scramble your sleep cycles, leading to lower quality of sleep.

“Barrett’s studies suggest that engaging in some type of pre-bedtime priming—like contemplating a problem you’d like to solve—increases the likelihood that sleep will bring some answers. Up to a third of the subjects in one of her sample groups reported that priming had helped them find a solution that had eluded them during the day.”

Pre-bedtime priming & self-hypnosis

Hypnotherapist and children’s author Steve Bowkett also believes in the idea of pre-bedtime priming, although he refers to it as self-hypnosis. Here’s what he says: “The subconscious is a treasure house of potential ideas, based as it is on the accumulated experiences of a lifetime. It is the ground of those two astonishing resources – memory and imagination.”

According to Bowkett, you can teach yourself to control your light bulb moments of inspiration and problem-solving, which is essentially when you get a little notification from your unconscious mind, a little snippet of connection. He suggests that you ask yourself a question and set a specific date and time for your mind to give you the answer.

This is different from brainstorming, as you’re not actively thinking about the issue at hand, you’re giving your subconscious mind space and time to make the necessary links and get back to you. This is not only something to do around bedtime but it might be the easiest way to introduce the practice to your mind. When you sleep, after all, you’re giving your subconscious free reign. This might seem like some sort of magic but it isn’t, it’s building a habit of thinking in a specific way.

Results might come easy or hard, and that’s because it all depends on how you think about it. If you put a mental block on it thinking it’s all sorcery nonsense, you’re unlikely to succeed because you’re not sending the right signals to your subconscious. So next time you’re stuck in a story or out of ideas, try setting some dates with your subconscious and see how it goes.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Respect your body and mind and try to get consistent good sleep, thus making sure you put your mind in the best position to dream, problem-solve and generate new ideas.

Come join me next Tuesday, 10th of November, to learn how brainstorming can jumpstart your inspiration and how writing exercises can get you out of a slump and into a new dawn of creativity. It’s going to be a more practical episode and I’m really excited for it.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, for many, is the epitome of writing productivity. For anyone uninitiated, it’s a global challenge where writers attempt to write 50000 words in thirty days. The 50k is the base wordcount for what qualifies as a novel so, as the NaNoWriMo organization proudly states on their website, people “enter the month as elementary school teachers, mechanics, or stay-at-home parents. They leave novelists.”

But while this challenge is a great opportunity to become a better writer, meet new writers and feel a great sense of accomplishment, it can also create the perfect storm of self-imposed guilt, low writer self-esteem and eventually burnout. The idea for this episode came as I was preparing for my fifth NaNoWriMo. Out of the four NaNoWriMo I’ve participated in, I’ve technically only won once, felt really bad about it twice and did well with my writing and mental health once.

I recognized some unhelpful patterns in my thinking, some words I would say to myself that would hinder my progress. I call them mental health traps, because once you start thinking them, your mental health suffers and you’re trapped in an unproductive state.  So I wanted to make this special episode of the Pen Garden for all of you who are attempting NaNoWriMo this year and give you a chance at a strong start, particularly when it comes to your mental health. So here we go, let’s avoid all these traps together.

1. It’s too much, too fast

Maybe you’ve prepped for the whole of October. Maybe you haven’t touched anything but you’re super excited to begin. And then the 1st November rolls over and you start. Three days go by and suddenly, it dawns on you that you have 27 more days of this and you have no idea how you can make it. On the fourth day you begin your writing with dread, by the seventh you’ve convinced yourself there’s no way you can keep this up.

This scenario is quite common and there is nothing wrong with the people who face this. It is a trap because shows that the writer’s mind is not ready for the change in daily life which NaNoWriMo brings. People are naturally resistant to change because it’s more comfortable to stay within the boundaries of established routines and habits, be they good or bad. But research has shown that people can change their habits if they think about the change proactively and identify its benefits.

For NaNoWriMo, they are many and each can offer a unique boon to your writing practice – you get better at your craft, you meet new like-minded people, you have something big at the end that you can continue working on, you get plenty of inspiration and you also get a taste of what’s it like to have a high creative output every day. So make a mental list of all the good NaNoWriMo can do for you and ease yourself into it.

2. You don’t have time

‘When there’s a will, there’s a way’, people say and that is very true when it comes to finding a writing time. This is where NaNo Prep might really help you out but if you’ve not done it, no worries, you can still prep mentally for the time commitment at least. I guarantee you have some time to write, even if it’s not as much as you want.

Be both realistic and kind to yourself. Look at your daily life and identify any gaps where you could do some writing. Think about how you’re going to write – maybe if you’re often stuck waiting for something, you could knock out a couple hundred words on your phone, maybe you dictate to an app while you do housework you can’t avoid. Maybe you have lots of time but need structure – pick a time when you can sit down and relax enough to let the words flow. For this month, try to give up the idea of the perfect writing time and conditions – you’re working towards a massive goal so be creative.

I have a whole episode from season 2 about how to find your perfect writing time according to your personality, so go listen to it if that’s a known issue to you and you want some practical ideas for your normal writing practice.

3. There’s too much in the way

This follows on from the ‘Not enough time’ trap and it’s all about seeing the countless things that can prevent you from achieving your end goal. So break it down one by one and think realistically.

Do family and friends usually interrupt you when you write? Tell them about NaNo and its time constraint and ask them to respect the time you’re writing.

Do you procrastinate often? Use the time to refill your creative well and think about your story. Inspiration will flow after this and you will be writing in no time.

Do you have no good space? Be creative when you evaluate your surroundings – many things can be a desk and many things can do just as well as a laptop if you don’t have access to one.

Are the days too dark and cold and sad, leaving you uninspired? Put a scented candle on and some music. Get in the mood, allow your mind to wander.

There’s never going to be a perfect month where nothing is in the way so make the most of it now.

4. It’s impossible

I’ve done NaNoWriMo a few years and trust me, something at some point in this month will make you throw your hands in the air in frustration. In this moment, maybe you will even think the whole thing is impossible. But a feeling like that can crumble your motivation to bits. What is the point of continuing something which is impossible?

Well, in a pep-talk a few years back, author Maggie Stiefvater said “I love everything about that word, impossible, and I love everything about slapping the ‘im’ right off its smirking face.” Some of you might raise an eyebrow at that statement, thinking, that’s all bold and motivational but you can’t just change your thinking like that. And that’s true. But it’s important to acknowledge what you feel first, then to try and break it down into smaller, more possible chunks.

Maggie Stiefvater tells us what and why: “It’s going to feel like the writing is the impossible part. But all of the puzzles you’re going to face—plot holes, characterization woes, bad pacing, words ceasing to make any sort of logical sense—aren’t even really problems; this is just what the writing process looks like. So learn to love that process.”

5. You feel alone

This was me a few years ago – I would get up, go to work, then come back and start writing. I would get my words for the day done, update my NaNo dashboard and then go and share this with my boyfriend at the time. He’s not a writer so had a pretty muted response. And by muted I mean disappointing. I didn’t know any writers at the time and as an introvert, wasn’t keen to go out and look for anyone. Writing is a task you do alone, right? Well, maybe not, because after about ten days of uninspiring responses from family and friends, I got really unmotivated. I felt what I was doing was pointless. There was no one to share the joy with. There was definitely no one to share the difficulties with, either. I did win that year, but I was very lonely. And the words I produced then weren’t great – I hid them on a hard drive and forgot they ever existed. But in my next NaNoWriMo, I joined a local group and I never went back to the solitary writing idea.

If you don’t have any friends you’re doing NaNo with yet, don’t despair. Just listen to the official stats:

“In 2019:

  • 455,080 writers participated in our programs, including 104,350 students and educators in the Young Writers Program.
  • 966 volunteer Municipal Liaisons guided 669 regions on six continents.
  • 968 libraries, bookstores, and community centers opened their doors to novelists through the Come Write In program.”

So trust me when I say you’re not alone. Go to the Community Tab of your NaNoWriMo dashboard when you next log in and don’t leave until you’ve made a buddy or two.

6. You can’t silence the editor within

If you return to your writing every day, only to read the last sentence of yesterday’s work and feel like everything is garbage, your inner critic might have come out. There is a time and place for that part of you, and NaNoWriMo is not that. Writing 50k in a month is hard enough, editing as much is not feasible. So push away the part of you that wants to change and swap and hone, and focus on getting your idea written out of your head and onto the page. 

Author V.E. Schwab suggests to change your mindset about what you’re doing this month: “You’re writing a story, not a book.” She, like me, is a lover of metaphors so she gives a great one in her NaNoWriMo pep talk: “You’re not making a whole body. You’re making its bones. You don’t need the muscle, the sinew, the skin. You certainly don’t need the makeup or the clothes. You just need bones. Something to work with. Something to build on. Something to make better, make whole. And you know the general shape of this body. You’ve read books, you like stories; you might not know every minor bone in a hand, but you know the big ones, the skull, and the spine, and the ribs. So go and make a body. There will be time to make it pretty later. But what good is smooth skin without a skeleton beneath?”

7. Writer’s block I – you know what you want to write but can’t

I’m splitting writer’s block into two traps because it can feel different for different situations. If you’ve planned your story, know what you have to be doing but sit down to write and nothing comes, then there really is one way to break through – just keep soldiering on. I’m not often an advocate of forcing yourself to do things but this block is similar to when you’re running and just have the last stretch left. Yet you have no clue how you can do it. You can see the finish line but it feels like you can’t get there.

It’s the same when you hit a block like this – maybe you’ve lost faith in your story, maybe you’re not sure that scene is necessary, maybe you hate the words you have so far. Take a bit of time to reassess if you need to, and start typing. Leave the second-guessing for the editing stage. Writing month is for writing. So don’t overcomplicate it and put some words down.

8. Writer’s block II – you have no idea what to do next

The second scenario of writing block happens to pantsers and plantsers and sometimes to planners who decide to abandon their outlines and see where their story takes them. It’s exciting to write whatever comes to mind, joining the threads of your story on the page just as they join in your mind. But, what to do if you find yourself with no ideas one day?

Here’s what prolific fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson says about refilling your creative well: “One of the lessons I learned as a storyteller was how to refill the creative well while doing other activities. You can do it while driving, exercising, eating . . . anything that doesn’t take your full attention. During these times, many writers I know run through plots in their heads, feel out character personalities, think about conflicts. They make connections, overcoming blocks.

Personally, I’ve found this practice to be essential in promoting healthy writing habits. As a full-time writer, it can actually be harder to refill my creative well, as I’m working on my writing all of the time. One of the ways NaNo could help a writer is by training them to use off moments to delve, mentally, into their stories. Instead of turning on the television as you wash dishes, turn on some music and think through character interactions. Plan out what you’re going to write the next day.

Even if you don’t have much time to write every day, you can supercharge that time by planning out for hours what you’ll do. Teach yourself to think like a writer. It’s a habit you’ll find very useful.”

9. This year sucks

This is a super special 2020 mental health trap that we’ve unlocked collectively as humanity. The year has been horrible so far and no one really is at their best place mentally. We’re battling with difficult things like isolation, grief, illness and uncertainty.

 And maybe you’ve thought about NaNoWriMo and then decided that it’s just a bit too harsh to push yourself like that when you’re already in a gentle mental state. That’s absolutely valid. You know yourself best and if you believe taking part will impact negatively on your mental health and overall writing practice, please listen to your gut and take it easy. You can always give it a go next year.

Or if you’re still doing it but you feel kind of fragile about it all, practice some self-compassion and accept that you might not win this year, that the words might be less and the motivation – harder to find. That’s okay. Take part, write words, connect with people as much as you can. Read the pep talks and know you’re not on your own in this difficult year.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

NaNoWriMo is an amazing social phenomenon where masses of writers come together to attempt the same thing at the same time. Research has confirmed that “NaNoWriMo functions as a fandom, a participatory culture, an informal learning space, a writing group, and a community of practice. It encourages freewriting and positions participants as writers. The combination of intrinsic motivation, choice, and accomplishment provided by the NaNoWriMo challenge promotes participants’ feelings of self-efficacy and encourages persistence in a sustained writing project.” In three very non-scientific words, it is great.

So now that you know where things go wrong, go write. Be kind to yourself, don’t forget to eat and drink and refill your creative well from time to time. Respect your choice to do this and follow-through with your aspiration to get those 50000 words out of you. You will come out wiser, stronger and prouder at the end of November. And by December you’ll be a novelist. Connect with people, you’re definitely not alone. Share your progress and let’s do this together.

For anyone new here, The Pen Garden episodes come one a week on Tuesdays with a break every five episodes. There’s lots of episodes to listen to so when you have some spare time, go back and learn more about how to establish a good writing routine while maintaining good mental health. The next episode comes on Tuesday the 3rd of November and there I will look into how sleep, dreams and daydreams can inspire us. I’m very excited and hope you will join me.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. I will be tweeting my NaNo progress daily so come hang out with me on Twitter. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

This week, I will discuss a topic which all writers dread to think about – procrastination. It’s the enemy of productivity and inspiration and can leave pretty much anyone feeling like they can’t write. But it’s not all doom and gloom – I will teach you how to trick your brain into doing things that fuel your creativity while still indulging that need to procrastinate for a bit.

Procrastination is not laziness

Contrary to what some people believe, procrastination is not about laziness. Productivity is linked with our mental health and there are a number of reasons a person is not at the height of their creative output. One of those non-exclusive reasons is procrastination.

By definition, it is the voluntary delay of tasks which are undesirable in the specific moment despite known possible bad outcomes later down the line. I won’t dive deep into the reasons why we procrastinate, because there are a myriad or personal and mental health reasons which might be playing a part in any given person.

What I do want to share though are the findings of a recent study. The researchers discovered stress and anxiety and procrastination are linked. Anxiety, intrusive thoughts, stress, depression and any other negative emotions motivate procrastination. So approaching your writing productivity from a place of self-care is essential.

And I’m not saying you have to always be jolly and beat your anxiety. That’s unfortunately unrealistic and as I said in the first season of the Pen Garden, good mental health is a journey. So knowing that you might procrastinate after a bad episode is empowering – learning self-compassion is great because it allows you to ride your emotions, positive or negative, and then return to a place of order without disturbing your overall creative practice.

Positivity memes can help

Following that train of thought, we can help our procrastinating brains change their direction by essentially tricking them to be productive. And no, I don’t mean by forcing you to sit down to write or edit or do anything else that requires high degree of focus and mental stamina.

I’m talking about creative procrastination which I think is closely linked to fostering inspiration. In the last episode of this podcast I talked about the importance of keeping our minds open to new experiences and exercising our imaginations. Creative procrastination is an extension of that – it’s taking the time you need to work through the issues you have which prevent you from being productive, while sneakily refilling your creative well with new ideas.

A study found that looking at a few inspirational memes or videos online every day improves psychosocial well-being and motivational intentions. So hop on the positivity train and go look at memes.

My favourite place to go for this kind of motivation when I’m down is the YouTube channel Daily Dose Of Internet. The channel shares impressive and beautiful things from nature and science and brings back our trust in humanity by showing us every day people who do amazing things or are just nice to each other.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

Last week I mentioned I’m working on a novel. Things have progressed a little and now I have a page dedicated to it. It has the blurb and some mood images. Go check out The Lavender Phantom on www.laineydelaroque.com/books and sign up to the newsletter for updates if you like crime thrillers with a strong female protagonist.

Creative procrastination for writers

If memes and social media aren’t your thing, don’t worry – there’s plenty of other ways to procrastinate creatively and dare I say, even productively. Stephen King says: ‘If you haven’t enough time to read, you haven’t enough time to write.’ So return to an old favorite and pick it apart. Why do you like this book? Can you figure out the author’s secret? Why are the characters so great? Do you find the plot twist satisfying? What can be improved? Can you see any errors? When you disassemble a book like this you can later return to your writing and see your own mistakes more clearly.

If you don’t want to take this approach I suggest listening instead of reading. Listen to a podcast just as you’re doing now or listen to an industry craft book about writing. No matter if you’re an academic writer or a novelist, or even a hobbyist, there is always something to improve. Whether that is maybe tension, maybe characterization, maybe just style and grammar- listening like this will help you think systematically through your problems and provide encouragement or a new way of looking at things.

If you want to get away from writing as a whole, just refill your creative will or feed your imagination. Go to an art gallery. Binge that show on Netflix that you’ve been putting off for a whole month. Or look at the world around you. Julia Cameron, in her book ‘The Artist’s Way’, recommends ‘Artist’s dates’ – ‘a once-weekly expedition to explore something that interests you alone. It might be something as simple as going for a walk on the beach and looking for shells. Something you’d enjoy, but something that will feed your imagination. This sparks whimsy. Artist’s Dates encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative works by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.’

Get away from writing for a bit

My final suggestion for this episode is to believe that creativity breeds creativity. When your writing doesn’t go as planned because you’re procrastinating, pick up an old or a new hobby to jumpstart your writing creativity. Enjoying a craft you’re not so invested in has its benefits – there are no looming deadlines or targets, no one expects any output from you.

Try to remember what drawing or coloring or playing in the sand was like when you were a kid – it was a joyous, freeing experience. By adulthood most of us treat creativity just as an indulgence unless the outcome of it is something useful. But to clear your head and find inner piece you need to let go of that constant need to produce products and just embrace your creative journey.

One practice I find very inspiring is the making of the Tibetan Sand Mandalas. If you haven’t heard of that, it’s a Tibetan Buddhist tradition which involves creating a mandala from colored sand and then destroying it upon completion.

This practice is meant to symbolize the transitory nature of life but as a creative person, I also find in it the joy of creation, freed from the need of approval from others or usefulness of the end results. It’s about doing the thing, not about what the thing will become and stay as. The mandalas are really beautiful.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

Do you feel like the next time you procrastinate you will be sneakily productive, refilling your creativity? I’ve been trying it recently and it feels great to just relax with a film or a game and switch off a little without feeling guilty.

Next week on Tuesday, I will look into how sleep, dreams and daydreams can inspire us.

But before that, make sure you don’t miss the special episode on mental health when taking part in National Novel Writing Month. This Sunday, on the 1st of November, tune in to 9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them. It’s packed of useful stuff which can help you make the best start at the challenge and win it with your mental health intact.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

Theory of writing inspiration

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.

Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it is viewed as now and how can you fit this knowledge in your writing practice to empower your creativity. But before I get into that, I want to say that this week is special, because United States celebrates ‘National Friends of Library Week’. For people in the UK, that was two weeks ago. For everyone else, I’m sure you have one in your countries too – it’s a great way to celebrate one of the greatest social inventions as far as I’m concerned. Libraries are allowing many people access to books and that’s amazing. Go and show your local library some love. If there are any librarians listening, thanks you for your work you’re awesome. Now, let’s talk creative inspiration.

Vessel to the will of the divine

Inspiration has long been something mysterious for people, including the creative people themselves. Back in the olden days, when the divine was interwoven in many aspects of everyday life, for lack of other understanding, how creation took place in the mind of the artist was seen as a divine intervention.

An interesting work where this train of thought is recorded is in Plato’s Ion, a poetic dialogue from Ancient Greece where Plato and Socrates discuss how the poet does not have art, but merely inspiration. This is an important distinction because it’s argued the Muse (or God) is the one who gives power to the poet, who then inspires the actor who will perform. So the creativity does not come from within but from above, and the creative person is believed to be a vessel of some divine will.

This idea, I think, is easy to understand – if you try to think when you were inspired last, maybe you would say something inspired you; that something triggered another idea in your head and now you have this thing that wasn’t there before. Creative people are not great at explaining exactly what happens when inspiration strikes and many describe it as elusive. This is exactly why it has been linked for so long with supernatural intentions.

The Inspirational Triad

But that’s not good enough for the state of present day artists. We love owning our work, and it takes a lot of hard work to create and get it out – there’s no way we can let some deity take the credit for our efforts. A study examined how creative professionals feel about inspiration and found ‘The Inspirational Triad’ – ‘a threefold structure consisting of Altered Awareness, Energy, and Enabling Conditions’.

These three things are, briefly, what creative professionals feel they have to have in place for inspiration to strike. Altered awareness is when there is a change to consciousness associated with creativity – for example shifts in attention, sudden insights into an otherwise ordinary experience or even letting the mind wander free, unconstrained to explore new notions. This is the light bulb moment of creation.

Then inspiration is perceived to have energy, or I would call it strength of impact. This is the speed and intensity with which creatives go through feelings and charged emotions that go with their new ideas, the heightened motivation to create, and the increase in creative stamina and activity. This is the buzz of creation.

Finally, for all this to take place properly, there have to be enabling conditions. These could be for example social factors, like surrounding yourself with people who are an inspirational influence, or environments which allow the mind to wander freely without judgment. This is the actual moment of creation, when all comes together and pours out of you because there’s nothing to stop it.

HOST ANNOUNCEMENT

Before I continue with why inspiration matters for writing and why knowing all this is beneficial, I want to name drop myself and say that I’ve said countless times I’m a writer but I haven’t so far shared what I’ve been working on.

Surprise – it’s a book.

I’m working on a romantic thriller and very soon it will be available for pre-order. Here’s a link to the blurb. It’s dark and atmospheric like Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House and packed with action like Alex Callister’s Winter Dark.

That’s it for now, I will let you know when it’s available to pre-order. In the meantime, share with me what you’re working on – I would love to support you and I always geek out when it comes to writing.

Inspiration vs. Effort

Many writers value their moments of inspiration but many, including myself, believe that inspiration is only a tiny part of the overall creative process. Thomas Edison, when talking about his work, said that “what it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration”.

But after doing the research for this episode, and thinking back about my own experience, effort only does not produce great work – that creative spark which we call inspiration is as vital as the work after.

Researchers say “effort is important to the creative process, but its role is different than that of inspiration. Whereas writers’ inspiration predicts the creativity of the product, writers’ effort predicts the technical merit of the product. Thus inspiration and effort are unique predictors of different aspects of product quality.

Moreover, screen capture data indicates that inspiration is involved in the automatic/generative aspects of the writing process (e.g., inspired writers produce more words and retain more of their original typing), whereas effort is related to controlled self-regulation (e.g., writers who exert effort delete more words and pause more to think.)”

Foster Inspiration

Now that we know inspiration is important, I want to leave you with a simple three-step action plan on how to ensure it doesn’t escape you. Inspiration can’t be forced but it can be fostered.

So, first step is to keep your mind open, exercise your imagination. One thing I really like to do when I’m somewhere waiting for example, I imagine myself or the building from above or from inside, I imagine what the person in front of me might be thinking about. Anything could be inspiring if you’re open to see it.

Second step is to make sure you have the time and place to capture your inspiration and work on it. You shouldn’t let that buzz fizzle away into oblivion. So have a notebook with you, or reach often for the notes app on your phone. If nothing else is to hand, tell a friend, two people remember things better than one.

Finally, the third step is to surround yourself with things that can inspire you. This means other writers, groups, places, items, media – anything that exercises your mind in a positive way. This step is well captured by the words of Nobel prize winning author Toni Morrison. She said: “Your life is already artful—waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.” So all we need to do is to open up ourselves to the experience of finding the art that awaits all around us.

sO, TO SUMMARIZE…

I want to leave you with some further reading and listening which will maybe help you be more inspired more regularly. For me, being able to foster inspiration is very important for my mental health because when I’m inspired, my focus shifts to creating, I’m buzzing with positive energy and tend to forget about the other problems of my daily existence for a bit. It’s a great feeling and of course if I can help more writers feel better for longer, I will do my best.

There’s a great article about all I talked about, together with more examples on the Harvard Business Review website, called Why Inspiration Matters. Go check it out.

Next week, I’ve picked a topic which all writers dread to think about – procrastination. It’s the enemy of productivity and inspiration and can leave pretty much anyone feeling like they can’t write. But it’s not all doom and gloom – I will teach you how to trick your brain into doing things that fuel your creativity while still indulging that need to procrastinate for a bit. Join me in the Pen Garden next Tuesday 27th October.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.

Sources

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2:

 

 

 

SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!

 

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In this season, there is going to be a secret bonus episode.

Learn about inspiration and capture it

Inspiration is mysterious for both creators and scientists but absolutely essential to the creative process. In this season I will try to de-mistify it and offer you some practices which might be useful if you want to foster inspiration in your writing routines. 

In the next five episodes, you will learn about:

  • the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it is viewed as now and how can you fit this knowledge in your writing practice to empower your creativity. I learned a lot while researching this episode so make sure you take a look – I bet there will be at least something new and unexpected there for you.
  • procrastination and how we can trick out procrastinating brains to be creatively productive. There I discuss what I call productive procrastination, or consuming inspiring media to ensure you are at the top of your game when your procrastination subsides.
  • dreams and their day cousins, the daydreams. Dreaming opens the door of our subconsciousness and lets us tap into the hidden depths of our creativity. Many of my writing ideas come from things my mind has shown me while I’ve been asleep so I can’t wait to delve into this topic and how it relates to inspiration.
  • how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how writing exercises can get you out of a slump and into a new dawn of creativity.
  • the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. There I will talk about the benefits of writing retreats, writing groups and writing friends and how their mere existence around you can be inspirational.

BONUS Episode ANNOUNCEMENT

On the 1st of November, many writers will be starting a massive undertaking. They will be trying to write a novel in 30 days. And that’s fantastic.

I’m of course talking about Nanowrimo. I have taken part in National Novel Writing Month four times so far and will take part this year again. It’s an amazing time which can leave you buzzing from all the words you’re putting down on the page every day, all the friends you’ve made, all the things you’ve learned. Or it can be extremely demoralizing as you try to reach the daily wordcount goal but the graph slips from its intended trajectory, leaving you feeling deflated and unmotivated.

The bonus episode will look into how you can be productive during this month and keep your mental health, optimizing your chances of winning Nanowrimo. And if you’re not participating, come listen anyway – there will be lots of useful suggestions which can help with the mental health side of writing, no matter what kind of a writer you are.

Listen and Join The Conversation

Episodes come out weekly on Tuesdays, with episode 1 available to listen right now. After each season, there will be a one-week reflection break, for me and for you guys, and then a new season will be available the Tuesday after the break. I will explain more about this in the final episode of this season.

If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. I promise no spam, only cups of writing joy. If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque.

Episode 2 comes out next week

Join me on your favorite podcasting platform!

 

Listen to all Available episodes of season 3:

Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats – Inspiration Episode 5

  Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. […]

Creative brainstorming and writing exercises – Inspiration Episode 4

    Creative brainstorming and writing exercises What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today I will be talking about how brainstorming can jump start your inspiration and how […]

Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration – Inspiration Episode 3

    Sleep, dreams and creative inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today, I’m going to talk about sleep, dreams and how we can prime our subconscious […]

9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them – S3 Bonus episode

    9 Mental Health Traps of NaNoWriMo and how to avoid them What’s this episode about? Welcome to November and this bonus episode of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to it in full above and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This podcast talks about mental health and writing productivity. NaNoWriMo, […]

Trick yourself out of procrastination – Inspiration Episode 2

    Trick yourself out of procrastination and refill your creative well What’s this episode about? Welcome to the second episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. This week, I will discuss a topic which all […]

Theory of writing inspiration – Inspiration Episode 1

    Theory of writing inspiration What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways. Today’s episode focuses on the theory and science of inspiration – what it was perceived to be, what it […]

Season 3 – Inspiration – Overview

    SEASON 3 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this episode about? Welcome to the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Inspiration. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with you. In […]

 

Or the episodes from seasonS 1&2: