My starter motor


Writers block copy

Those of you who are regular followers of my blog may have noticed a paucity of posts over recent weeks. I could say it’s because I’ve been focussing on my latest book, and while this is partly true, it’s not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I’m still awaiting feedback from one of my beta readers for the last instalment of the Transcendence Trilogy before I can crack on with the next round of edits. While it’s frustrating is some respects I also completely understand the amount of time and commitment it takes to give quality feedback. Also, a part of me is happy to put off finishing the Transcendence Trilogy. It’s been a part of my life for over three years and while I know how the story ends, I’m not yet ready to hand my characters over to the world. I’m like a parent adjusting a child’s hair and correcting imaginary issues with their collar before they go into class for their first-day at school. I don’t want to let go. In the meantime I’m in the process of getting the cover developed as well as writing the promotional blurb ready for launch, but this hasn’t taken up all my time. I’ve also developed the outline of the book I plan to write next, which I’m very excited about, but this too has been finished for a while.

Then there is the fact I’m currently living on a building site. As a typical optimist I thought having a major extension to my house built would have little impact on my writing.

I was wrong.

It’s fair to say I’ve been distracted. It’s hard to write when the drilling downstairs is so loud that vibrations send your keyboard skittering across your desk. Then there are the times when I’d prefer not to be at my desk at all. While I appreciate the reassurances from my builders, I’d rather not be sat above a wall that’s being removed until somebody else proves there are enough acrow props in the right place to support my weight. Then there are the bills to pay, the daily conversations around progress, the ongoing worry about whether when the unusually warm weather will change to winter’s bite. And let’s not forget the ever-present dust.

Yet even though I’ve been distracted, if I’m totally honest the real reason you haven’t heard anything for a while is because that monster procrastination has sunk its teeth into me. With all the disruption I’ve lost the writing habit and found other things to fill the gap. Most of what I’ve already mentioned are excuses on why I can’t write, and in the classic self-hating way I know they’re just that, excuses, but have carried on wasting my time regardless.

I was asked the other day how an aspiring writer can move on to become a writer. The person in question said they’d loads of ideas for stories that they’d developed for years and had always wanted to write. How had I turned that into actually writing a book. I talked a bit about how some writers were plotters and some pantsers, I talked about the three-act structure, about developing your characters and knowing the world they live in. I talked about motivations and overcoming challenges to meet goals. But at the end I gave the blunt truth. The difference between aspiring writers and writers is that writers put in the work and aspiring writers don’t. It’s all about bum on seat time.

Exactly what I’ve not been doing.

So this post is my starter motor, the push I need to get me back into the writing habit so I can finish my novel and start another. It is the first step on the next stage of my journey, the slight glance I need to fall back in love. Wish me luck!


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Bamberg potatoes

Bamberg potatoes, the world’s best motivational tool? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s blog is brought to you with the help of a potato, a duvet cover and Jedward.

Over the last few days I’ve been receiving feedback on the latest draft of my novel from my lovely alpha readers. I asked them to be robust and I’m pleased to say that they were happy to oblige, providing much detail on where my book can be improved. As any writer knows, alpha reader feedback is like tough love – you know it’s invaluable and the right thing to do, but by god it can be painful. Interestingly, to stop me from going into a spiral of pity and self-doubt, each alpha reader started their feedback by congratulated me for getting to this point, saying what an achievement it was and how impressed they were. At the same time another friend commented about how he too was impressed with my work ethic; that I hadn’t allowed anything to distract me from finishing the book. Even my Dad said he admired the fact that when I started something, I tried to do it properly and didn’t stop until I was finished.

The thing is, this is nothing like how I view myself.

You see, I feel I’m a naturally lazy person who has had to fight against the desire to coast all their life. I’ve worked with many people who seem to have limitless reserves of motivation and bound through crises with Jedward-like energy levels. I’ve always wanted to be like them, yet when I look at my own behaviour I always see what else I could have achieved. For example, when I think about the writing process, I don’t look at the 110,000 words I’ve written, but at the times where I have just stared out of the window or played on Facebook or Twitter.

It is the same with anything I do in life: when I peel potatoes I always choose the biggest first as you get more potato per peel; when ironing I always put off ironing the duvet cover because it takes the same amount of time to iron as ten t-shirts*. The thing is, this approach would be fine if somebody else took up the slack, but at some point I will be peeling the small potatoes or ironing that bloody duvet cover (ironing the duvet cover is a big source of disgruntlement in our house and I could have been the subject of a “Petty domestic dispute” all of it’s own. I mean, really, who needs to iron a duvet cover?)

As I thought about it, I realised that each example reinforced one of life’s great truths, that the biggest block to achieving anything is yourself. Now before you start berating me as some kind of wannabe life coach, I’ve never bought into the cliche that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. I cannot beat Usain Bolt at the 100m sprint no matter how hard I train. But I do believe that most of us can achieve so much more than we think we can. I could just peel whichever potato I pick out of the bag first but I’m prevented by a mental bock that thinks it’s too much work. I could iron the duvet cover first so that it’s out of the way, but that mental block (plus the senselessness of it all) prevents me from doing so. Yet I’ve been faced with many, much larger challenges, which I have met with little fuss or bother because I either a: didn’t have a choice; b: had no idea the size of the task when I started (see writing a novel); or c, really enjoyed what I was doing. If you forget about what’s possible and just go ahead and start, you’ll be amazed by what you can achieve.

So there you go; nearly all of life’s challenges can be overcome by just thinking of a potato or a duvet cover. Challenge yourself, exceed your expectations; you can achieve way more than you think you can. And if you overreach, well sometimes that can turn out OK too. Just look at Jedward**.

*This is a guess, although if I put my foot down and refuse completely, I am sure it will be brought up in court as evidence

**I am so sorry for the Jedward video. Really. I promise not to do it again.