14 November, 2021 § Leave a comment
Chloe Higgins has a PhD in Creative Writing and undertook a writers retreat. Despite (or perhaps enhanced by) her formal studies in writing creatively, she managed to write 30,000 words in 30 days after being inspired by that retreat. She had laboured writing a book beforehand and failed to meet with success. Once completed, she submitted her fresh work to a publisher, and was published, winning awards for her book. “The Girls” tells the story of her experience of dealing with the death of her two sisters in a tragic car accident. Memoirs are often painful and illuminating.
I’ve sat in on many Zoom-type workshops, seminars and classes over the period of the pandemic. Most of those have been either writing sessions (it helps to have some company when you’re writing sometimes), or have been topic or skill driven writing content. I signed up for a session by Chloe which she offered gratis as a segue into her paid courses.
The appeal of attending this was that it was based on the nuances of the inner world of the writer. It encapsulates what Chloe learned from both her academic studies and more importantly consequent to her retreat. The number of attendees attested to the need for such a session.
As a group we were invited to pen our thoughts on some key questions which Chloe asked as a lead-in to her beliefs about writing. For one, when we write we tend to let our head interfere so that we have our piece sound right, look right, meet standards etc. Chloe posits to write from the body with emotion and authenticity and heart.
Ritualising your writing is a practice writer after writer espouses. Chloe Higgins gave sound explanations of the value of doing this and went through the yin and yang benefits of having a structure eg the elements of a space, a time, a day as well as the less looked at elements such as boundaries and expectations we set ourselves either consciously or unconsciously.
Consider your writing routine now, or lack of it. Do you write on specific days and times of the day or ad hoc? How do you manage disruptions and distractions, are you clear on what you will be writing about, are you bounded by word counts or page counts or productive time, what is the physical space like where you write and is your desk laid out ready?
Is there value in writing in nature, intuitively? Is perfectionism hampering you – accept the benefit of sloppy first drafts, write from your heart more than your head, focus on the process rather than the product? When writing how do you handle triggers? Avoid being judgmental of your writing and recognise that the emotion you feel needs to fuel the page. Notice the relationship between what ends up on the page and what happens in real life – does it mirror? Do you find yourself avoiding writing certain tings or covering certain topics? Consider raising questions about these areas rather than trying to explain them and giving a solution.
Chloe Higgins encourages you to think about serving yourself first by writing rather than focusing on the reader.
All humans and so all writers suffer from limiting beliefs. We have expectations of ourselves in terms of the quality of work we produce, about our discipline or consistency, that we can only write when our muse inspires us. Chloe invites you to think about writing practice as training a muscle. Build the habit of writing (even rubbish) over time and your words will come more easily and in better form.
A final thought Chloe left us with was the journey from writing to publishing. Starter writers see the flow as directly from one to the other: you write your book and then it gets published. Those who’ve been in the game longer notice the journey is wide between the two events. It’s like a mountain range, up and down. Chloe argues that every hour of writing she does results in ten hours of editing.
As a memoirist, Chloe posits that memoir is about writing your way to radical self responsibility. Quite often when we begin to write we point the finger outwards, blaming others for what was done or not done, said or not said, making excuses for why things turned out the way they did. Instead, point the finger inwards. Focus on writing about what you have control over and where your boundaries are. It becomes a journey of self-discovery and if you’re truly in the mode of writing from your heart authentically and intuitively then what to write about doesn’t become an issue – the topic chooses itself. When you sit down to write, ask yourself ‘what is the most urgent thing to write about for my body?’ – you might be surprised about what turns up on the page.
Overall, it was a refreshing session, different from the norm and wholly practising what Chloe preaches ie writing from within rather than from the head. Timing doesn’t allow me to take on her full class right now but I will keep an eye out for when she runs it again. Even though I tend not to write memoir, I can see the value in her approach and she has a gentle guiding style that will enable writers to explore beyond where they normally go.
Find out more about Chloe’s classes here – https://chloemareehiggins.com/study-with-me
Chloe Maree Higgins is a writer, and the Director and founder of Wollongong Writers Festival. She lives and works between Wollongong and Western Sydney. Her writing explores grief, guilt gender, socially-stigmatised sex, family dynamics, authenticity and communication.
NB this is not a sponsored post, simply a recording of notes from attending a one-hour session titled “How to Make Writing Pleasurable” by Chloe Higgins.
28 September, 2019 § Leave a comment
Spotted this cartoon today in my travels and it stopped me in my tracks. So much so I had to write about it!
Not that I was doing any of those things, of course. No, I was actually ‘researching’ on the web. Every good writer needs to research – fact-checking, thoroughness of topic coverage, clarifying thoughts, finding other angles. For example, in my research mode, I came across this cartoon and that inspired this post on procrastination. Serendipity? Or, procrastination? Maybe even productive procrastination ™?
How did this happen? I am producing a short piece but am totally uninspired by the title on which I have to write. To get into free-flow mode I decided to research how to write a story using a formula. Maybe that would give me a hook to hang the piece on. I’ve been researching for at least two hours!
Totally inspired. Not to write the piece but to find out more about these formulas and how some writers write so many books in such a short time. Starstruck.
But it hasn’t helped me write that original piece. In the process, I’ve ‘lost’ time even if I have gained knowledge and content for future posts.
Procrastination and I are old friends. We’ve been hanging out together for æons.
My advice is if you’re going to procrastinate, use your time well.
If you are going to nap, set an alarm so you’re up at a certain time ready to go.
If you’re going to snack, take a short break and make it a healthy snack so your body digests it well and doesn’t give you grief.
If you’re going to social media, set a time limit and have a purpose rather than zoning out and getting caught up in tangents – SocMed often makes you feel FOMO (not a good headspace for writing).
If you’re going to do chores then make it a time-limited quick one: if you decide to tidy your office just focus on your desktop or a drawer – don’t decide to change the whole room around.
You can find other things you NEED to do right now instead of write – phone a friend, research, get the mail, sharpen your pencils, whatever. Simply recognise you are putting off the inevitable and your brain needs a quick recharge before getting back into it.
- set a time limit
- make sure your chosen activity will put you in a better frame of mind
- commit to getting back onto your writing after your interlude
Imagine a firefighter deciding to procrastinate. Not going to happen. She has to deal with the real and present event. So do you. Get a handle on procrastination if it’s an habitual ‘out’ for you by using the 3-step plan above. Discipline is part of a writers armoury.
[Cartoon credit totally goes to Ellis Rosen. Go check him out. He’s worth procrastinating for.]
23 August, 2019 § Leave a comment
Elmore Leonard was a prolific and successful writer who found late success with crime and mystery. In this gritty production (only 7 minutes) “Dutch” gives some clarity to writers.
This one hit home for me. His characters ‘audition’ in the first 100 pages. He names his characters. In one case, one of his characters appeared but never said a word. He changed that characters name and he “couldn’t shut him up.”
Watch it. There’s more to learn from this legend.
And if you want to learn more from him, try these (poor audio but gems of info).
Video 1 (32 mins) Part 1 of 2
Video 2 (16 mins) Part 2 of 2
“I love the sound of speech.”
That is a terrific tip for writers. Dialogue is king in Leonard’s works. It brings immediacy and reality to his work. Fall in love with the sound of speech and you’ll improve your own writing. Get comfortable writing great diaogue that moves your story forward.
16 August, 2019 § Leave a comment
Who’d have thought this delicate woman could write such gothic novels.
From the heart, successful author Anne Rice talks about the craft and art of writing and publishing. 12 minutes of viewing, packed with punchy advice for you as a writer. Here are just a couple of practical gems…
The only way to write is to “kick out the pages everyday“.
The only thing standing between you and realising your dreams as a writer is usually yourself.
Really good viewing – take notes!
Check out her book list – notice the periods of publication. Interview with a Vampire was first published in 1976. Be peristent! http://annerice.com/Bookshelf-AllBooksInOrder.html
If you want to indulge in more Anne Rice writing advice, go with this, even if (like me) you’re not into the gothic genre – there are gems of ideas here. 45 minutes.
“Forget all the rules .. and what blocks you. You want to get your work done… do what helps you to get it done.”
9 August, 2019 § Leave a comment
One of our most successful contemporary authors not talking about fantasy.
In this interview post-Harry Potter, Joanne reveals her practice in developing and defining issues in a novel, creating reality, thematic approaches and the grit of real-life turned into written stories.
“Probably everything I write will be about death and morality”.
And, I love her laugh!
Definitely worth a viewing – around 28 minutes.
7 August, 2019 § Leave a comment
You can get lost on the interwebs looking for writing tips.
So, where do you begin and which are the really useful ones?
After looking for a while, there are a number that stand out which I find work to improve your writing. To save you time, I’ve distilled these down to two – just two – essential tips to improve your writing.
- You can’t be a good writer if you’re not a good reader.
- Reading expands your vocabulary and exposes you to different writing styles.
- The more you read (and the more widely you read) the more you inculcate the craft of writing.
- Ideally start by noting passages, words, sentences that jump out at you. Over time, you will build a wonderful arsenal of mentoring notes that will inform your own writing.
- Read in your genre.
- Read the iconic books and authors.
- Read for enjoyment too.
- Sure, study the craft of writing but that doesn’t make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer, just as publishing makes you an author.
- The more you write the more you build your writing muscle. You can’t do a 100 push-ups by watching tons of youtube videos and googling how to’s forever. At some point, you’ve gotta put your hands and knees on the floor and start pushing up.
- The more you practice the easier it becomes and in time the more you can do.
- Same with writing. Practice it every day, even if you’ve only got ten minutes.
- Schedule writing into your day.
- Make it a routine like brushing your teeth.
- Squeeze extra time into your lunch break or just after you wake up.
- Use a pen and paper, use a laptop, use a voice recorder, use whatever you’ve got to work with. Get fancy-schmancy later.
- Just start and keep the practice up.
Really, these are the two critical tips you need. What you do need to do is apply them! Don’t worry about all the what-ifs: they will work themselves out once you build your confidence and your craft.
The article below has some good expanded tips that are worth a look too. (I’m not promoting this mob, by the way. But their tips are useful).
Of course, you could just turn off your browser now and go write 🙂