Sunday, 30 September 2012

Paper Thin Inspiration

Ideas for articles are all around us and one of the easiest ways I know to be inspired and find something to write an article (or several) about is to scour the local papers - there's enough fodder in there to keep you in articles for months! It's like your journalistic Christmas, Birthday and Easter Diwali, Hanukkah and whichever festival you can name all come at once!  Even the nationals have plenty to offer too. Is there a national issue that has implications in your locality too?

If you're ever stuck for a topic to write an article on you know where to go - and it's also a good excuse to put your feet up, have a cuppa and read - all in the name of research, of course!

Happy reading

Julie

Friday, 21 September 2012

Learning to Write?

Can you be taught to write creatively? There are hundreds of writing courses out there that say that you can. But do you need writing qualifications to become a writer. The answer, I think, is no, but the courses themselves can help you to get the knowledge that you need. They can also get you writing and keep you writing - if you need that kind of nudge.

There are writers who have writing qualifications that haven't been published and those who don't have writing qualifications that have been published, so having a certificate that says you've passed a writing course doesn't necessarily mean that you will be published.

You can do writing course after writing course and never improve. Don't get me wrong - I've done writing courses and I'm doing a journalism course with the Writers' Bureau now. I've also attended many writing workshops. I've even given a couple of workshops myself. My recent attendance at the NAWG Writing Festival was also hugely beneficial and enjoyable. So I think that writing courses can and do help some people with their writing.

The trouble is that they can become addictive and not all courses are of a quality that will help writers and if you're looking at writing courses, you need to be careful about which one you think will help you. You could be wasting your valuable writing time by doing a course that doesn't suit your requirements. I've been lucky in my course choices and can thoroughly recommend the Open University and the Writers' Bureau but would suggest you look at other options as well.

At the weekend I will be doing a one day basic photography course which I am looking forward to and I'm hoping it will give me some pointers on improving my image taking. The only value in taking writing courses is if you actually take on board what you've learnt and use that information to improve your work. If you just take a writing course for the sake of taking a writing course and don't apply its teachings you're just wasting your time and money.

Another way of learning about writing is to join a writing group and tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience the members have. I've learnt such a lot from the writing group I belong to and it's been interesting for me to do a couple of writing workshops for them too.

Whether you do a course or not, you have to to keep in mind that in writing there can be no substitute for simply getting your pen and paper or computer out and writing. The more you write and learn from writing the better you will become. Of course, writing courses allow you to do just this - practise and learn about writing.

Happy learning and writing

Julie

Friday, 14 September 2012

Time? I Don't Have the Time to Think About Time!

Time. There never seems to be enough of it. And when there is some left over at the end of the day - we often neither have the inclination or the strength to do anything with it! At some point in their careers, writers struggle with finding time to write: life happens, kids happen, a leaky roof or a broken down boiler happen, a computer virus happens. It's inevitable. Life has a habit of throwing obstacles in our way and sometimes it's like trying to balance on a unicycle whilst juggling four or more balls in the air - or trying to keep ten plates spinning at once. Not easy.

But the things we want most in our lives are often never the easiest to obtain. And writing is no exception. I know that I have to make a real effort sometimes to make the time to write. But as my writing is particularly important to me I know I have to juggle things around to get that time. Quite often I have to just sit in my office and close the door, regardless if my husband's moaning, my aunt phones, the weather's nice outside and I fancy a walk or any of the other numerous interruptions that can and do frequently occur - I have to shut that out and get on with my writing. It's what those professional writers do. It's their job - no words on the page = no publication = no money. They soon get motivated!

I've done quite a bit of writing recently and managed to get the next assignment posted to my tutor for the Writers' Bureau course I'm doing (Journalism.) I've got 7 more to do and I'm aiming to do one a month. Several short stories have been subbed and a few articles have been pitched, subbed and some of them have been published! But I could do with more writing time. Couldn't we all? Or maybe too much writing time would be a bad thing? What do you think?

Happy writing

Julie

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Comfort Zone Busting

Last week I went to the NAWG Writing Festival at Nottingham University. I'd never been before. I'd thought of going, but never got round to it. Something or other stopped me. There was always an excuse. One of the reasons was that I sometimes find crowds a little daunting. I'm okay if I know a lot of people in the crowd but if I don't it can become a little uncomfortable for me. I don't know why, as strangers are only friends we haven't yet met - well, I like to think so anyway, being a glass half full kind of person.

But, this time, I made the effort. How could I possibly know whether I'd enjoy a festival of this type if I have never experienced one before? It's a question to ask yourself about your writing and if you're feeling overwhelmed or daunted by it. How do you know what you are going to write is going to be dreadful if you've never written it before? Think positive, as Simon Whaley is always telling me!

I was lucky in that I got a lift down with Simon - he was one of the tutors - so I had a friendly face in that crowd. I also had met Lynne Hackles before and had seen Alison Chisholm's face and writing in the pages of Writing Magazine. I  had read many of Linda Lewis's short stories in the women's magazines and her columns in the writing magazines. I had had email conversations with Morgen Bailey about an article I was writing - so I did, when I actually thought about it 'know' a few people there. And it was great to meet other writers and discover we all have similar worries about our writing and go through similar things (rejection being the biggie).

The point I'm trying to make is that because I pushed my reservations aside and attended the festival I met a lot of new people who all share the same passion - writing. I've picked up so much valuable advice on writing that I don't know which bit to use first and I now have new friends who were once strangers - it pays to be positive!

My point today is to get out there and go to these events. Try new ones if you can. NAWG was my taster - next year it's Caerleon Writers' Holiday in Wales. I'm booked and deposit paid. I have the brochure stuck to my writing room wall and every time I glance at it, it reminds me to be brave and take a chance.

NAWG and writing events like it push you. They lift you out of that rut and spur you on to deliver the best writing you can. And it's not just through the excellent teaching. It's the networking and talking to other writers in the same boat as you. You are not alone. We all get rejections and we all need that kick up the backside sometimes.

I hope to meet some of you at a writing event soon!

Julie