Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been ~ Alan Alda
Last time we spoke I was writing the final pages of my novel. The right words arrived before Christmas and so for the past two weeks my manuscript has been sleeping in my drawer while I have strayed from the land of the seal-people back into a mortal world of celebration and feast. I have found that time in the mortal realm can be just as deceptive as faerie time, for in the blink of an eye the old year has slipped away with a flurry of snow and the soft crackle of fireworks. I find myself on the edge again, at the hinterland of story. It is a place of shifting sand, formed and yet unformed, where skin is shed, characters may change sex and the route, though carefully plotted, may still lead somewhere unexpected.
I am open to all possibilities.
Yet something is troubling me. Minor characters need more flesh on their bones, tongues loosened. Some chapters need more magic - more song. All this is fine. I anticipated that this draft was not the last (far from it). The thing that troubles me is that, in quiet moments, when my mind slyly returns to the pages lying in the drawer, I am confronted with silence. Things are not as they were, there is an absence of magic. Stones are just stones, the sea is the sea and mouths move but no words come out.
The problem, I think, is one which I am a little afraid to admit.
After an intense year living in my ice world, at the edge of land and mortality, I think my imagination has finally burnt out. I am starting to wonder if two weeks rest time is enough for this manuscript. I feel distracted, unfocused. My imagination longs to rove somewhere different and maybe I ought to let it. I don’t mean taking a break from writing but writing something other than my story in order to achieve some objectivity.
Perhaps I am only anxious to return to my usual writing routine because it has been my habit for the last 52 weeks. A good habit, but habits can sometimes be limiting. One of my biggest downfalls is getting trapped in a routine, which though initially productive, becomes stagnant and uninspiring.
“If the song of my heart ceases to play, can I survive in the silence?” ~ Shonda Rhimes
I have been trying to write this novel for years. It’s been a secret project and at every opportunity (like most things in my life) I’ve taken the long way round. But 2017 was the year that nearly everything fell into place. Now more than ever I want to do justice to the story I have been carrying inside me for so long, and I desperately want to know what writing the end feels like. Yet just when the destination comes into view my strength fails me.
In the past this exhaustion would have made me anxious. I’d have sought refuge in my familiar routine, dragging the manuscript out of my desk regardless of personal fatigue. Then I would wonder hopelessly why nothing worked, why the words did not come.
If I’ve learned one thing from 2017 it is that embracing change and following my gut often provides the space for answers to emerge. Sometimes in the most unlikely moments and places.
Conversely, my worst moments last year came from occasions when I was too inflexible to make changes. For the sake of my story I feel I need to take a new approach this year that prioritises creative wellbeing. And I think that means letting my story sleep for a month or two longer while I recharge my creativity.
The prospect frightens me. What if, by turning my back on this story I am unable to find my way back? What if my instinct proves capricious, fallible? At moments like this mistake, change, failure and courage seem synonymous.
My simple resolution for this year is To be brave.
Brave in both writing and life. In imagination and reality, online and off. To have the courage to try something new.
I accept that there is no crystal ball, I cannot predict what will happen by following these impulses.
I accept that my future is unknown to me. I accept failure.
I accept what I do not know and the things I have no ability to change.
But what I do know is that I no longer want more of the same.
If I continue following my same old routine and trying to fix problems in the same old way I risk losing myself in a creative rut when getting some distance and achieving a fresh perspective would be more beneficial. No more playing it safe. It is time to take risks, to be brave.
So, in the spirit of bravery and trying new things I’ve created a monthly writing prompt to keep me inspired. Each month I will pick a different theme that is designed to spark imagination. I am allowing my response to take any form my heart desires, be that poetry, prose, a letter, blog post, song lyrics, or diary entry.
I will momentarily elude the world of my story to feel the sun. The stars spin, there are new rhythms to listen to. I pick up my pen like an errant knight to his sword in pursuit of creative freedom.
Quests are less fun when taken alone, so I will be seeking fellow writers to join me.
There will be no pressure to make a finished piece, for words to rhyme or even mean anything at all. Sometimes, as writers, we get so wrapped up in our pursuit of ‘the end’ that we forget that the joy is in the journey, in the writing itself.
The tag for this project is #mymonthofwords. You can also tag on a month by month basis e.g. #mymonthofwords_january. (Though I don’t tend to let my manuscript sleep for longer than a couple of months I hope to continue the monthly tag to the end of this year. That way I will have a source of inspiration to turn to if I feel myself burning out again).
You can write as many or as little responses to the prompt as you wish and there is no pressure to participate every month. At the end of each month I will compile my favourite entries into a blog post and newsletter round-up. The new theme will be announced at the start of each month. My hope is that by the end of this year I will have a wee portfolio of diverse writing to look back on, to expand or edit as I wish. Perhaps I will only write these words in order to send them to sleep in a drawer at the end of the year. That is fine - I am intrigued only to find out where my imagination flies.
Themes for the first two months have been set so look below if you wish to plan ahead. January’s theme is Folklore & Fairytale. Already I can feel myself running headlong into the gloomy but fertile wood of my imagination; somewhere on a windy hill, where Caledonian pines pierce the sky.