why you should write and how to begin
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath
Writing is an accessible way to relive precious memories, build the worlds you'd love to live in, begin to process emotions, articulate troublesome feelings or focus the mind on something specific for a while.
To me, the most appealing aspect of creative writing is the opportunity to escape into a world of your choosing. This has been particularly valuable in a time where we can’t simply visit friends, browse in a bookshop or go to the cinema - it's incredibly difficult to find an escape when we need one most of all. However, for those of us who write, opening up a window to a brighter world can be easy as sitting down with a notebook and pen or turning on a laptop.
Over the last few months, I’ve written about poetry events, sticky dancefloors, basic human interaction…all the things I’m missing so much. Going into the Elsewhere is just about asking yourself, what would you do today if you could do absolutely anything?
Sometimes it's most helpful to forget about the problems of the real world and create a new reality. Other times, writing that focuses on true problems can be equally helpful. My character often subconsciously stumbles across the same kinds of obstacles or feelings that I'm personally being confronted by. This isn’t anything to worry about. It’s often hugely helpful to think about how fictional characters would deal with the things you’re currently facing; removing yourself from the equation can allow you to gain a new perspective.
Even a simple diary-style entry to get your genuine thoughts out can be therapeutic, though it's important to start slowly. By no means am I suggesting you sit down and force yourself to write about your deepest, darkest thoughts. Trust your mind to tell you where it wants to go and don’t push it too far. Remember that writing should be cathartic or fun. If a piece of writing is weighing a little heavy, there is no shame in putting it down and coming back to it when you're ready.
General Gentle Advice
It's okay to read what you've written a few days, weeks or months later and find yourself completely embarrassed - we all do that.
You don't need to buy a bunch of 'how-to' books, worry about being published or submit to magazines and competitions. If you want to do those things, amazing!! But remember writing is just as valuable as a hobby. You don't have to be perfect at it, nor do you have to be paid to do it, for it to be worth your time.
If a piece of writing is weighing on your shoulders, put it in a drawer (metaphorically or physically) and don't worry about it for a while. Sometimes we're not ready to write the things we feel we're meant to and that's fine. It'll find us again when we're ready. For now, let yourself move on to something else without feeling guilty.
You can't please everyone, don't bother trying. Someone will despise your favourite book with a burning passion. Similarly, you might dislike a few of your friend's favourites. It does not matter. Write for yourself!
Writing is harder than everyone presumes. Nobody truly knows what they're doing. Write at your own pace and plan - or don't plan at all - in your own way.
If possible, find a comfortable spot where you’re unlikely to be interrupted. Surround yourself with things that inspire and comfort you. This could be your favourite drink, a picture of your favourite film, a certain pen you love to write with or even an album you love listening to so long as it doesn’t distract you. I tend to start writing with a playlist on, then don’t even notice when it ends because I’ve been completely sucked into another reality. Don't put any pressure on yourself to write a certain amount of words. Don't worry about polishing to perfection. Don't expect anything you write to be completely perfect the first time around.
Below is a list of prompts to get you started. Set a timer for around fifteen minutes, mute your phone and simply write. Don’t worry if you find yourself going off on weird tangents, diving into the depths of your subconscious or writing utter nonsense – nobody is going to read it. It’s just for you and your creative mind to spend some valuable time together. Most importantly, be daring, playful and have fun!!
Write a scene in which two people have a conversation they have needed to have for a long time.
Write a scene set on a hot summer day, where a group of friends have stumbled across a beautiful natural lake.
You walk into a mysterious room and meet yourself, but ten years in the future. What do you talk about? Does the older you give any advice? What have you done in those ten years?
Write about your favourite earliest memory.
You’re waking up in your dream house - describe what you can see out of your bedroom window.
Write a scene in which a younger sibling says something hilariously inappropriate in the middle of a serious situation.
Try to write a normal day through the eyes of a villain.
Write about your favourite holiday.
Write a letter to a person you have lost contact with (no pressure to send it)
Write a scene in which two characters are doing something that makes them overwhelmingly happy.