How [NOT] to be a Writer

My top five tips for NOT writing successfully:-

  1. Wait for the muse to descend.
Blank by Kristian Bjornard courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Get over yourself! If you want to make it as a writer you will have to learn to write even when you feel like doing anything but. Perhaps especially then. The words hewn from the rocks of perseverance can sometimes turn into something exquisite. More often than not, however, your prose will have all the feeling of a park bench but at least you put…something…on…the…page, however much a struggle it might have been. Somewhere within will be a nugget you can work with another day, a couple of words, a sentence if you are lucky. It might be the hint of an idea you can chase down and develop or a new plot twist you hadn’t imagined. One thing is guaranteed, if you don’t drag yourself to the keyboard or put pen to paper in the first place you will never find out!

  1. Wait until you have the perfect study/office/work space.
Deskspace by Invernodreaming courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

The number of times I have heard this said and turned away with a wry smile. We all know the story of J K Rowling sitting in a café and writing. If you want to write, you will. It’s that simple. Monastery like peace and quiet exists very rarely outside of anywhere that isn’t…well, a monastery. You’ll find a way. Dog barking at the postman? A minor inconvenience. Kids arguing? No problem. Laundry piling up? Hey ho you won’t be going out anyway so no one will know you’re still in your PJs.

If, however, the stationery catalogue is constantly calling you with its glossy pages and handy gadgets you just don’t know how you can live without, it’s either displacement activity to avoid doing anything really hard like writing [which is a whole separate blog post] or this writing life may not be for you. If you spend more time planning your new office space than you do working on your plot then it’s a safe bet you’re in love with the idea of being a writer rather than the reality of being one.

  1. Wait until you have more time.
Clockwork gold
Clockwork Gold by GollyGForce courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

If I had a pound for every time I’d heard that one! Trust me, it won’t happen. Life isn’t like that. It’s messy and complicated and full of compromises and you’ll just have to plunge in like the rest of us and carve out a few precious hours away from all your other commitments. Will friends and relatives grumble? Perhaps, but if they love you, they’ll understand. Will that work project wait a bit longer? Definitely but you shouldn’t be working on your nine to five out of office hours anyway. Will you miss your favourite TV shows? Sure but that’s what catch up TV was invented for.

The only time you’ll have that magical, mystical “more time” is if you are suddenly made redundant or you retire. If it’s the former, you’ll be so spooked into finding new paid employment that it will take all your energy and so it should if you need a job to pay the bills. If it’s the latter, most retired people I know are busier than me, so dream on!

  1. Wait for the perfect idea.
Question Mark
Question Mark by Marco Bellucci courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

Ah yes, the perfect idea. The perfect idea is as elusive as waiting for the fabled muse to descend [see answer 1 above]. All of us will be familiar with the concept of the perfect idea. Some of us may even have experienced it and sweaty palmed grabbed our notebooks, electronic or otherwise, and captured it. Most of us will have looked at the perfect idea the next day and wondered what on earth we were on about. Very few people are fortunate enough to see it through to completion. Should you be one of those lucky, lucky people [and the numbers will be infinitesimally small] give yourself a pat on the back and then pour yourself a stiff drink because you’re going to need it. One perfect idea does not a career make. You’ll need another and then another and another. Believe me, they won’t all be perfect but most will be good enough.

  1. Ask for criticism and then reject everything you are told.
Three Wise Monkeys
See No Evil Speak No Evil Hear No Evil by “Japanexperterna” to courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Hey you may be an undiscovered genius but the chances are you can always learn something from constructive critiques but you have to be willing for your ego to take a hit first. Lower your defensive shield and put down your weapons. Listen, really listen, to what you are being told. Is there a kernel of truth there? Does it make just the teensiest bit of sense? Have you heard something similar from a couple of other people who you mentally dispatched to the swamp of idiots? Maybe, just maybe, they weren’t such idiots after all.

Next week – My top five tips for those who are serious about being a writer.

Today’s blog is the latest in my Flower Seller Thursday collection of writing related blogs leading up to publication day of my first novel The Flower Seller on Thursday 2nd June 2016 #FlowerSellerThursday

The Flower Seller Kindle edition is now available to pre-order from Amazon via my website

The Flower Seller by Ellie Holmes


Roger Federer: What We Can All Learn From Him

So far in his career Roger Federer has won 17 Grand Slam titles and two Olympic medals. He has spent a total of 302 weeks at number one in the ATP world rankings and now, in his mid-thirties, he is currently number 3 in the world.  No one would bet against him adding to his remarkable tally of Grand Slam titles or securing that elusive Olympic Gold medal in singles in Rio later this year. The man is a phenomenon and quite possibly the finest player that ever lived.

Roger Federer at Roland Garrosm
Roger Federer at Roland Garros by Yann Caradec courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

I have had the pleasure of watching him play on the Centre Court at Wimbledon and marvelled as he wielded his racquet like a magician waves a wand, conjuring shots that simply did not look possible until he made them happen.

Natural talent? Good genes? Fantastic hand-eye co-ordination? Yes, to all of those things. But even talented people like Roger Federer still have to work hard to become the best that they can be.

Did you know for instance that Roger made the decision to leave home and go and live with a host family at the tender age of 14 in order to further his tennis career? Or that he used to throw racquets and have tantrums in his junior playing days? Hard to imagine that now when we watch his silky shots and cool demeanour on court.

What Roger realized early on is that to be the best you can be sacrifices have to be made. He was also savvy enough to know that his lack of self-control in his junior playing days would hurt his career and so he made the effort to change. Despite all that he has attained over the years, Federer still strives to make his game the best that it can be, tweaking shots to eliminate weaknesses even now, pushing himself to break new ground. Like all successful people, he never settles for what he has got. He always wants more. Successful people are greedy.

Roger Federer IMGm
IMG_2809 by Marianne Bevis courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

Mental strength, fortitude and dedication are second nature to sports people at the top of their game. The good news for us less gifted individuals is that these attributes can be translated into a formula of success whatever dreams you follow whether they be creative, practical or spiritual. We can be greedy, too!

Mytarta by Anders Osterberg courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

Fortunately, most of us do not have to move house to follow our dreams but we do like to dwell within our comfort zones.

Comfort Zone by Ellie Holmes

The chances are to be able to achieve the things we want to achieve we need to step beyond our bubble and challenge ourselves. We need to feel uncomfortable.

Damsel in distress face downm
Damsel in Distress Face Down by Britt-knee courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

People who test and push their boundaries often find they are capable of so much more than they thought possible and then there is no stopping them. So next time you think ‘I can’t do that’, think again. Are you sure? And if the challenge is just too daunting why not come up with a smaller step that will set you on your way.

When it comes to being dedicated there are no half measures. The reason most people don’t do what it takes? It hurts. Some throw themselves into a new project to the exclusion of all else and burn themselves out. Others are so overwhelmed by the scale of the task, they find every excuse under the sun to put it off.

We all know it’s easier to settle down in front of the TV for the evening or surf the internet instead of answering those business emails or reading that text book. And there’s nothing wrong with taking time out now and again. We all need to recharge our batteries. But if you spend most of the time shooting the breeze, you’d better be sure to lower your expectations of what you can achieve because if you still harbour the same dreams of success but aren’t putting the hours in, you are going to wind up plagued by guilt over that box set binge. And carrying around the burden of guilt will make it less likely you will shrug off your torpor and change your life.

Gabby Girl Yawning in bedm
Gabby Girl Yawning in Bed by Hailey Toft courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

What can you do? We’re all creatures of habit, so you need to form a new habit. Do something, however small, to further your dreams of fulfilment every day and when you hit a planned target have a celebration lined up ready to go.

We can’t all be a sports champion like Roger Federer but we can learn from his determination to maximise his talents. If he had never left home at 14 or learned how to control his temper on court, would he be the sporting icon he is today?

Roger Federerm
Roger Federer by Tatiana courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Don’t dwell within your comfort zone – take a step outside, there’s a whole world waiting for you and you might find you are pleasantly surprised by what you can achieve.

Sitting on the top of the worldm
Sitting on the top of the world by Daftcain courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0