Artist’s Dates

As some of you will be aware I have recently been reading Julia Cameron’s ‘The Right to Write’ book which I highly recommend to all writers. There are nuggets to be enjoyed in every chapter. You will, inevitably, recognise yourself in Julia’s wise words, nodding and smiling wryly as you read.

Right to Write_
Julia Cameron’s ‘The Right to Write’

One of the concepts that Julia introduced me to was the idea of ‘artist’s dates’. We are all familiar with going on dates but we don’t normally take ourselves on one – alone. Here, you do just that.

Romance rose

You choose a day that suits and an activity you know you will find interesting, fascinating or stimulating and off you go. Just you alone. This is a special time for you to commune with your inner self or as Julia puts it you are ‘romancing, wooing, courting your creative self’.

Date Time

You could go to see a play or a movie. You could visit a museum or take in an exhibition. You could go to or take part in a glass blowing demonstration or a workshop on how to make mosaics. You could knit, sew, crochet, draw or paint. You could listen to a talk on a subject of interest or visit a historic landmark. Take a walk in an ancient wood or along an unfamiliar coast line. The only limits are the ones you place on yourself.


Julia suggests going on these excursions once a week to refill the creative well. With a busy schedule, once a week is a little optimistic for me but I have been achieving an artist’s date once a fortnight and it has been an uplifting and inspiring experience. We’re in the grip of winter in the UK so my activities have been largely based indoors: an exhibition of black and white photos, a mindfulness meditation session, an exhibition of landscape paintings and a past life regression. I am looking forward to the spring when I can widen my horizons further.

Whilst I have no definite plans to include any of the things I have done or seen in future stories I am pretty certain they will filter down into a work in progress at some stage and I will be excited to see how that turns out. In the meantime, now that I know the joy and freedom of an artist’s date, they will remain a firm addition to my calendar.

Autum open road

Why not give them a try and see where they take you?

Happy writing!

white lies
White Lies by Ellie Holmes



Putting the FUN back in your writing

Following on from last week’s blog about remembering that writing is meant to be fun, I took a look at my own writing world – several works in progress at different stages of completion, a desk covered in notes about Pinterest boards to be created, advertising campaigns to organise, podcasts to listen to and articles to read. A tsunami of to-do-lists and to-finish-lists. Is it any wonder that I’ve lost touch with the joy that used to sit at the heart of my writing?


Fun, Fun, Fun!

I decided enough was enough, it was time to put the fun back into writing. When I catch myself being far too serious I find the best way to jolly myself out of it is to write. Not the work in progress. Not even something that might become a work in progress but something completely new, of the moment, to be created, enjoyed and left.


Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction usually does it for me. I have a dictionary of phrase and fable (a guaranteed rabbit hole to disappear into if you want to lose an hour) which I open at a random page, stab my finger down and whatever it points to, I give myself 500 or 1,000 words to write a piece of flash fiction that incorporates it. If the dictionary isn’t near at hand, I’ll use a magazine instead. It’s amazing the kind of subjects you can find yourself writing about when a copy of Cosmopolitan is close by!

The beauty of this exercise is that you are free – forget genres, forget writing styles, forget targets and plans. Just flex your creative muscle and see where it leads you. You might be a romantic novelist who writes in the third person by day but for this exercise you might find yourself writing gothic horror in the first person. A literary heavyweight could discover their comic alter ego, a chick lit aficionado could let out her gory crime other self. The point is to let yourself go, to have FUN.

Forget the rules, forget who you think you are as a writer and just write. You will be amazed where it takes you and when it’s time to put the games away and get back to the work in progress you will hopefully find having let your creative self off the leash for a bit, you return to your work energised and re-engaged.

Happy writing!

white lies
White Lies by Ellie Holmes


Remember that writing is meant to be FUN!


I belong to a writing group and I suggested that we each write out our writing resolutions for the year and read them aloud to the group. I then collected them in and said I would bring them out again at our mid summer social event so we could all check in with how we were doing and once more at our Christmas get together to hold the Inquest into whether we had hit all our targets and if not, why not.

I made several writing resolutions of my own, the last of which is “To remember that writing is meant to be fun”.



Where did the fun go?

It is all too easy to forget this when a once innocent past time that gave us so much joy in the early days morphs into a career with all the attendant pressures that come with deadlines and running a business.

A writing friend gave me Julia Cameron’s ‘The Right to Write’ book to read. If you haven’t read it do get hold of a copy, I promise you will not be disappointed. It is written in such an engaging and open way that you are quickly transported to Julia’s world but at the same time you recognise yourself in her words. I found myself muttering ‘That’s me, I do that.’ and, often, ‘I thought it was just me who felt like that.’

Right to Write_
Julia Cameron’s ‘The Right to Write’

Julia is a pro who has been there and done it and got the scars to prove it. Along with a lot of practical advice and good dollops of common sense, Julia reminded herself and us that writing is meant to be fun. Such a simple statement and yet so easy to overlook in the tangle of our everyday writing lives.

If writing has become a slog or a duty to be performed rather than an activity to be enjoyed, those feelings of disengagement and disillusionment will filter down through the words on the page. If we’re doing it because we think we should and the heart is a bystander the reader will be able to tell.

Writing is a passionate, visceral, all encompassing relationship between the writer and the page. If we’re dialling the work in, it will show and we won’t be capable of producing our best work.

If that sounds like you, take a step back from the work in progress and cast your mind back to when writing was fun.

Fun keyboard

What’s changed? Perhaps you had the innocence of naïvety to sustain you, the expectation that a big deal was just around the corner. Now, the school of hard knocks has taught you otherwise. Perhaps it’s the work itself that is the problem, are you stuck in a rut, writing a particular book because you think you should when your heart yearns to be writing something completely different.

If you can stand back and look at the wider landscape you should be able to see why you are not completely engaging with your writing and, more importantly, what you can do to recapture the joy and bring it back to your work.

Happy writing!

white lies
White Lies by Ellie Holmes



Writers are…

Writers are…

Writers are resilient

Writers are optimistic

Writers are masochists

Writers are dedicated

Writers are flaky

Writers are steadfast

Writers are interesting

Writers are dreamers

Writers are wonderful

Writers are everywhere


Writers can give a voice to those that have none and make sense of a world that otherwise makes no sense at all.

writers are
Written in slumber by Matryosha courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0



Writing is…

Writing is…

Writing is hard

Writing is rewarding

Writing is tough

Writing is joyful

Writing is lonely

Writing is solitude

Writing is despair

Writing is wonder

Writing is freedom

Writing is soul destroying

Writing is liberating

Writing is expression


If writing were a relationship, it’s status would forever be ‘It’s complicated’.

Complicated by Damian Gadal courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

Writing is meant to be fun

I have recently been reading Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Right to Write’. It is an excellent book and there is a lot to take from it. If you have never read it I strongly urge you to invest in a copy.

One of the things Julia reminded me of as I read her book is that writing is meant to be fun. Somewhere along the road from writer to published writer to authorpreneur I forgot the fun bit. Writing had become targets and deadlines, pressure and stress.

Rediscovering the joy in my writing is one of my resolutions for 2018.

Fun by Lotzman Katzman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

I could not have reconnected with this fundamental piece of advice at a better time. Following the publication of one of my short stories in a women’s magazine towards the end of last year, the editor of another women’s magazine emailed me with a proposal – how would I feel about writing a three-part serial for her publication. She wanted a romantic mystery that ran to 3,500 words with a cliffhanger after 1,000 words (the first edition), a second cliffhanger after 2,000 (the second edition) and all tied up neatly in the final 1,500 (the third edition).

With the mantra that ‘writing is fun’ running through my mind, I set to work. What came out of it was Midnight at Moon Bay, the first part of which is published in Yours Magazine in the UK this week and is on sale now.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing Midnight and I hope, if you get the chance, you’ll enjoy reading it.


It’s the Hook not the Book

I promised an update on my recent submission to the literary agent I met at Winchester last summer. She emailed to say she would like a chat over the phone. We subsequently spoke for about 30 minutes. She did not want to take the novel I had submitted to her. She felt it did not hit all the beats of a crime novel and whilst she had enjoyed it and thought the pacing, structure, characterisation and plot were all great, it was not stand out enough to be a break out novel in commercial fiction.

She said if I wanted to write an out and out crime novel she was certain I could do it she just wasn’t sure I wanted to which was very perceptive of her. I love writing about relationships. I particularly like writing about relationships when people from very different walks of life meet and sparks fly. I do not want to shift my focus away from that to hit the beats of a narrower brief.

Narrow by Claus Zurbig courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Whilst I was initially disappointed I quickly bounced back (you have to in this game!). Her words, however, got me thinking. In the trad world it is all about the hook and not the book. If the hook is strong enough that the marketing people can run with it you’re in and anything that does not hit that sweet spot is out, labelled as too much work. It’s all about the hook. A great hook can carry weaker writing across the line. That’s a fact of life in this modern world.

Hook by Jasleen Kaur courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Which leaves writers with a dilemma. It’s a choice artists have always had to make – do you chase the money or do you follow your love of your craft. It’s why Hollywood actors do one big picture for the studios and two independent films for themselves.

The competitive part of me wants to write the hell out of a crime novel now just to prove I can do it but crucially my heart wouldn’t really be in it. I write what I like and I wouldn’t want that to change that.

If you are lucky enough to write what you like and it also hits the sweet spot with the marketing people congratulations. You’ve hit the motherlode.

For the rest of us, I am pleased to say there is a silver lining to this tale. Indie publishing. Indie loves books that have hooks as much as trad publishing does but indie isn’t so narrow minded – cross genre, mash up or niche, indie welcomes them all and if you can devise a half decent marketing plan you might even find an audience as has been the case for me.

Indie gave me a home when no one else would and still does. Indie continues to cherish and reward me. Best of all, indie allows me to be myself and write what I want to write. Who can really ask for more?

book heart
Heart by Kate Ter Haar courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0