Every step she took towards the cave the heavier the air grew. Sweat dribbled down her temples and the sword in her grip suddenly felt too light as she approached the unknown. Just a foot away from the shadows that reached out for her, a low growl slithered ice through her veins. Whatever sat within confirmed her rattled nerves, only one of them would exit the opposite end alive.
Sometimes that’s how I feel when obstacles suddenly pop up in my life of professional and creative writing. Doubt starts to unravel and I am stuck between decision- making or problem solving. When I’m writing a fantasy story I may come across writer’s block and not know where to take my main character. It is similar in my professional writing as an intern for the Johns Hopkins University Press, making sure the information in a journal’s article is correct to continue for publishing.
Writing has its perks. It can be enjoyable, informative, or plain uneasy. Whether the direction you wish to go, remember creative writing is just that- creative.
You may have read or watched interviews of great authors who some say ‘write to please people’ or ‘write to please yourself.’ You can benefit a lot from both, but to me I point all my fingers and arrows towards the latter. I always tell myself when I’m indulged in my fantasy book-in-progress, “LeQuita, if you are happy than who cares?” And it’s true. The whole purpose of creative writing is to express what you’ve been caging up inside like that dragon who can sing or your theories about Area 51 cover ups.
Weird? But who cares.
Here I will give you a few personal ways on how I prepare myself to getting into the writing mode.
Find a place you feel most comfortable.
“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”
– Mark Twain
Is it a library where you can hear a pin drop? Is it at a café where there’s people and the great smell of coffee in the air? Wherever it is, go there now, carry along your laptop or notebook and pen, sit down, and write. Well, you don’t have to go at this exact moment, but go to that comfort place to free your mind.
This varies for different writers who have their own views and hobbies. For me, I enjoy libraries and sitting at my desk in my room of serenity, ears drowning in Gospel or R&B music as my fingers type a mile a minute. Sometimes whenever I’m on the campus of University of Baltimore, where I am studying for an English Degree in Professional Writing, I like to sit in the Student Center Quiet Room which has a fantastic view and nice lounges that helps me focus.
But what if you find yourself in an uncomfortable place to write such as work? Whatever writing job you acquire, try finding a way to relax yourself mentally. Two great suggestions can be eating a snack or listening to music. Once you find that special place, you will see great progress in your work.
Eat or Listen to Music
“There’s a friendly tie of some sort between music and eating.”
– Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree
Pizza loaded with green peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives, peperoni, sausages, and extra tomato sauce. Nachos and tortilla chips. A family size bag of Doritos. A bowl of cheesy pasta slathered in marinara sauce. Ice tea filled to the top with a sliced lemon hanging off the tip… I bet you are hungry. So why not eat while you write?
I enjoy eating. It comes second to my passion for writing. When I’m not eating, I am writing, and when I’m not writing, I’m eating. Don’t be ashamed if that is how you can concentrate. Like I said above in finding your comfort spot to write, do something that keeps your mind active, and alert, yet in peace.
“We are a thousand miles from comfort. We have traveled land and sea, but as long as you- WRITING- are with me, there’s no place I’d rather be…” (I’d Rather Be by Clean Bandit). Here is a peaceful upbeat song that is one of many I enjoy listening too while I write. From gospel to R&B, music has always been a great encourager to finishing a chapter or a class assignment within an hour.
Read what you like
“Write. Rewrite. When not writing, or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”
—Larry L. King
If you don’t read, how will you learn about anything? Reading, whether the genre or the publication, can suck you out of reality and into another world. This is a great moment to sit back and relax or butcher the book, magazine, or article. What do I mean? While you read, take the time to highlight or take notes on your favorite quotes, lines, parts, chapters, or even characters so later you can study them. Try and figure out the writer’s style and how he or she plays with grammar, figure of speech, the flow of content, or even the word count.
Do research as well because having knowledge about the genre or style of publication you are writing may depend on what you learn. Make sure you do not let this preside over your own style and imagination, because this is a very easy trap to fall into. I have learned from many author interviews that comparing your work with another published writer’s is a terrible thing to do. If you find yourself doing that take a break and write down your wishes, goals, and ideas for your work and stick to that for a while. Or simply just pick up your favorite publication and read it for pleasure.
Just Write It
“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”
—Joyce Carol Oates
This is one challenge of mines which I have yet to succeed. Authors would scream at you, “Just write it,” but you can’t help it and you find yourself editing your work. We are our worst critics! Yes, it is a cliché but a true one. Take the time to write your stories, your articles, your essays, your poems, or that novel until you’ve flushed it out of your system. Forget the correct grammar, styles, and the misspelled words. Once you are finished the entire work, then take your time and do a thorough edit. You will be surprised on how much you can accomplish when you refrain from over editing your work.
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”
— Alan Cohen, the author of “Why Your Life Sucks
Taking breaks in between your time of writing can refresh your mind and your thoughts. This can reduce writer’s block which are the devil incarnated to us writers and can reduce stress. Everyone faces a period of stress in some point of their life, especially, when your daily task involves mental cooperation. Go on a trip to Hawaii or around the corner at the new Rainbows clothing shop to let your mind take a breather.
Many people enjoy rock climbing, reading books, spending time with family and friends, or just staying wrapped in the comforters eating an ice cream cone. Your mind is a treasure of gold, so protect it and take care of it. This advice can relate to everyone because no one wants to fail or drive themselves crazy. So, stop what you’re doing for a while and take a break. Go to sleep for an hour and wake up prepared to journey on.
“I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.”
—William Carlos Williams
Writing is a disease, one of those good ones which you should not feel ashamed about. Those who are bold and challenge themselves can succeed in whatever is their heart’s desire. Don’t worry about the time that sulks by or the many people who dislikes your work, because at the end of the day it’s all about you. You control what you write. You control what you think and what you imagine. You control the eyes you want to shock and you control the smile upon your face. Write blah blah blah for yourself and watch the world bow at your feet.
“A thought can float away, but writing it will last forever.” -LeQuita C. Harrison
Written by: LeQuita C. Harrison | UB Writing EBook | Published on November 14, 2016 in the Creative Memoir journal by University of Baltimore Students