Are Distractions Igniting Your Creativity?

There’s a lot of bad press around being distracted at work. Whether that’s referring to the 9 til 5, your writing schedule or even the inability just to focus on your work. We’ve all been there – even me whilst I write this post – but perhaps it happens for a reason. Perhaps it’s your brain’s way of telling you that you need a time out.

More often than not a distraction tends to be something that is playful and spontaneous. It could be people watching, listening to a debate on the radio, or even something you spot in a shop window. We can’t deny that we do it but have we ever considered why we do it? Sometimes you can be aware that you need a distraction and other times you may not. If you don’t realise that you needed the distraction – more times than not – it’s because your brain could be overloaded. Whether that’s work or family life will differ to each of us and will affect us all differently.

I recently read an article about the benefits of play and how it can allow you to be rid of pressures and to be more present in a single activity. This in itself, allows the brain to think in different ways and can ultimately, allow your creativity to soar. Think that walk you took in the middle of writing your wip was an unwanted distraction? Probably not. In fact, you’ve probably went on that walk to clear your mind and let yourself think of something else for a while. While in this state, your subconscious will be mulling over your problem and by the time you get back to your writing, your mind may have conjured up a new scene, solved a plot hole or even allowed you to consider a possible plot twist. Whenever we do something that’s spontaneous and different to our working day, it surprises us and allows us to see it as a playful task or experience. As a result, your pressures gradually melt away, leaving you with a sense of play that really allows your creativity to come into full force.

Next time you go for a walk or are distracted by a game or puzzle, ask yourself once you’ve finished – Do you feel like you can be more creative? Do you feel refreshed and re-energised? Are you ready to tackle your problem?

The chances are, you might just feel ready for the new challenge ahead.

Winding down for Writers

Anyone else struggling with work life balance?

This beautiful balance is sometimes really tricky to achieve and has become even more difficult when working remotely.

Thankfully, I found something that works for me and hopefully it’ll work for you too!

Stick to your timings – whether you work 9-5 or you spend each morning on your writing, make the time for it. Then, once that time has hit, stop working and start living. Admittedly this seems a little cut throat at times BUT it can be effective.

Create a commute – once you’ve finished work, go for a walk around the block. This will be a way for your mind to wind down, reflect on the day and to prepare yourself for home life. This worked so well for me during lockdown, definitely worth trying!

Create a list! – After work we can sometimes have work preying on our minds. Oh I forgot to photocopy that, argh I meant to write 20 pages instead of ten! Writing a list will allow you to express these worries and begin to consider how to tackle them. Once you know how, you’ll find yourself at ease and will allow yourself to relax whilst enjoying your home life.

You’ve probably came across some of these ideas before, and that’s absolutely fine… but did you try any? If not then now’s the time, but don’t worry… it’s better to be late than never.

Give these ago for a full week and see if any of them significantly impact your work life balance.

If you have your work life balance down and you’re just being curious, don’t be selfish! Share your great ideas! Drop your comments below for any other work life hacks for others to use!

How To Navigate Your Thoughts Into Your Writing

How to Navigate your thoughts into your writing

It’s a great feeling wanting to write, yet finding somewhere to start can be tricky. Even if you know what you want to write, it can sometimes be difficult to start if a plot hasn’t occurred to you yet. This then begs the question: Can you write without an initial plot? This article will focus on the notion of wanting to write but not having a clue where to start. If this behaviour sounds familiar or is something that you know you struggle with, then read on for my top tips for overcoming the beginning of your writing.

Do I just begin writing and see where I go?

This is partially what I tend to do. I’ll have an idea or a style of writing I’m wanting to convey within my work and tend to work my way through it before several drafts of editing. However sometimes you may not know how to get to your destination and therefore become stuck at where to start. If this happens to you, try thinking about your characters’ journeys within the piece of writing too. Many characters tend to take their own route rather than allowing the writer to direct them. It is for this reason as to why I would encourage you to focus on character development, before you jump straight into a story.  Often by doing this a character will help you create a plot to drive your writing forward. So sit back and enjoy the ride!

Wouldn’t a really structured plot help?

This can be extremely useful for long writing projects, however I believe an over-structured plot can hinder a writer’s creativity if too rigid. So how structured is too structured you ask? This is ultimately down to you. Consider how free you are wanting your writing to be. Do you just want to know how to get from A to B or do you want to know every direction and service station that you’ll end up in? When writing, the phrase, ‘I never get lost, I just end up changing where I want to go,’ comes to mind. Sometimes not knowing where you are going, helps you to explore an area you have never been to before. This is similar when it comes to your writing and creativity. Try writing where your stay begins and ends. Now ask yourself, do you need anything else to help you start writing? If yes, include a middle twist and if not, start your engine.

I never get lost, I just end up changing where I want to go

It’s all good writing but how do I get ideas?

Ah, this old chestnut. Sometimes considering the day to day stuff that people get up to can be a great place to start. For example, just before lockdown I was made aware of TikTok (a social media platform that consists of various videos, currently a lot of dancing!). It might be that many teenagers use this platform but what about the elderly? Imagine an old man that uses it to interact with his family and he ends up going viral and there you have it – the beginning of an idea. Make a list of daily tasks that you, a friend or a family member does and try to consider a piece of writing including this daily  task or chore.

Ideas are around us all of the time, so pay close attention to your surroundings and you’ll never have to worry about finding an idea again.

The Turn of The Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware, Vintage, paperback, 340 pages, £6.99, Waterstones

Their dream house will become her worst nightmare…

Their Dream will become her worst nightmare-2

The Turn of the Key is Ruth Ware’s latest novel set in the Scottish Highlands. Ruth Ware’s most recent novel is instantly familiar to her other novels as its presence and ending continues to pack a punch.

The Turn of the Key begins it’s journey similar to Ware’s previous novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, as it begins with the main character explaining how she ended up in her current predicament. The novel begins with a job advert about a current nannying role and the main character jumps at the chance. However has the nanny potentially bit off more than she can chew?

Structure

The structure of this novel is very important to point out as it’s not the standard structure you would expect a novel to take. The Turn of the Key begins with the main character writing a letter to a barrister about her recent experiences at Heatherbrae House. The reader can instantly acknowledge that something has happened that they are not aware of, however it is clearly evident that the main character will explain everything in the letters to come. This already gives the reader a sense of intrigue as the reader begins to question whether they can be convinced of the main character’s situation. As the novel progresses the main character makes several points referring back to the prison and demonstrates an interesting narrative style. This in turn reminds the reader to be on edge and to trust no one.

Pace

The pace of this novel is very interesting as there are many subtle elements to be aware of.  Since the narrative keeps referring back to the main characters’s situation, the subtle elements become even more questioning and as a result keep the reader engaged and intrigued. I must warn the readers however to brace yourself in the last hundred pages as it can feel as if you are in a tornado. As the pace and tension begins to build, so does the plot twists. So much so that it feels as if poison ivy is twisting around each scene, making the reader feel glued to the page.

Characters

Each character in this novel seems carefully considered. This novel has three children and one teenager in the heart of the story and how each child reacts and adapts to the new nanny and scenarios they are put in is really realistic. All of the characters are relatable to some extent and the Scottish characters, Jean and Jack, have been written brilliantly. Ruth has not only created characters that are relatable but has also managed to get their dialects right too. I have relatives that currently reside in Edinburgh and when I listen to Jean and Jack talk, even when in Carn bridge, they all sound authentically Scottish. Nothing is thrown in to make the characters seem obviously Scottish but the subtle differences within their language and word choice, highlights exactly where they are in the UK.

Influences

I cannot ignore that there appears to be a potential influence from Alnwick Garden, which again can be seen through the potential location and some of the ‘facilities’ that Alnwick Garden has to offer. Once you begin to read this novel you will begin to see the connection emerge.

Their Dream will become her worst nightmare

Similar novels

Interestingly The Turn of the Key, reminds me of two of Ware’s previous novels, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Death of Mrs.Westaway. The narrative structure in Ware’s current novel is similar to In a Dark, Dark Wood whereas the ghostly and haunting aspect of a manor house in The Death of Mrs. Westaway, mirrors the more contemporary isolated house of The Turn of the Key. Interestingly when considering the technology that is seen within this novel, I cannot help to compare the house setting of a similar feel to The Girl Before by JP Delaney. Both of these novels make the reader have to get to grips with technology fast, whilst self-policing in the process. Another book that identifies technology as a great driving force is George Orwell’s 1984, as the quote ‘Who controls the past controls the future,’ fits perfectly with Ruth Ware’s most recent novel.

If you find psychological thrillers gripping and enticing then this book is for you. I personally find self-policing an interesting topic and was unaware that this was considered in the book before reading. I personally love how Ruth Ware’s endings always seem satisfying and as soon as I picked the book up, I knew I would enjoy it. I throughly hope that The Turn of the Key has the same effect on you.

You can buy Ruth Ware’s latest novel The Turn of the Key here.

The Last by Hanna Jameson

The Last by Hanna Jameson, paperback, 400 pages, Waterstones, £8.99

Hanna Jameson’s The Last is an immersive read from beginning to end. This novel is unlike anything I have read before as it begins in a situation that no one else has ever experienced. The Last is about the last remaining guests at a hotel in Switzerland During their stay the work ends. The Last tries to exhibit what this situation would be like. Furthermore, with reason to believe a murderer is staying at the hotel – as a body is discovered – the novel begins to question whether morals have ended too.

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Background

Throughout this novel it is clearly evident that Jameson has given ‘the end of the world’ many thought when creating this novel. Small luxuries we take for granted are stripped away from them in an instant, making us question what we could possible live with – or without. Furthermore with a hotel providing accommodation for a variety of cultures, The Last begins to showcase humanities beliefs to the bare bone.

Format

Interestingly the format of this novel isn’t your standard ‘chapter 1.’ The novel has been written by John, a professor from San Fransisco, who is currently attending a conference. Instead of chapters the novel follows a diary-like structure to recollect the days that have went by. This may not be everyone’s favourite structure style, however it is very suiting and adds a personal touch to the experience.

Themes

There are two main themes underlying in this novel. One is anthropology and the other is mystery. Throughout The Last, all of the characters are significantly different and thus show very different reactions to the end of the world and to each other. Although I found this very interesting, my main reason for reading this novel was due to a murder investigation in a very unusual circumstance.

As the novel progressed I was unsure how the novel was going to end as there was little progress made about the murder. Overall I felt let down as the murderer was only identified after their was a solution to morals and leadership. For this reason, I felt like the mystery element was an afterthought and made the suspense I had, flop like a pancake.

I am still pleased that I read The Last as I did enjoy the characters’ journey. However I would describe this novel as speculative fiction, as I felt misled with this novel being associated as a crime or thriller. If you like alternative fiction, think Lord of the Flies survival in the time of Brave New World, then you’re in for a treat.

Please give it a read and keep an open mind. It may not have been the type of book I wanted to read but I really enjoyed the change.

You can pick this book up here.

This book was received via NetGalley.

The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, 2010, paperback, ISBN: 0399155341, £7.99.

I was a little hesitant at reading this book as I thought the subject matter may have been a difficult read. However The Help discusses how black maids are trusted within a household with some form of lightness. The Help is about a woman called Miss Skeeter, who wishes to give black maids a voice. All of the main characters are strong women that have potential to be strong within society. Stockett’s novel is well written and also touches upon community as well as a controversial subject, from an angle that makes it easy to discuss. I laughed and cried with this book and felt like no matter what part I put the book down on, I would always be excited to read it again. For this reason I believe it to be a timeless piece and in my eyes, a classic.
Stockett’s writing style is extremely fluent and oozes her characters personalities. The writing also highlights the character’s voices: without making it difficult to read, this  adds a sense of authenticity. The character’s stride past the author in this book and put their mark on what the reader sees. The descriptions of Jackson, Mississippi add to the originality of this book as the location sometimes can feel like a character in itself. At times I felt as if I could almost feel the warm Mississippi air on my face.

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So quick summary– If anyone is looking for a quality read with strong main characters and is interested in American history or post-colonialism, then this type of book would be a great read. Lighter than post-colonialism, it is a fun read that seems guaranteed to be enjoyed. The book follows Minny and Aibileen on their journey of living as the Help within a white household. Miss Skeeter longs for her old maid Constantine and sees the help differently than her other friends do. The Help follows Minny, Aibileen and Skeeter on their relationship with each other and their freedom. A journey not to be missed.

Why People are Scared of Self-Publishing

It’s sadly true that some people are just plain scared of self-publishing. I mean really when you think about it, who to best sell your book than… well… you?

Although self-publishing has been on the rise for the past few years, titles and genres have been blurred so much that sometimes it can be hard to look or even, be original. With this I’m referring to ebooks; when you scroll down amazon or the book store on iTunes, you begin to notice how similar all of the books look. After scrolling to page 16, well, I don’t know about you but I sometimes feel like the first page is just repeating itself. It’s because of this that it can seem daunting to self-publish.

I mean lets face it, the person that knows your novel the best is you right? So why is it that many of us want agents or publishing houses to help get our novel noticed?

Expertise? Of your own novel?

Now let that just sink in… you want an expert in your novel that you wrote…

A lot of the time we know the truth but we are too scared to make the first move. We can market our book the best but ultimately, we leave it for someone else to do because we doubt ourselves.

If we believed that we could deliver good marketing techniques to our book to give it great sales and publicity, would we do it? Absoloutely. Dare we try it? Not a chance.

I partly think that we all think like this because of two reasons. We either:

A: Want an agent or publisher to tell us that they think it’s good enough to publish (aka, tell us our writing is good!)

or

B: Are scared to put our all into marketing our book because we don’t want to fail in either marketing or writing.

Yes it can be a tough one to call sometimes, but the best advice I can give is to think of all that hard work you’ve done. Do you really not want to share it with the world?

If you don’t attempt to get it seen then it never will be.

This concept is something that I’ve been battling with for quite a while. However after much deliberation and looking for a publisher, I have decided that I could do a better job. I know that I believe in my piece and want the world to read it. Whether people pay for it, is another question, but I would love for people to see how much hard work I’ve put in to it.

So without further ado, I’m going into self-publishing… are you?

This post was originally published on my Medium page. Check it out here.

The Myth of Quality Literature

Myth of Quality

Ever went into a bookshop and wanted to read quality fiction? Others may describe it as high literature, but similar to what you call it, it differs from person to person. Sometimes even the pressure of writing quality fiction can be enough to make them put the pen down and walk away. So why is it that we want to read quality fiction? Is it to strengthen our knowledge and understanding of a particular field, to challenge ourselves or to simply help us write quality fiction ourselves?

I must admit I like to read quality fiction. However what I think is ground-breaking stuff, you may think is rubbish. My tutor at university once gave me a method to discoing ‘high literature.’ He believed that to have a quality piece of work it must have direct, indirect and free indirect discourse/speech (i.e. “stop it,” she said, she said stop it, she shook her head, stop it.) He argued if this was balanced throughout the novel it would be a quality piece. However, he also believed if the book was slightly bigger than A5 paperback or was printed only in hardback, then it was quality fiction.

My interpretation on the other hand, is that any novel that challenges societal values or ideologies should be considered as quality fiction. My reason being that the book would have a purpose and the plot would seem more original. However as I have previously mentioned, this is my interpretation.

The Beauty...

Like the saying, ‘Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder,’ it works with literature. What you might hate, others may love. With this in mind, the concept of quality literature is a myth. Not everyone will agree with what depicts a novel as quality fiction and that’s fine. I therefore urge you to keep writing your novel and/or keep reading what you enjoy. After all, if you enjoy a piece of writing, why not call it a quality piece of fiction?

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith, 2010, paperback, £6.99

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This novel had me on the fence from time to time, however that may have been because I was unsure what I was getting myself into. The novel is about a woman called Mma Ramotswe, who is asked to find out who is being a traitor to their football team. Whilst Mma Ramotswe is investigating, he assistant Mma Makutsi is also having troubles with a man-stealing Violet Sepotho. Although this novel was good for escapism as it is set in Botswana, Africa, I cannot help but think that this novel was dated. I understand that  it is just a story, but to highlight that women don’t like football and cook their husbands meals for them after work, I believe is a step too far. I persisted with the book because I was unsure if it was just a cultural difference. The novel itself was strongly led by the narrator, although sometimes I felt that the narrator needed to take a step back. It sometimes felt that the book strayed away from the subject matter and then refocused itself.

I enjoyed the plot, as it was fun and light, something in which I was looking for in a book at the time. However I feel that the language was too wordy and could potentially have been halved. This would have given the novel a bit more action and potentially made it a lot more gripping. Although I enjoyed the first book in this series, I will not be reading the collection anymore as I believe the other novels will follow a similar style. At least I am now more aware of which writing styles I like and dislike. If you want to find escapism in the blazing sun and like a descriptive, narrative style, then this series just may be for you.