Time management for writers

quaffleToday’s guest post comes from writer Freya Morris, and offers some golden tips for managing your time and maintaining motivation to get the most from your urge to write.

Time’s a snitch. The golden type, that flies away from you in that awesome game that doesn’t exist – Quidditch.

Picture this: we writers are the seekers, up on our broom (which for the sake of this Harry Potter analogy, I’m going to say is the pen/laptop/whatever), squinting, trying to spot that tiny little glimmer of hope, find the time to write.

We just have to catch it.

Harry Potter golden snitch

I’ve been looking for the golden snitch for as long as I can remember. I stayed in my first full-time job for about three months before realising that I was nowhere near it. In fact, my head wasn’t even in the game. On my lunch breaks I read about playing, or caught up on the results of other writers who had caught the snitch hundreds of times before me. But this was getting me nowhere. So I worked out that if I went part-time, I could earn the same about doing an admin job and actually put pen to paper during the rest of my time. And so I did.

So you’d think that going part-time would be it, right? Game over. Snitch caught. We can all cheer. YAY! Go Gryffindor (or whatever your house of choice is).

Wrong.

Going part-time was like standing in the arena, broomless and without a clue how to play the game. I was in it, I caught glimpses of the snitch, but all I had really achieved by going part-time was space. By not grasping ahold of my broom and training, the arena soon filled with distractions: family, housework, chores, DIY and whatever. And in all this crap – the snitch could hide forever.

And it still does. Every day, it’s like playing a game of Quidditch and so many things get in the way of me catching that snitch – mostly, myself. Here are some things I’ve learnt in training along the way.

bludger

Beware the Bludgers

Rejections – they happen often, and most of the time you can dodge them and carry on. But the odd one here and there will smack you right in the face and throw you off your broom (ie – pen/laptop/whatever). But remember, it’s only temporary. The game is still playing, the snitch is still flying. You’re just floored for a bit. It might be a longer game than usual – days long – but someone has to catch the snitch before the game can finish. Make sure that it’s you.

This is where it’s probably good to get some Beaters on side, ‘Champions of You’ that can bat away any Bludgers coming your way. So stop playing Quidditch alone. Find your Beater today. They will greatly increase your odds of catching that pesky snitch.

Quaffing the Quaffle – scoring points and jumping through hoops

For me, this is all the stuff that I do that isn’t writing but supports my writing: social media, blogging, this very post, readings. Hit those Quaffles and score some points, but don’t forget to block some too when it’s stopping you from focusing on catching the snitch. The Quaffle gets you points, but ultimately, it doesn’t win you the game. Be your own Chaser, and your own Keeper.

Harry Potter brooms

Training 

Get on your broom regularly. Find out the best techniques for you. Find your heroes and read about them. Exercise – literally. Blood flow is good for the brain. Have specific goals, for now, next week, next year. (Listen to your own advice Freya.)

Once you catch that snitch, you’ll be thinking about the next game, and sometime you won’t catch it as often as you so desperately hope to. So if you want to survive being a writer, you got to know why you’re playing the game in the first place and enjoy it.

The hardest part for me is the first step, the shoe-tie, the picking up of the broom, the pressure on the pitch. And that… well I’m still learning to overcome. Any advice, especially HP related, do share!

Freya MorrisAbout the author

Freya Morris was named after the great explorer, Freya North, and lives up to her name by exploring other worlds in her imagination. For her flash fiction, she won the Yellow Room Flash Fiction Competition and came runner up in the Greenacre Writers Competition. Her short stories have been published in: Litro’s Friday Flash, Short Story Sunday, Nature’s Futures section, Popshot, and National Flash Fiction Day Anthology ‘Scraps’.

NB: Thanks to JK Rowling for providing the source material for Freya’s analogy. Freya has obtained permissions for all images used in this post.

Woolly wonder

Shaun the sheep detail1 cr Vicky HarrisonLiving in Bristol, one of the great joys is seeing artwork crop up across the city. The most recent to arrive is a flock of 70 Shaun the Sheep sculptures decorated by a wide range of artists, designer and celebs, including Bagpuss creator Peter Firmin, cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, Cath Kidston and Zandra Rhodes.

One that’s caught my eye already (and ended up in a few of the mags I write for) is textile artist Vicky Harrison’s splendid crocheted Woolly Wonderland. “I put in the bid, then found out on 15th September 2014 that I had won the commission to make him,” Vicky explains. “I didn’t make a plan, I just started making him – developing the design as I went along.”

ShaunInTheCity2 cr Stephen Lewis

Woolly Wonderland by Vicky Harrison @copy; Stephen Lewis

Woolly Wonderland is a masterpiece of colour and yarn, with embroidering layered on top of crochet, and hundred of curlicues to make the tail alone. Brilliant details abound, from the bee balanced on one ear (is this why he looks so worried?), to the jaunty monochrome leggings Shaun sports. What a stylish ram he is!

Vicky Harrison and Shaun cr Stephen Lewis

Vicky Harrison and Shaun © Stephen Lewis

You can see Vicky Harrison’s ‘Woolly Wonderland’ sculpture at St Nicholas Market in Bristol as part of the Shaun in the City trail until 31 August 2015. For more about the sculptures, which will be auctioned off to raise funds for Bristol Children’s Hospital charity The Grand Appeal, go to www.shauninthecity.org.uk. Find out more about what Vicky’s up to at www.thepapervillage.co.uk.

Writing prompt – monsters

Snail cr Judy DarleyI recently glimpsed a video someone posted to Facebook, showing a monstrously gigantic hamster laying waste to a town.

It made me chuckle, and reminded me of the joyful possibilities available when you tweak something’s scale, making it outlandishly large or a teeny speck of its former self. Make this the starting point of a story, and see where it takes you.

If you create something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.

Book review – Unthology 7

Unthology 7The latest offering from Unthank Books fairly vibrates with the unexpected, the disconcerting and the downright disturbing. Crisp, sharp-edged sentences slide you into lives where the protagonists are struggling with the simple matter of existence, and only in some cases winning.

The book itself is beautiful too – elegant, intriguing and full of promise that’s more than met by the discerning selection process of editors Ashley Stokes and Robin Jones.

For me, there are two utterly different types of short stories that stop me in my tracks and lodge with me for days after I’ve read them – sparely written snapshots that flare up into dazzling but fleeting light, and leave you with more questions than answers, and those that coil in on themselves, layered up with all the depths and echoes of a novel. Unthology 7 brims with tales stemming from these categories, and it’s impossible to pick out favourites. Continue reading

A poem about pigeons

Pigeon cr Judy DarleyI admit, I have a curious fondness for pigeons. Something about their dauntlessness as they crowd the city streets, pecking for crumbs and dodging vehicles impresses me, possibly more than it should. So when I saw a call for poetry submissions about these generally unbeloved birds, I had just the poem in mind.

Happily, my poem Crusty was accepted for publication and now roosts in the poetry anthology Poeming Pigeons along with many feathered friends. It’s available from The Poetry Box, but you can read it here.

Crusty by Judy Darley

We’ve reached an understanding, he and I
sharing the same street corner
ignored by the same passersby.
His stained blanket mirrors my ragged wings
We both limp from hunger and on twisted limbs.
His fractured, fractious stories echo my plaintive call
His rheumy eyes, filth-clouded, reflect my skies, dismal.
We’ve both experienced the same fall from grace,
existing on life’s edges in this wretched place.
He raids the bins, eats what he can, and what he can’t he passes on.
When night crowds in, I rise to roost
watching over him till dawn.

Life mimics art mimics life…

Daisy Jacobs paints The Bigger Picture

Daisy Jacobs paints The Bigger Picture

Filmmaker Daisy Jacobs had a small goal for her film The Bigger Picture – to tell the story of how a family copes with the disintegration of one of its aging members, using a painted medium populated by life-sized 2D characters. Oh, actually, not so small then.

It’s something many of us will go through at some point, either as a grandchild, as the son or daughter of an old person, or as the elderly individual ourselves.

The universality of the experience only adds to its power – in dredging up her characters emotions, often through extreme visual storytelling methods, Daisy both reflects our own feelings and reminds us how personal they are to us.

Impressive. And that’s before you consider the technique she’s used.

THEBIGGERPICTURE_DAISYJACOBS_KitchenScene

“I’ve always loved painting and I have just continued with it,” says Daisy, who did a foundation course at Central St Martins in art and design, followed by a BA in illustration and then a Postgraduate in animation before going to the NFTS (National Film and Television School to do an MA in Directing Animation. “The Bigger Picture is my final MA film.”

The idea of creating such large scale characters came about when she set her heart on having one of her 2D characters vacuum a real room. “As it was a new technique it was all made up as we went along, despite loads of preparation and doing tests,” she says. “Much was still unpredictable.”

THEBIGGERPICTUR_DAISYJACOBS_Shower scene

Despite this, the bigger challenge was taking her family’s real life experiences and fictionalising them.

Daisy Jacobs“I made notes and generally internalised lots, then made up fictional characters who I filled with characteristics of all my family,” she says. “My gran, Eileen, was ill with Parkinson’s. It affected me deeply and I found making the film about her was very cathartic. Animation and painting especially are good to take your mind off things as they are so absorbing.”

The results are equally engrossing, resulting in an Oscar nomination for Best Short Film (animated) as well as winning the BAFTA for Best Bristish Short Animated Film, as well as too many other prizes to mention (see the full list of awards here).

Daisy and her team are currently shoulder-deep in the props-making stage for their next film, while The Bigger Picture continues to make waves on the festival circuit.

To find out where you can watch it for yourself, visit www.thebiggerpicturefilm.com and go to the ‘screenings’ page to see where it will be on over the next couple of months.

Writing prompt – cloud

A Cloud Being Born cr Judy DarleyI was at the beach last summer when a strange fog rolled in. One of my companions said it was the result of a cloud being born far out at sea, and forgetting to rise before travelling over the land. Curious!

As we lay there, trying to soak up the sun, we found ourselves bathed in icy water droplets instead. I think it makes an eerie shot – what other reasons, supernatural say, could there be for such an event on a hot summer’s day? What if, instead of dispersing, the fog just kept getting thicker?

If you create something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket creative.com. With your permission, I’d love to share it on SkyLightRain.com.