How to keep writing – making sense of the mud

Victoria Park frost by Judy Darley

I’ve written articles for mindfulness and creativity magazines about how to stay motivated, and yet this year has been the first where I actually struggled with something like writer’s block myself. Life is a big, unwieldy and yet disproportionately short edifice, and nothing has made me more aware of this than losing my dad last year. My imagination has been narrower and darker than I’ve ever known it, which I think may be hormonal, or a symptom of life.

But, and here’s the sunshine, I’ve continued to write. Not all of it worth showing to anyone,  but an occasional scattering of words on a page or a screen that came from my brain to my fingertips in an order that made some kind of sense, even if not the glowing sensational sense I always secretly hope for.

More importantly, I’ve realised that that’s enough – for now, for this muddy, clarty year. (If you don’t know the word ‘clarty’, ask a northerner. Funnily enough, auto-correct wants to change it to ‘clarity’ which is almost the exact antithesis of the meaning).

I’ve realised that while I’ve been fretting about losing my flow, other things have been happening. I’ve been absorbing and thinking and mulling and above all, reflecting. Sometimes we need to hit pause and simply digest.

So if you’ve hit a similar wall or got stuck in some clarty mud, don’t fret. It’s all part of the process, and, hopefully, will pass.

In the meantime, treat yourself kindly, read widely, think deeply, and when the sun shines, walk out into it. Maybe some of that glow will rub off on you and your writing.

How blogging can make us more present

Krakow chimneys cr Judy DarleyI began blogging in 2008. I’d already been working as a journalist for several years, and having recently gone freelance, was seeking to fill the slightly alarming time between assignments. After years of following briefs, making my writing meet the expectations magazine readers and editors, writing a blog felt refreshingly free. For the first time since I was a child keeping a journal, I could, to some extent, write whatever popped into my head.

But soon came the disconcerting and simultaneously exhilarating realisation I had an audience. I needed to be aware my eyes were not the only eyes one the screen.

I needed to make sure I had plenty of quality content, so I did what I’d always done. I carried a notebook. I wrote down the things that occurred to me, the sights and snippets of daily life that amused or intrigued me, and some of them formed blog posts for a section I named ‘Foraging.’

More recently, one blog down and three years into blogging at, many of these take the form of ‘Writing Prompts’. It makes me pay attention in a way I might not otherwise, and it’s deeply satisfying.

At the same time, as I seek out creative opportunities for my readers, I grow more aware of the literary and art events taking place, the courses, festivals, calls for submissions and competitions that might benefit my own output.

In a sense, a blog is a magazine, with each post an article or feature. The beauty of the blog is that there are few costs (just the hosting and domain name to shell out for if you want a bespoke name), and therefore no advertisers to appease. You have freedom, but also copy to provide. So you keep your eyes and ears open, pay attention to what’s happening around you, both online and out in the actual world.

I once attended a talk on mindfulness in which we were advised to take note of chimneys. It’s a simple way to ensure you look up, notice the sky, and, besides, many chimneys are beautiful.

Gathering material to blog about works in the same way. I’m a habitual daydreamer – a half hour amble could pass without me seeing anything but the thoughts inside my head. Requiring myself to spot things, and think about them, ensures I’m more aware of my surroundings – not only that, but enjoying them.

Arnos Vale trees cr Judy Darley

As my mind hops from idea to idea, my eyes can dart around and draw my attention to the way sunlight flickers between branches, the discarded toy on a wall, the faint absurdity of a lone shoe nestled in the shade of a bus stop. And then my mind stops wandering and wonders – whose toy is that? Why just the one shoe? Is someone right now limping home?

The world is full of intrigue.

As a blogger you’re a modern day hunter-gatherer. The snippets you overhear, the conversations you have, the twitter feeds and other blogs you read, all contribute to making your blog, and your life, more interesting. And, I would say, all that can add up to making you a more engaged, happier person.

What’s not to like?