We had a very interesting session from Pen Wilcock at the Writers’ Day in October. With a theme covering writing about goodness, she also talked about keeping creative when writing. Then and there, she encouraged us to dance to refresh ourselves and stimulate our creativity. As we all bobbed about, with different shades of embarrassment, I was reminded of the early days of computer ownership. Back then monitors were considered dangerous to our health so we were advised to walk away from the screen and do something completely different every 20 minutes. If no-one was around, I would cha-cha or twist to release the muscles in my shoulders.
Nowadays, when I am writing fiction, or even editing, I become totally engrossed in my characters and their world, forgetting all about my real self. If someone else is in the house, they may eventually check I am still there after hours of hearing absolutely nothing from me. That’s when I discover my neck and shoulders are agony, I’m incredibly hungry, cold and stiff plus desperate to reach the bathroom! But more to the point, I have spawned pages and pages of rubbish.
Has Pen’s talk made me turn over a new leaf? Well, no. Yet I thoroughly agree with Pen, love dancing and know I’m too old to sit for a long time, so here’s my plan:
1. Re-educate my family. It took a long time to teach people not to disturb me, but maybe it’s time I introduced the concept of ‘useful interruptions’. No phone calls from psychology clients (it’s my day off), but cups of tea with a small bar of chocolate (oh no, sorry Pen, that should be fruit juice and a banana or some nuts!) And a hug maybe. Or a shoulder massage.
2. Have ready some worship music, so that I can flick it on for a song or two. Worshipful dancing is inspirational, using the words, expressed through movement, as a prayer.
3. Use my whiteboard while dancing – not to dance on perhaps, but to jot down or draw ideas as they appear.
4. Lose my habit of being a ‘binge writer’. I don’t write my work-in-progress for days, or even weeks, but when I find a slot to write I can’t stop. I even go away sometimes to do nothing but scribble for three or four days. Becoming a regular writer might give me more control.
5. Use the rhythm of the words – useful even for prose but in Losing Face my character dances to a poem. It’s great to recite work out loud to find the rhythm of the sentences.
But how can I remind myself to do all this? Maybe teach my computer to bleep every 500 words? There must be a programme that will do that. Or perhaps I should set an alarm for every half-hour?
Oops, I’ve taken longer than that already and have reached the magic number – better go, it’s time to boogie!
Annie Try lives in Norfolk with her long-suffering husband, Ken, an Old English Sheepdog who thinks she is young and an elderly bossy cat inherited from Annie’s parents. She has five children who have blessed her with a multitude of grandchildren. As the author of Losing Face, published by Roundfire Books, she is juggling her time to finish three other novels. She also writes psychology books and features under her married name, Angela Hobday. She may be the most ancient person on the committee of ACW.