THE BOOK

large (22)After running a competition where I was giving away five beautiful, limited edition novels, I had twelve replies. Yes, TWELVE.

Now, with the likes of Google Analytics, I’m well aware how many people viewed the post and can tell you that the number of entries I received was considerably lower than the number of hits it got.

I didn’t run the competition to gain followers, drive traffic or benefit myself. In fact, the books were free, I’ve made no profit from doing it and I actually have to fork out money for postage. And I’m happy to. The whole reason I chose to run the competition was to aid World Book Night in their quest to promote reading to those who have forgotten about the written word.

I clearly failed. But why am I so bothered?

I’m bothered because, had I been giving away a mascara, a bronzer or even a framed photo of Jonathan Ross, I guarantee I’d have been inundated. But a book? With pages? Giving life to a beautiful story?

Silence.

We all say that it’s not easy to find the time to read, but really, if you find the time to browse YouTube videos or scroll through pictures of cats online, then you do in fact have time. Plus, everyone needs a poo at some point or other, so instead of counting floor tiles, turn some pages and use your imagination.

This post sounds aggressive, probably because it is. But it’s only because I care.

Perhaps I care because I’m currently surrounded by books on a daily basis? Perhaps it’s because I studied Literature at university? I think the main reason is because I appreciate how much work goes into producing a novel. Particularly a good one. Which is why I have been dedicating twenty minutes each evening to reading. No excuses.

I’m genuinely begging you to chuck a book in your bag before you set off for work in the morning. Then, on your lunch break, on that same old lengthy commute, or just when you’re really, really bored, get it out and begin your reading journey.

I went through a phase of not reading for a while, it happens to everyone. And when I started back up again, it felt weird at first. And dare I say it, a bit boring. But once your author has introduced you to your characters for the next 573 pages and has transported you to their chosen destination, you’ll find yourself no longer on the dreary Northern Line, but wherever they’ve decided to take you that morning. And that’s much more appealing than avoiding eye contact with strangers or playing Candy Crush for an hour.

Of course, there are some books out there that are a bit shit. Others just might not be your cup of tea. But saying you don’t like books before you’ve read all the books in the world is like saying you don’t like music without exploring all avenues: you just haven’t figured out what your taste buds are craving yet. So, much like I used to tell my old English students, do a taste test or a “fifty page run” and then decide whether to stick with it or sack it off- no one is forcing you to read a certain type of book. It’s the reason we have thousands of imprints; different folks, different strokes and all that.

Aside from all of this moaning from little old me, I was really happy to receive some competition entries. And I loved them.

The winners of my beautiful book are:

Heidi Dyson

Imani Backes

Cha Cha

Marielo

Catherine Dunne

and…

Fleur McCorkindale

Thank you so much to all of you who entered, I (and the books) really appreciate it. Don’t forget to pass them on when you’re done.

Happy Reading!

The Block – A Guest Post

large (11)“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” – Charles Bukowski

So, to take Charles at his word, let’s give this a go, with the aim of overcoming The Block.

Before we start, yes, I am aware of the obvious irony of writing about writer’s block. However, as my writer’s block is currently consuming any creativity relating to anything else, it seems this is the only topic about which I’m actually qualified to write about at present.

All my life, I wanted to be a writer or some sort but never really got off the ground in that respect (career wise), until now, where I have become a content manager for a digital brand and am responsible for writing nearly all their content. It is not exactly writing a best seller but it is at least a start! It is a horrible coincidence therefore, that I seem to have hit a creative quagmire and can’t seem to write anything particularly inspiring, at the one time my job demands that I do.

Perhaps that is the problem? Being creative on demand is often the challenge of writers and designers in corporate situations around the world. Creativity, by its very definition, is not constrained by the 9 to 5, by office regulations, by sitting at the same desk every day, making that kind of role an automatic challenge. The regularity of my job could be the reason why my copy is coming out so uniformly uninspired and repetitive.

I have tried to shake it up a bit, as much as possible, within an office environment. I have locked myself into various different rooms around the office to try and remove myself from the distraction of colleagues and to get away from the desk itself, to somewhere new. I have also discovered I write much better with an actual pen and paper, (I know, I’m old school!) not a blank page of MS Word. I also write better in the afternoons. It’s been interesting to find out my own personal preferences that I’d somehow never even realised before, like I’d been keeping secrets from myself.

However, at present, I still feel a sense of dread when I have to write, like my creativity has disappeared behind a cloud as soon as I put pen to paper. This is not right. I became an English student because of my love of words and my love of writing, and I wanted a job where writing was an integral part of it. I used to write for pleasure when I was a little and well into my teens, disappearing into stories of my own making. Where has that gone? I am determined to get it back. I miss it.

I tried to start a blog, to force myself into writing, but I couldn’t even get past the sign up process as I was utterly stumped as to what to name the blog in the first place. Yes, I write for work, but writing content for a market research website is not half as fun as writing for yourself, and I’m also convinced my current output is not nearly as good as it could be without writer’s block hanging over me, taking away any originality.

I have Googled the answer. Everyone has different advice, but the most comprehensive I found came courtesy of an American writer, published author and (from what I can tell) self-help guru, Jeff Goins. His points that spoke most to me were about how you prolong writer’s block, not how you overcome it:

  • You do not overcome writer’s block by refusing to write until you feel “inspired.”
  • You do not overcome writer’s block by procrastinating or making excuses.
  • You do not overcome writer’s block by wallowing in self-pity.

I realised I was guilty of all of these. I had found ways to avoid writing, to keep it out of my life, waiting to be inspired, expecting for creativity to walk right back into my brain, for a fully formed novel to just appear, clamouring for me to write it down if I just gave it long enough – in much the same way that JK Rowling says Harry Potter “just strolled […] fully formed” into her mind.

This is obviously not the way. Unless you’re incredibly lucky (or awesome) like JK, you have to work at it. As [my new guru] Jeff says: “The fail-proof way to overcome writer’s block is one you already know. In fact, you’ve been avoiding it this whole time […]. You overcome writer’s block by writing.”

Thanks Jeff. Obviously in our heart of hearts we all know this, but the simplest answer is often the hardest to execute. However, this small essay is testament to me giving it a go!

With that in mind, I am also taking up a 31 day challenge, to write 500 words (or more) a day for the next month or so, to break the wall, to disperse the cloud, to throw off the shackles, get the creative juices flowing, whichever metaphor you prefer; to shift the writer’s block and do what I love again.

Maybe this time I’ll actually get past the WordPress sign up page too?

I feel better already…

Written by Laura Watkins

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Writer, creative and all-round lovely lady.