THE SLUMP

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I had high expectations for this Easter holiday.

Very high expectations, in fact.

I envisaged sun soaked sessions outside local coffee shops with my laptop perched on my knee in an oversized jumper. I pictured lazy days in the park spent scribbling in a notebook. At one point, I was booking a very expensive holiday to Cape Verde that I couldn’t afford, hoping to tan and write at the same time. Basically, I predicted that wherever I was in the world, I would be being (at the very least) creative, although of course, the reality of any sort of writing I do consists of my bed, some snacks and a pair of unwashed, faded pyjamas, so I’m not quite sure why I all of a sudden saw myself living in some sort of Hipster paradise, churning out great works of art on the other side of the world…

But anyway, two weeks into a two and a half week break from work and all I have posted on here are two ‘Sunday Papers’ pieces (which literally consist of nothing other than other people’s fantastic writing) and a couple of ‘Monday Mantras’, which, of course, everybody needs at the start of a working week, but it’s not exactly rocket science and/or a work of creative genius to find a quote and share it.

But it’s really not that I haven’t wanted to post anything. On the contrary, I was determined to become the next Zoella or whoever else is now living off the fruits of their online presence in the space of 17 days. But, surprisingly, it hasn’t happened. Perhaps I aimed too high? Perhaps ‘becoming Zoella’ was a little too optimistic? Perhaps I’ve lazed in bed for a little too long each morning? Spent too much time cooking delicious food or getting on with adult things like finding a flat and a new job?

Truth is, I really couldn’t tell you; I haven’t a clue why I haven’t been writing. I could list five thousand reasons why I might not be feeling particularly creative at the moment, but I really have no idea where my words have gone. The problem though, is that when these slumps strike, and I go into some sort of creative coma, it’s very difficult to hop back out of it and pick up a pen or start typing. Much like working out, once I haven’t written or posted anything of any significance in a while, the thought of doing so becomes scary and – at times – impossible. I question my abilities and grow uncertain about why I even do this.

And then I get an email.

Or a private message on Twitter.

People start questioning why I haven’t posted in a while and my hearts lifts a little.

I start to hear the familiar little cogs turning and get the urge to post something… anything.

So that’s why I’m here on this Wednesday evening.

I am hoping that by typing words and hitting publish without thinking too much about them, a creative valve hidden somewhere deep inside my body will open and, just like that, the juices will start flowing once again.

Here’s to thinking, writing and being more creative over the next few weeks.

Watch this space.

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.

100

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No, my blog is not one hundred years old. I have, however, published one hundred posts since it all began back in December 2010. And that, I believe, is cause for celebration.

As I sat in my tiny – and very chilly – bedroom in Exeter in my third year at university, I wrote my first few posts. I think they were about tea, or lipstick, or chips; a little insight into what I thought was important at 21. As I threw words out there, somewhat naively, into the internet, I didn’t picture my blog lasting past the Christmas holidays, but here I am, four and a bit years later, writing my 100th post.

I started The London Ladybird as a way to write something other than chapters of my dissertation – which was centred around Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and therefore not wholly uninteresting – as well as to hopefully try and persuade people in the working world that I could string a couple of sentences together and that they should pay me to do so. But not even just that; I hoped that I could make people laugh, or feel a little more understood than they did already.

The feedback I get from people is why this site is still up and running. Those who have provided guest posts to me over the years always say how nerve-wracking they found the whole experience and a lot of people say they would never submit anything to me for fear of being ridiculed. I won’t lie, I still feel a little anxious each time I publish a post – not because I don’t want people to critique my work, in fact, I welcome constructive criticism – but I fear that people won’t enjoy the next as much as the last. However, the conversations that my posts inspire amongst friends and the comments I receive from strangers (be them agreeing with what I have to say or not) make it all worthwhile.

I’ve decided to celebrate all of this by choosing my top three posts since it all began, so here they are:

The Freckle – because it was my first ever.

The Fart – because I can’t believe I wrote about something so grim.

The Betrayal – because it was hard to write and even harder to post.

So, for as long as you are (hopefully) still enjoying this little space of mine on the internet, I’ll continue to write about everything from relationships to embarrassing bodily functions, because, why not? And if you’re contemplating starting one of your own, my advice to you would be to go for it; you really don’t have much to lose.

My one piece of advice? Always remember that:

‘The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink’

The Social Network. 

Only post what you really mean. Be honest, be smart, be open to other’s opinions.

Thank you for all of your support over the years. Here’s to the next one hundred posts!