Only connect

inspiration This is the first in my promised series of posts about how to handle The Fear. Writers know it, we all know it. The voice that asks, “What if I’m not good enough?” “What if I can’t do this?” Sometimes it presents as someone else’s comment in your own head about how you’re going to fail, in someone else’s words. But convincing none the less.

I’m here to tell you that entertaining The Fear is putting the cart before the horse. You will be dragging yourself, and it, along. The Fear is the problem, not the thing that you think you’re afraid of! The battle is in a different place. It’s not tomorrow, when you will be sitting down to write. That will be a breeze. It’s now, when you’re at 10 000 words, and you’re not sure how the next 5 000 will go, and you’re worried about it. The worry is the problem.

You need to battle it in a different place – namely, here and now. The present moment.

The way I do this is to put the energy elsewhere. Firstly, recognise that Fear has got you by the throat. Then do the opposite of your usual knee-jerk stress reaction. SLOW DOWN.

This involves trust. I make sure I take care of myself (get ten hours’ sleep, eat a good breakfast, read a book – Marian Keyes is great). Light some incense. Gently clean the floor with some cedar oil or frankincense in water. Do a few affirmations to recentre yourself (I like to write them out or sing them). Play with your child. Then, when your ease comes, or even if it doesn’t, just write (or do whatever your own particular bugbear is).

Remember the joy and the love in all that is. The rest is illusion. Connecting with universal energy is the real work. It’s the only work you actually have to do.

Just show up.

EM Forster said: “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect …”

I’m sure you will.

The beauty of notes

notes

I just love notebooks. I have drawers-full. But none of them are about plot lines. They’re mostly about personal growth (which I think is vital for writers, like everyone else!) But there are also ideas notebooks. These are recognisable by their utter randomness and lack of order. In fact many of them are not notebooks but receipts from restaurants, with scribbled words like

Smoke machine!

Jokes aside, I do keep a notepad next to my computer, and I try to keep a small one in my handbag. And a pen. Am I the only writer who never has a pen?! My child, who can’t write, has claimed all forty of my working ones.

The notepad is good for ideas that come to you when you are tapping away, and for doodling of course. I believe there is a relationship between words and images in your head, and it’s good to keep those linked. When I first started trying to write (the Agony Days, more about that later I promise) I actually put a set of paints and a small canvas next to my laptop, because I knew the painting mindset was important somehow. I didn’t get much of either done!

Nowadays I know that it’s the freedom that writing and painting share.

I also jot ideas down on computer at the end of the manuscript, a section of text that can become up to twenty pages long and play havoc with my word count!

If there is any advice I can give authors, it’s to honour the uniqueness and weirdness of your own creative process. Never try to hone it or make it more like someone else’s (and other people will suggest you do.) Do it your way. Receipts and all.

By the way, in my latest manuscript (being finalised now) the heroine gets into a bit of trouble surrounding her own notebook … hopefully be bringing you this one by Feb next year! You can check out all the exciting research I’ve been doing on Kenya for it lately on Twitter.

Thanks for tuning in.

Holding uncertainty

Elektra-Marvel-Comics-2

I write quite quickly. I can do about 3 pages in 45 minutes, if in that section I don’t have to keep checking things on the internet as I go (research!) I did a calculation once – maths is not my strong point, but I figured out I could probably write a whole manuscript in 24 hours if I didn’t eat, sleep (etcetera) or stop!

Some of you who are writers will know what I’m talking about. Writing a book is like driving a freight train that picks up speed. Your family and others better get out of the way. Especially when the hero and heroine are about to you-know-what. There’s an urgency, right?

What makes it worse (or better) is that I don’t feel in control of what I’m doing. I get a general feel for the book, I sort of know what must happen, but I can’t tell you chapter-for-chapter what it’s going to look like before I start. I’ve tried, believe me. But it always does its own thing anyway. So I have notes that go, “Is he her half-brother?!” and so on. More about the importance of notes later.

It’s hard, not knowing exactly how everything will pan out, but it’s also wonderful. I am always delighted by the little unplanned links and twists. In fact, I write to be surprised. Otherwise I think it would be a very boring exercise.

The flip side is that you may go around in your daily life with the gnawing thought that you’ve just finished Chapter 7, and you know you will write 8 tomorrow, but right now you have no idea what that will look like. And to trust that it will come.

Because it does.

Take breaks. Don’t write the book in 24 hours, just so you can nail it down and release yourself from the clutches of anxiety. So much good comes when you’ve rested, eaten well, and played in other areas of your life too.

That’s Elektra, by the way (Marvel Comics). She doesn’t look afraid of much.

I create my own reality

I committed to becoming a full-time writer in 2015. My first novel was published a year later. But what preceded this was years of dancing with The Fear. I’ll be writing about how to overcome it in this blog.

At the point when I committed, I had to choose a name. I didn’t want to write under my own name because I wanted to cut the constraints of the ego.

I chose Eden Walker to remind myself that writing is a pleasure. When I write, I am walking in paradise – and I trust my readers feel it when they join me there.

Aziza means Beloved. In my Ankara Press books, you’ll find that the heroine’s name always has a special meaning, pertinent to her life and journey. My nickname Aziza reminds me that I am a beloved child of the universe – as we all are.

Here is a photo of something I put up on the wall near my desk in 2015. May it inspire you to persevere, because the thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen (Frank Lloyd Wright).

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