10 things to write on in an emergency!

Once you abandon your muse and accept the fact that other commitments in your life will sometimes prevent you from writing, you can prepare for the unexpected. When an idea arrives, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you need to be ready. The truth is, your best ideas don’t always come to you at appropriate times. I used to regularly find myself without a notepad, desperately repeating an idea in my head to make sure I remembered it. It rarely worked. Usually, I’d forget large parts of the idea. Often, I wouldn’t remember I’d had an idea at all.

This is my advice. If you get an idea, write it down. Even if it turns out to be a useless idea, you just never know. It’s better than losing what could be the foundations of an interesting piece of work.

It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how easy it is to have an idea and find yourself thoroughly unprepared.

Usually, all you need to remember is the spark. Just enough to trigger that same train of thought you stumbled upon when the idea first came to you. You don’t need half an hour and a laptop.

Write here, write now

If the idea happens to arrive when you’re in front of a computer and during some free time, then great. You can stick it in a Word document (other document types are available) and spend a couple of hours refining your thoughts.

If, as is more likely, the idea comes when you’re in a business meeting, on the toilet or bathing the kids, you’re in all kinds of trouble.

You’re going to need one of these 10 things.

A notepad

Of course, the wonderful notepad. If you haven’t got one, get one. Preferably a Moleskine. Then take it everywhere you go and you won’t have to use the rest of this list, which may be a blessing.

Post-it notes

Everyone’s favourite yellow reminding device. I usually use Post-it notes to combine and develop ideas, but they’re also great for keeping round the house. It goes idea > scribble on Post-it > stick to keyboard for later.

Your hand

Another classic. The hand is an underestimated writing surface. Not only is it convenient and easy to use, you’ll be very hard-pressed not to have it with you at all times.

Miscellaneous body parts

The problem with writing on your hand is that your idea automatically enters the public domain. So, if you’d rather not have your boss, parents or fellow train passengers reading what’s on your scrawl-ridden palms, find somewhere else on your person. I have previously written ideas on my foot, ankle and stomach. Don’t forget and have a shower.

Someone else

If points 3 and 4 don’t do it for you, try writing on someone else. Why not? How often do we say, ‘Remind me to…’ or ‘I’ve just had an idea…’ when we’re with someone? If you’re about to go into a meeting and it simply isn’t appropriate to write on yourself, write on your workmate instead. They can read it back to you later.

Fruit

Nick Cernis over at Put Things Off talks about The Banana Reminder in his marvellous book, Todoodlist. He suggests writing important tasks on your morning banana to make sure you don’t forget to do them. It works. I’ve tried it. However, switch tasks for ideas and add oranges, lemons and any other fruit with a non-edible skin to your list of writing surfaces, and you’re in business. Just make sure you transfer your idea to your notepad or computer before you have your tasty teatime snack.

Beer mats

Made famous by many a lyricist, the beer mat has a reputation for being an ideal emergency writing surface, though almost exclusively for writers who frequent public houses, bars or restaurants, of course.

Windows

I get a lot of my ideas when I’m in the shower, which is most irritating. Usually, I can hold it in the think-tank (that’s my head, not part of the shower) until I get to my notepad. However, if I can feel the idea slipping away, I’ve been known to reach around the shower curtain and make a quick note in the steam on the window. Other recommended windows include frosty cars and dirty sheds.

Toilet paper

Oh come on, we’ve all been there. Ideas can strike at any time. Leave a pen in the cardboard tube, just in case. Or behind the S-bend.

The Wonderwall

Finally, an idea I’ll talk about in a later post. The Wonderwall is not related to the once well-reputed UK rock band, Oasis. It’s actually an idea we’re currently putting into action where I work. It’s very simple. We’re designating an entire wall of the office to any ideas and brainwaves we might have. That’s it.

Have an idea or suggestion about how we might work better? Write it on the wall. Of course, in your family home, you might prefer not to cover your lounge in marker pen, but there’s no reason why you can’t create a Wonderwall in your study. If you don’t want to write directly on to the wall (which I do understand), use Post-it notes. If your ideas are related, use the wall to plan and combine your notes.

What do you write on?

Have you been inspired and found yourself without something sensible to write on? What do you do in a creative emergency? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Writers, abandon your muses – they’re a work of fiction!

This first (proper) post is something of a mission statement. You see, I don’t believe in the concept of the muse. The idea is a complete myth. I mean literally, it is. Wikipedia told me so:

In Greek mythology, the Muses … embody the arts and inspire the creation process with their graces through remembered and improvised song and stage, writing, traditional music, and dance.

The muse concept is still going strong.  Writers often cite their muse, or lack of one, when they’re struggling to write. But I’m not having it.

To me, the muse is a nonsense-notion spouted by writers, artists and other creative types who want to give their procrastinating a fancy name.

Excuses, excuses

Here’s the sort of claptrap they come out with:

‘I wanted to write, but my muse deserted me.’

No, you wanted to write, but Strictly Come Dancing* was about to start and that sounded like more fun and less work.

‘I couldn’t possibly write as my muse wasn’t working.’

Rubbish. The ideas didn’t come easily, so you started thinking about what to have for lunch and whether to go downstairs for another cup of coffee.

And you know what? That’s just fine.

If your mind’s not on it or you can’t find the words, it’s okay to walk away. Don’t write. Accept that sometimes you’re not going to have the motivation or the sparkling ideas and do something else instead. Anything. So long as it’s legal.

How writing really works

Let’s get one thing clear: there’s no celestial literary overlord hovering above your brain-box, all dressed up like Big Willy Shakespeare, throwing ideas into your head via your ear holes.

The truth is, sometimes you’ll feel like writing, sometimes you won’t. One day the ideas will be there, the next you’ll feel like you haven’t a creative bone in your body. At times, you’ll have all day to write, at others you’ll go a month and not put pen to paper.

If you take nothing else from reading this blog, please remember that writing is a process. It’s almost entirely nuts and bolts, with the occasional flash of inspiration that keeps you, and your readers, coming back for more.

But here’s the important bit. That inspiration comes from you. No one else.

Those occasional moments of literary, journalistic or blogging brilliance are entirely your own. So, for crying out loud, make sure that you take the credit. Enjoy them. They’re why you write. Not to satisfy your fictional muse.

You see, the muse is nothing but a writer’s luxury. It’s a non-truth. An excuse for not getting things done or for simply trying too hard. Accept that and you’ll write more frequently and with greater freedom. I promise.

* dancing with the stars if you’re from the US and barely-famous people dancing on television if you’re from anywhere else.

Are you ready to get rid of your muse?

Do you need an ethereal being nearby to help you write effectively? Can you walk away when you’re suffering from a bout of brain-block? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Welcome to Write for Your Life

So, this is it. Write for Your Life is up and running. The idea(s) for this blog has been swimming around my brainbox for weeks and months. Years, in fact. Well, one year. And a half. That’s a long time in the think machine. It’s great to finally get going. You can read more about Write for Your Life and what it’s about on the, erm, about page. Now, that’s a lot of ‘abouts’, but the main thing you need to know at this stage is this:

Most writers are plagued by unavoidable distractions, like having kids, a full-time job or even something as seemingly innocuous as a social life. It can be hard to find the time and motivation to fit it all in. But it’s possible. And Write for Your Life is here to show you how.

How’s it going to work?

There’s plenty in store as we settle into our brand new webhouse in the great big blogvillage. But please don’t get your knickers in a twist if you don’t see a new post every day. It’s not because I’m lazy, it’s because I too have other stuff to do. Like go to work. And feed the cat.

Anyway, the idea is that the information on this blog will be useful to most writers. At the very least, you’ll be able to read it and think, ‘Yep, I’ve been there,’ or, ‘Blimey, that’s a good idea, I might give it a try.’

There’s loads of information on the web for writers, so I’m not going to pretend that what you read here is the be all and end all. In fact, you’ll likely think that some of what I suggest is slightly silly. But that’s all right. It’s okay to be silly, sometimes.

Essentially, it’s a case of:  ‘This is what I learned when I did this. It worked for me. See what you think.’

What’s coming up?

Here’s a list of posts that you might see on this site in the coming weeks and months:

Subscribe

If you like the sound of all this, you might like to subscribe for free email updates. That way, you don’t have to keep coming back to see if we’ve got anything new to say. We’ll just let you know when we’re ready.

Want more information?

Visit our about page to find out more, or feel free to send an email to hello@iainbroome.com and I’ll get back to you in a jiffy. And by that, I mean quickly. Not in a bag.