Commission for Short Story – Northern Ireland Office Brussels

Delighted to hear this news from author Paul McVeigh and other NI writers. Check out more at http://www.paulmcveighwriter.com

The Good Son

The Quarter Hour Summer

I was commissioned bythe Northern Ireland office inBrussels towrite athreeminutestory for their Summer Postcard Series.There’s many other great stories from N Ireland’s finest writers.

You can watch me reading it by clicking here.

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Four strategies to tackle writer’s block (and crack time management too).

‘Getting started, keeping going, getting started again — in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival Seamus Heaney

Many bloggers hit a writing road block now and again. I can certainly identify with that. While I tend towards spontaneous, occasional bursts of inspiration to get a post underway, I have lately come to realise the value of a planned approach to blogging, to writing, and to content creation. This strategy can even be applied more broadly to work and life on a daily basis.

For my part, the origin of my writer’s block lies in the realm of cognitive freeze and a sense of overwhelm – those days when you have so much to do, or so many ideas clamouring for attention, that you don’t know where to start, so you distract yourself with anything and everything bar the task in hand. Or you sit and stare at the wall, out the window, or the blank screen or page, or bury your head in your hands.

As our sage poet Seamus Heaney reflects in his wise and wonderful words in the introduction, this is indeed a common challenge, where the key to it all is getting started, and re-started, over and over again. While procrastination is ubiquitous, and tends towards a self-feeding dynamic, it can be overcome, with a little self-training and an awareness of the need for balance between work and play.

So I’ve done some research on how to tackle procrastination, artists’, writers’, creative and general life action block, get the activity, the work, the words flowing again, and grow new momentum-building habits.

To get the work flowing again and overcome overwhelm, it’s a balancing act between time out to play, relax and recharge, interspersed with planned work stints or sprints.

Schedule, schedule, schedule, repeat.

Schedule in the play times as well as the work times.

Ensure there are some physical activities in the mix to burn the energy, boost the serotonin and grow the brain.

We often think ourselves into and out of taking action, so with this insight, I’ve cobbled together a few resources and motivators that are helping me beat the block and I want to share them.

Four strategies for getting started, keeping going, and getting started again

1. Freewriting

This technique is essentially a kind of raw, fast expressive outpouring of thoughts and feelings as they come to you. Sometimes the content isn’t even consciously thought until you see it written on the page and reading over these notes can be revealing as well as full of ideas for further writing. The practice of Freewriting  came to me by way of author and motivator Orna Ross whose website is a treasure trove of inspirational resources for writers.

2. Journaling prompts

The internet is awash with sites full of journaling ideas and prompts. Some are geared towards self-healing, anxiety management, health and fitness, all manner of life activities. For writers and artists, journaling is an all round source of motivation, idea generation and creativity sparkler. Here is just one site: called Develop Good Habits, I have found their posts helpful for habit growing tips, one of which is, of course, regular journaling. 

3. A walk in the woods (or any other natural space)

On the Creative Live blog, Hannah Brookes Olsen explains how nature refreshes the body-mind. It’s not just the time out, but the space and environment in which to idle, to induce an almost meditative state within the more natural tones and rhythms of nature. My experience is that you switch into a different mode and gain a calmness which allows ideas and memories to sift and sort themselves, with the most important or promising developing a clarity of focus that points the way forward. In addition, the physical restoration can only be good for the creativity muscle.

4. Time Management Tools

Since I started to produce strategic marketing plans and content for small businesses and freelancers, I quickly realised the necessity for forward planning to stay on top of a complex of work and personal responsibilities. My search for a workable solution led me to the website and resources of time management guru Laura Vanderkam. First and foremost, we must track what we are doing now with time, and only then can we hone in on spots and openings that can be developed into more fulfilling activity. Of course, planning ahead is crucial but again, remember to schedule in some R&R time too.

So Keep Going Guys, and Have Fun too!

NOTE: I have no affiliation with any sites mentioned or linked. These are just resources that I have found helpful going forward in my life and work. 

Citations:

Grammarist on writer’s block:

https://grammarist.com/usage/writers-block/

Image:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leonid_Pasternak_-_The_Passion_of_creation.jpg

Seamus Heaney quote:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/19/seamus-heaney-commencement/

Picking up on Poetry: My Workshop Experience

Book ID Parade

On Developing My Poetry Journey by Roberta McDonnell

I just spent ten weeks under the online tutelage of celebrated Irish poet Kevin Higgins and I cannot tell you how transformative it was. Not only did we receive tremendous weekly prompts and expert edits from Kevin, but we were able to read each other’s work and the group members were so encouraging and informative that I feel like I have just been through an intensive, high level tutorial.

There are more online courses to come and anyone interested can sign up at the Over The Edge website. Kevin runs face-to-face courses in Galway Arts Centre as well and produces the fantastic monthly Over The Edge poetry reading events. You can sample some of his work in the book Identity Parade (just click on the link below or the image above) and in numerous books, journals and newspapers, including his own published collections.

For anyone interested in poetry writing, particularly if distance and finances are challenging, Kevin’s affordable online course is a brilliant opportunity to push your own envelope, get some expert feedback and some fabulous peer support. All with a bit of a start to perhaps your first collection, who knows? I for one can testify to the value of this kind of tuition and will keep going, spurred on by the great community at Over The Edge.

Image Link

Let’s Hear it for The Beats

When I read Jack Kerouac’s On The Road the voice in my head insisted on reciting it in an American drawl with a jazz rhythm and haunted tone. Quite why this occurred is a mystery to me but I admit that it certainly added to the enjoyment of the book. Yet on hearing the author himself read the extract above I was blown away. So what made the work of The Beat Generation and Jack Kerouac in particular so enthralling?

For me it’s the depth; the scary extremes; the delving into and compassion for human experience that underpins their expressions. A fascination with the era of the early sixties further fuels my current obsession with The Beats, all of which are brilliantly portrayed in the regularly repeated documentary on Sky Arts 1 which charts the life and work of Jack Kerouac and includes interviews with a number of his contemporaries. With the programme due to be repeated on Sky Arts 1 next Tuesday 31st March 2015, I’ve the timer set and it’s in my diary. If you’d like to join me please feel free to comment on here as well. Happy reading, viewing, whatever floats your boat, until next time 🙂

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