“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up”
– Pablo Picasso
I read this quote years ago, and I often think back to it. When I was a kid I’d spend hours drawing pictures, comics and writing stories. I damn near lost any ability I had once I became a late teenager – social life and sports distracted me.
Luckily I still managed to find time – I’m glad I did, or I’d be an even worse writer than I am now…
What inspired me as a youngster was telling a good story, and entertaining people. I still cling onto this whenever I start to doubt my writing and it helps ground me and get me back into action.
Not the same for others, sadly, I know so many people who had a real flare for art but the lack of creativity in the school system and the world beyond sucked it out of them.
Reader, whoever you maybe, I hope that’s not you – but it’s never too late. I found a muse that got me back into things, and when you look for it you can find inspiration too.
Here’s a riddle. What’s usually soft, occasionally hard, often truthful but frequently full of lies?
You’ll probably be thinking of a few different things. Depending on how far into the gutter your mind is you might even have visualised something after just reading the first two clues.
What am I on about?
The picture didn’t give it away?
Why, the humble book of course. They can either be hardback or paperback, and will either be non-fiction or fiction. Although, I guess some lines can occasionally blur – namely, in the autobiographies of celebrities who want to seem larger than life.
If you want to have ideas, you need to read. I often talk to people who want to be authors, journalists, copywriters, etc and I ask them what they read. It’s surprising how often others don’t read much or stick to the same type of genre/the same news source.
The more you put in your brain, of different themes, the more you’ll get out of it. I try and read as much as I can, and I’ve done this on and off ever since I was first taught to read. Now I’m older I never stop reading. I’ll always have one fiction and one non-fiction book on the go.
Horror stories, thrillers, philosophy, business books, pop psychology…all of these have disappeared into my metaphorical meat grinder of a brain.
Hopefully someday soon I’ll churn them all out in a masterpiece that will cement my claim for being the greatest writer who ever lived.
Or, at least it’ll get me onto the New York Times Bestsellers List.
In short, if you want to write and create you need to read.
Fill ya mind with new stuff.
P.S If there’s a day where you don’t feel like reading watch some films…but not Con Air and Die Hard on repeat.
The writing that connects with you emotionally is the best. You must have had it before where you’ve read a few sentences, and had to look up from the page and take a moment to reflect on how much you can relate to it.
Not only that but great writing can also change your perspective on so many things, or at the very least give you an insight into why others’ perspectives differ from yours.
Sorry if I’m stating the obvious, but sometimes in life I feel we need to be ‘Captain Obvious’ occasionally and remind ourselves of the things that we take for granted.
But where do you get the ammo? I mean sure, some of us are born with a natural affinity for words – some people can construct a sentence with enough flare and gusto to match a West End show. But, without having the right topic to talk about – flowery writing is just flowery writing. Almost like a piece of average art – hung up in a corner of your house that you never really look at, pleasing to the eye but otherwise useless.
To me, it comes from experience – I love reading stories about faraway lands and cities I’ve never seen. But the ones that get to me the most, with the devil in their detail, are those that are written by people who have actually gotten out of their sofas and been there.
So this is one of the things I’m going to do to make sure that I write more, and better. I’m going to push my boundaries, get out of my sofa more and take in more of what life has to offer.
As we all know very well, it’s so easy to get involved in solving life’s day-to-day problems that you can sometimes lose sight of the great stuff happening around you.
I didn’t write today, because I couldn’t find the right story to start on.
I always feel that the fictional storyteller’s mind is a library of ideas and plots, many of these are easy to access and get a hold of. But, usually the ideas that you really want to pursue and start to write about are the hardest ones to find.
By that I mean, to again use the library analogy, they’ll often be on the top shelf. You can see them from a distance, and can make out a bit about them, but you need to get closer to them. So, you’ll spend ages looking around for a ladder or maybe you’ll clumsily try and climb up the shelves until you reach the top.
Then, after using all that time to try and get a proper hold of the idea, you’ll be so distracted that all the time that you’d made to write will have floated away.
I’ve always been an ideas guy. Even as a kid I’d be more interested in sketching out my own comics and stories than I would reading them. I guess there are two types of people – those who walk out of a cinema and think; “man, that was a great film!” – and those who walk out of a cinema and think; “that was an awesome film, but I reckon I could do better”.
Creative consumers and creative do-ers.
I’ve always been the latter.
I can’t remember the last time a day went by where I didn’t have a story in the back of mind that I wanted to tell. Whether it be simple, or more complex. Sadly, without a computer (or at the very least) a notepad permanently taped to my hands the creative flow can’t always be tapped at the best time. Life has a habit of getting in the way, doesn’t it?
I wonder how often, in the whole history of the world and everything ever, truly great masterpieces have fallen to the wayside because the potential authors just weren’t able to organise their mental libraries in time to grab the bull by its horns and get some words down on some paper.
Motivation for an idea can be lost so quickly.
Why do they always come to you when you’re just about to drift into the land of nod, or when you’re out and miles away from your desk?
But, here’s a Sunday night vow…I will be better, and I’ll avoid excuses and organise my gems when necessary.
Because becoming the greatest writer who ever did live isn’t going to come about without a blood, sweat & tears.
New York Times Bestsellers List here I come…
Do you ever find that, in your head, you’ve got the perfect anecdote to tell and you’re just waiting for the other guy to shut up so you can share yours?
Yeah, me too.
I get that a lot.
But, do you know what I’ve found? Life’s much more rewarding when you genuinely listen rather than wait for your turn to say something.
Life isn’t a play, you’re not just waiting to say your line when the cue comes.
Spare a moment and an ear for those around you, ‘cos let’s face it, we tend to like those who take the time to listen to us. Those who are interested in us.
Plus, when it comes to writing – while, like me, you may always want to base your main character on yourself – you need to realise that the greatest stories and perspectives of all come from those around us.
Real life is a great inspiration – but, if you ain’t listening you ain’t gonna get jackshit from it.
It took me twenty-five years to realise that I was a goals-orientated individual. I guess until someone pointed it out, I was so caught up in the way I was doing things that I hadn’t realised.
I mean it’s not a bad thing, in many ways life (and writing) is all a series of goals – an invisible checklist that exists only in your head, presiding over your waking life. A multitude of boxes waiting to be ticked off as you go. Just in this week alone my goals have ranged from getting a haircut (failed) to becoming the greatest, most influential writer who ever lived (also sadly failed).
It’s the same with writing…if you don’t have goals you’re going to struggle – since I started this blog I’ve said that every day, rain or shine, I’ll post something. And I’ve stuck with it. On some days I’ve felt tired or been busy, so I’ve written a shorter post – but I’ve still achieved that goal and it’s kept me writing.
Set little goals for yourself. It works. Even if you only manage to write 50 words you’ve still written – you’re not gonna be able to whack out a whopping 70 thousand words every day. Keep the momentum going. As I’ve said before, writing is a bit like working out – if you suddenly miss a few days, it can soon turn to weeks and the absence can create a warm spot for the parasite of laziness to develop and you can soon find your New York Times Bestseller (every published book ever) thrown onto the wayside.
When I started this post I didn’t intend to mention goals as much, but hey I’ve got nothing against freestyling.
I wanted to mention that, as goals-orientated about life as you maybe, take a moment every now and then to notice the colour of the sky as you go from A to B. You’ll appreciate it. I spent many years smashing objectives and achieving goals, but lost count of things along the way. Missing the journey as my mind was only set on reaching the destination.
People-watch, look at the colour of the sky, take the route less travelled on your usual commute…whatever it is do something different and, most importantly, look for something different. After all inspiration is often in the unexpected, but if you’re only concentrating on the road ahead then who knows what you’ll miss on the sides of the roads.
Sure, on most motorways you’ll only miss seeing a handful of McDonalds and Little Chefs (other fast food joints are available too)…but inspiration will always be grazing somewhere along the grass – like a unicorn waiting to be found…or at the very least a carrot-chomping donkey.
We live in a world saturated by motivation, or at least attempts at motivation. If you look down any social media feed you’ll find quotes, inspirational videos and memes – flowing across the page like some kind of wide-eyed, shiny-smiley waterfall of alliteration and ambition.
It’s a good thing in some ways, such easy access to information and such an ability to connect with like-minded people is something that we’ve never had before. Not only that but nearly any ‘self-help’ book, information book or philosophy book can be delivered to your door by the next working day. Just at the click of a button. Perfect, we should all be brainier and better at life, right?
The problem is…you can have all the tools to hand, but unless you actually use them…well, what’s the point?
So whoever or wherever you are, the question I want to ask you is… “what are you doing to develop yourself today?”
Whether it’s to do with writing, applying for a job/course, fitness, sport or anything in-between or beyond, you can have a head full of dreams and talent, but unless you take the time to work on you it’s unlikely that the success you crave is going to find you.
Sometimes that means sacrifices – saying no to the occasional night out, taking a day off or waking up a couple of hours earlier.
Writing was always my first love but as I reluctantly tumbled into adulthood time became scarce – I suddenly had this thing called ‘full-time work’ that seemed to take up the best part of my day. Apparently it’s a phenomenon that most of us experience…!
And, so, until recently when I started consciously making the time to write, my creativity fell on the wayside and I had to work to get it back. I see writing a bit like physical fitness – sure some of us are born with a good natural level of fitness, but if we get lazy it becomes harder and harder to get back on track.
Writing is like that. It’s a metaphorical muscle that can turn to metaphorical fat if you don’t use it enough and it can take a while to get it back.
If you don’t make (or find) the time to develop ‘you’ it’s likely that you’ll watch the hours and the days and the weeks and the months and the years whizz past in a blur of moderate good times and a lingering sense of unfulfillment.
Enough preaching – wake up an hour early, take a night to yourself, book some time off…whatever it takes – start buying yourself time to do what you want to do. No other generation has had as much access to information, education and leisure time as us. You should make it count – start developing YOU today!
Getting things done is an art and you, me – we’ve all got this covered.