This month I’m taking part in a challenge over on Instagram hosted by the lovely Emily Morgan of Write Up. The challenge – #writeupjuly – gives writers the chance to introduce themselves and their current works in progress to the Instagram writing community (which, by the way, is just the best place) and to engage with other writers and generally get to know one another. Emily is one of my absolute favourite Instagram people – her account is beautiful and inspiring and she’s super friendly – and her Write Up blog is a great place to go for writing advice, tips and tools. I decided to share my #writeupjuly journey over here as well, one week at a time, and hope to get to know some of you lovely WordPress writers as well.
Day 1: Introductions
Hello, writers and bookworms! I’m Jen, a writer, blogger and bibliophile from Manchester, UK. Until quite recently I worked in education, teaching English Language and Literature, but as of March this year I’ve been able to call myself a full time writer! By day, I now work as a content writer for a public relations firm, by night, I’m working on becoming a published author. Looking forward to getting to know you all through #writeupjuly!
Day 2: Passions
What does writing mean to me? That is somehow both the easiest and hardest question to answer! I can’t really talk about what writing means to me without talking about what reading means to me. They are inextricably linked and both have influenced my life in probably more ways than I’m aware of. I have always loved a life filled with stories. From a very young age I was read to by anyone and everyone in my family. Wherever we were – at home, my grans house or out on one of our family adventures – there were always books to hand. On the rare occasion there weren’t books to hand, there were my mum’s stories. She is the greatest storyteller and her tales kept my brother and I entertained on many a long car ride. Books looked large in my childhood, became a source of comfort and friendship in my adolescence and my dearest treasures as I grew to adulthood. Writing played a much smaller part in my early life, extending no further than the occasional story written for homework and the obligatory angsty diary entries as a teenager. I dabbled in poetry for a while but always kept it for my eyes only and it was only really about 6 years ago, when I first began teaching English literature and language, that I care to realise how much I love the craft of writing. As much as I love reading in fact. It now plays just as big a role in my life. Reading and writing are pure escapism and my favourite way to ground myself. They are my preferred ways of exploring the world and coming to know myself. They are the best way I know to be quiet and be heard. They are, in short, my favourite things.
Day 3: Rituals
I have to hold my hands up and say I have failed miserably at establishing any kind of writing routine. It’s something I’m still working on. In spite of not having a routine, I do have little habits when I sit down to write. I like to make myself a mug of something comforting – my current favourite is @whittarduk’s Turkish Apple instant tea – maybe light a candle or open a window and make sure I have a blanket nearby, as I often get chilly when I’m sat writing. What I do to actually start writing varies – sometimes I’ll complete a short writing exercise, sometimes I’ll read a few pages of one of my favourite writing books or read back through quotes I’ve saved from my recent reads, sometimes I’ll just plunge in and start writing! Much like my reading habits, my writing habits are usually dictated by my mood – which is probably why they are so inconsistent!!
Day 4: Beginnings
I didn’t really realise that I wanted to be a writer until a couple of years ago. All my professional life up to now has been about working with children and young people and writing was something I did on and off for pleasure in my free time. But the more I taught writing the more I realised how much I love it and the more I wanted to become a writer in earnest. I honestly didn’t think I’d get to do it full time so soon – I thought I’d be plugging away at it in my spare time for years before I could make it my day job. Whilst the writing I do for my day job is completely different to the writing I choose to do for myself and with the hopes of being published, I do get to write for a living, for which I feel extremely lucky.
Day 5: Niche
My preferred genre and go-to niche is definitely fantasy/magical realism. I just love the complete flights of fancy, utter escapism and the freedom to create new worlds. It’s my favourite genre of books so I guess I feel drawn to writing the kinds of things I love to read! There’s something truly wonderful about creating a work of fantasy – there is just so much possibility! It can feel a bit overwhelming sometimes but it’s beautiful when the world starts to emerge.
Day 6: Atmosphere
I love to write when it’s cold and dark and raining outside. To snuggle inside my favourite oversized jumper with a steaming mug of hot chocolate beside me, switch on my fairy lights or light some candles, put my writing playlist on quietly in the background and lose myself in whatever I’m creating. I love to write at night when the outside world goes quiet and there’s nothing but me and the page.
There’s not much of that atmosphere to be had at the moment though! Fortunately, I also enjoy writing at my desk next to our big bedroom window with it thrown wide open to let in the sun and a warm breeze. If it’s not too hot, I like to set up at our little table in the garden, under the shade of our cherry tree, and write with the summer sun blazing all around.
Day 7: Inspiration
There are so many quotes I could share that have inspired me. I could share whole passages from my favourite books – the kind of prose that has made my breath catch in my throat, the hairs rise on my arms and forced me to go back and read it again, to savour the magic. (Such examples would include the prologue from Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name Of The Wind or the passage in Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature Of All Things in which she describes moss in intricate detail – trust me on these and go read them.) But I wanted to share with you something from one of the very first books I ever read about writing: Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird: Some Instructions On Writing and Life. This book was a huge source of inspiration to me and probably the first thing that made me feel like I could be a writer. It always seemed such an elusive idea before – something reserved for the geniuses whose work I so passionately adored getting lost in. I had a hard time choosing just one quote from this book – just imagine me forcing a copy in to your hands and telling you emphatically to read the whole thing. But eventually I settled on this.
“E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”
That’s it for this week! If you want to join in, head on over to Instagram, give Emily a follow and join the challenge using #writeupjuly. All the prompts for the month are below and the challenge is very much caption focused rather than photo focused so you don’t need to worry about tying to create themed photos to go with it. If you decide to join in, tag me (@bookwyrmdancer) so I can see your responses and get to know you! If you’re not an Instagrammer, I’d love to know in the comments how you’d respond to some of the prompts.
Happy writing, friends.