Want to write? Here are some tips to get you started

PUBLISHED: 19:30 08 April 2020

Inspiration for writing can come from many sources. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Inspiration for writing can come from many sources. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Creative writing can be a brilliant way of escaping real life for a while. Norwich-based novelist Megan Bradbury shares some advice for picking up the pen and getting started.

A line in another book could spark your imagination. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoA line in another book could spark your imagination. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If the present circumstances give you the urge to create, or if you are simply looking for a means to escape things for a while, then you might want to consider writing.

Writing can be done in any place and at any time. In the small hours before the rest of the house awakes. In the few minutes it takes to make a cup of tea. While the bath is running. While the kids are playing. While your family is asleep. Just a few words, a few lines here and there, can be the start of something. But what are you going to write about?

Spurs for getting started are everywhere, even in over-familiar places; you just have to learn to look at things anew. The people you live with, for example. Have you ever sat down and studied them? Watched their behaviour? Listened to the way they speak? What do you notice about them? Write that down.

There is no other activity that can free the mind like writing. Close your eyes and be transported to another place. It could be real or imagined. Explore it in your mind then write about it. You will find not only details that can be used in a story but some respite from your own four walls.

If there is a person you want to be with but can’t, then write about them. What do you imagine they are doing? What are they thinking? What do they want to do? The inability to fulfil our desires can be a great stimulus for writing. The longing for something or someone inspires the mind to search for new ways to express our feelings and new ways to describe the things we want. And it might bring us closer to that person we long to see.

You can use anything as a spur. If, like me, you own a lot of books, use the books. Pick up the closest book to you. Turn to page 12. Note the 10th line down. What does it say? The book I’ve picked up is Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton, A Biography by Stephen Miller. The tenth line down reads, “Like the Cherokee,18th century pioneers who settled in the Smokies also coveted the fertile lowland valleys.” I could write a lot about that. Use your sentence as a spur for writing.

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You don’t have to use books. You can use the photographs on your phone. Choose, say, the first photograph, the 20th, the 75th. Create a story or a poem from the images you see.

The spurs you use don’t matter in themselves. They are just a way to get you started and to teach you to seek stimulation in your immediate environment. Take notes. Observe everything. Changes in the weather, details of a Spring garden emerging. The new sounds on the street – the sudden loudness of birds. The mumbled conversations of neighbours through the wall. Write down your thoughts and feelings. Don’t worry about turning it into something right away. Let the ideas and details mulch down, percolate. When you’re ready, pick out the details that speak to you the most, and begin.

Alternatively, you could get someone else to help you start. Write collaboratively. Start a chain letter story or poem with a friend. Build it up through emails sent back and forth. Write sentences on pieces of card and stick them in the window for others to read as pass by on their daily walk. Inspire them. Start a chain story with a neighbour across the street, writing in bold felt tip letters so that she can see.

You don’t have to do this alone. There are lots of online courses you can take, and mentors, like myself, who support writers through the writing process. Who knows where this activity might lead. You might not only create a piece of writing but you may also find a way to thrive psychologically in this difficult time.

Megan Bradbury is a novelist, editor, and artistic collaborator based in Norfolk. Her first novel, Everyone is Watching, was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize and Not the Booker Prize, and was chosen as one of the Guardian’s Best Books of 2016. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, and she has been the recipient of a Charles Pick Fellowship, an Escalator Award, and two writing awards from Arts Council England. Her short fiction has been published in Ambit, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, and Pen & Inc Press. She has 15 years experience as an editorial reader and creative writing mentor. She lives in Norwich with her husband and son.

The National Centre for Writing has a huge number of free resources for people looking to try creative writing on its website and recently launched some free self-study online courses on writing productivity and knowing about different publishing options.

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