Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Dull, dull, dull! I get days – and more - when the words seem blunted, when my endless trudge of prose feels boring, when I need to hear something other than my habitual “voice” - and no, this isn’t an April fool’s joke!

What helps to shift or ease that feeling?

One: Battle with the piles in the corner.
Though the thought might terrify you: indulge in a good round of administration work, paperwork or similar, the kind of work where you don’t have to think in any creative way. For example, I recently spent a day sorting, editing and condensing a variety of paper address books. I now have one small notebook that weighs a lot less. (My head felt so much lighter at the end, even though I was sad to see how few of those bookshops and library contacts still exist.)

I might add that activities like turning-out simple cupboards - Not those corners full of significant mementos  - can rest the mind, and ensure you come eagerly back to the page.

Two. Read something completely other.

Avoid fiction. Try non-fiction. Try other genres: essays, positive memoirs and so on. The books need not be excellent. My favourite idling books often come from the local library sales, despite that horrid visible demonstration of useful stock being depleted. The titles on offer are often ones that you’d never buy, but they can offer interesting dabbling places for a threadbare mind.

Books that have given me glimpses into other minds recently include Mark Kermode’s “The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex”,  Robert Macfarlane’s “The Old Ways”, Jackie Kaye’s excellent “Red Dust Road”, and even "Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium" by Mark Edwards, although that was research, as well as articles in more serious magazines: I've just spotted an Alan Garner essay in the current "New Statesman", and have "The Floating Egg" ready to try again.  (Note: These aren't recommended reads, just examples of variety.)

Three: Look for somewhere new to write.

I admit this is one of the things I find hardest to do:  Leave your familiar corner / pc and desk, and seek out a different place to think and write, especially ones like art galleries or museums or nice cafés: places that have lots of objects or an ambience that sparks fresh thoughts and ideas. (If you’re truly low, I’d advise against libraries or bookshops: too many other, better books weighing down on all sides and possibly too many recent titles already culled for sales or remaindered.)

 Four: Try poetry.
Try reading poetry, often. Collect a few poetry anthologies together close by a handy reading chair or by a bedside or similar spot to stop. 

Idle through the pages when you have a few moments and maybe those blasts of other voices will really rest the rhythms in your writing mind. Which leads into  . . .

 Five: It's the first of April . . .
This date starts the 2015 National Poetry Writing Month, which is one of those big, full-of- oomph American ventures that can produce masterpieces, mayhem and maybe too much stuff that needs a lot more work. However (although this is just my opinion) you don’t have to go the whole hog by submitting your site and/or your uncertain poems. 

Better, perhaps, to keep a quiet eye on the website - - and pick up and use any daily writing prompts that will help you to find some fresh words for yourself. Try it out. Start a scribble journal, stuff it under your pillow and  use it as a place to collect some poetry ideas and attempts together. Over the month, perhaps, NaPoWriMo will give you – and me -  a chance to find more working voices than the one that's muttering across the screen now?

That’s all. Back to work – and Happy April - but do you have any ways of letting the writing light in again?    

Penny Dolan



Sue Purkiss said...

Going for a walk often helps...

Penny Dolan said...

Yes, walking is good too - space to think and clear the mind, and let the small thoughts bubble up.

Katherine Roberts said...

Ha, I just dismantled an entire desk and made it into a free-standing set of drawers plus a much-needed bedside cabinet. This means I can access my writing space without dancing around a sharp corner, and my spare bedroom now looks HUGE... good for selling the house if nothing else! I also moved all my fiction out of the office into my bedroom, and boxed up a pile of my own books and hid them all. So expect an instant best-seller to come pouring out of me very soon.