Three Wishes When You Are Stuck In The Middle.

Via Seth Godin.

We all get stuck.

And it’s not always in mud with some friends to get us out, as in the playground game.

Normally, when we are in a creative ‘stuck’ there aren’t other people to ‘free’ us.

If you have a group of other creatives around you who can do this, then never let them get away from you – if they move city, so do you!

Seth Godin has the antidote to ‘stuck’ thankfully.

It is simple and priceless.

Read it in his own words.

I think you will agree – enough said . . .

. . . Now I’m off to do it!

Day 469 – The Saturday Answer.

The usual recap to begin . . .

. . . The Friday Question was, What specific style/genre/type of writing is the one you most want to write?

And my Saturday Answer is . . .

. . . One which changes all the time! If I read a thriller, then I want to write a thriller. If I read a detective/mystery novel, then that is what I want to write. And so on . . . But the type of writing which is constant, no matter what I am reading, is sports writing.

There are some great sports writers in the UK but the outlets are either through newspapers or sport specific monthly magazines. There is a growing number of weekly ‘newspapers’ specifically for sport but they generally tend to be match reports rather than anything in-depth pieces on teams/players/coaches. The rise of Podcasts has really begun to unearth some great content, which would equally be great to see in writing.

A UK version of Sports Illustrated would be outstanding.

I tend to be slightly negative about my own sports writing as I am not a great ‘fill it full of stats/facts’ kind of guy, but more focused on stories and trends.

Sports writing is an area I intend to devote more time to developing.

What’s your Saturday Answer to the Friday Question?

Day 467 – Creative Like Bill Belichick, Pt.2.

So yesterday I suggested that relatives could take inspiration/lessons from sports and hopefully I will convince you today.

Bill Belichick is the most successful NFL coach ever because:

  • He stays focused on the overall goal and works hard to achieve it
  • He never goes through the motions and always trains with purpose
  • He makes sure that he puts the right players on the pitch at the right time
  • He doesn’t panic if things don’t seem to be working early on in the season and understands the importance of late on in the game and the season
  • He doesn’t waste time talking about the game

So how does this translate into being creative?

Be really clear about what you are trying to achieve.

Belichick knows the season is about winning the Super Bowl and so is the pre-season and the post-season. If you want to write a novel then that is the goal, nothing else. Prepare. Execute. Analyse to make next year’s performance better. It is hard work so put in the hours. Be focused and cut out distractions. Commit and achieve.

Practise with purpose and put what you learn into action.

A very underestimated part of what Belichick does is the practice field. The Patriots train with crowd noise. They train with old and scuffed up balls, removing as much of the grip as they can. They try to recreate conditions similar to the ones they will play in. All practice is purposeful.

It can be hard if you are time pressed for your creative pursuit but you need to practice. If you are a writer then try and find an extra couple of hundred words which are based on what you are writing, or will write in the next chapter. It might be character descriptions, or scene setting, or dialogue. If you are an artist you might need to experiment with colour, or sketch certain body parts, or try different techniques for applying the paint.

Use the creativity you need for that particular moment.

Don’t get distracted or show off. Use the skills to produce the elements you need to make that particular chapter, or picture, or composition, exactly as you need it. Be prepared and execute. If the scene is your chapter is heavy on dialogue, then make sure you have been practicing that element. Listen to good movies or tv, listen to or read good scenes from books and plays.

Don’t Panic!

Sometimes, particularly in the early stages, things might not go quite the way you had planned. It happens. Work out why and fix the issue. Sometimes there might not be a specific problem, you just didn’t execute well enough, so make sure you do the next time. Keep pressing on and know everything will come together late on in the season when it really matters. You may have zigged when you wanted to zag but keep the process going and remain focused on the end result.

Don’t waste time and energy.

Monosyllabic answers and repetitive phrases at press conferences are communicating that this isn’t where we win championships and Super Bowls.

As creatives we have platforms which can really boost the audience for our creativity in ways which no other writers/artists have had before, but it can also be a massive distraction. Social Media is the press conference. Learn from Bill. Don’t waste your energy and know it is taking time away from your main job. It is necessary, which why even he does them, but his conduct tells you that he knows what is important. The end result.

So Create Like Bill! And I hope to see you all in the Hall of Fame! (But don’t be surprised if Bill doesn’t speak with us!)

Day 402 – 21 Stages – 21 Stories.

I am a fan of professional cycling.

So the month of July has only one focus for me – the Tour de FranceLe Tour!

(Cue the Kraftwerk soundtrack!)

23 days and 21 stages (two of the days are rest days) of the toughest – mentally and physically – sporting race in the world.

The peloton of riders in their brightly coloured strips, preceding cavalcade and following team cars, traversing the lowlands and highlands of France

The individual riders who take the famed Maillot Jaune become legends. The sprinters become kings of the road at 40mph in final couple of hundred metres of the flatter stages. The climbers soar like eagles up the mountain sides and descend like they are falling upon their prey.

The Rouleur cycling magazine’s latest edition is a Tour special.

On the cover their lead line is ’21 Stages – 21 Stories’.

Their focus is upon stories which have defined Le Tour over the years.

But what about your stories?

Pick Le Tour, or the British and Irish Lions Tours, or the World Cup, or the Olympics, and write your stories. Write their exploits and your own. How do/did those days and events define you and the world around you?

(You might even have a soundtrack!)

Fiction Writer? Write Some Non-Fiction.

So you are a fiction writer and you want to get better?

Write some non-fiction.

Say what?

There is a lot of great non-fiction writers out there and you shouldn’t be ignoring them. You can learn a lot.

I am sports fan and read Sports illustrated each week. There is nothing like it in the UK, so it helps that I like the NFL.

The main feature writers are out-and-out storytellers.

Each week they find a story, set the stage, weave in the background, and then let loose with the excitement.

You want your stories to be realistic? These writers are taking ‘real’ and crafting a story out of it.

There is also a confidence in the writing based on the knowledge of the writer. How confident are you when you write your fictional scenes?

Give it a try. Write some non-fiction. I guarantee your fiction writing will be better for it.

Two Kinds of Writing.

In his Medium article There Are 2 Kinds Of Writing. The Best Kind Plays At This Intersection. Nicholas Cole argues that the two kinds of writing are Stories and Articles.

Stories are written by writers who write because they have a story they want/need to write. Articles are stories (or they can be factually based articles in the traditional sense) which have been written with a specific audience in mind.

Read the article, Cole is a great writer and gives a lot of good advice.

If you haven’t read the article yet, or you are happy to go along with my very simple summary, then here is what resonated with me.

I submitted my first completed novel to a very successful agency. I discovered who the agents for my favourite novelist in that particular genre was and started there. I think they had seven of the best-selling novelists in the top twenty, with at least four in the top ten.

They were very polite about what I had written, but passed on the book.

As soon as I read their email, I understood the mistake I had made.

I say mistake – I had written the novel which I wanted to write. I enjoyed every page of writing it. I enjoyed writing the extra bits after my eldest son gave me feedback from reading the draft.

However, I had written a story in a genre which was different to all the other best-selling novels in that genre.

Next month, I will rewrite the story – I have another novel to finish this month – paying more attention to the conventions of the genre and what readers of that genre generally buy. I won’t be selling out. I won’t be completely rewriting it, but I will be making changes which is likely to get it more attention.

So, what are your currently writing? Stories or articles? And how can you meet somewhere in the middle?