Annie On Writing

April 2, 2012

My Writing Habits – The Good, The Bad and the Downright Ugly

Filed under: Articles From write anything,My Journey as a Writer — Annie Evett @ 12:08 am

We’ve all heard the old chestnut “Fake it till you Make it.” Its been my mantra through the good, bad and downright ugly times of my life.

A shy 17 year old me, attempting to make her way in the acting world, was poked in between the shoulder blades by an ageing queen and told to thrust all my gifts out, plaster a smile to mask the pain and get on with it, as he hissed this advice in my ear. Though its execution has changed since I was first bestowed this secret, the wisdom behind this has proven to be valuable in a myriad of situations from acting, to corporate meetings, to teaching to writing.

While it may be easier to “fake it” online as a faceless persona than as a live performer on stage, the constant remains – your own ethics and beliefs about what ‘making it’ means. I still struggle with the persona of ‘writer’; believing that any minute now, I’ll be found out for the fake I am and my blog accounts shut down, pencils seized and given a court order to remain 6 metres away from any device connected to the internet.

I feel blessed that writing has become an outlet for me to explore, download and question. Its become something so ingrained now in every part of my lifestyle, I’m not sure what I’d do if I didn’t have an article due, a story needing polishing or a new character shrieking at me to take some notes.

I’m uncertain as to if I am blessed or cursed to have undertaken more personal journey work than most people I know. Skills dumped on me from these seminars, workshops and events has forced me to painstakingly deconstruct every conversation, every utterance, every motivation on the search for truth. Faking it for good, or bad reasons continues to leave me with an empty feeling as I seek authenticity in my life.

The very root of all of this screams at me – demanding I stop pretending to be a writer. Perhaps the most positive answer I can shout back is to agree and simply Be a Writer.

As part of our personal critique of ourselves as writers, we were set a number of focus questions to answer. We were asked to look at our good, bad and unsightly habits and practices.  Here goes….

The Good.  Character Based Stories.

I don’t look for plots or stories. I seek inspiration for a character. It might come from a few words from a song, a piece of fabric, a snatched conversation or a smell as I wander around. With a character, comes their world; and their stories.

Empathising with characters who may have been cast aside or overlooked is one of my strong skills. I tend to draw on the wisdom of Russian director, Konstantin Stanislavski and his methods for acting for my writing. His focus sees the artist (in his case, actors; but for me – my writing) as “being in the moment” at the same time keeping one side step detached in order to observe and edit ones actions so that they can be more authentic.

The most important factor within his methodology/ structure is to understand the characters objective – their motivation. Stanislvskis main push was for emotional authenticity where artists were required to recall experienced personal emotions to draw upon to feel whilst they explored their characters. Having been an actor, I feel I can draw on constructed characters to feel their stories and explore their world to make it more authentic. It does concern me a little that so many of my stories are dark and twisty.

The Bad  Life at 200 miles per hour.

I am obsessive and I can’t say no. Want to know about pigeon keeping in Europe in the 16th century? I spent a week researching this for a short story. Well, the pigeons were only mentioned in about 100 words within the story; but I had to know everything about them in order to uncover the story and characters attached to them.

With a busy life regimented into timetable, I am constantly filling blank spaces of time with things. Once I have agreed to assisting or participating in a project, nothing will stop be from completing my promise; to the detriment of my family, my health and what little sleep I do get. I have what has been described as an over-stimuled sense of loyalty.

Living life at the speed of madness also sees the sudden halts, the huge dips, plunging into dark depths of sadness and hopelessness. Mania and its sister, depression have been constant companions for me. Although society has begrudgedley allowed individuals space to announce and talk about these conditions, there is still a great deal of misconception and judgement. Writing has been a positive outlet; but also carries the weight of me obsessing over specifics and of the constant nagging belief that I am never good enough, skilled or knowledgeable enough to ‘make it’.

The Ugly

A few years ago, I set myself a challenge to explore a different genre each week as I wrote stories for the prompt Fiction Friday. I discovered a world of genres which I needed to research and read examples of, before I could attempt to write in the style of. Poetry has always been an extremely difficult genre for me to both grasp and implement. I remember my attempt on emulating Dr Suess was very poor; as was my Regency Style Romance. I love the opportunities spec fic offers, but feel overwhelmed at the enormity of hardcore science fiction; having been a failure at school in all the sciences.


Its been no secret that I conduct a constant battle with grammar. I feel a bit ripped off that its not as free flowing as it was in Chaucer’s days. Unlike my learned colleagues with degrees in writing or journalism, my experience with language is in the coal mines, the pits, down where its dirty and none too fancy. I like to pound a story out and not to get too hung up about all the typos and mistakes along the way. After all, isn’t that what drafts, editors and beta readers are for? I’ve come to a happy place where I believe the story comes first. With strong characters and a compelling plotline, most readers will forgive clumsy structure. (Stephanie Meyers gets away with it after all) I’m more than delighted to accept help from an editor and work with them to make the changes necessary for publication. In the past year, I have had a great deal of guidance by brilliant editors. I have always welcomed feedback and am keen to improve my skills.

Writing Space

My writing space has changed over the years. As a young mum, I took my laptop or scribble pads out with me to the park and playgroups, snatching moments to jot ideas and threads of conversations. I’ve written in kids discos, at waterparks and beside hospital beds. I’ve worked full time for just over 2 years now. Juggling children’s activities, work and family time is difficult enough, without trying to slide in some time to write. I have a dedicated room filled with things to inspire and support my creative side. I blogged about it when I revamped my space here.

The time I write now is restricted to late evenings. After homework has been done, dinner cleared up, everyone in bed and my cleaning done, I settle down for around 2 hours of ‘me’ time. I can’t pretend that this is all writing. Its the only time I have to answer emails, do household admin stuff, waste time on facebook and read other peoples blogs. I am a list writer and goal orientated, so each day will have a set of outcomes for my precious time. I generally over commit on what needs to be done. (see “living life at 200 miles an hour”)

I have tried to do the early morning thing, but am challenged by memories of being forced to get up for milking or other farm work and the promise I made my 16 year old self never to get up at those ungodly times unless the bed was on fire.

The things that stop me.

Ohh! Look shiny!  I am easily distracted if I have not set strict guidelines and goals. I need a strong emotional buy in to complete something.

As much as they are convenient to blame, having children, a sick husband, full time job and all the other domestic who – har doesn’t stack up to the lack of confidence I have in myself as a ‘proper’ writer. I have good technology, an understanding and patient family who give me space to be obsessive. There are plenty of published writers who have far less and are still able to see their work stacked in the bookstores.

I am bleseed never to have suffered writers block. I have far too many characters sitting in my green room desperate to tell their story.

Good Habits

Spreadsheets, tick lists and a schedule integrated on my phone and laptop. I have an overall goal sheet for the year, partioned into areas covering professional, spiritual, physical, lifestyle and writing. Monthly and weekly goals are drawn from this master list. A habit I instilled every on was to write something every day. This has also become obsessive as I cannot sleep if I haven’t written something.

Bad Rabbits (see photo)

Boxes. When my filing gets over two inches high, I get another box and load everything into it; promising I’ll go through it soon. If there is a permission form to be signed – it needs to be done the moment it comes out of a school bag, as if it goes on the pile, it might be a year before its found again. These boxes have flowed over into inbox boxes. In a flurry of efficiency, I set up automatic boxes for mail to be directed to. The problem is, is that sometimes I don’t see new mail for days. Solving this issue is on a list. Its just that the priority for this is fairly low. Boxes may seem a very domestic thing to report on, but it doesn’t just end with boxes of filing, or emails. I box everything…. into nice neat little chunks to deal with – or not. Little boxes can be stored or hidden and forgotten.

I have collected so many chestnuts of advice now, I need to either challenge someone for a conkers duel or stir up a fire and roast the suckers.

I do know that should I stop writing, that huge black hole in my soul which is currently being fed with words will open up and begin staring at me again. So I write.

This article first appeared over at Write Anything.

Photo – Rabbits gone Bad – from Private Collection


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