I was given a copy of ‘A Writer’s Book of Days’ by Judy Reeves at Christmas. Not out of the blue – it was on my Amazon wish list – but it was the perfect moment to receive this treasure. For those who don’t know, ‘A Writer’s Book of Days’ is a guide and encouragement to write, to develop your creativity and practice your craft. At its heart is an urging to ‘Practice. Practice. Practice.’ The book is designed to help the novice writer develop a regular writing habit, and it includes topics for a simple 15-minute daily writing exercise.
I write copy almost every day for clients, but my creative writing – still essentially a hobby – gets squeezed into the odd hour here and there and weekend afternoons. I’ve never tried daily writing practice but I thought, it’s probably a good idea, it can’t hurt and it would certainly be a helpful discipline to establish, given that I cherish the ambition to become a celebrated and successful novelist (dream it, believe it, achieve it… right?).
But this exercise is about creativity, and I was faced with a dull brown notebook. Judy Reeves says keep the notebooks cheap, because you’ll get through a lot of them. It’s a good point, but I’m a paper crafter and to me, a plain brown cover is a surface which cries out to be crafted, elevated beyond its humble origins. So it was that after Christmas I took to my paper and card, rubber stamps, embellishments and sticky stuff, and pimped-up that plain old notebook in time for the New Year – you can see the result above.
Then, on 1st January 2013, I began, following Judy Reeves simple guidelines (write freehand for 15 minutes without pause or review) with the first random topic: Things that enter by way of silence. And almost one month in – 26 topics, 56 pages of illegible scrawl laid down – I’m revelling in the experience. Almost every day, it has surprised me. Or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that I have surprised me. Many times I think I’m writing drivel, but when I read it back, I find it has unexpected qualities, depth, surprising insights, interesting conjunctions of words and phrases, scenarios, senses and observations that seem to have come from nowhere and landed on the page. Not always of course – sometimes I’ve written genuine drivel – but remarkable things have emerged on to the page often enough to spur me on to keep practicing.
I’ve discovered other things too, like after a lifetime’s use of keyboard over pen, my left hand can’t tolerate the speed at which my mind races when the thoughts begin to flow – it floods with cramp-like pain after less than half a page. Judy says you’ll be surprised how tight you’ll grip the pen, and she’s right. I’m learning to let go a little, and my hand lasts longer after 26 days, than it did on 1st January.
So I plan to stay with this surprising experience, at least for now. It’s nurturing my creative confidence and it’s throwing up a diverse assortment of treasures – ideas, images, imaginings and truths – and any one of these could be the germ of a great idea….