Making dreams come true

51839687_2619268094755082_4835408107507023872_oIn my day job I support a disabled writer/director @theshoutingmute and this week we’re at a @nationalyouththeatre masterclass for writing and directing @theatredeli in London.

What I’ve observed so far is that young people today seem to have more opportunities than I did at their age. They’re being taught how to chase their dreams with proper guidance. They’re learning the full spectrum of information they need to actually make it happen

It’s fantastic that this has changed, but it has also made me realise that, although I didn’t have the same information and opportunities available to me, my dream didn’t die. I have spent years finding out these things on my own, because it’s all I want to do. There is nothing else I would rather do than write, so there’s no way I will ever quit.

I know a lot about writing that I’ve learnt on my own. I’ve also paid to study degrees, attend special courses that range from a week to a weekend to a day to an hour, and it’s always been worth it. There is always something new to learn, and that becomes something to apply to my writing, and teach someone else.

The lessons I’ve learnt on my own I aim to make available to others, so that other writers don’t have to struggle like I did. I know what I was missing, and I want to fill that gap. Even during courses I took there were missing topics that should have been covered, like how to get an agent and publisher.

We can all achieve our dreams. If we share what we know and support each other on the way up. We all have different stories to tell from different points of view, we are all individual storytellers with our own unique selling points. There is no competition to fear, only dreams to be made. The time will pass anyway, so make it count.

Dialogue can be tricky

52392480_2618103541538204_6534084870124077056_nDialogue can be tricky, but it can’t really be avoided. To keep the pace of your narrative you should absolutely break it up with some fast flowing dialogue. Even starting with a first person monologue works beautifully to immediately immerse the reader in the scene.

Don’t be afraid of dialogue. If you find it difficult, practice. Eavesdrop on conversations and translate conversations on to the page. You have to write them out word for word to get the feel of natural conversation. It may surprise you to see it on the page, it may not look how you expected it to

The way we speak isn’t necessarily the way we would write that same message, but that’s what speech marks are for. They give you permission to write phonetically, in different accents, to swear, to use slang, to misspell words in the way a character would mispronounce them.

Dialogue can be tricky. It can also be very fun. Play around with it, and you’ll soon begin to love the looser rules and creative possibilities. You might go on to write an entire script. It’s up to you.

Who decides if it’s art?

52555069_2617582218257003_4969743826848579584_nWhatever you write, treat it like a work of art. Like a painting or sculpture or any other art-form, writing is only beautiful in the eye of the beholder. It is open to interpretation, and not everyone will like the same piece.

It is so important to remember that there will always be someone who doesn’t like your writing, in the same way that there will always be someone who doesn’t like you, and that’s okay.

We all have different tastes, we all like different genres, foods, colours and places. If we all liked the same things life would be boring, it would have no meaning, it would be pretty pointless. We would all look identical, dress in identical clothes, live identical lives, eat identical food, work identical jobs… it wouldn’t work.

You are an artist, with your own individual point of view to express. Not only should you put all of your love and care into your creativity, to make it as beautiful as it can be, but it should also be worked and reworked until YOU are happy with it

Your opinion is the only one that really matters. You can send your work out into the world and see what other people think, but don’t be offended by anyone else’s point of view. Let them take what they will from it, let your writing be interpreted like any other painting or sculpture or work of art. Decide for yourself what it means, and simply nod when someone else gets it.

Write the book you want to read

52446253_2615100385171853_3860577314454634496_nOh this quote. This makes so much sense to me. This defines the whole ‘write for yourself’ thing, it takes away the debate about what’s popular in the current market, it stops you wondering if you’re just mimicking another author.

This is absolutely something I did. I went to the book shop in search of a book, for advice, for guidance, for specific instructions in a time of need. There were plenty of books that almost itched that scratch, but not the book I was really looking for. So I wrote it.

That’s what we all need to do, write the books we need to read. Because you are a citizen of the world, you are a reader, you are the audience you want to write for. People like you, people who understand you, people who share your point of view.

So forget what other people like, or what’s popular, or what sells. What is the book you want to give the world? What is the message you need to get across? What is the book you need to read above all others? What is the book you have to write in your lifetime? What is the book you want to leave as your legacy? That’s the book you were born to write.

The Book of Dust

52599318_2614481928567032_8927623234552070144_oI think most bookworms, readers and writers alike, own a stack of books that they haven’t read yet. They live together on the bedside table, or maybe they’ve made it on to the bookshelf, but they’re separate from the others. Waiting to be loved. This is one of mine – ‘The Book of Dust’ by Philip Pullman

There’s always another two or three books that I need to read first, and I tend to read more than one book at a time, but still, I don’t know why I haven’t begun this gorgeous mammoth hardback yet. Perhaps because its so big its daunting, or too heavy to lug around with me, or because its so special I want to devote some proper quality time to sinking into its pages and absorbing the words.

This book was a gift. My students bought it for me, along with a beautiful cake and card, when I left them in Cambridge. It’s extra special because it reminds me of them, and the pride I have towards each of their achievements that followed. I guess I don’t want to let that go by reading the book, and being done with it, when what it represents means so much to me.

Is that strange? Is it just a book? Do people love other things the way bookworms love books? Is it strange to love this one, considering I haven’t even got around to reading it? Is it strange that I don’t want to read it, in case I love it any less?

When is perfection achieved?

52598040_2613595055322386_1434289704135557120_nThis quote sums it all up perfectly for me. I find applying minimalism and simplicity, in most cases, very satisfying – you can choose to live with fewer belongings, less clutter, fewer commitments, and clear expanses of time, space, and solitude (perhaps to write in peace).

Of course, it also sums up the editing process perfectly too. It is not about endlessly adding to your manuscript, it’s about whittling it down until only the very best content is left.

Like a sculptor carves a work of art from a chunk of rock, your real task it to wade through your work and unearth the beauty that lies beneath the words.

Try to approach your work with the keen eye of an artist, an artist who wants to communicate a message – in the most beautiful but also the simplest way.

Why you should get a cat

52274860_2610907978924427_1800641815959830528_oThis is Tomkin. I adore him and he adores me, even now, even though he moved in with my friend when I moved to Thailand and I couldn’t bring myself to separate them when I came back. He still loves me as much as I love him. He still dribbles and purrs when I visit.⠀

Over the years, Tomkin has been a very helpful writer’s cat. He has that mysterious intelligence and balance of consideration for my needs and his own that only a cat can have. He complimented my life alongside the drama of his own escapades – exploring new territory, falling in toilets, fighting other cats, and calling me for back up (true story).⠀

He tore up the critical notes that a tutor wrote on my first novel draft, he tried to feed me mice when I wasn’t eating right, he always knew when I was low and needed him to just be there beside me, and he distracted me from those tricky plot holes with perfect timing.⠀

Cats really are the perfect companions for writers, much more intuitive, sensitive, and quieter than humans. But they also teach us how to be part of someone else’s life and still put ourselves first, which is so important for a writer. ⠀

Get a cat. You won’t regret it