Summer 2018

The irony is that I’m writing my summer update whilst wrapped up in a blanket trying to keep warm on a cold, winters day.

Summer seems like such a long time ago.

But what a summer 2018 was.

Day after day, week after week of glorious sunshine, eating breakfast in the garden each morning and forgetting what it felt like to have to wear a big coat each day.

Sunshine makes everything feel so optimistic, which included my writing.

I experienced a real surge in two projects that I was working on.

A new radio play and a new stage play which I was developing through my placement on the Liverpoool Everyman Theatre’s Playwright Programme.

July

What better way to spend a week than hiring a glorious, spacious house in picturesque Norfolk with three wonderful writing friends and nothing but friendship and words to keep me company.

I’m a huge fan of writing retreats as I find it difficult to switch off if I am at home. So to get away from it all and to only think about my current writing project was much needed tonic.

I also didn’t realise two things. How flat Norfolk is – and how much sleep I needed to recharge my batteries.

Later in July I had my final feedback session from Liverpool Everyman.

It felt sad to be finishing this fantastic development scheme and I feel very much like I’ve learnt so much along the way. The introduction to some prolific and brilliant playwrights through their reading list has been a real highlight for me.

August

I’d decided to take the whole of August off from writing to recharge my batteries.

I’d made the important decision to fill my well with watching theatre and reading.

I couldn’t imagine the power of giving myself permission to just take some time out and not write for a month.

Normally I give myself such a tough time if I haven’t written anything for a few days, so having already planned this down time meant that I didn’t give myself shite for a few weeks.

I saw the fantastic Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in the West End which gave me an injection of life and excitement. What a brilliant, uplifting and inspiring play. The first time I have leapt to my feet just before the final chopped to give the cast and creatives a much deserved standing ovation.

September

September started with the three-day London Screenwriters Festival and alongside doing that I crammed in more theatre shows.

An Adventure which was an epic three-hour affair at the Bush Theatre and Little Shop of Horrors in the Regent’s Park Outdoor Theatre. Talk about a complete contrast in genre, theme and tone.

Screenwriters Festival highlight for me was every session led by Scott Myers. His delivery of screenwriting craft is both eloquent and easy to follow and I had a real break-through on a project that I’d shelved for a number of years.

Half a day with Scott and his in class exercises on character gave me a new theme for my feature idea which I hope to execute in 2019.

I’d also started running again this year.

During the summer I continued with Park Runs each Saturday morning which have been incredibly helpful for my mental health. I also joined a local running group to keep the momentum going.

Running is a lot like writing in that it is an isolating activity but if you can find other participants then you can form a tribe and really encourage each other.

I can’t emphasise how important it is to find your tribe. Whether it be writing, running or any other interest that you have. Being able to share the journey with like-minded people feels powerful and accountable.

Challenge #100daysofwriting

As 2017 drew to an end, an important deadline for me was rapidly approaching.

By the beginning of March 2018 I had to hand in the first draft of a new play which I was writing as part of the Liverpool Everyman Theatre’s Playwright Programme.

What was terrifying me as I was tucking into my Christmas dinner, was that I had no story, no characters, no theme and no bloody idea what the hell I was going to write.

And anything that I do write has to planned meticulously.

I’m not one of those writers that can just let their keyboard run wild. I need to know who my characters are, what is their story, what are their flaws, how their flaws drive the story, what happens at the mid-point blah blah structure blah.

A lot of writers hate structure. I don’t. I love it. Which is why I was panicking whilst chewing on a sprout. I had nothing. And in nine weeks time I had to hand in a first draft.

Shit! I needed to find some motivation and inspiration. And quickly.

I’d stumbled across Jenn Ashworth’s novels as we are both originally from Preston. Last year Jenn publically talked about fear and her writers block on social media. She set herself a #100daysofwriting challenge which I’d discovered when she was mid-way through.

I liked the sound of it though. A simple and gentle approach to falling back in love with writing.

No obligation on word count, time or anything else. Just turn up. I could try that.

Actually, more than that. Knowing myself and how I hate failing. I knew that I would do more than try. I would totally get on board with it through to day 100, or I would never have started it.

So, I began my own #100daysofwriting with the prime goal to be to turn up everyday and work on the new stageplay. 

Some days I managed a line of dialogue, other days I would write pages. Often I would encounter difficulties as balancing writing with a full-time job is always a challenge.

But however large or small the words were. It didn’t matter. As long as I was present – every day.

And documenting the achievement by photographs on social media was also something to consider. I do most of my writing in my loft, but I didn’t want each photo to be the same.

It was always a bonus when I wrote away from the house.

Whether it be a café, library, lunch break in work or the wonderful Writers Room at the Everyman. I kept my instafeed posts full of colour, even if it was just me. Or a keyboard. Or a cup of tea and and a keyboard. Or one of the cats. Or one of the cats sitting on the keyboard with a cup of tea. Or both of the cats.

#100daysofwriting gave me the focus to write the first draft of my new play ‘Chums’, but it’s also given me more than that.

It’s made me invigorated by the process of writing and especially writing with a pen again. #so1980s

Why not have a go yourself and see what you can do in 100 days?