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  • Writer's pictureRachel Sambrooks

An ongoing apprenticeship - some tips to getting yourself started when your brain engine fails.

A drawing of Rachel Sambrooks by an artist during Everyone Reading Festival Leicester 2019

This curious picture of me was drawn during a creative writing workshop I ran in Leicester in 2019. My eyes are like binoculars glaring out it seems, but what I enjoy about it is how focussed I look. Because even as a writer of some years now, when I facilitate workshops it inspires me, I learn something. There's a myth that we go to learn a skill and then finish learning. I don't believe that. I'm a life long apprentice at creative writing in many different forms. As a playwright I spent most of my time in development with scripts, working with actors and cursing my time at the desk as wasted. But nothing is wasted. I turned plays into poems and books, I've turned poems into sketches. I'm an apprentice in life and I'm happy to call what I do practicing.

I might spend at least an hour practicing writing (and rewriting) in one form or another, but I never feel like I know it all, because I don't. I don't know the half of it, and part of the energy to keep going is in the 'not knowing'. And that permission to be bad at something, to fail at it and not enjoy what you did, is what will spur you on to rewrite and improve - at least to repaint it to your satisfaction. Once you've built your house you need to decorate and make it comfortable, but if the sofa is in the wrong place, move it!

So here are a few of my daily writing tips to create that sense of wonder and mystery that might encourage your muse to pop out and give you a few ideas:

  1. Do nothing for one hour. Stare at the blank page. Make sure it's a notebook with a pen not just your laptop. Blank Microsoft Word pages are worse than paper ones. If in doubt stare out the window. Do not pick up your phone. Do not do anything else. This is impossible, you will write.

  2. Lists are good. Shopping lists are useful but so are character names, plot lines, twists, stupid things that could never happen, accidents, even this list is making me think about what lists I could write.

  3. You can only do you, but if you write out the first line of a famous book and keep going, you might find your own writing in the second or third line. Do not publish the first line as that will be plagiarism. But possibly the story that follows will be all yours.

  4. Follow the song of your heart.

Happy writing!

Rachel x

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