Writing is Marmite

thisbetterworkThere’s a saying about Marmite… maybe you’ve heard of it?

You either love it or hate it.

Well, writing I’m afraid is both.

Writing is Marmite.

Some days I love it, some days it’s my worst enemy. I feel both.

“But how can you say that YOU’RE a Writer!”

…because it’s the truth. I have been writing for a while now and you can go ahead and ask any other writer, writing is a blessing and a curse.
It sounds like the simplest thing in the world to just jot down whatever you like and ta-da you have it, but being a writer means that it’s not enough to just throw down anything you think of and expect gold. It takes time and effort to write well. Writing is a job and like any job you have to work hard to get results.

I would say that 99.9% of anything you read, newspaper to novel is not a first draft, that the author did not just sit down one afternoon and whack out the words first time. Good writing comes from practice and editing, it comes from a writer’s experience and willpower to get the work to shine. Writers are compelled to write but very often we fall into chasms that we can’t get out of, and it’s experience and determination that gets us out of it.

Chasms you ask?

Yes chasms, deep dark pits of despair. People fling the phrase Writer’s Block around but in my experience it’s not a block, it’s a chasm that you have fallen into where nothing you write is good enough or makes sense… sometimes you can’t even put down one word because none have come to you at all.

This is why you can also hate writing as well as love it. It’s a skill you will always improve upon, and sometimes that’s a daunting feeling.

Ultimately we start writing because we love it and we have something to say. If you have ever felt love, you know that you don’t give up on it easily, so when you fall into bad times, into a chasm, you have to take a moment to reignite that love, that passion and use it to climb out.

This is a writer’s greatest weapon. This comes with practice and time.

The only way to get over writer’s block, a chasm, a mood, a grey cloud, whatever you want to call it is to stop what you’re doing, take a breath and reignite your passion, let your worries and self doubts be pushed aside with an editing pen later.

Slowly in time, just like Marmite, you’ll realise that writing is sticky. Once you start writing you will find it everywhere you go.

TV Licence Too Much?

tv-licence-too-much

So I do not have a TV Licence.

This apparently is shocking to a lot of people and to the TV Licensing company themselves.

A little bit of background here…

Last year my partner moved in with me after my flatmate moved out and we decided to take a good look at all of our bills and subscription services. We’re saving up as ever and didn’t want any excess we didn’t need. One of these under review was the TV License at £145.50 a year.

I decided to keep a TV Licence, just in case we ever felt the need to watch something we would be covered. It became really obvious when I had to start dusting the TV set and knew nothing about the adverts people would mention that we really didn’t watch TV. Even iplayer didn’t get a look in as frankly I’d gone off that whilst I was still at Uni and it decided to take forever to load, no matter what internet I used. Very frustrating. Instead of watching TV we were sticking to Netflix and occasionally popping into HMV for a new update in DVD’s we really wanted.

So it became obvious to me, why the heck are we paying £145.50 for something we don’t need or actually want anymore? I decided to end it. Following their website instructions, which I have to say I wasn’t impressed with, the website, the language is awful and the tone of the whole thing makes you feel insecure about everything you’re doing. I filled in their online form to cancel my TV licence, which at the end said to let them know we no longer required a licence, so I clicked that link and filled that in too, I also cancelled my direct debit with my bank and thought no more of it. Done. £145.50 saved,

great!

This was all done in August 2016, over the Christmas period I got a letter saying my licence will expire on 31st Dec and that I should renew urgently… Weird, I thought it was all done.
I re-read the letter and website and confirmed that I could’ve reclaimed the money between August and December, damn… but okay it’s actually over in December at the end of the year. Okay, let’s not cry over spilt milk let it expire, job done.

Now to present day. I have received 2 letters THIS WEEK telling me that my licence has expired and that I need to contact the licensing agency immediately (they even include a filled out Paypoint and postal payment slip for me to just sign and send back). They have branded a bold red inked notice on the top of the letter saying LATE RENEWAL. I decide this is ridiculous and someone hasn’t updated my info, so I call their 0300 number (which by the way from a mobile, as I don’t have a landline can cost up to 40p per minute check out the Ofcom website for yourselves) and have to be put on hold and various press 1 press 2 options and 20 minutes later I hear a real person’s voice on the end of the phone. I tell her there’s been a mistake and I don’t require a licence anymore, when I cancelled it and that I did already fill in the online form. She never says what happened, just swiftly moves on.
The next thing I know I am asked in several different ways the same sentences ‘Do you watch or record live TV?’ ‘Do you use iplayer’ … both of these get a No. Because I don’t, she then asks me if I have a TV… well yes for DVD’s and Netflix. She asks again if I use iplayer…No. This goes on for 5 more minutes until I cut her off with an explanation of how I do not even own an aerial and I only watch DVD’s and Netflix on my Amazon Fire stick.
She then sighs and asks me how long I intend to not watch or record live TV, I tell her probably indefinitely and that if I changed my mind I’ll call back. She then lists off how I could be fined or prosecuted if I do not comply with their rules and tells me she can give me a two year period for not having a licence. I should also expect an investigator to come round my house.

The phone is put down and I search on Google for people’s experiences with these ‘Investigators’ and I have seen nothing but complaints and accusations of harassment and intimidation.

This is just my story, I am waiting for said ‘Investigator’ to appear, but I have to say I am already annoyed and frustrated. From looking at forums and comments online it seems I’m not the only one with these troubles and some have some really horrendous stories with how they’ve been treated.

What really grinds my gears is the language that has been used to communicate with me, after all, I followed TV Licensing procedure, I even contacted them to rectify a problem, yet their language has been nothing but accusatory and curt.

I’d be interested to hear anyone else’s experiences with the TV Licensing company and what other people think of the fees and communication methods currently used.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from my latest letter for your own judgement and inspection:

*my address* has now been unlicensed for 2 weeks.

Dear Miss Ford,
Your TV License expired last month.

This means:

  • If you have been watching or recording live TV programmes on any channel or device, or downloading or watching BBC programmes on iPlayer, then you have been breaking the law.
  • If you delay renewing, you are not saving money as, legally, your property still needs to be licensed from the date your last TV Licence expired.
  • If you do not renew immediately, you are putting yourself at risk of investigation, prosecution and a fine for committing a criminal offence. 

 

 

KEY POINTS: At no point does this letter say that I can state that I do not need  a license.

It has not asked me to verify my status or even a suggestion that it may be a mistake

The letter is accusatory, misleading and frankly insulting in my personal opinion.

The Best Book for Writers.

1

So you might be a writer yourself or perhaps you know one… what can you get them when Christmas or a birthday rolls around?

Let me tell you.

Every year a book is released, a book that is vital to anyone in the writing industry, that book is called Writer’s & Artist’s Yearbook.

If you have no idea what this book is, it’s essentially the writer’s Yellow Pages. This directory has invaluable information in it that should be at arm’s reach whenever you are pitching any writing. It has business listings and services to advice on the media and publishing industry.

Writing a children’s story?
This book will make sure you’re pitching your story to the right publishers. No one wants a pile of rejection letters because you sent your cute kids story to horror publishers.

They release one every year, making this an ideal gift to save your writer some pennies and make sure your writer is up to date.

If you’re still not sold on the idea I urge you to dig a bit more into the book and perhaps pop down to the bookstore to flick through one, you will see how useful it really is.

The break’s over.

the
So I’ve had a lot of decisions to make lately, some big life decisions really, and in order to get myself organised I gave myself time off blogging here over the Christmas period.

Well, the break is over.

One of the things that I have been mulling over the last couple of months now is whether to go back to University and continue my academic studies.

*insert drum roll here*

I’m pleased to say that I have applied and been accepted for returning to a Creative & Professional Writing course for September 2017. So it is happening.
I’ve always been a writer and not getting the best writing qualifications I knew I could seemed criminal to me. I wanted another shot now I’ve had a taste of what the writing industry is really like. It may have taken a long time getting there but I am finally going to wear the funny cap and gown that I missed out on last time.

This is turning into more of a heartfelt speech than a writing blog post, but I felt it was important to keep the site and any readers (that’s you!) updated as I have been absent from the site for over 4 weeks now.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone reading this that just because things don’t work out the first time around, it doesn’t mean it’s not meant to be. I also wanted to reiterate that certificates and grades aren’t everything! I have done writing work for a while now without the highest qualifications and I know that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. I can’t stop writing, so I knew it was for me all along. I just have to go earn my piece of paper now because it’s what I want to prove for myself (and so Grandma can stop complaining that she doesn’t have my graduation photo!).

Finally, to end the now obvious speech I am now spouting, I just want to thank everyone around me for letting me breathe and backing me up on my dreams. In particular, to Jessica, she has listened to far too many pitched ideas and rants over long distance phone calls.
Me, you and coffee (I’ll pay) sometime. I.O.U.

What next?

Yep, you’re going to keep getting my opinions and advice on here and probably a few rants about being a student all over again! Not forgetting though that this is my writing website… I will be letting you know of any topics and useful things that come my way, so please keep checking back to join me in the writing world.

Creative Writing vs. Professional Writing

creative-writing

All writing is creative. Full stop.

I don’t care if you’re writing a University essay, a shopping list or the next great novel… all writing is creative.

This is because to properly communicate via writing, you have to think about what your writing is saying and what it looks like.

Let’s take a shopping list – you list down all the things you need right? Well, some people (I’d argue that it’s most) structure their list in some way. Perhaps in aisle order? Or essentials first? This is structure. Structure is a fundamental element in any writing. It’s taught from a young age. It’s also strictly taught within Creative Writing courses. I’m not saying you don’t learn this in other places, because you do, but it’s finely honed in Creative Writing classes.

If you’ve read my about me and this website in general, you’ll know I’m freelancing as a copywriter (no not copyright that’s a different thing entirely). I hear a lot of people say that you need business skills and a professional penmanship to write for businesses, and that’s true in a small aspect, but I’d argue that you need creativity more.
I’ve heard other writers say that they are thinking of taking business courses to better refine their writing skills and my question is why? I am not one to stifle learning but I believe the essence of any advertising is creativity and research…take Marketing courses if anything! Business courses can help you understand how businesses work and what company structures look like, but they don’t specialise in your imagination… your creativity and the written word.

I read repeatedly from other copywriters and creative writers in general that writing is a muscle.
You get better at it by doing it, and I completely agree.

You hire a copywriter to write something people will want to read. A catchy headline, great descriptions and a call to action (AKA Buy this, click this, read more etc.). This means that it has to be creative. Nobody wants to read about KPI’s, Profit turnover and SEO.
You can dazzle other businesses with business language and statistics, but the average consumer doesn’t care. They want one simple thing:

Why should I care about this?

and that’s one of the basic rules of creative writing or any writing really. Make your reader care.
Whether it’s about a character, or a product, your audience have to engage with what you’re writing. You only become an expert in this by practising.

That’s why when it comes to Creative Writing vs. Professional Writing, I say there is no such thing. Novelists are called creative writers but they are writing as a profession. They are professional writers, they are selling a product.

So Creative Writing vs. Professional Writing?
These things aren’t separate they are one.

We are writers.

Tips of the trade

tips-tricks

 

I have to be honest,
I am not a graphic designer.

That’s right, you heard me.

Being a copywriter and studying the craft of writing at University means that I can confidently put sentences together but I cannot produce top notch marketing material all on my own.

So, when you’re trying to promote your writing on social media which is image orientated (ahem Twitter, Facebook etc.), what do you do?

You could spend a bunch of time contacting professionals and get some really great products…
but if you’re low on finances and just need a quick blog image you can upload at 11pm then you should check out my big secret.

Canva.

Now, in no way am I saying that an online DIY tool can replace a trained professional, but if you are looking to get started and want to step up from copying and pasting in Paint, then I think Canva might be your first step on the ladder of design.

So what is Canva you might ask? Canva is a design tool to make your life easier.

You can knock up blog images, social media posts, posters and business cards and much more.
It works by offering images, text boxes, fonts and colouring tools for you to tweak until your heart is content.

You can sign up pretty easily and you can choose a free or paid service. I use the free service and it does me just fine.

I won’t blab too much more about it or else you’ll think the Canva team are slipping me a sweet sum of money for pushing their service, but honestly I found it thanks to another writer’s recommendation on a forum, so I gave it a shot and I think it’s worth passing it on to the other writer’s out there.

 

8 ways to get inspired – How to stop Writer’s block from stopping you.

We’ve all been there, deadline looming and your mind is anywhere else other than the writing you need to do. A novel, poem, blog, essay, or short story… 

Here’s 8 ways to get you back to writing that masterpiece.

1. Take a walk

What’s better than real life inspiration and fresh air? A change in scenery can refresh your mind and walking may release some exercise endorphin’s. Win win! 

2. Give in to a distraction

If you don’t fancy going outside, how about some music? Or an episode of your favourite drama? Or even a nice warm mug of tea? A small distraction can change your mood… just make sure you only have a small distraction and not a 3 hour binge session on Netflix though.

3. Get some inspiration

Sometimes we get writer’s block because we don’t feel that creative spark. Many people talk about the ‘blank page’ syndrome. 

Where to start? I picked up a great book a while back that gets you filling in lines before you know it: You can find it here – 642 things to write about

4. Get out the words you don’t need right now

Linking to number 3 is getting out the words you don’t need right now. Our brains are complex data crunchers… sit down and make a to-do list or write a diary entry. Maybe you’ve booked an appointment, or you know you need to pick up a gift for someone soon, whatever you are thinking about just scribble it down and make some room in your head for new thoughts and ideas.

5. Read some good writing

If you don’t like what you’re writing, maybe you need a reminder of what good writing is. Pick out your favourite books and authors and look at what they do… How do they introduce ideas? Perhaps you could even find an interview on their process or even in this day and age get on social media and be brave enough to ask! 

6. Inspirational quotes

Everyone likes a good inspirational or motivational quote. Look up a few and you may even want to print some out. It’s easy to think you’re alone in your frustrations, but in reality, everyone needs a kick of motivation sometimes. I usually scour Pinterest for some eye catching, thought provoking gems.

 

7. Location, location, location

Maybe you’ve tried everything on this list so far and you’re still not getting anywhere fast… then I recommend you get up off your chair and look around you. Is your current location suitable for your task? Too noisy/quiet? Too casual/formal? If you can’t get creative in your current space the answer is to try another one. Everyone has their own productive zone. Try spaces like cafés, the library, a friend’s house or even, if you can, the local park.

 

8. Seek professional help

The last piece of advice I can give you is to seek professional help. There are lots of published books and articles that claim to help you beat writer’s block and I’ve read a few that have helped. 

There are different ways not specific to a writer that might help also. You could try to speak to a career coach and get to the bottom of what’s really stopping you from writing, perhaps you could talk to a friend and see if that helps. In most cases the issue is a psychological one, you are stopping you.