If there’s one topic I’m endlessly fascinated by, it’s the creative process. Who doesn’t love pulling back the curtain and seeing how others make their ideas happen and bring their art to life?
So I was thrilled when the lovely Shanny – travel blogger, truth teller, and all-round gorgeous soul behind FiftyTwo Truths – tagged me to join this Blog Tour that dives deep into all things writing.
Without further ado, this is why I write…
What am I working on?
When I spent three months travelling through Europe last year, I expected to have ‘the time of my life’ (end quote). And I did, in so many ways. But I also encountered many of the same beasts that were present in my ‘ordinary life’ – expectations, resistance, perfectionism, comparison, worry … all the usual suspects! And because travel can be such a pressure cooker of emotions and ‘fish out of water’ culture shock, those mental nasties were heightened and intensified.
To quieten my mind, I gratefully delved into my usual trove of love-laden literary advice (think: Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Brené Brown), but I was really craving something that was travel-specific. Something that addressed the specific instances that makes travel so damn awesome (eyes opened, senses thrumming, heart bursting) and at the same time, so damn frustrating (endless waiting, getting lost, getting ripped off, being lonely, worrying that you’re not ‘making the most of your trip’).
I couldn’t find a book that did all those things, so I decided to write it myself.
So I’m knee-deep in a book about mindful travel, I’m working on a bunch of cool projects for my clients, and of course, there’s blogging going on in the background.
How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
I think my ‘voice’ is quite distinctive. It’s difficult to quantify such things, but for the sake of answering the question, I’d say my writing is 70% sacred/ useful/ potent, and 30% sass.
Stylistically, I’m very wordy (maybe definitely too wordy), I like playing around with the intricacies of sentence structure, and I’m obsessed with subtle alliteration.
I write everything as if it’s going to be read aloud. To that end, when I’m writing, I’m always thinking of cadence, rhythm, the way things sound. And I write the exact same way that I speak. (Fo’ shizzle.)
Content wise, I prefer playing the guinea pig to the guru. I pride myself on extreme honesty and transparency. And I like to infuse a spark of spirituality and soul into everything I write.
Why do I write?
To be very unromantic, I write because it’s my job. And Holy Smokes am I grateful for that.
But to get romantic and whimsical and idealistic, I write because I have so much inside me that cannot be contained.
I write because it’s better that the relentless ideas zinging inside my head are channelled safely onto a page.
I write because I’ve always been compelled to narrate and describe life, and writing lets you do that without being crazy.
But more than anything else, I write because that’s how I’ve always processed the world and my feelings. A very literal example is from back in my early twenties when I had full-blown depression. I became obsessed with trying to articulate what I was going through, journaling every day, as if I could somehow lessen my pain if I could only just figure out the perfect way to describe it. (I still have those journals, and even now, they’re kind of gut-wrenching and soul-sinking to read.)
Now that the depression is long behind me, I’ve realised that I write because it is a prerequisite to my health. Seriously. Not many models of wellness include creativity as a factor, but it is front and centre in my own. In fact, the amount of writing I am doing is a direct reflection of how I am feeling and functioning on the wellness spectrum. As the amazing Brené Brown says, unused creativity is not benign, which for me translates as this: If I am not dedicating a decent portion of my time to creative work, I do not feel ‘well’ within myself. So writing, for me, equals wellness.
How does my writing process work?
Ummm, I put my butt in the chair and get it done!
Honestly, I can wax lyrical about the creative process and writing rituals, but the unvarnished truth is that really, I just get my butt in my chair and start.
It’s probably more illuminating to compare my current process to the way I used to write. Back when I was working my corporate gig, blogging and writing were things I fit around the rest of my life. I kind of only did them when I felt inspired, which was maybe once a week (and sometimes less). I had to have a candle burning, my desk all tidy, my stationery all colour-coded, and the perfect playlist humming in the background. I also needed a nice uninterrupted chunk of time spread out before me, and I took a while to really get into my work.
Nowadays, although I would still L.O.V.E. all those things to be in place, I no longer ‘need’ them to start writing. I can quite quickly get in the zone no matter where I am – a noisy café, a messy bedroom, the construction site we call our ‘house’. I’ve also gotten very good at squeezing the juice out of small windows of time – I’ve grown to love the challenge of only having 20-30 minutes in which to get a chunk of writing done.
Apart from just getting started, the other key parts of my writing process are:
(1) Getting words on the page, no matter how crappy.
Also known as the ‘shitty first draft’ technique, this way of working has revolutionised my output. Instead of stifling the words before they’re even out of me, I now let them flow onto the paper without interruption.
It’s such a great way to write because once you’ve got stuff in front of you, you can work with it. It’s very tricky to make something decent out of nothing. But you can definitely make something decent out of something, even if that first something happens to be quite, quite shit.
(2) Time away from the words.
Quite honestly, this is my secret weapon when it comes to writing. It is mind-blowing how often I will be completely stumped by a piece of writing – like, I’ll be at a complete sentence standstill. Then, after a walk or a coffee or a night’s sleep, all of a sudden, the answer appears in front of me – completely obvious, staring me in the face, the words slotting into place without a worry. So whenever I get stuck, the best thing I can do is give myself space from the words.
(On a sidenote, I don’t characterise my writing process as particularly fast for this very reason. Almost always, I like to work on a piece over AT LEAST two days – I need a night’s sleep between the first draft and the final copy if I want to produce my best work.)
A lot of people underestimate how long the editing process takes. For me, that final 5-10% of polishing takes at least a third of my total writing time. And I am ANAL. I think it comes from working with legislation, where every word is analysed in agonising, minute detail.
My writing is very much based on speech patterns and rhythm, so usually, as part of the editing process I like to read the words out loud to myself again and again, until I get them perfect. (Yes, my boyfriend thinks I’m nuts!)
Which writers inspire your work?
Cheryl Strayed, for her ability to be gut wrenching and uplifting at the same time.
J.K. Rowling, for her epic storytelling, perfect sentence structure, and ability to communicate fierce love.
Sarah Wilson, for her so-raw-it-hurts honesty and I-thought-I-was-the-only-one insights.
Mary Oliver for her ability to put my heart into words.
Oh, and Rumi. Always Rumi.
Righto, let’s pass this shiz along…
I’m fascinated to hear more about why these three lovely ladies write…
Claire Baker is a luminous blogger and full-time wellness coach who recently took the blogosphere by storm with her ebook ‘She Is Radiant’. As well as being a beautiful, heart-fuelled writer, she’s also an all-round stellar human being and sweetheart. If you haven’t yet discovered the joy of This is Lifeblood, you’re in for a treat…
Claire Baker is a certified coach and mentor, passionate writer and speaker and author of ‘She Is Radiant: Your 6-Week Wellness Adventure To Get Glowy & Feel Rad’. Claire guides vibrant young women as they get from where they are, to where they want to be – in their health and life, blog and business.
With a background in visual arts and business management, her gorgeous clients (from all over the world), experience greater confidence, improved relationships, more joy and clear complexions. They throw out the scales, book the flight, launch the blog – and fall back in love with their life.
Through her honest and empowering blog and unique coaching packages, you can consider Claire your personal advocate for living an energised, playful and heart-centred life.
Come say hi at This is Lifeblood, her online space to share her passion for all things nourishing, soulful and creative. You can also find her on hanging out on Facebook,Instagram and Twitter @_clairebaker_.
Cassie Mendoza-Jones is one of those gorgeous creatures whose brilliant, uplifting energy thrums through everything she does. A naturopath, nutritionist, kinesiologist and wellness blogger, her writing is soulful, inspiring and really friggen useful, all at the same time. In fact, her words and website will make you swoon…
Cassie Mendoza-Jones is a kinesiologist, naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist, and founder of Elevate Vitality. She helps women about tune in to the natural wisdom of their bodies, and follow its lead. Elevate Vitality’s philosophy is rooted in intuitive health, natural wholefoods, and working with your body. With this hands-on, holistic approach, Cassie has successfully helped hundreds of clients on their journey to wellbeing, body harmony, and bounce-out-of-bed energy.
She is the author of the Cleansed eBook, the Cleansed Kitchen Companion, and creator of the Cleansed eCourse as well as healing meal plans. She’s also run successful webinars on health and wellness. Cassie is qualified in Naturopathy, Nutritional Medicine, Western Herbal Medicine, and Kinesiology and has completed post-grad studies in Human Nutrition at Deakin University.
Elizabeth McKenzie is a total trailblazer. A regular contributor to HuffPo, her writing is a potent blend of marketing minx meets spiritual gangsta. Unapologetic, outrageously authentic, and whoa nelly warm and wonderful, this lovely lady writes with her heart on her sleeve and her soul on the page…
Elizabeth is a professional marketing and spiritual mentor, kinesiologist-in-training and the creator of the upcoming eCourse The Spiritual Material Gal: Get Real World Spirituality The Unwanky Way. Her courses are geared towards helping ambitious and successful women who ‘seem’ like they’ve got it all figured out… yet their heart just isn’t quite in it.
She’s the go-to for helping you tackle your biz blocks, tap into your spiritual side, and live a totally kick-ass life. She ties it all together to set you on the fast track to personal, professional, and spiritual success. Whether you want to build a business you love, create more happiness, or simply get more out of your life (instead of just keepin’ on doing what’s not working), she can show you how to get exactly what you want.
Keen to create your best day ever? Download your free Best Day Ever toolkit here: http://yourhighestself.com.au/want-in/
And PS, if you like peering behind the creative curtain, make sure you read Shanny Matterson’s post on why she writes. Shanny is a truth-telling, heart-bursting, soul-stirring writer (and OFFICIAL travel blogger!) over at FiftyTwo Truths. I totally heart her gorgeous red-raw writing and know you will too – Check. Her. Out.