In this post, our blogger follows up on the creative things he’s learned during the pandemic.
At the beginning of the pandemic I wrote about some things you can do to keep sane. See 3 Creative Things To Keep You Sane In Self-Isolation.
Now, I don’t think I was ultimately successful, but I wanted to reflect on what I have achieved. I also want to share some things I have changed my opinion about writing.
First, of all my three points in the original article were:
- Learn A Language
- Write A Book
- Read Everything
And what I did was:
1. Learn A Language
I learned Japanese. Not perfectly, I am not fluent, but it feels like I have been granted a magical power that allows me to turn off subtitles.
Have I read any Japanese books in Japanese? Just one. It was intellectually the toughest thing I have ever done.
I went about it in a very structured planned out way – learning the language, not reading the book. I never did more than I could handle. It built a bit of character.
Also, I suggested using Duolingo to learn. Please forgive me. You would be better off bashing a dictionary into your skull. Netflix is a great option, though.
2. I Started Writing Three Books Giving Up About Half Way.
I wrote a whole book out by hand in a frenzy. It was quite bad.
I wrote two more in a more sensible manner. And, I really like one of them, and I hope I will come back to it for a good edit.
I really had a lot of fun making the world and I love the characters, but I just didn’t know where I was going with it.
I decided to plan for the third book. To sit and ponder, or run on the treadmill and ponder as I do.
Really, think about every detail. I have planned names, what they mean, and plotted lines of relationships. I know who I’m going to kill and who is going live. Importantly, I can see how I get to the ending.
I have been plotting it for five months now and I’m not quite there. But, it feels good. It feels like planning a painting, I’m sorry if that’s hard to relate to. I did Arts at college.
You have to know where you are going to place your brush, how to mix the paint, and you have to know where you want to end up so that you can achieve your vision.
And, it feels good. It feels like I am giving it all I can. I may still fail horribly, but at least I will know the true depth of my failure then.
3. Read Whatever I Want.
I read the most glorious trash. Pop fiction, comics, old sci-fi from before they cared about the science part of the fiction.
But, I have also been reading philosophy. Which, I did in university. I got back into it again and decided to read everything I was not taught in class.
It hasn’t made me any saner, but occasionally I feel a bit calmer.
Creative Things I Learned About Keeping Sane During The Pandemic
What I Still Recommend
So, did these things keep me sane during the pandemic? Probably not.
But, at least I am a healthier sort of crazy now. Plotting while running is nothing if not good for your health.
What I can wholeheartedly suggest is learning a language.
Learn one that you want to and maybe one that is difficult. It is so rewarding. For me it has been an experience of learning about a whole new world that I can now interact with. Clichéd for sure, but true.
As far as reading goes, time spent with books is never a waste. You will always be a better person after reading a book than you were before.
And, when you sometimes can’t go outside, you can always go deeper into a good book.
About writing that book. I am not disheartened.
I know what I need to do now. I have firm goals. I know what type of writer I will be and that has made me oddly calm about writing.
But, Another Thing Happened.
And, I suspect it happened to anyone who enjoys thinking.
I really started questioning everything I believe in, probably because of all the philosophy. I am somewhat stubborn and perhaps convinced of my own rightness, but one thing did come from this.
What I Know Now
That is I think I know what kind of writer I am now.
Because, my mind has been churning with new complex ideas for a while now and I feel better for it and I feel as if I can now approach writing from a better place.
- I know now that I am not a ‘pantser’. I can’t write without a plan.
- I know that writing is not about inspiration or ‘flow’. It is about just deciding that every day you will write. It’s about putting a thought into your mind every day that says ‘I will write’ and not letting anything else dislodge that thought until you have written.
- I know that characters mean the most to me as a writer. And, my plot must serve the telling of their story. They cannot just be creations for the sake of a convenient plot twist.
- I know that not planning enough caused me to fail my other books.
- And, a thing that I finally really truly understand at 33-years-old is that you can’t rush yourself. Sure, some people write quickly and well but that’s not me. Although, it’s not so much the quality of the writing but the lack of story that plagues me.
The Language Helped
And, I think that learning Japanese gave me that. Having to learn 3500+ characters, three writing systems, grammar (that is nothing like English), and 12 795 new words (yes, I keep track) all gave me a perspective on doing things that take a long time.
15 new words a day adds up quickly.
One page a day is a book in a year.
You just have to go at it at your own pace.
Now I know the only difference between me and a published novelist is that they just kept at it.
Every day they didn’t think, ‘How am I ever going to do this?’ They just did it.
Probably slowly, probably with great uncertainty, and good amount of suffering. But, at some point each day they just sighed and got on with it before they called it a day.
Today, I feel as if I know my book exists and all I have to do is move my pen in the right pattern and soon enough it will exist even better than I can imagine it in my head.
The Last Word
Happy New Year, Writers! I truly hope this one brings all of us what we want and not just what we need.
Written by Christopher Luke Dean (Writing this because Writers Write.)
More Posts From Christopher:
- The Writing War Machine
- Why Writing A Book Is Like Going To The Dentist
- What Makes A Compelling First Chapter?
- How To Write An Action Scene In 3 Steps
- How To Get An ‘A’ Analysing Poetry
- Why We Need To Get Back To Writing With Hope
- 10 Worthy Antagonists In Fiction & Tips For Writing Them
- Why You Shouldn’t Only Write What You Know
- Writers Talk 11 | The 8 Elements Of Setting
- A Quick-Start Guide To Writing Fantasy