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The Inner Critic

I was asked an excellent question at a day of teaching novel writing at the weekend.

To set the scene, I'll start this blog with a picture of the group...

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... and say thank you to them for being so keen and talented, and the excellent new Exeter Library for hosting the day.

Anyway, the question was this - how do you deal with your inner critic?

It's something I've not been asked before, and took a few seconds thought before I came up with a response - which is to be honest.

The critic is so different in each of us. Some talk far too much, others don't say enough.

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Sharing the Love

In a word - wow!

The spinning whirl of a buzzing melee that is the Winchester Writers' Festival only grows dizzier by the year. I got home last night, keen to note down what went well and what needed some attention with my teaching and...

... promptly crashed out and fell asleep. It was exhausing, but exhilarating too.

This morning, after a mammoth sleep, I've been reflecting what it is about such meetings of minds that is so delightful and uplifting.

Firstly, a quick thanks to the group I took on Sunday for the Crime Writing, from Start to Slaying workshop -

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They were a hard working bunch as you can see, but also fun. They gladly played along with some of my stranger ways of teaching; not minding at all being sprayed with my cologne, sharing their innermost secrets, being scared out of their wits etc...

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Teaching, Learning and Loving it

I'm lucky enough to have lots of teaching of this wonderful art of writing coming up in the summer, and I've spent a fair few weeks now trying to make the sessions as good as possible.

Which has lead me to a key question - what is the basis of teaching?

I've come to conclude it's much the same as in my day job, journalism - to anticipate the questions that people want answered, and, importantly...

... to try to do so in an entertaining way.

We've all sat in far too many classrooms and been bored numb by teaching which might have been informative, but was so dull it never had a chance of making it into our minds.

So I try to make mine entertaining, with games and interactions, and the odd surprise here and there. Secrets and post it notes will feature this year, and edgily too in some cases.

The texture is important too. I don't want to talk too much without a change of pace, to a discussion or exercise. 

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The Castle

I had an interesting experience this week, which goes to underline one of the main points I make when I'm teaching writing.

I needed to talk to a couple of agents about a new project I'm working on. I'd met some at the excellent Winchester Writers' Festival last year, so I sent them a quick email...

... and received a helpful reply that very morning.

What a difference I suspect that is from people who might approach an agent out of the blue with a submission. And it just reinforced my thoughts about The Castle.

A quick visual interlude here. Ok, it's not a castle, but it's still magnificent and it's a continual source of comfort, support and inspiration to me - the cathedral at the heart of my beloved Exeter.


So, back to the castle, which is how I imagine the effort to get yourself published.

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A Change of Scene

One of the questions I'm most often asked about writing is a simple but very important one - and happily, for once in life, I think there's an easy answer.

The question is - How do I find inspiration on those days when it's just not coming?

After a few seconds of reassurances that we all have those days - I think they go with the creative territory - I can usually provide a passable response.

It's a long and hard learned lesson, and it's this - when the words really are not coming, just walk away and do something else for a while.

In my experience, sitting staring furiously at a screen, or piece of paper, getting more and more frustrated, is a sure way to ensure that creativity won't come calling.

And not just that - if you're really desperately chasing her, the elusive and teasing muse is quite likely to hide somewhere on the edge of your mind, with her tongue out, calling na, na, na, na, naa.

The solution, in my view, is a change of scene. Get out, go somewhere, do something to take your mind off your problem and the solution will come.

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