Surrounding yourself with creativity

Recently, I found myself in a creative slump. I wasn’t motivated to write anything – the ideas for the novel I’m working on were still ticking over in my brain, but I wasn’t actually writing, and I hadn’t even considered writing a poem for months, other than those I had to write for my seminars, and they were turning out flat and lifeless. I lacked motivation, I lacked inspiration, I lacked drive.

And then I went to my local poetry night at the local pub.

It was like a switch was flipped; I got home and immediately wrote two (admittedly godawful) first drafts of poems, and I wrote two more today. Just being in a creative atmosphere made me want to write again. I got my drive back.

It’s worth noting as well that I think it was partially that I was so invested in writing this novel. Not that I don’t want to write it, but I think after being so focused on one thing – especially when it’s taking so long to write given my lack of free time – I needed a little break from it to allow some of the other ideas I’d had in the mean time to work their way out.

So if you’re feeling like you’re in a bit of a writing funk, all I’m saying is that it might be worth stepping back from what you’re working on, and surrounding yourself with people who inspire you with their creativity. Easier said than done sometimes, I know, but it just might be what you need.

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I won Camp NaNoWriMo 2017! (sort of)

Before this July, I had never done Camp NaNoWriMo. I’d done NaNoWriMo, in November, twice, and won once. I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this year because I thought the motivation of a concrete goal would be very helpful in my attempt to write the first draft of a novel over this summer – I’d found the same motivation helpful before, so why not now?

The thing I didn’t realise about Camp NaNoWriMo before starting that I absolutely loved is that you set your own goal. In my case, I set it to 30,000 words, and began. Then, once I got my work schedule through, and it got towards the end of the month, I decreased this to 15,000 words to keep me motivated. What happened when I did NaNoWriMo the year before last is that the month got away from me, and halfway through November, I only had 6,000 words, and no feeling that I would be able to achieve the 50,000 word goal, so I gave up. With an editable goal, this is not the case. The only issue with this is that as the month draws to a close, you might be tempted to edit your goal down to what you already have and call it a day. You’ve just got to have the self-discipline not to do that.

The key thing that I took away from this is clear: having a goal kept me motivated. Through writer’s block, through tiredness, through procrastination, through lows, and through sheer laziness, I had a goal to work towards, and so I did. And though I may not have a full novel, I have certainly worked out a lot about the world of it that I hadn’t already thought of through simply having to essentially live in it for a month. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone – at the price of free, it provides the motivation that anyone like me so desparately needs to get your butt into gear and write that novel that’s been sitting in your head all this time. And, if you’re like me, work out quite a few teething issues with your story along the way!

Change is Daunting

As I am now a semester into university, and as I am home for Christmas and it is all anyone seems to ask me about, I thought I would reflect on my experience thus far.

I have to level with you, I really didn’t want to go.

Obviously, long term, of course I wanted to go, but on the morning we drove up to Birmingham you could have given me 20p and I wouldn’t have gone. Honestly. I was terrified. And in the first week or so, I cried. A lot. I missed home, I missed my family, I just felt so lonely because I didn’t know anyone and I was living with total strangers, all who quite like to drink and party where I am someone who doesn’t drink alcohol at all, and much prefers to spend time with people chilling out and watching a film. I had booked into quite a few freshers’ events, but all quizzes and things like that, and no-one in my flat was going to any of them. Luckily, I met a girl on the second night (one of the people I am going to be living with next year now!) who lives in my block and also isn’t really big on the whole drinking and clubbing scene. So she came with me to the quizzes and the pizza and bowling night and we had a good time. I was still terrified.

I only started feeling better when my course actually started. That’s not to say if I could change the past I would have skipped Freshers’ Week, because I did meet some cool people on my course (many of whom I’m still friends with), and it was a good settling down period. But when the course started and I had something to do everyday I felt so much better. I was getting into the rhythm of things, and by the Wednesday of that week I no longer had a lump in my throat.

Then, the weekend hit.

My gosh, that first weekend is HARD. My flatmates were still going out every single night, and there’s only so much work you can do, as I discovered as I sat fidgeting, desparately trying to stay awake whilst reading pages of poetic definitions. When I phoned home that night, I cried, and my mum sighed and said that she thought the weekend was going to be difficult for me. The worst thing was that the friend I had made in the block had gone home for the weekend, so I felt completely alone.

But time passed, as it tends to do, and I got through it to Monday. And on Monday, I was fine again.The next weekend was better, and I began to feel confident after that. I had settled in, that everything was hunkydory.

I went home the weekend after for my mum’s birthday. It was bizarre – I have the same feeling now – home and uni seem like two separate worlds. I was fine until I went to go back to uni. I was on the train station platform when I felt the tears welling up. I was fighting tears for the entire of the 3 hour journey. I feel that those tears were provoked by the realisation that I didn’t live at home anymore, my life was at uni – that’s not a fun realisation for everyone. When I got back into my room, I locked myself in and sobbed. My friend had found it hard going back the first time, and so she had recommended that we met up for tea when she got back, as she went home that weekend as well. That tea was the pick me up I needed. After that, my family came up the next weekend, I went home for reading week and going back after reading week was so much easier – maybe because I was so tired I spent most of the journey asleep!

I didn’t come home at all between reading week and the Christmas break. I really enjoyed uni life – I participated in three Ballroom and Latin dance competitions with the uni society, which were amazing fun, I went to the midnight premiere of Fantastic Beasts with my coursemates, resulting in us all being exhausted in the seminar the morning afterwards, and I managed to secure a house for next year with some of my friends. I still wouldn’t call uni home, but I would say that I am very happy there.

My main point of sharing all of this is this: the worst thing a lot of the time is feeling that you are so alone. Everyone around you appears to be loving uni life, not homesick at all, and you feel so lonely. But I promise, if you talked to anyone, they would say that they’re missing home, even if only the tiniest bit. Uni is an amazing experience, but the first few months are a rollercoaster of emotions. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t like it immediately, or if you feel great and then suddenly feel lonely and upset again. Allow yourself to feel these things, plan trips home and just give yourself time. Remember that everyone adjusts differently as well, just because the people around you are loving life doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t feel the same. If you’re feeling unsure though, give it at least a term. Things aren’t always as terrible as they first seem.