You can be creative, or productive, but not both

We love the idea of productivity, but most productivity systems are killing our creativity Here’s a familiar event many artists will have encountered. You hit some creative milestone. Your new book is finished maybe, and a well-meaning friend responds, “I wish I had time to write / paint / sing / INSERT CREATIVE DREAM.” Yes,Continue reading “You can be creative, or productive, but not both”

Transrealism: the first major literary movement of the 21st century

Damien Walter writes on scifi & fantasy for The Guadian, BBC, Wired, Oxford University Press, IO9, Tor.com and elsewhere. He’s a graduate of the Clarion scifi writers workshop, and teaches the Rhetoric of Story. A Scanner Darkly is one of Philip K Dick’s most famous but also most divisive novels. Written in 1973 but notContinue reading “Transrealism: the first major literary movement of the 21st century”

Why writers have more to learn than ever

We live in exciting times for writers. There are more ways then ever to tell stories, and huge audiences hungry to consume them. It may sound strange if you’re not used to the idea, but the story is a kind of technology. Like the sword, or the motorcar, or the computer, the story has evolvedContinue reading “Why writers have more to learn than ever”

The improvised word leaves space for you

Improvisation is a powerful part of art. Dancers, musicians and actors – those things we name the performing arts – all learn to improvise as part of their craft. Their work is temporal and transient. Once the move or note is performed it is gone forever.  A recording of Miles Davis playing Kind of BlueContinue reading “The improvised word leaves space for you”

Writing and the attention economy

As a writer you are asking for the most valuable commodity your readers have. Time. Each of us gets a finite portion. No sum of money can buy us any more. And the demands on it are ever greater. The novel evolved at a period in history when the constituency of its readers had muchContinue reading “Writing and the attention economy”

Why Sense of Wonder sucks

Many writers of fantasy fiction describe their work in terms of its ability to evoke a ‘Sense of Wonder’ in the reader, and go out of their way to find sources of ‘wonder’ to energise their stories. This is self-defeating in the most serious kind of way. Stories that attempt to create a ‘Sense ofContinue reading “Why Sense of Wonder sucks”

Feel THE FEAR…and write it anyway

I did a little whoop of joy, followed by a nod of recognition when I received Gareth L. Powell’s guest post in my email inbox. The first because Mr. Powell is among Britain’s very best science fiction authors. The second because like every writer, I recognise THE FEAR that Gareth describes. You will no doubt recogniseContinue reading “Feel THE FEAR…and write it anyway”

7 signs you are ready to self-publish (a checklist)

For my work at The Guardian I spend a lot of time looking at new books, and I’ve gone out of my way to look at new books by indie published writers. And my conclusion has been that the vast majority of independently published writers aren’t ready. The books aren’t ready and their authors aren’tContinue reading “7 signs you are ready to self-publish (a checklist)”

Writing is hard, lonely, low paid work

I think we need to spread the following meme as far and wide as possible: “Writing is hard, lonely, low paid work.” It’s a stark message, and perhaps lacking some nuance. But it needs to be to impact the growing legions attracted to writing as a pathway to celebrity, status and wealth. Those people needContinue reading “Writing is hard, lonely, low paid work”

Yep. That needs another draft.

It’s a great feeling to finish a piece of writing. Triumphant. So looking at work you thought was finished and realising it isn’t finished at all is painnnnnnful. The mind goes in to self-defence mode. Or self destruct mode. Obviously you suck. What ever made you think you could write at all. Give it up.Continue reading “Yep. That needs another draft.”

Emotions when writing

Don’t underestimate or ignore the emotional and psychological challenge of writing. More writers are defeated in this arena than by lack of skill or imagination. Writing can be joyous and fun. But it can also be strenuous, isolating and, sometimes, downright scary. Every piece of writing is a journey. Some longer or shorter than others.Continue reading “Emotions when writing”