Should you self-publish on Kindle?

Yes.

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Oh, you wanted more than that? *Sigh*. Alright.

Before Amazon Kindle, writers didn’t have much choice if they wanted to get their fiction published. They relied on publishers to approve of their writing and raise it up to the market – provided that there was a perceived market for the books they wrote. Getting work in front of readers comes down to a publisher’s opinion – and only a tiny, tiny fraction of submitted manuscripts are published at the end of this process.

I’m not saying that’s either good or bad. It’s one business model, and that’s how it works. But now there’s an alternative business model too.

Kindle enables anyone to become a published writer. It enables people like me – content writers who’ve dabbled in fiction on the side – and so I like Kindle very much. And yes, it has flooded the market with millions of books of all styles, qualities and sub-genres. In what world is that a bad thing? The good writing still sells, and rises to the top. And it’s so cheap that book addicts are now reading more than ever.

Side note: the best way to write and publish good books is to write and publish bad books first. It’s the same for all of us. If there’s any way around that, then every author ever would love to know it. At least with self-publishing, we can practise our trade with a worldwide paying market, and improve.

Crucially, Amazon blows the free market for books wide open. And, fittingly, it’s a jungle out there.

Understand that the free market is carnivorous, and it’s fair. It doesn’t care about our feelings, or what friends and family think of our writing, or how good we think we are. When you self-publish, the free market will tell you where your books rank, and what they’re truly worth. The market will tell you in the form of good customer reviews, and brutal customer reviews, and in the amount of royalties that writing makes.

It’s the scary, thrilling dimension where your writing really tightens up and improves, and finds its audience. (If you like to do things like eat food and pay bills, anyway.)

It isn’t just down to one publisher and their opinion to decide if you should be published, and if there really are readers out there who may enjoy what you write. Self-publish and you can skip straight to the free market, and take some punches, and work out for yourself where your writing needs to improve – and whether there’s a market for your books.

You also get to call yourself an indie author, which is very cool indeed.

This way, you can also make an informed decision on whether you’d like to sign with a major publisher or not in the future. But there’s nothing to lose in self-publishing your books first. If opportunity does come knocking, you can always sign over the rights to your works later, if you prefer. But personally, I think I’d prefer to keep the rights to my books. Many Kindle authors do the same.

Again, nothing in this is either good or bad. They’re different ways to get published. But at least with Kindle, we have the option to throw our books to the ravenous, wonderful and gloriously savage free market. That place will tell you, quickly and without a doubt, where your writing can and should improve. And whether there’s really any demand for the frilly poems and self-hating screeds that we’re all capable of… instead of meaty, accessible prose that entertains.

You’ll learn fast, with bruised ego but growing dreams, where the demand sits for you to supply. Self-publishing your work will teach you, no-holds-barred, to become a better writer.

If I can’t spend every day honing my writing to better entertain my readers, then I may as well not write. Self-publishing is giving me valuable insight, and it’s helping me to grow as a professional writer. It’s insight I’d never get from a stack of rejection letters, or leaving finished manuscripts to fade and coffee-stain around the house.

So yep. Kindle. Free market. Recommend it. That’s ma thing. (Hope this helps.) *Thumbs up*.

Zen and the art of throwing shit out

I write. Maybe you write too. We collect pages of scribbled notes, like madmen.

‘My notes!’ you exclaim, upon moving house and trying to find room in the truck. ‘Not my precious notes! They must stay! They’re my life! My dreams! My everything!’

So, over months and years they grow into precarious stacks and crumpled snowdrifts. Cutesy concepts and half-baked characters, by the hundreds. ‘I’ll get to that idea one day,’ we tell ourselves.

We won’t.

Natural selection’s at work here. These old ideas are the rejects; they never evolved into stories because they never grew legs. Maybe they just weren’t meant to be. That’s life.

Or, just as likely: you’ve matured as a writer. Those old ideas are beneath you; behind you. You’re ready to be an empty vessel again; to wonder anew. And maybe it’s time for them to go away.

The other day I stacked up all the pages I’ve scribbled down, over years and years. It looked like a paper city. It looked like half a library at wizarding school. Countless crappy ideas for stories, that wouldn’t ever truly work out.

And I destroyed them. Tore them up and binned them. And it felt good.

Darwin went full Genghis Khan on my old ideas, and left only the strongest possibilities. It was genocide. Now only the best stories live on, in a single box file. Afraid for their lives. And, if I get around to them and they don’t perform, then they’re gone too. And I’m a very happy writer.

Now, with more emptiness around – both in my house and my braincase – there’s room for new book ideas. It’s like clearing the garden of weeds, to make space for spuds and carrots. Good working plants, with real promise and purpose. I’m forced into new ideas, new avenues, with a more practised writing style. It’s a fresh challenge, and I highly recommend it.

It’s all tied up with a general move in my life towards minimalism. Not the extreme, everything-in-a-backpack kind; just having much less crap around. Removing choices, really, in a world that gives us far too many for true peace of mind. I mentioned it in Sky Queen a couple of times: the easiest choice is no choice at all. Throw shit out, remove a choice, spend your time on something more worthwhile. Or else spend a good chunk of our lives just… pointlessly deciding.

We’ve all got clothes we don’t wear any more. Books that just gather dust. DVDs, (now ancient artefacts in a world of online renting), of which a handful get any regular use. We all started some hobby and tried it once, and the apparatus still clogs up our lives because ‘one day, I’ll go back to that.’ But we won’t. It’s clutter, and it’s weighing us down. Tying us mentally to what we don’t do; to what we tried and failed at.

Not to mention the practical, financial side of it. We’re paying rent or a mortgage for excess storage space, for shit we don’t need. If all the crap we don’t use could fill a room, and we could just live around it, then we’re paying for one room too many. Maybe we’re paying the kind of money in rent that’d buy a holiday, or career training, or something to treat the family.

We need food, warmth, shelter, friendship. A steady stream of novel experiences. Studies are showing that anything more than that really doesn’t have any great impact on our quality of life. The more money people make, the more ways they’ll find to spend it.

The wage doesn’t matter. You could make a million, find ways to spend a million, and be poor again. People either live within, or beyond, their means. That’s being rich or poor.

Of course, you can chase and chase for a newer phone; a nicer house. A better car and a promotion. It’s all a grinning advert; a state-of-the-art non-stop treadmill. It’s an expensive gym membership when any old dirt track or heavy object will give us the same results. It’ll have us chasing it all until the day we die. But, if it makes people happy, go ahead. It’s a free world.

I’d never push anyone into zen practice, but at least look it up. It’s not so much a religion as a thought filter on the world. It’s the state of no-mind; a search for connection with the only things that really matter. And, best of all for writers, it teaches clarity, brevity, simplicity. An artful joy in ordinary things.

I’m not telling anyone to buy into a certain lifestyle, or to throw out all your stuff and live in a cave. I’m saying this: pile up all your stuff, and throw something away. And see if that simple act doesn’t help your writing, or give you a fresh take on life.

If the next purchase and the next aren’t doing anything for you, and all you really want is satisfaction and peace, then save your hard-earned money and do the opposite.

Instead of accruing stuff, clutter, shite, just… throw it away. Write a new kind of story. Evolve.

 

A close encounter.

Hi everyone. Just some sneaky peekage at how my third novel, Ghost, is going. Kind of like a first-draft teaser trailer, for Tabitha’s third adventure.

In today’s roughed-out proceedings, Tabitha takes a trip to the museum. (Granted, it’s a blown-out museum in apocalyptic ruins. But a night out is a night out.)

Best enjoyed to the following spooky soundtrack, if you like the whole multi-sensory experience:

Tabitha stopped short; froze solid. There was a watcher there. A soldier. It was staring at something. Studying it. What was that, a fossil? A skeleton or something? Tabitha watched it from the shadows. Clenching her fists with a leathersteel creak.

The watcher startled and turned at a distant sound. Searching the shadowed hall for any sign of anything. Wait… there was a shape there. Dim, but moonlit. The soldier’s statue-head mask stared into the darkness. The stretched figure pulled the pistol slowly from its ornate belt. Taking aim on that hiding silhouette. Didn’t see Tabitha crouching, waiting. Staring with cat-glow eyes. She pounced from the balcony above it. Yelling and struggling as she shocked it into spasms and dropped it to its knees. Jerking and smoking from her crackling volts. Tabitha strangled it down in a deathly panic; it was flailing and gasping choked alien words. Struggling for life in the silence. Its armour grinding and squeaking on the hard shining floor. Jerking and shaking, and turning its gun on her. She tore the knife from its belt and cut its throat before the deafening shot. Held it in a writhing death-grip headlock until it gasped and struggled its last crackling breath. Finally fell limp and gigantic on moonlit marble, in a growing pool of golden blood. Sighing with relief, lying still to catch her breath, Tabitha grunted and shoved away its body on top of her.

She ripped the belt from its waist. Checked the heavy pistol and gulped a good half from the scaly water bottle. She slipped the watcher’s knife on horizontally across the back of her belt, like the tribe. With one last look at its cold bloody corpse, pooled and spread-eagled among the skulls and fossils, she was gone.

SHARK

A short fiction. This morning I took a quick break from the epicness of Tabitha’s third book to head-hop into someone else entirely, in a different universe, with a very different life. Who knows – maybe this could grow into a novel of its own. This is Shark.

 

Your friends ask you what it’s like to commit. To sleep with one girl for the rest of your life. I wish I could tell them. Because a few years in, you sleep with precisely no girls for the rest of your life. Me and my wife grew into fleshy home appliances. Solid. Hard-working. Reliable. But not those smart appliances that communicate with each other. The dumb kind. The ones that do the same damn jobs, over and over, and never say a word. ‘Til one day, dull and forgotten and taken for granted… they just break.

And out the door you go, and never come back. Probably replaced, with something sleek and new and expensive. It’s a free market. But when the scrapyard looks more appealing anyway, you know that something wasn’t right.

So, divorce and carving up assets, and all that shit. Thank god we never had kids. I wouldn’t put them through this. In the end I just gave her everything. She was the one who wanted all that in the first place. House; cars; brand-new triple glazing. Showroom home with a series of endless fussy textile nests. And more pristine places to take a shit than two people could ever need. That weird retro cake mixer that she wanted for months, and used once. All that other expensive shite to fill our grown-up dollhouse; our aquarium. Our display case. It was all paid up, and she kept it. I took all I needed. Clothes, steak and a bottle of beer. Hardly sensible… but things always sound better in a list of three. There was other stuff.

Now I get it, as I finally drive away. That house was big. Big enough for two people to live together and hardly see one other at all. That’s funny. And I’m smiling now, for the first time in years. Not that plastic-shit smile you cover your face with to hide the cracks, that gets you through the day without killing something. I mean an honest smile, at something that’s true, and funny, and real. The kind that shows all your wrinkles and flaws. A revelation.

You get more clarity when you live in your car. You’re a guru-hermit in a cave. Your walls are glass and metal, and duct-taped bin bags. The world isn’t a hidden horror, vast beyond your doorstep. Now, you’re in it. And, mostly, it’s fine. Nothing happens. No one cares.

The looks and glances happen more and more, when you get to work extra-early in the same damn shirt and trousers. Angry voices, dismembered through a phone line, just fade away. You used to care, so much. Everything, every facet of your buttoned-down impotent life, hung on you giving a shit about these angry bullshit clients. Then… it’s like a light switch. You realise just how much you don’t need this bloated salary. It doesn’t take all this to live in a car. The voices tune out like talk radio, and you hear the real music. You don’t need the money; you don’t need the stress. The song closes out, and fades to silence. The next song’s waiting, and for once in your life… it’s up to you.

So, I quit my job. Started hanging around the boxing gym, or whatever you’d call it. Penniless community kind of building, where everything’s gone to shit or getting there. If you want to see how a town’s doing, look at the places like that. But, once I stopped being terrified of those people, who I assumed were all somehow connected with drugs and robbery, I couldn’t keep away from the place. I hung back, lifting weights. Keep turning up, making whatever small talk’s going around, and slowly you’re in the pack. You realise just how wrong you really were.

A few weeks on, I don’t look so much like a block of flabby ham. Still in the car, but I’ve taken to moving around. One fella’s wife is a hairdresser, and she keeps me neat for nothing. She’d do anything for anyone, and she’s beautiful for it. They’re both like that, and they don’t have a penny, and it makes me ashamed of myself. I gave them what money I could, when I finally left that town. It wasn’t much. The friendship’s worth more.

I found another gym. Now I’m even learning to fight. I’m not afraid any more. I’m in a garden centre in the back of beyond, on minimum wage. You haven’t known happiness like a minimum wage. It takes all the pressure off. Everyone knows you won’t amount to anything. You know yourself that your housing options are at the bottom of the barrel. You can’t afford certain food, and the fat melts off you, and life gets pruned right back to the basics. Tough choices disappear.

Life grabs you hard, in its teeth and perfumes. You don’t need TV or internet to drown out its knocking at the door. Life’s like an ocean, and you’re free to dive in. If it only seems vast and poisoned and full of dangers, then it’s your own damn fault for being a goldfish.

You see more poverty though. You’re tuned into it. You talk to the homeless man; give him one stingy minute of your time. He’s not a junkie; he’s fucked up. He fought for your country in a pointless war, and gave up his innocence to do it. Now he’s a trained killer, with no one to kill. He’s a tiger locked in a supermarket. No point, no way, no sense. There is no metaphor, because the poor bastard doesn’t fit.

I ask him, one day, why he’s even here. Begging. If he’s trained to survive in wilderness, why he doesn’t just live in the wild. He gives his excuses, but maybe I planted a seed. Maybe he’ll sleep on it, and change. I tell him I hope I’ll see him again. I tell him, kindly, to think outside the box. To stop waiting for orders, and start fighting a war on his shitty life. He says he needs orders, these days. It’s how he’s been trained to think. So, I give him an order: change his shitty life. I say that’s his mission now. That’s his campaign. To drag himself out of the shit.

Talk to the right people for long enough, and you get to be a bit more blunt. They’re not rich clients, and you don’t need to please them. The right people appreciate it. It works.

I walked out of the garden centre after that. All my plants were rooting, and I was done.

When your life goes off the rails, you realise you’re all-terrain. There’s no track; no routine. The hours and minutes in the day just merge into awake, and asleep. There’s only hungry or full, and nothing else matters. It’s a different reality. You live in a separate dimension.

I’ve done everything I can to keep from seeming crazy. I wash; I shave. I live in hotel rooms, like a semi-normal person. I leave the tinfoil hat on the bedside table. But when I talk like this, people call me insane. They’re laughing it; they’re shouting it. Yelling it, like fanatics, from between their prison bars.

So, I work my odd jobs. More so online. I bank the cash. I keep quiet, and wander, and collect new friends. In some countries, it’s always just summer or storms. I like both. And it’s cheap.

I’ve always liked sharks. They’re vicious, and ancient, and stripped right back. Nothing extra; nothing needed.

When there’s something, they eat. When there’s nothing, they’re gone.

Immersion

Captain Jaxx U’dala double-checked his flight suit’s oxygen hose as he mounted the telescopic ladder to his F-101 Silver Falcon starfighter-bomber. The Host were advancing into the Ceres system with terrifying efficiency, annihilating countless strategic fortifications and civilian settlements as they went. Even the pre-emptive mass-destruction policies of the new Federation President Sal Raen did little to slow their progress. It was very possible he thought, as he armed his fighter’s twin plasma cannons and fired up the afterburners, that this would be his last flight.

Jack climbed into his burly starfighter with a weary grunt, itching his nose like crazy. A lifelong nervous twitch, to hide the twisted-knot feeling in his stomach. He flipped bright switches and kissed his fiancé’s clear plastic crucifix, dangling from the eject handle. The Host were burning through Ceres like a plague, harvesting everything as they went. Thousands of families were dying by the minute, and there wasn’t a single fucking thing that anyone could do to stop it. Raen’s trigger-happy false-hope policies were too little, too late. Gripping the thrust, Jack fired up the engines to thundering white light. Tried his best to bury a dirty dark dagger of a thought. This might be the last time I fly.

These are two very different ways to tell the same sci-fi story. The first is all about procedure, accuracy and military precision (well, the best I can do with those anyway). The second version is all about immersion and relatability. Personally, I prefer the second style both to write, and to read.

If you can get readers to relate, you can tell them anything. That’s the grand prize in fiction writing, and it can be hard to do. Not every reader will like this style, but many folks will. Each to their own. But this post is for the people who prefer example two – and want to look at the tricks we can use to write in a more immersive, relatable way.

The first thing to note about example two is the shorthand. I’ve tried to say more, with less.

  • Fiction is always about people first. As a writer, it’s your job to do the heavy lifting in helping your readers to relate. We don’t care about the operational status of Captain Jaxx U’dala’s flight suit’s oxygen hose. Most of us have never seen an oxygen hose, and it’s probably not even called an oxygen hose. In the first example, we’re missing the point – which is that Captain Jaxx U’dala is nervous. We’ve all been nervous, and we can all relate to that. We all know what it’s like to have that knotted feeling in our stomach. Don’t forget that, as living beings, we are our gut. There’s a rudimentary brain connected with it. Gut feelings are powerful immersive tools to transport your readers into your hero’s head.

 

  • Captain Jaxx U’dala is basically just Top Gun in space. Top Gun’s a human thing, so just make him human: Jack. We should already know by now that Jack is a captain, so just Jack will do fine. We know Jacks; we’ve met Jacks. But we’ve never met a Jaxx… so how can we relate?

 

  • Most readers don’t care what a spaceship’s called and what specific flavour of warfare it’s designed for. It’s just a spaceship. Or a gunship. Or a starfighter. People have seen Star Wars; they already have an idea in their heads. Instead, focus on the description that’ll communicate the most about its look and feel. It’s burly. Big, mean, grey… full of guns and shit. Just burly.

 

  • I’ve taken out all the military-speak too. I have nothing against it, but it’s not for me. Too many efficiencies, strategic fortifications, pre-emptives and plasma cannons can make a story sound less like a story, and more like a marketing brochure from a weapons developer. It distances the story from its audience, and crucially, damages the human element that we’re trying to big up.

 

  • There’s always a risk of getting down in the weeds; getting caught up in the little things that don’t matter when you’ve already made your point. I do it myself, especially with my crybaby superheroine, Tabitha. But I’d sooner get bogged down in human thoughts and emotions than the cold specifics of weapons, hardware and procedure. Again, that’s just my preference.

 

  • Crucially, in the second example, I’ve used objects. Not oxygen hoses, but things that we can relate to and that tell a deeper story. By including his fiancée’s crucifix dangling from the fighter’s eject handle, we glimpse deeper stories underneath the current one: that Jack has someone he loves deeply; someone to protect and fight for back home. That he, or his fiancée, is religious and holds to certain beliefs and moral codes. And, that that eject handle is on Jack’s mind. Maybe, subconsciously, the mental image of a cross even conjures up a kind of religious weight and biblical fable of good versus evil, and lends that gravity to Jack’s story. (Or maybe not). But objects and clutter focus readers’ minds, and create much more immersion in a story.

 

  • As another object, I’ve included a thrust control too. It’s a mainstay in sci-fi movies, action movies, driving movies… everyone likes a forceful shunt on an important lever. Who knows why, it’s just satisfying. Especially if it makes the jet engines on a burly starfighter begin to thunder with white light.

 

  • And finally, the last line in the passage: This might be the last time I fly. Whereas the first example tells us what he’s thinking, the second example shows us. It’s a perk that’s unique to the written word, and its great treasure: that we can inhabit other people’s thoughts. Read their minds. It’s not something that movies can do. Comics rely on thought bubbles. But novels can talk to you, the reader, in the person’s thoughts themselves.

 

So there you go. I hope this has been useful in dissecting some different ways to write fiction. As I see it, all good stories are blueprints for human behaviour. They derive from it, they inform it, they reflect it. They can even shape it. The more a story sticks to human behaviour, the better.

Err on the side of immersion, emotion and relatability in your writing, and you stand a much better chance of suspending readers’ disbelief and, crucially, making a story about anything (even the outlandish) matter more to all the vastly different people who’ll read it.

Ghost sneak peek: Boomer

Tabitha’s third sci-fi epic, Ghost, is taking shape. Random thoughts are growing into paragraphs and chapters. Vague ideas are morphing into characters. (Just trying to document the process as I go).

One such character belongs to Serenity’s Guardian marines. He’s Boomer.

A tank drone stared with a cold jerking lens; a twelve-foot giant twitching and turning fearsome guns with a dozen whirring servos. Moving too quick and coordinated to feel animal, though the troops seemed attached to it. Tabitha thought of Seven, and guessed she knew where they were coming from. If this thing had fought alongside them, and taken hits, and saved lives… hard not to feel that special connection, she supposed.

‘That’s Boomer,’ said a passing marine. She was smiling, with more than a hint of pride. Setting down a crate to scratch her oil-smeared forehead. ‘He’s high maintenance. Getting old,’ she confided. ‘But, I wouldn’t want any other heavy with me in a fight.’

‘He’s been around for a while?’ said Tabitha, studying its mismatched limbs and plate armour.

‘Since the unit started,’ the woman replied, with a dimpled grin. Her eyes were lighting up as she came over. ‘He’s had so many custom updates and part replacements, he’s not even the same mech any more.’

‘You’re his mechanic?’ said Tabitha.

‘Nah, just partner in crime,’ she replied happily. ‘I was there when he took an airstrike to the head, during the pirate conflicts,’ she chuckled. ‘Turned him into burning scrap, and a big ugly crater. But that gatling still had power, and his brain was still plugged into it. He just kept firing, until we won the checkpoint. Big dumb bastard,’ she said fondly. ‘But, he’s our big dumb bastard.’

‘I know what you mean,’ Tabitha replied, with a smile. Watching Seven lazing like a crocodile across the hangar.

‘Guess he’ll need a new upgrade now?’ said the woman. ‘You gonna work your magic on him? Bring him over to the land of the living?’

‘…I can try,’ Tabitha admitted, with a smiling shrug.

‘Ok,’ said the woman, hesitating. ‘But… with respect, ma’am, I’d appreciate if you did more than just try. We’d hate to lose him.’

‘I understand. I’ll be careful,’ Tabitha assured her.

‘Appreciated, ma’am,’ the marine said with a smile. Hefting up her crate again to carry it off across the hangar.

Well, no time like the present, Tabitha told herself. Walking up to the tank drone as she pulled a piece of the volt-tree from her belt. Boomer’s whirring lens stared coldly; the rest of the metal monster stood stock-still. The clear rubbery bark stuck and spread against the drone’s side; feeling and creeping with glowing tendrils to mesh with its joints and circuits. Tabitha watched its progress intently. Pressing a hard sparking hand against the material to direct its growth.

God, I hope this works.

Knowing

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There’s a common trait among successful people.

It applies to creative types just as it does to people in business, sales, finance and any other discipline you can think of. You already read it in the title – it’s knowing.

Read. Watch. Train. Live and breathe your industry. When you train every day, you know what you’re capable of. When you don’t, you’re taking stabs in the dark. Know the business and what’s happening in it. Know what works. Know what your potential crowd are desperately looking for, and happy to pay you for. Know.

Creativity, and business. The two don’t have to be worlds apart. Why shouldn’t artists, writers and performers feel entitled to some success doing what they love? What could be less motivating than seeing no success in what we create? Receiving positive attention, and hearing praise for our work?

It’s not about being successful for the sake of showing off your riches, or being some super-alpha power player. Real wealth is measured in time. It’s all about making money that frees you up from the rat race. You don’t count savings in thousands, but in months and years where you can do your own thing. Wealth gives you the freedom to produce creative work in your own time, and on your own terms.

To make that kind of money, that freedom money, you need to know your business.
To make more freedom money, know your business better.

Where the uninitiated tread carefully through their chosen industry, successful people charge straight in. They already spent all night training for it. Watching and reading about it. They’re completely certain about it, and completely certain of what to do if it doesn’t work out. They invest years in it.

Through reading, watching, training and experience, they already have the answers. They’ve already invested their time in it, and so they know. If we immerse ourselves completely in our chosen industry, then we get to know too. That kind of certainty is a powerful thing; it kills our fear and doubt. Certainty and passion for what we do are a very powerful combination to keep on creating what we love.

The real question isn’t whether we’d like to be rich and successful by doing what we love. It’s whether we’d like the freedom to do what we love for life.

To achieve that, we need to make money to live on. To do that, first achieve certainty about your craft and its industry. Spend all your time on it, and training in it. Know.

 

The Find

It wasn’t clear at first, what we’d found. This strange little thing, caked in rotten-smelling mud. We’d been digging trenches in the misty bogs, a mile or so from some village. Can’t remember its name now. But I’ll never forget digging up that chunk of metal. A figure; ice-cold and heavy as a paperweight. Smooth and shiny like steel. The way it stared at me from the mud, with those beady eyes. The design looked Celtic enough; it was a rare enough find in itself. But… it hadn’t rusted. Thousands of years, soaking in this marshland, and the thing was smooth and pristine as the day it was forged. That was the other thing – we weren’t entirely sure if it’d been forged at all. The style, the dating… it was all wrong. It was too perfect. The metal was too pure. The workmanship, too advanced and too symmetrical. Like nothing we’d ever seen before. Almost as if… I know how ridiculous this must sound. But it looked like a template, for artists to follow. Like it’d been given to them by someone else. Like it didn’t… didn’t belong in this world.

Creative death

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You’ve been there.

You’ve worked your arse off to create something you love, and got it out into the world. But now, there’s nothing. You’ve used up all your ideas in one go. You’re aimless, and doubting yourself, and that next project is a total non-starter. Things are grey; your mind’s blank. May as well give up now.

Life moves in cycles and seasons. Night follows day; summer follows winter. There’s always a flip side; there’s always a price to pay. For new things to come into being, old things need to die.

But it’s not such a bad thing. If we can make peace with that idea, then life can be much more vivid and serene while we’re here to enjoy it. It becomes a richer experience. Rather than resenting a creative block, we can see it as the death of old ideas, before we start to find even better ones.

To make something as beautiful as a luna moth, Nature needs to kill an ugly-ass caterpillar. Many of our doomsday fantasies imagine Earth as a scorched grey wasteland – when in fact there could be more jungles and wildlife thriving than ever before. Jeff Goldblum said it: life finds a way.

It’s the same with our creativity; it will find a way. We’re burning up time to put our art into the world, and create new things for our crowd. But the energy that goes into that work can’t be reclaimed. We have to find new energy, from new places.

To evolve and develop as creators, certain aspects of our creativity need to fade and die. It’s not a depressing thing, but a happy thing – it’s how our minds make room for newer, stronger aspects. It’s how we refine our craft into expertise. It’s the only way a masterpiece can happen.

Sculptors destroy stone to make statues. Farmers burn acres to plant new crops. Without that destruction, there can’t be further creation. Without those flat grey times between books, paintings or whatever we create, then there can’t be even better creations to come. Accept it. Welcome it.

All we have to do is recognise those times in our lives for that sense of creative death – and go through that empty doubt and uncertainty until we reach the far side, and creative rebirth.

You’ve been on top of your creative game before – and you will be again. That mental Renaissance is coming – so long as you welcome the Dark Ages in between.

 

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Cinematic writing

I love movies. I love the artistry that creates a scene, from sets and lighting to props, costume and camera work. I’m inspired by that visual storytelling, and it seeps into my writing like blood.

Below is an experiment for my next book, Ghost. I approached the introductory sequence as if it was a movie script, and tried to picture the scenes to a soundtrack I love. (Also below.) Hit play as you read for the full effect – I hope. I’d love to know your thoughts, and whether you’ve tried anything similar in your own writing.

ghost-intro-script-andrew-hall

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