"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Your Sacred Writing Space

Dear Fellow Writer,

I hope you're writing regularly and that you're happy doing it .

Today we look at getting your own writing space and why it's so important to your creativity - and sanity as a writer.

Click HERE to discover and peruse my Amazon books
Keep writing!


Your Sacred Writing Space
Sacred Writing Space

Getting what you want in this world requires an act of will over nature. If the natural untethered state of things is to move toward chaos, then humanity is here to inject order. 

And to create order we must make decisions about what makes our lives better, more comfortable and more effective, if possible without causing too much strife and discomfort to nature, to what's already good, or to those around us.

It's all very well having a Zen-like respect for the universe, and a belief in karma, but we humans are designed to be creative. And as we know from physics, nothing is created from nothing - it is all disassembled and reorganized energy.

In this sense, all creativity is disruptive. And often the most disruptive thing a writer can do is to insist on having a writing space somewhere in their living quarters!

I fought for years to get my own writing space. It was hard when I had no writing career to speak of. Trying to convince partners that I should be allowed to take over an entire room to have as my own was an uphill struggle. Often too, when I did take over a room and decorate it to my satisfaction, my partner would then decide I'd made the space perfect for some other purpose: a guest bedroom, a child's play area or even once, an ideal studio apartment for paying tenants. Gah!

It was easy enough when I was single. Simply putting a cheap desk in my bedroom usually did the trick. If the bedroom wasn't big enough, the kitchen table had to suffice. In one shared house I converted the cupboard under the stairs, a space that which wasn't big enough to stand in and had no windows - or much air for that matter!

Stephen King used to write in the basement of his house, close to a hot water pipe that acted as a radiator in the cold months. He wrote in there during the evenings to, you guessed it, get away from the sound of the TV: the writer's perennial distracter.

Philip K Dick rented a tumbledown shack a couple of miles away from his apartment, so that he felt like he was going to work to write, rather than stay at home and do nothing or get distracted by his (usually nagging) partner.

Meeting Robyn, my darling wife, also a full-time writer since 1998, was a godsend. Not only did she already have a writing room of her own, she understood implicitly that writers need their own space. 

When we moved in together, two rooms were automatically set aside as writing spaces, one for each of us. These days, Robyn doesn't use hers. It doubles as an office for employees when we need assistance for a major project. Robyn writes in the front room during the day. Sometimes I do too. 

But mostly I write from here: my dream space, surrounded by thousands of reference books and files, all my toys, and more technology than I could have ever dreamed of owning!

The thing I don't have in the room is a phone. Hate the things. Over the years I've noticed the only people who disturb you during the day are telemarketers and bill collectors. And who needs either of them?

Ultimately, it's not the physical writing space that's as important as the writing space in your head. The room is really a trigger. You need it so that as soon as you walk in and sit down, your mind goes into writing mode, automatically.

Having your own desk and work-space is taken for granted in the corporate world. You wouldn't dream of employing someone and then not give them a PC, a phone, a desk, a chair and space in a cubicle. It's fundamental to productivity. So why would you think you don't need these things in a home office?

My advice is, wherever you live, no matter what your circumstance, you aim to get your own writing space and, even if it's just the corner of a bed, an outhouse, or a cold step somewhere, you should begin to regard that space as sacred.

Because it is sacred. Once you've written for any length of time in your sacred writing space, then being blocked is an impossibility.

The mind loves routine. The more you do something in the same environment, the better able your mind is able to switch to the requirements of that setting. It's like training an animal to always sleep in the same place. We're creatures of habit. Once you understand that, you'll see the benefit of manufacturing the writing habit through self-discipline and subconscious triggers like your desk, chair, computer and personal writing effects.

You need everything that motivates you within reach. Your dictionaries, writers’ market guides, encyclopedias, and your favorite writing resources should be only a step or preferably an arm's length away. 

Fill your space with personal trinkets that inspire you. I have a statue of Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing, on my desk; a bust of Beethoven; a banker's lamp; a rock crystal; a remote control toy helicopter and incense burning paraphernalia: all things that make me feel at home. I have pictures on the walls of past projects: book covers; play, film and writing-talk posters. I have a whiteboard that I fill with inspiring quotes by other writers or people I admire. It all helps make my personal writing space feel special. And I believe it works wonders for my creativity.   

But what you mustn't do is to fill your writing space with distractions.
Once you have something in your room that persistently takes you away from writing: remove it. Banish it.

In one writing space I had back in the UK I wrote on a computer that had games on it. I was forever flipping over the screen to complete just one more level. It was disastrous for my long term concentration level and productivity.

These days, I don't have any computer games preloaded onto my writing computers. And when I'm writing, I switch off the internet connection. You can't concentrate properly if emails or updates are constantly pinging when you should be focused on your next sentence!

Remember, writing is all about habit and you need only good habits in your writing space. The sacred is closely related to ritual. And rituals require strict adherence if they're going to be meaningful and helpful to you.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dialogue - The Ultimate Writer's Guide

Dear Fellow Writer,

I hope you're writing and that you're happy.

TODAY, my darling wife has released a new book on fiction creation:

Dialogue - The Ultimate Writer's Guide
99 Cents for ONLY 24 hours - then it goes up to RKP: $7.49

To follow up on the runaway success of her Show Don't Tell book, Robyn Opie Parnell has compiled a new look (and the final word!) on creating the best dialogue for your fiction.

Remember, Robyn has had 94 books published by different publishers all over the world - so you can guarantee she knows exactly what she's talking about!

99 Cents for ONLY 24 hours - then it goes up to RKP: $7.49
Dialogue - The Ultimate Writer's Guide


On Wednesday, after six weeks of 2000+ words a day, I finished the first draft of my latest crime thriller: Purge. It's come in at 75,000 wordslonger than I expected. However, it may well double in size during the second draft - that's my thinking at the moment.

For the time being though, I will leave the first draft to thaw for the next month while I work on something else - probably a nonfiction project - and then return to the manuscript when I feel I have enough distance to rewrite the story as a full sized novel.

Click HERE to discover and peruse my Amazon books.

Keep writing!

Your First Week as a Full Time Writer

Your First Week as a Full Time Writer

Last week I said that you should plan to have just three main activities outlined at the beginning of your writing career.

1. Your number one priority (like novel writing etc.)

2. Your 'take a break' activity (blogging etc.)

3. The sure thing - the writing activity that will guarantee income (editing, ghosting etc.)

Why just three?

Mainly because, when you're starting your writing career, more than three will be too much to handle.

More than three and you'll spread yourself too thinly and likely achieve little - which will be frustrating to you and everyone around you.

Plus, your three main writing activities are not the only things you need to focus on during your working week. 
No. Think of your three 'things to do' as your core business.

But real life is not just about writing. 

In order to be a fully rounded person, you have other considerations too. 

Your health; your spiritual needs; your need to give love, affection and time to others; your need to study and learn about new things; your fundamental need for joy, happiness and your right to relax and let go sometimes.  

In life, everything is interconnected. 

When those around grow concerned about your intention to start a writing career, they're often worried that you will somehow change your priorities in regard to all the other things in your life. 

In order to counter this - because as a writer it is easy to get obsessed - you need to make sure that part of your weekly 'action plan' takes every aspect of your life into consideration.

Your Typical Working Week

When I made the decision to become a full time writer for the final time, I realized I would need to take a radical approach.

Previously I had discovered that working hard at writing all day, for some reason, did not cut it.

For instance, one of the times before, I went full force into writing plays and film scripts.

Fine for about two weeks. 

Then I started getting more interested in playing solitaire on the computer - and then a shoot em up game that I kept promising myself I'd stop after the next level. 

Within a short while I was drinking beer for inspiration. Nice but naughty.

Pretty soon I'd run out of money and within a mere six weeks, I was back at work as an office temp. D'oh!

Warning: this could happen to you if you don't plan for writing independence properly!

A time previous to that I'd gone all out to write a novel. 

After two weeks of writing all day, I noticed I was getting weird aches and pains in my back and sides. I kept getting up at first, pacing between sentences, then I decided that long walks might be good for me, then walks to friends and to the pub, then no sitting at all for long periods - instead using time for thinking while avoiding writing. 

Pretty soon I was looking up the Musicians Wanted ads and the novel was shelved...

While doing nothing but writing might sound glamorous and fulfilling at first, it rarely stays that way, unless you take into account that you're not just a writer, you're a person too - with other issues that need to be addressed.

The final time I launched into a full time writing career, the one I'm still on, fourteen years later, I did it properly.

Here are five questions I asked myself before I took the plunge:

               1. What am I going to do to relax?

               2. What am I going to do to keep healthy - mentally and physically?

               3. What am I going to do to have fun?

               4. What am I going to do to give?

               5. What am I going to do to show my appreciation for my partner?

To be honest it was these, non-writing questions that enabled me to stay motivated and focused on what had to be done over the coming years.

As an exercise, write your own answers to the above questions. 

During your working week, as well as allocating time to your writing, you must also allocate time to these other non-writing activities. 

Don't kid yourself into believing that you can focus on these other issues outside of the working day. You're designing a lifestyle here. You need to be a fully rounded person all of the time in order to write. You have to be whole, right from day one.

So instead of launching into only writing in my first month as a full time writer, I also made time for other things. 

For instance, I always took lunch breaks because I knew I needed them to unwind.

I also took time out to watch a fun TV show during the day.  

I spent an hour a day cleaning up the house because I knew my partner liked that. 

I gave away ten percent of everything I earned (which wasn't much!) to a local charity.

I turned off the computer for an hour or two every day so that I could read and study other writers.

I joined a gym so I could stay fit and went two or three times a week - during the day when it was nice and quiet.

I scheduled a trip out once a week, for a drive or a walk in the country.

In short, I made sure that I was mentally and physically self sufficient as a way of reinforcing to my subconscious that from now on, this is my life. 

I decided, right from day one, that there was no need to work flat out all the time at the beginning because I didn't intend to work flat out at anything ever again! 

Do you get what I mean?

If you're changing your life, you need to be realistic and honest with yourself. 

Changing everything all at once is not going to work. 

You're the way you are for a reason.

Don't just ask yourself what writing you want to do. Also ask, What do you need long term to remain comfortable, healthy and happy? 

Coming to terms with your answers to these personal questions, I believe, is crucial to your long term success.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

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