Two years later, it’s here!

It’s the moment you can’t believe will ever arrive — the first time you have your book in your hands. The book you’ve worked on for two whole years. I remember sitting on my bed with my laptop, furiously typing up my notes for the sample chapter I was to send the editor I hoped was going to be MY editor if she accepted my book proposal. The phone rang — it was my sister, who still hadn’t gone into labour. And now here I am, one month away from my nephew’s second birthday, typing furiously into my laptop, my finished book by my side.

Creating a book the traditional way is such a long process, laughably so if you consider how fast new media moves today. But man, it is such a privilege to be able to even to tell you that. The physical book is here at last (and you’ll see how I feel about that in the video below :) but I’m hoping that it’s more than just paper and pages. Without wanting to get too woo woo on you, I’m hoping that you’ll feel the intentions I had when I was sat in the exact spot i’m sitting in now, typing into my laptop. When it was just me and my thoughts and my wrists aching with RSI. Because I’m thrilled the book is a real book, and that I’ll get to do my wee book tour in the summer and celebrate this object we made, but the real magic will happen when you’re sitting quietly reading the words, with a cup of tea by your side and maybe a cat on your lap. I hope that you find the words useful. Comforting. Inspiring. Affirming.

I just hope you like the book, basically :)

#scared #happy #overwhelmed #grateful

How to make dreams come true

Is there anything better than a brand new notebook? I love the smell of the blank paper, the feel of the cover in my hand, the promise of all the ideas I’m going to catch and keep. Whenever I start a new project I like to treat myself to a new notebook (any excuse!) as a way to mark the beginning — I did this with my book and now have a battered Moleskine full of all the threads I wove together.

I use an A5 Filofax (an ochre Malden, for all you Filofanatics out there) for all my business notes as I like the flexibility the loose pages and dividers give me. I’ve tried using online calenders and note-catchers, but nothing beats paper and pen for fast notes and brainstorming — it just suits my brain better.

So it was at the end of last year when it occured to be me that I could use a similar system for my dreaming & scheming. I’ve taken one of Andrea Schroeder’s journalling courses and have always admired her daily journalling, and while I don’t have any painterly talents, i do like to get my crafty on once in a while. So I turned my spare A5 Filofax (aqua Finsbury) into my Creative Dream Journal. And by “creative dream journal” I mean the stuff I want to manifest and make happen. Because to do lists are how I organise my daily tasks, so why not try a to do journal?

It could work, right?

There are currently six sections I’m working with: Life, Love, Business, Home, Abundance and 2012. Rather than be too precious about it, I’m sticking in magazine tearings, using lots of coloured paper and blinging it all out with washi tape and Sharpies. I’ve also recently discovered the joys of blank paper. I always use lined Moleskines for journalling — there’s something about the orderliness of the lines that keeps my scrawly handwriting in check and helps the words flow — but in my CDJ i’m using coloured pens on blank paper and it seems to access a part of my brain that’s been wanting to play for a while. I’ve been yearning for COLOUR! and scribbles! and messy mindmaps!

(I’m sure all you creative journallers out there are nodding your heads, but it took me a while to figure all this out ;)

I work in each section when I have something to add — sometimes that’s daily, sometimes it’s weekly, but either way, having a turquoise binder near me helps to jog my memory. It feels like i’m more actively participating in my dream creation/wish fulfillment/possibility attraction.

The 2012 section has been well-thumbed as i work through my Unravelling workbook and sketch out plans for the new year. Life has a driving instructor’s card taped in as i plan to retake my test this year. Love is filling up with lists and letters. Home holds all the plans for my next move, including the adoption of a kitty.

Business is my space for dreaming up new ways to send my work out into the world. I’ve also been doing the Business Soul Sessions exercises in here and enjoying looking at my biz from different angles (including imagining my biz as a person, above.)

Meanwhile, I’m unpicking my ideas around income, relationships, possibility and the future in the Abundance section. This is curently the least used section of my CDJ — even though I whole-heartedly believe in abundance, I still struggle with it, if that makes sense, so i knew I needed to give it some space. Or perhaps it will be absorbed into the other sections — this is why using a Filofax (or any binder) works so well. It’s a perpetual work in progress that can be added to and edited as the whim takes me. It’s never finished, unlike a bound notebook. There’s something incredibly satisfying about working on all my plans in this way, and being able to reorder pages is helping me reorder my world too.

So there you have it. Operation Make Dreams Happen is a go.

How do you organise your dreaming and scheming?

This is how I write: Justine Musk

I can’t remember how I came across Justine Musk’s work but I do know it stays with me long after I’ve read her words (I often link to her posts in my Friday round-ups). The author of three dark fantasy novels, mama to five boys and a prolific blogger, Justine’s got the kind of edgy style I love, so I was thrilled when she agreed to do the interview. Hot pink notebooks, candles and badass creativity? Bring it ON.

Ladies & gentlemen, please welcome Ms Justine Musk…

SC: What do you use for writing a) notes/ideas/brainstorming and b) your books?

JM: I love big eco-friendly notebooks with hard covers (hot pink when I can get it) and blank pages. Never lined. I need all that gorgeous empty space for scrawling and mind-mapping and random jottings. I do my actual writing on my laptop, but there’s something about the hand-to-paper connection, the physical motion of writing, that helps me think things out.

I switched from Microsoft Word to Open Office because it runs on the open-source Linux platform and you can download it for free. I’m a big fan of Dropbox, which allows you to access your files from any computer anywhere. I just joined Pinterest with the intention to create an online visionboard for the novel I’m working on now.  I want to access that visual, holistic, intuitive side of my brain when developing a storyworld, so I will try to get away from words and think in terms of images. You can make new associations that way, flash on insights, open up new ideas.

How do you begin?

It starts with snippets and fragments of things that live in my head for a while – a half-formed idea, or a sense of a character, or a setting I want to use, or an image that keeps nagging at me, or even just a feeling.  Then those fragments start joining up with each other in a way that begins to feel like a story. There’s always one aspect I find really compelling, that drives me onward, and the rest coalesces around that, or grows organically out of it.

This part of the process rarely if ever happens at my desk.  A lot of it happens when I’m driving.  I’ll be rocking out in my car and have that Eureka moment, when different ideas click together and boom.  You know it’s a book.  The question is whether or not you need to write it.

Describe your writing process (edit as you go? Shitty first draft? Daily word count goal?)

The daily word count thing has never worked for me.  Time tends to move differently according to which part of the novel you’re working on.  You might have a day where all you get is two paragraphs, but those could be difficult paragraphs that blast you through a vexing plot problem. So it’s still a total win.

I’ve also learned that if I hit a block, it’s a sign that something isn’t working and I need to back up and take another look at how the story is evolving.  If I ignore it and press on to meet some arbitrary word count, I tend to zig when I should zag and end up trashing those pages anyway.

The important thing is to stay in daily contact with the novel, even when all you can do is dream it out a little more in your mind.

I’ll do some line-by-line editing as I go, but I leave the heavy lifting of deep, structural revision until I’m working with a complete manuscript.  I need to see how all the parts relate to each other.

And I totally believe in the power of the shitty first draft.

What do you do when the words aren’t coming?

I’ve learned to work it hard, then release and surrender.  You can get trapped in ruts of thinking where your mind doesn’t go anywhere new, just repeats the same old patterns.  So you sever those patterns by switching your attention to something completely different.  Or even just zoning out.  That frees up your undermind to mull things over for a while, do its own thing, so when you return to the project you can see your way forward again.

So I’ll work out, or take a nap, or meditate, or find an excuse to drive somewhere.  I will drive just to drive, because something about it frees up my thinking.  And I’ll stay open and receptive to whatever comes to me.

And I’ll read. There’s something about reading fiction that primes my brain and makes me eager to get back to writing.

I’ll also meet up with my writing coach (Rachel Resnick), who will offer up some brilliant nugget that inspires me.

Please describe any writing rituals you have (I’m assuming you have some as all writers I know have some, including me)

I clear my desk, except for a few talismanic objects I’ve chosen to represent the novel in some way and which help trigger the right mindset.  I’ll take a few minutes to meditate and downshift into the creative brain waves.  I put on music – I make a kind of soundtrack for each novel.  Sometimes I’ll light a candle, supposedly to signify that I’ve crossed over into this creative space, but mostly because I just like candles.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process/madness?

I love to revise. I love the feeling you get when you re/vision something and understand how to make it better.  The story moves in your hands and takes on its final form.

Justine Musk blogs about badass creativity: how to channel your signature voice and express it in the world with purpose and impact. She’s the author of three dark fantasy novels published by Penguin and Simon + Schuster, and is at work on a psychological thriller called THE DECADENTS.  She lives in Los Angeles with her five sons.

Cartoon portrait of Justine by Mars Dorian

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Thank you so much, Justine!

You might like this, too: This is how I write: Danielle LaPorte

Look what arrived today!

The door bell rang — it was the postman. He had a package that wouldn’t fit through the letter box, so I buzzed him in and padded down the stairs in bare feet. Waiting for me was a package from Chronicle Books. Could it be…. ? I ran back back up the stairs (not a small feat), stood in my kitchen and ripped open the mailer. And there it was — the book I created with Jen and Amanda. :) There’s not much light today but I had to take a Polaroid of it — and here are the Instagram shots taken as I first looked through the pages. A red letter day, frends!

* The book won’t actually be available till May, but you can pre-order (and possibly get it sooner) on Amazon…