Sunday, 20 April 2014

On the awesomeness of Libraries

Being a bookworm, it is unsurprising that I have a huge fondness for libraries and have done, ever since I was a small child. I'm sure that many blogs dedicated to books and writing have done a feature on this topic, but libraries are so important to me, I couldn't resist doing one of my own. So here are my reasons why libraries are awesome, and why I think they should remain open as much as possible:

1. Libraries are free!

This is such an obvious point to make, but sometimes I think people forget that in their own town there is somewhere where they can obtain books, newspapers and magazines without having to pay anything. In this day and age, it is so easy and convenient to just download an e-book or pop to the corner shop to buy a magazine, but this costs money and if you are trying to save up for something, then libraries can be a great resource. I think being an active member of a library has saved me thousands of pounds over the years, since I read on average one book every two weeks. If I bought a book or downloaded an e-book every time I wanted to read something new instead of just checking one out for free I would be a lot poorer than I am - I might even be in debt!

2. Libraries Promote Discovery

Since the books in the library are free, its easier for people to take a risk and try authors they wouldn't otherwise. On the rare occasions that I do buy books from a bookshop I tend to purchase books from authors that I already like since I want to make sure that I get the best value for my money, whereas I'm more likely to try a book outside of my comfort zone when I'm browsing in the library. If I try a book from the library and I find I don't like it, I can always take it back and try something else, whereas I can't go back to a bookshop and get a refund just because I didn't enjoy the story. I've discovered a lot of great authors through libraries and I think my reading tastes would be a lot less broad if I bought all the books I read.

3. Libraries Promote A Sense of Community

Libraries aren't just places to sit and read in peace, they are also great places to meet people. Most libraries run lots of different activities and classes every week, which can range from reading groups to choirs, as well as specialized activities for children. Libraries also promote a sense of community because they are open to everyone, no matter what their reading ability is. Libraries are one of the few places where old and young people can be found together, one of the few places where it doesn't matter how much you earn or what you're wearing or what you believe in, you're still welcome to come in and learn something or try something new.

Over the course of my life, libraries have been a refuge from bad weather, a place to cure boredom or loneliness, somewhere I can go when I'm too broke to even buy a coffee from a coffeeshop, a place to meet up with my friends, a place to escape to when life gets too much and now that I'm a nanny, somewhere to take my charges when nowhere else is open. Libraries stimulate my mind, and make me feel inspired even when I'm in a bad mood, and I think they are invaluable not just to me as an individual, but to society in general. I believe that libraries build people up, and that they should be used and appreciated instead of being taken for granted, which they often are. 

If you are interested in this topic, then I would recommend you read The Library Book. It's a collection of essays written by famous authors and journalists, all explaining why they love libraries and why the British Government shouldn't close them. My favourite article in the book is by Caitlin Moran, it is a very touching account of how going to the library helped her realize who she wanted to be, namely a highly revered writer for the Sunday Times.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Relieving Writer's Block

One of the things I love most about the writing process is that inspiration can strike at any time. It can come from anywhere or anything; fom overhearing a particular sentence, or from a tv clip, or from going for a walk outside, or even from hearing a song. Sometimes however, even the most creative of writers can get stuck for ideas and suffer from writer's block.  Here's what I do when it happens to me:

1. Lie down

I seem to get all my best ideas when I'm lying down, something to do with more blood going to the brain perhaps? I'm not the only one to advocate lying down to generate ideas - in fact Google offices  famously have hammocks in to promote creative thinking.  

2. Read something

Nothing gets me in a writing mood faster than reading an extract from whatever book I'm currently reading. Surrounding yourself with the words of others really does help to unlock words of your own.

3. Do some free writing

Free writing is the process of just letting yourself scrawl down any words or phrases that come into your head for a designated period of time, say 15 minutes. The words don't have to make sense or be gramatically correct. Just the act of writing, even if its not coherent can get the creative juices flowing again.

4. Work on a different bit

If you're working on a novel or even a short story and you're stuck on a particular section, why not spend some time on a different part? I don't necessarily believe that novels or stories have to be written in a particular order, though some authors might argue it makes the story more consistent if you do. I think that as long as you have some kind of plan and you know where the story is headed, then it's ok to work on something else when you're stuck, and I find that doing so gets me in the frame of mind to tackle the part I'm having difficulty with.     

5. Leave it and come back to it

If you've tried all of the above, don't force it. Give yourself some space away from the work [maybe even a few days, unless you're on a deadline] and then come back to it. Sometimes it's easier to find a solution to a problem if you're not in the thick of it.   

Friday, 4 April 2014

Colouring Book

If I could actually draw, then I would love to work as an illustrator. I like working alone and creating new worlds [which is why I want to be a writer] and successful illustrators get to do that every day. Since I can't draw all that well, I have purchased a colouring book called Secret Garden by Johanna Basford so that I can still express myself artistically without actually having to worry about whether the picture is any good or not. Simply colouring in may not sound like a very creative activity, but choosing which colours to use where allows the brain to organize itself, and I feel that whilst I'm colouring, my subconscious mind is busy thinking of new ideas for stories and blog posts. Colouring in is certainly not just for children either, the book I have bought is full of drawings which are very intricate in their design and are clearly aimed at adults and teenagers as most children would struggle to stay within the lines [in fact I've been struggling to stay inside the lines as my pens keep bleeding over the edges!]. Colouring in is a very calming activity and I would reccommend that anyone who is feeling stressed should give it a whirl.

     Here's one I'm in the middle of.