Sounds pretty dumb, right?
We all do it, at least all writers I know have notebooks at home that never get written in because dammit they’re just too damn pretty. Despite the acres of prime note-taking real estate on £30+ leather bound acid-free paper, instead we swamp our desks with post-its, cast off receipts and torn out pages from notebooks that cost a quid for a shrink wrapped pack of five. Oddly specific? Well there’s also heaps of dice, magic cards, and an empty chocolate raisin wrapper if you must know.
Here’s the perverse logic I realised a while back that has an oddly profound effect on confidence in one’s own work. All those disposable pieces of paper with your thoughts are too easy to throw away, and we apply the same disposability to the ideas we’ve written down.
And yet here are these pristine and beautiful notebooks that we spent money on and now keep on shelves, unwritten in because we don’t want to spoil them with our thoughts. Does that make sense? Would we put greater value on our notes if we wrote them on better paper that’s harder to throw away? Would our doodles and scribbles have greater importance if we actually put them between prettier pages?
From experience, let me tell you, yes to all of the above. Writing now for six years, starting my own business, and slowly but surely coming to value my own work enough to put an actual price tag on it has all taught me better and more productive habits. I’ve probably tried too many at this point, but among those I can say actually work, highest on the list are: writing to a regular schedule, and actually valuing your own work, holding yourself to a standard*, and part of that is actually putting your work into something you care about, like a good notebook.
Most of you have that notebook, and let me clarify that the notebook needn’t be a notebook, it could be a sketchbook, a particular folder, maybe it’s music that you’ve only ever written and heard via synthesised but you never actually play and record it on a real instrument. Maybe you’re surrounded by scribbles but you’ve never put those images to canvas… I’m spitballing here, I’m out of my format, I don’t know how the same hangups apply to other creatives, you tell me.
I am encouraging you all to apply greater value to yourselves than you may have done before. No, not all of you, some of you are already out there, putting yourselves out into the world and aspiring for something new, some of you don’t need to hear it. Some of you may be staring at your desk quietly nodding to yourselves and wondering what to write. Here’s the next part, stop wondering, and just start writing something about your current project, or resurrecting one that you loved once and haven’t touched in far too long.
*Not a high standard, not even a good one particularly, just set a certain expectation like word count, or upholding certain values like adhering to certain rules.
So you’ve made a fantasy city for your characters to live in, to work in or to otherwise mess around in. It’s your story, so your characters can get around a city however they like, right? Well, actually, a city really isn’t a city until we have the actual lives of people, typically simple people, who make the city great. They’re not heroes, but they’re local heroes – They’re your tavern keeps, your shop assistants, your doctors and nurses. They’re… Incidental people – And they leave a massive mark on your story.