Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Beating Writer's Block

Writer’s block can be crippling. Like a black cloud, it descends and covers the whole mind, seemingly leaving no escape. I’ve been asked a couple of times how I beat writer’s block so I thought I’d share my tips.

- Don’t let it fester. Don’t let the days drag into weeks and the weeks drag into months. Keep busy, even if it’s not with writing related projects. Don’t sit there and stare at a blank screen because it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. If you don’t break the block early, it can linger for months or even years. And the worst feeling in the world is the one where you’re not able to create.

- Do a little writing every day. It doesn’t have to be on your current project. If there’s one you’ve been itching to start, make a start on it. Scribble notes in a notebook or write a letter. Send a card or postcard to someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time (letters and cards are soooo much nicer in this day and age of electronic communications!). Send a thank you note to someone you admire. As long as you’re putting words down, you’re keeping that part of your brain active.

- Try and have a writing goal for every day. It could be 100 words or 1000 words. It may be that you want to write for an hour, but have a goal. Once you make your goal, stick to it. Turn off your phone and internet. Tell people what you’re doing and that you don’t want to be disturbed until you’re done. If you’re working in a noisy or active environment, help focus your mind by wearing headphones and listening to music or white noise tracks.

- Go for a walk, bike ride, or a run. Take an MP3 player and some headphones. Or if the fancy takes you, go to as night club, dance class, or gym. All exercise is great for kick starting the brain.

- Try something other than writing to try and get the creative juices flowing. I can’t draw but it doesn’t stop me from having a drawer full of pens, pencils, and Sharpies. When I’m having a bit of a bad writing day, I sit and doodle. Other people I know make jewellery, create clay models, or take photographs.

- Create a style book of images and ideas relating to your story. Images can include examples of clothing, buildings, and anything else that takes your fancy. Jot down ideas and scenes in between the images. When writer’s block strikes, flick through to help refresh your memory.

- Take a break, even if it’s only for a couple of days at a friend’s house or a couple of hours at a gallery. Those hours away can help immensely to help the creative juices flow.

- Laugh! Laughter’s great at helping to beat writer’s block so log onto your favourite funny websites, watch a film, or go and see one of your favourite comedians.

- Reward yourself! If you hit a daily or weekly writing goal, give yourself a reward. It might be a night out, a concert ticket, or a take away. Enjoy yourself!

Writing’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable. But, like any job, it has its down sides. The second you feel the cloud descend, step back and take a good look. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. You might find that sharing the experience with someone helps get you back on track.

Until later, happy writing!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Please Don't Suffer Alone

The recent trials of Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville, and Max Clifford have left me thinking about my own experiences. The first time it happened, I was a naïve teenager and the police, despite their obvious concern, made me feel like I was the criminal. It didn't help that the case was dropped thanks to the real criminal's friends and family giving him an alibi.

Because of it, I made myself as ugly as possible. I refused to play the “Skinny is pretty” game. My wardrobe, even now, consists mainly of band shirts and jeans. I rarely wear make up. I turned to drink and drugs to mask the pain and darkness (Been clean for 10 years in August!). In all, I've subconsciously wanted to blend into the background and make myself as invisible as possible.

Over the years, it's happened several more times. Random men grabbing and groping and thinking it's okay because, you know, no woman is going to report it because no one's going to believe them. And, if they do report it, they'll either be made to feel like a criminal, the case will be dropped, or they'll have to dredge up memories they really don't want to dredge up. It takes a strong person to say “Yeah, I'm happy to go to court, see my abuser again, and be cross examined by a bunch of people who think that I'm lying”. Because, if I'm frank, it's a really fucking harrowing experience and can set back any recovery by months, if not years. We always say that it's men assaulting but, unfortunately, women can just be as bad as men. The pain and agony is no different if the sexes are reversed.

It happened again recently to me and, while I won't go in to details, it was enough to leave me shaken up and crying. As one friend said, “You're a tough cookie, so this has got to be bad for you to be this nervous”. I didn't want to call the police. I didn't want to face the questioning and the doubts and the feeling that I was the criminal. I didn't want to feel like I was the one being accused of something because I'd dared to report someone who'd done something wrong. I didn't want to feel like I was wasting police time because, as the news likes to repeatedly tell us, they're doing more policing with less money.

But I had to do because what if the next girl wasn't so lucky? What if she couldn't run? Or something else happened?

However, this time the police outdid themselves. They were supportive and kind and, for the first time in a long time, I felt as though I wasn't the one under suspicion. Faith in the police = restored.

If you've been through something similar and feel that you can't report it, please know that you can. Policing has changed a lot in the last few years and there are specially trained officers and support personnel. They'll accompany you through the whole process and make any time in court easier. You'll be able to give evidence without even being in the court room. Please don't think you have to keep it quiet. Tell someone, anyone. There's phone numbers you can call if you feel like you can't talk to family or friends. My email address is in the contact page of this website. Please don't suffer alone.

National Child Abuse Helpline: 1-800-422-4453
National Domestic Violence Crisis Line: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Domestic Violence Hotline (TDD): 1-800-787-32324
Center for the Prevention of School Violence: 1-800-299-6504
Child Abuse Helpline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Domestic Violence Helpline: 1-800-548-2722
Healing Woman Foundation (Abuse): 1-800-477-4111
Child Abuse Hotline Support & Information: 1-800-792-5200
Women’s Aid National Domestic Violence Helpline (UK): 0345 023 468
Sexual Abuse Centre (UK): 0117 935 1707
Sexual Assault Support (24/7, English & Spanish): 1-800-223-5001
Domestic & Teen Dating Violence (English & Spanish): 1-800-992-2600
Rape Crisis England & Wales: 0808 802 9999 1(open 2 - 2.30pm 7 - 9.30pm) e-mail
Rape Crisis Scotland: 08088 01 03 02 every day, 6pm to midnight

Full list of support phone numbers (including suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, LGBTQ, and others) can be found here: