The year so far…

I entered this year with a plan, one that challenged and expanded my writing, where I hoped to introduce the world to a changed and new me. A more confident me. A more focused me. A more wiser me. A stretched-beyond-recognition-me as my plan pushed comfort zones into new, wider places. It demanded I said an active ‘yes’ to every writing thing asked of me, despite my mind screaming “noooo” and my body gearing up for run/ flight.

There were various mind maps of ideas and goals, a to do list so sophisticated it had chapters and scheduled notification reminders that buzzed. I was so sure that 2021 would be a another year of growth and development, much more than what I have ever imagined. Unable to contain myself, I walked around stiff and tight, bursting to the brim with excitement.

“Ideas, goals and to do lists”

“Just say an active yes to everything creative”

Traysi Bejamin-Matthew

Then the penny dropped! A few months into the year I realised weeks had went by and I hadn’t done much. Those weeks quickly transformed into months and before I knew it, I was already halfway through the year! (Yes… I did cry and grieved the 6 month loss…)

Life was hectic and overwhelming, an uncontrollable beast that sucked my creative energy and motivation dry. I must admit, I did lay there for a bit and allowed it all to happen. It just felt easier and I didn’t have the emotional and mental will power to say to myself “Come on Traysi!” “You can do it Traysi!” “Don’t stop Traysi!” (I should have just paid someone to give me a hard kick on the butt!)

“Do the work Traysi!”

But, amongst the mess I knew deep down it would be OK. I was reassured by my trust in God, the gift of inner strength and the fact that I have been in these places before and survived.

When I got a spiritual nudge two weeks ago, I jumped up with joy! The nudge whispered “love letters to God.”

That was all I needed. It reminded me that the year isn’t over and I could still end this year achieving something satisfying and amazing. I just needed to refocus, replan, set aside time (fight for my time) and not be so hard on myself for the way this year started.

So I am throwing this out there and being accountable to all who read this and those who love me and my poetry. I will (start to) finish my “love letters to God” poetry collection and end this year with a bang!

Watch this space!

Starting over again: developing a writing habit

5 minute read

When I started writing my novel I didn’t think years later, I will be in the same place, still writing.

“Why am I still writing this?” – a confused unpublished writer

Stuck in a writers graveyard experiencing book death yet refusing to grieve the lost of not-finishing-my-first-draft-in-the-first-year. My writing journey has had various up and downs, and the challenges have made me more confident of my writing abilities and more determined to finish. It has helped me to (finally) accept the place I am in. For that I am grateful.

I did not think I will one day embrace my writing challenges

The one challenge I struggle in embracing, is always dealing with ‘starting over again.’ Each time I start again I feel like my writing muscle is ripping and reforming and for weeks I am in pain. Those fitness health freaks out there know what I am talking about! It is a painful and frustrating process. Re-learning how to write with no restrictions, organising time and containing the disappointment of failure. Why did I stop in the first place?

Surely at some point I will learn to reduce but not stop. Slow down and relax but still do something, no matter how small. There is a Caribbean saying I have heard throughout my childhood, usually when doing something I was not meant to, and it ended with me getting hurt.

“If you can’t hear, you must feel!” – a Caribbean parent

Basically, if you are stubborn and don’t want to listen, then you would learn the hard way!” I did not listen to the little voice saying “Don’t you dare stop Traysi, it’s gonna be harder for you! Still do something, anything!”

“Re-starting is a painful process.”

I struggled to get back into a healthy writing habit, not choosing self-control amongst social media temptations and box set binging. After a stressful and hard day, I told myself writing is not a relaxing activity, just find something else unproductive to do. I have no idea when writing stopped being a relaxing activity for me.

Someone told me recently that writing helped them when they were going though things and that’s when they started writing their second book.

So you have not written for awhile? Suddenly you feel that spark of motivation, a feeling you have not felt for ages. Your writing space has become a dumping site for household crap and you start to declutter it. You wipe the dust of your laptop keys and try to remember the file name of your recent writing project.

Now you are motivated? What’s next?”

The longer it takes to finish the first draft of my first novel, the harder the starting over becomes. The transition takes longer and I become more disappointed with myself.

Here are a few things that helped me to start again:

You have to make time

Writing sessions can be planned or unplanned, however when starting over again it helps if they are planned. Remember you are trying to build a writing habit and like all healthy habits, you need a plan and have to be consistent. Planning your writing time helps make your writing a priority, it finally finds a place in your busy schedule and makes you think twice before doing something else.

For working published/ unpublished writers, the frequency of sessions will vary and the idea of having a daily habit is a distant dream. Every two days, weekends only or weekly are fine, it really doesn’t matter. The important thing is there is a routine in place with short gaps between each writing session.

“Plan! Schedule! Organise!”

The simplest way is to slot time in your schedule. I look at my week ahead and plot out writing sessions amongst my other commitments – mummy duties, work and so on, in my diary.

Once back into a healthy writing habit, I include unplanned and spontaneous sessions. Sometimes these will replace the planned sessions, depending on life’s unexpected chaos!

You have to start small

There is no point with being over ambitious and think out of nowhere you will have an awesome first session with amazing material that needs no editing. Hats of to those writers who can do this! I need to first test the waters by sitting down at my laptop and not thinking about how long I will write for. I already know it’s gong to be short, I just need to see how my writing flows.

Can I still write? Do my fingers gracefully touch keys as sentences flow from my thoughts? Or is it a struggle to make it to the next comma and full stop?

It doesn’t matter how much you write or what you write”

Having no duration removes some of the writing pressure, at this stage all you need is a start time. How long you write depends on you – if you’re tired, not in a writing mood, unable to switch off to environmental distractions.

Sometimes it helps not to clock watch. Other times you need to set yourself targets, write for a certain amount of time before you stop. It doesn’t matter how long you write for, it could be for five, fifteen or thirty minutes.

When I re-start, I have regular breaks during my first few sessions, sometimes after thirty minutes I will stop for fifteen minutes and do something completely different. I will often get bored, distracted, unsure if I am taking the right writing direction.

It is okay to stop

At some point in my writing journey I stopped feeling bad about stopping. I think it was when my ‘starting over agains’ just kept happening and I lost count of how often. It seemed like a never ending journey! I use to let it really get to me. I questioned what I was doing and allowed myself to be consumed with doubts. Maybe it just isn’t meant to be? Is it the right time to do a writing a project? if I really want this why do I keep stopping?

“Maybe it wasn’t meant to be”

A light bulb moment happened a couple of years ago when I realised the guilt I felt about stopping kept wearing me down. It was not helping me and I knew I needed to be free from it. So what if I stop! There is tomorrow or next week to do better. I told myself not writing for a few weeks or a couple of months is okay.

Sometimes when you spend a long time on a writing project you need breathing space to read, plan and reflect. It does not mean you will never finish and if writing is the passion that you inhale and exhale, you will ‘start over again.’

You work on another writing project

Writing something for a long time creates an opportunity for boredom to creep in. I have eye twitching moments at some of my chapters and the thought of trying to finish it makes me want to scream! I have re-read and re-written sections so many times and they still remain unfinished.

“My writing became my kryptonite!”

It has taken me a long to realise it is okay to work on something else. I am still writing right? Does it really matter if for the rest of that writing session I work on something else? Or if I take time out for a week? I will come back to it eventually, just not right now.

If you enjoyed hearing part of my story and feel it will help someone else. Please recommend and share, and leave a comment below. Thank you for your support!

A writers (novel) journey

5 minute read

Five years ago I started writing my first novel, an idea birthed when I was doing a creative writing course . Excited by the idea of writing a book, I innocently took on the challenge, without a second thought.

It was difficult trying to find the time to write amongst everything else I do. Most times it wasn’t a priority and was painfully placed at the bottom of my things to do this list. In those moments the doubts and frustrations grew.

Life just threw stuff at me and knocked me sideways for months, leaving me licking my wounds and rebuilding, until I was able to get moving again.

There were the ‘not writing’ months which lead to a change in my writing style and I would spend months re-reading and re-writing chapters. There were periods when I couldn’t write, when the writers block consumed and took control.

I would sit down, laptop ready and expectant, but my mind would be completely blank.

These writing sessions usually ended in tears and more doubts.

Special writing sessions did exist and I did not want these to end. Ideas and motivation flowed freely, fingertips and keyboard keys became one, and the need to write something (anything) took over and I got lost in sentences.

Coming from a poetry background, I continually questioned my writing style. Was it too poetic? Would readers get my creativity? Did it have too much description? I would sigh when I (again) went on about a sunrise for almost a half a page.

I became confused with story lines, character developments, conflict decisions and chapter structuring. I found writing conversations hard to do and avoided them completely.

When sessions ended in doubt I went to Twitter and connected with other authors who encouraged and motivated me. In my personal space, I mediated and prayed.

I doubted (yes I am again saying this word) myself and my abilities, and wondered if someone out there would really read my work.

‘A writer finds their voice after the first 10,000 words.’ My 10,000 words came and went, and I was still looking for my voice.

When I first had the idea of writing this blog post, my instant thought was “I’m not qualified to be giving writing advice.” I’m still a beginner myself, I’m not done yet and there is so much more for me too learn and do!

“I am an unpublished poet and writer.”

But I realised there would be others in the place I was five years ago, with a great idea and a passion to start writing. And like me, feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start. So I thought why not share some of my experiences and just hope it will inspire someone else.

All I can give advice on is the things that helped me along my ‘unfinished’ writing journey.

I created my writing space:

My writing cave allows me to close a door and not open it until I have done something. I must admit it took me a while to create a space and I wished I done it earlier. My writing sessions became more fulfilled.

I wrote more, had more ideas and my confidence grew.

I became more serious about writing and felt like a professional. I even changed the way I labeled myself and started calling myself a writer. I am a writer with a part time job. Why not?

I have the right to define my unpublished status.”

I just wrote:

You hear this often “to be a writer, you have to write.” It doesn’t matter what or how much. Don’t worry about your writing style, your story line, if this chapter should start with this sentence. What is the right writing theory? It doesn’t matter. Too often I became overwhelmed with structure that my writing sessions ended very quickly. I would compare my writing style and methods with others and feel I was doing something wrong. Nothing seemed good enough!

There is no right or wrong way to write. Period.”

Does my story make sense? Did I pay attention to details? My writing plan? What is that?

There is something beautiful about writing with freedom, letting the words flow and allowing them to tumble out. And before you know it, you have something, 200 words, 500 words. You can then read, re-write and expand.

I talked about my dream:

This does not come naturally to me but sharing my writing journey on social networking sites helped. I networked and talked to other writers, asked questions and shared my concerns. I gave friends draft chapters to read and asked them what they thought.

Later on I told people I was a writer when they asked me what I did and quickly afterwards I told them my actual paid job. This built my confident and created accountability. The more I talked, the more people expected me to do, it was (and still is) the push to keep going.

I found time to write:

This was something I struggled with at the beginning. I did not know where to start, life just seemed too busy and when I did have the time, I was not in a writing-mood.

“I realised there is no such thing as a writing-mood, you just have to do it. “

A few years ago I met a lovely ninety-three year old woman who told “you have to fight for my time!” I have never forgot that!

I have done different things to create time:

  • Take advantage of my flexibility at work.
  • Look at my week ahead and noted my free time.
  • Have a dedicated writing day.
  • Explore how I spent my time.
  • Reduced useless activities.
  • Got rid of distractions during my writing time.

Most times it worked but there were occasions when the unexpected caused me to be busy.

“For the things I could control, I needed to have self-control”

I often had a ‘no phone’ period, wake up early so I can cook a meal, leave for work extra early so I can sit in a coffee shop for an hour or two to write.

What things do you need to de-clutter to create more time?

I stopped feeling bad

There have been many times when I did not do what I needed to do. I had no self-control, had not written enough, have felt ‘if only I was more…’ (you fill in the blanks), earlier on in my journey I would be further along my journey. You get the picture. I’m not even going to write a lot about this because there is no point in dwelling on past writing failures.

“I keep telling myself ‘I would do better next time!’ This could be tomorrow, usually for me it is next week.”

If you enjoyed hearing part of my story and feel it will help someone else. Please recommend and share, and leave a comment below. Thank you for your support!