I once went to a writing workshop that had no structure or content – the facilitator came with only two things – a few prompts and the information that to find a story all you need to do is ask the questions: who, where, when, what, why and how?
What surprised me – besides seeing someone lead a 3 hour workshop with no more than that – was that a lot of people in the room had never heard of finding stories by asking questions, so they were actually quite happy customers. (If you haven’t either, have that one on me!)
It reminded me of a questionnaire I filled in for a PHD student who was studying writer’s block, because that was more or less the who, where, when, what, why and how of my writing.
I’m an author with about 25 years experience in writing fiction, non-fiction and magazine articles for all ages. I’ve worked for traditional trade and educational publishers as well as self-publishing under my own imprint, Five Lanes Press.
At home in my study for the actual writing part, but thinking and note-taking at the beach or out and about on the moors – I live in Cornwall and I like to walk and ponder.
I don’t have any regular writing times. I might write through the night when I’m on a roll, but then spend several days away from my desk, just musing. A writing session might last anything between 20 minutes and 20 hours with breaks.
In the early days, I had just 2 hours every morning, while my kids were in school/playgroup for writing. That extended to about 5 when they were all in school. I absolutely love not having any regular patterns in my creative life these days, now that they’re all grown up.
At the moment, I’m promoting my three books for writers, with a free-range writing workshop tour and a monthly column in Writing Magazine.
I’ve also updated and adapted another one of my out of print children’s self help books – 70 Ways to Bullyproof Yourself, which comes out in September. I’m writing articles and and putting together a blog tour for that.
My children’s book on helping the planet is finished and looking for representation – I’ve sent it to an agent. If I can place it, I’ll write one about healthy living next year for the same age group.
One of my main drives as a writer is sharing the useful stuff I’ve learnt just through living. I think of myself as writing in an elder tradition.
I’m a stationery junkie. I love coloured gel pens and an assortment of different papers. I can’t work with music or any other kind of background noise, so it’s just as well I have very considerate neighbours.
I’ve never taken any kind of formal writing course, but I go to other people’s workshops sometimes because I enjoy them. If I want to try a new kind of writing project, I’ll read the latest books in the genre and try to figure out how they work – then I experiment.
I love reading books about writing. Some of my favourites are Nathalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel, Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey and Ted Hughes’ Poetry in the Making. I recently enjoyed Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing too.
What’s the story of you as a writer – your who, where, when, what, why and how? Email me if you’d like to do a guest post here in the House of Dreams.
8 thoughts on “The who, where, when, what, why and how of writing.”
Great post Jen – coincidence too. Yesterday I ordered the Ted Hughes book! You sound busy and happy. See you on the 3rd.
You’ll love that book, Mel! I’m ridiculously busy at the moment, but it’s all bitty bits for the next month or two – I can’t wait to get stuck into a new book.
I would love to do a guest post on your latest blog. I have already made some notes!
Thank you Julie
That’s brilliant, Julie! Remember to include a link to your memoir – and a pic or two if poss – and email to me email@example.com. I’ll look forward to reading it 🙂
I remember that workshop!
I like your phrase “an elder tradition”, Jenny. I think sharing wisdom is one of the best uses for writing, and we are lucky that you are willing to share yours. Good luck with all you have on!
What a lovely comment, Amy – thank you!