Hello and welcome to KSP's Top Tip Tuesday blog series, designed to inspire your writing habits - or just distract you for a few moments! - during the coronavirus pandemic.
These top tips have been retrieved from the KSP archives. They will be published fortnightly on Tuesdays and come to you courtesy of past Writers and Fellows in Residence.
Top Ten Tips
By Rashida Murphy, KSP's 2017 Emerging Writer-in-Residence:
'The month at KSP persuaded me that my novel, which I was conflicted about, was achievable. The problems I thought were insurmountable melted away in the cottage, with enough thinking time. I managed to tweak most of them while sitting in that lovely cottage, staring out past the trees, to the city glinting in the sun, every morning. There was a sense that time didn’t matter, that ideas would form, that I was exactly where I needed to be. I didn’t try to rush the process, finding that most days I could write 1000 words without feeling the stress. And what’s more, those words didn’t get edited out the next day. I wrote 15,000 new words of the novel, a couple of short stories, a book review and a poem. This was more than I’d dared. I had hoped for at least 10,000 new words. Even better than this, thrilling though it is, was that I figured out the problems I’d thought were too big to ignore. This fact alone would have made my time at KSP, wonderful. The number of words was a delicious, unexpected bonus.
The process I followed was fairly simple. In order to achieve my word-goals, I used a trick that had served me well in the past, when I was doing my PhD. I turned up to my desk each morning as if I was going to work. So here are my top tips for writing consistently and writing well:
Treat it like paid work. Shower, dress, have breakfast and ‘go’ to work at the desk.
Set some realistic targets. I know I’m a slow writer, so my first day targets were a modest 500 words.
Build up the word count slowly. By Day 3 I was writing 1000 words, so by the end of the first week, I set myself 2000 words.
I didn’t always manage 2000 words but when I did, I gave myself a break for the afternoon and went for a long walk.
I usually wrote from 8.30 to 12.30 with a couple of breaks for stretching and coffee. Then I did a couple of hours in the afternoon.
Don’t revise or edit if the goal is to create new work. Revision and editing is a different process and interferes with creative thinking time.
I would start writing the next day from where I’d finished, without reading the previous day’s work. This was an efficient way of ensuring that the words arrived fresh and untainted by doubt.
I didn’t look at social media or check emails until I’d finished a day’s work.
Don’t underestimate the power of staring, thinking, looking, listening and walking. I did a lot of this!
The writers, board members and volunteers at KSP are lovely and generous and I found solace in speaking to them about their own writing and the work that goes into keeping the centre vibrant and humming with life.'
Want to carve out your own time to write in a dedicated writing cabin? KSP Writers' Centre has one place left in Laurie Steed's Spring Story Retreat in September 2020. You can also apply for a 2021 KSP residency or fellowship. Details here.
Dr Rashida Murphy is a writer, poet, reviewer and blogger. She has published her short fiction and poetry in various international literary journals and anthologies, including the Westerly, Open Road Review and Veils Halos and Shackles. Her debut novel, The Historian’s Daughter was shortlisted in the Scottish Dundee International Book Prize in 2015 and is available now from UWA Publishing. In 2016 she was a guest editor at the Westerly and was on the editorial board at Cafe Dissensus from 2014 – 2018.
Rashida has a Masters in English Literature and a PhD in Writing from Edith Cowan University. After a short-lived career as a pen seller, Rashida taught ESL and worked as an Education lecturer for several years before undertaking her PhD. In 2016 she was the joint winner of the Magdalena Prize for feminist research for her thesis which includes the novel The Historian’s Daughter.
She has judged literary competitions such as The Spilt Ink competition, The Tallus Prize, the Ellen Kemp Memorial Prize and The KSP short story competition. She has been an invited guest and facilitator at the Perth Writers Festival from 2017- 2019. She was a mentor in the Indian Ocean Writing project in 2018 and 2019. She has recently completed a writing residency in NSW. She lives in Perth and is currently working on a new novel and a collection of short stories.