Jo Stapley: 'Just keep writing…'
Jo Stapley stayed at KSP Writers' Centre as a first edition fellow in Mar-Apr 2022.
There is magic at KSP. When you’re wrestling with converging multiple story arcs, and need some inspiration, you just have to look out the cabin’s window. You might find a lone magpie, striding purposefully up the sloping hill, as the long shadows warm his back. Maybe it reminds you of the time you walked up Bluff Knoll as a determined youngster, with a fire in your belly when you should have been cowering. Or you might stare ahead at the stray palm tree gently swaying in the chilly breeze, prompting a memory of that time you lived in Miami in your carefree youth. And both of these recollections act as story prompters, combining in a perfect symphony to solve that impossible plot riddle that’s been plaguing you for weeks.
Or perhaps it’s just the feeling here. Like the walls are still imbued with the spirits of all the great writers—living or otherwise—who have written here before you. But either way, the KSP cabin has worked it’s magic once again. As it’s around peak COVID-19 infections in Perth now, it feels unbelievably lucky to have been blessed with time alone to compile this novel.
Day 3 – early morning:
Another night of fitful sleeping, filled with vivid dreams of long-buried memories, all of which help with the current novel. The mornings at KSP are tricky. Seems that “flow” time is from lunchtime to midnight each day, so today I’m trying to outsmart morning resistance to writing by recording a scene while walking around the property. It works.
Before I start typing today, my KSP word count is at 8000 words so far. Not bad, by anyone’s standards, and still I wished I’d be further along by now. But it’s all about context, right? The first half of Day 1 was spent plotting the entire novel from scratch.
Day 6 – afternoon:
As my hair blows in the soft breeze, I take off my lightweight jacket. I sit on the steps outside the cabin and reflect for a moment about all that came before. I’ve been here for five nights, burning the midnight oil incessantly.
Now, the ants wander lazily around me, seeming aimless in their travels. No destination, just a journey. I’m struck that our experience is the opposite. While at KSP, I’ve had a singular concentration that hasn’t been possible in my “normal life”. For five nights, I’ve survived on an amount of sleep that takes me back to my early parenting days. Chocolate, a whiteboard, endless cups of tea, and post it notes have been my constant companions.
I’m going to miss this cabin, where I’ve written 20,000 new words and have edited 10,000 further words for my current novel. My Fellow cabin mate agrees that Katharine’s spirit has helped us write—our words seem to arrive fluidly here. Thank you KSP and Katherine for the “magic.”
TOP 10 writing tips:
Write forward. No matter what order you write in, make sure every scene is moving your project towards the finish line.
If you’re blocked, jump to the end of your project and write a scene from Act 3. Usually this will shift things.
If you’re burnt out, take a walk or a sleep instead of forcing yourself to power through. The words will be there when you get back.
Know your best writing periods and harness them. I’m a lunch time to midnight gal, so my mornings are best spent plotting or planning.
Consider unplugging at KSP. It resets the creative mind in a way that nothing else can.
Use snacks to power your words! Sweet, salty, whatever floats your boat. Different writing moods require different flavours.
Have your own writing mantra. If you don’t have one, consider modifying Nemo’s. “Just keep writing…”
Remember to stretch everything if you’re in the chair for hours on end.
Don’t hold back on the self-care. Walk, shower, revel in the beauty right outside the window.
Keep your inner critic at bay while writing at KSP. There’s always time to edit later, now it’s time to write!
~ Jo Stapley 2022