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Katharine Pollock: I hugely surpassed my goals in my two weeks at KSP

When I applied for a KSPWC fellowship, I hadn’t worked consistently or dedicatedly on the manuscript for my third novel in more time than I’d like to admit.

Work and other responsibilities had drawn me away from my regular writing practice, and I relished the opportunity to simply write without distraction. Shortly before the fellowship, I received some feedback from a publisher on a completed second novel, and pivoted my approach. For the first week, I redrafted and edited this manuscript, writing approximately 6000-7000 new words. In the second week, I returned to my partially completed manuscript and wrote approximately 10,000 words. I also did a ticketed event at a local bookshop with fellow resident Clare Fletcher and visited other bookshops in the surrounding area.

I hugely surpassed my goals in my two weeks at KSP, thanks to the time and space the fellowship allowed me. It was a prolific and productive time in which I woke up every day excited to write. I was creatively inspired and motivated by my fellow residents and members of the Centre’s regular workshops. I also drew inspiration from reading, watching films and TV, listening to audiobooks, as well as just walking in nature.

I’ve now regrettably returned to reality, but have continued to write devotedly and enthusiastically whenever I can. Before this fellowship, I was not mentally or practically able to immerse myself in my creative practice. The fellowship rekindled my creative drive and ambition, for which I am beyond grateful.

Top 10 tips:

1.     Perform daily rituals to ground and prepare yourself for the day ahead. At KSP, I would wake up early, drink a coffee in the fresh air, do yoga and a short meditation, and then begin writing. It allowed me to get into a headspace wherein I could then dive in.

2.     Grant yourself breaks. I would write for an hour or two, then make sure I paused to have breakfast and read. I would always stop for lunch, and in the afternoons would go for a walk. Especially in such an immersive environment, honouring what your body and brain needs is important. Even if that’s way more coffee and snacks than usual!

3.     Factor in some social breaks. I would meet my fellow residents most afternoons for a drink and a conversation. We would share our daily progress and just chat. It’s a way to celebrate each other’s small victories and to share advice, as well as to just experience crucial social connection. If you’re staying by yourself during your fellowship, call a loved one or say hello to anyone passing through. You might even like to participate in the regular writing groups the Centre hosts.

4.     Surround yourself with things that inspire you. Whenever I wasn’t writing, I was reading, watching films and TV series, and listening to audiobooks. I also completed daily writing prompts and YouTube videos as part of a free ‘writing staycation’ online course. It doesn’t stop there: I did daily yoga and meditation, walked in nature, swam at a nearby public pool and visited local shops, art galleries, cafes, and even once went to a nearby cinema. The balance will be different for everyone, and it might seem like you’re just productively procrastinating, but so long as you finish the day feeling satisfied, it isn’t a waste.

5.     Don’t force yourself to treat writing like a 9-5. See above re: not burning yourself out. This advice is relevant to real life inasmuch as the fellowship. I didn’t set myself word counts or starting and finishing times: I just wrote. Surprisingly, removing this pressure enabled me to write more words and for more hours than I usually would. What’s more, I found myself revelling in the act of writing. More than once, I would wake up in the middle of the night or found myself compelled to pause a film I was watching when inspiration would strike.

6.     Free-write. I treated my daily writing almost as freewriting. While I did edit a bit as I went, I tried to mostly go with the flow, and then refine my work when I was done. This enabled me to write without inhibition or self-criticism.

7.     Perform writing side quests. As well as my main writing occupation as a novelist, I regularly write short stories, essays, and reviews. These ‘side quests’ sometimes grant me a bit of pocket money, public exposure, and résumé padding, but more importantly they keep my writing muscle flex when time or my mental headspace prohibits me from tacking my major projects. During your fellowship, a side quest could also just be journalling or mind-mapping. Either way, you’re putting pen to paper (or fingers on the keyboard).

8.     Set intentions, and remind yourself of them if and when you feel yourself despairing. Let’s be honest, writing isn’t always pleasurable. When facing setbacks, writer’s block, and any other hurdles, it’s worth asking yourself why you’re driven to write. For me, it’s because I simply love it: the small satisfaction when I craft an eloquent sentence or write a good joke, as well as the deeper joy borne of writing a narrative that resonates with and makes readers happy.

9.     Keep going. Expanding on bullet point 8, remember that writing sometimes just sucks. Every day is different, and sometimes you will feel dejected. Sometimes you may even be rejected. This too shall pass.

10.  Champion yourself. If you managed to get your bum on the seat, open your laptop, and write a single word (even if that word is too rude to replicate here, depending on how your day is going), you’re my hero. Repeat the mantra, ‘I’m doing the best I can’, until you believe it.

Katharine Pollock, KSP Fellow 2024


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