Creative writing journey examples
In my mid-20s I bought a new bicycle on eBay; a delectable looking ladies bike with a dipped frame for an elegant dismount, ha, metallic grey and bloody heavy…but the most alluring feature was the enormous woven straw basket on the front. It was crying out for an adventure.
I found a route; London to Oxford, 108 miles along the River Thames, and a friend to make the journey with me but I made the mistake of picking someone a bit like me.
After the first 39 miles, it started to rain, which might have been fine if we weren’t also hungry. But we were ravenous, and after spotting a delightful riverside pub at Windsor Upon Thames with a seat for two in the window, it was game over.
To be precise, the exact moment of the game over was the first pint of beer, and with each drink, our resolve to finish the cycle weakened.
Some things are too easy to give up
We abandoned the remaining 60% of the journey and took the train the rest of the way. This friend and I have since had other adventures by bike but to finish this one I knew I needed a different set of circumstances. I would opt for hardier companions, ones with a more ferocious desire to finish the job.
I found just the right crowd of cyclists. Remember being mid-20s? Carefree, happy-go-lucky, not thinking about the bottom perils of a long cycle. And we got lost, ended up doing 10 hours in the saddle and I didn’t have one of those butt-friendly gel seats that now I understand.
At least I didn’t have a beer at lunch this time, but the last hour of the cycle was agony compared to even the leg weariness before that. Every time I lifted my butt from the seat, it tingled in a stinging nettle kind of way, but not as bad as the bruising it felt when I put it back down. Yet not to lift it was just as painful. Oh, why hadn’t I trained and did I really need to take the additional four kilos of chocolate in the basket, just because I could?
Sometimes you need to put yourself into a place where you can’t back down
But we made it! There was no getting off the bike — nowhere to go, the disappointment of letting the others down and a crystal clear visualisation of my reward beer all conspired to keep me pushing through the burn.
The writing journey
Putting myself in a position where I can’t back down has been a tactic throughout my life and has served me well, but it doesn’t quite hold up with writing.
It’s easy for you to back down, you often don’t have a team to push you on, and there’s no butt burn to remind you of the value of the exercise.
At least that’s how it feels when I get close to the end of one of my projects.
I attended a playwrighting workshop once with the great Stephen Jeffreys who told us that the journey from 80% quality to 100% was the hardest part of the entire process of writing a play because it was possible to stop between the 80–100% and accept that you’ve done enough to complete your task. The real magic he said was completing something to the 100% mark.
I get it with writing projects; you’re tired, your bored, you’re fed up and who is asking for it anyway? Couldn’t you get off the bike and finish it here?
Here are a few tricks I use when I’m heading up to the 70% point and in danger of calling it a day as soon as possible rather than pushing on to the end.
You’re all out of steam, but you’ve got two scenes to rewrite that that would really make the difference in a finished product. Can you quantify and visualise the remainder of the journey? Does it look like 100 metres of a walk, or is it 10% of a meal that you would usually cook?
Visualise it and compare it to other activities; quantify it in terms of different business, an easier one. If you were getting dressed for an event, how would the final stretch appear?
I bet it looks smoother. Now do it. Quickly!
What does the best possible scenario you can imagine for your piece look like? Is it an Oscar contender? Will it have Kathryn Bigelow scrambling to her phone to give you a call about directing your script? What is the 110% point?
I use this tactic whenever I feel like quitting and it works every time.
I also use gamification when I’m bored, and need to eliminate procrastination and get back into the flow.
Turn the last journey into a game. Is it a series of sprints? Use a timer. How many units can you get done in 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, 15 minutes? Break an hour’s worth of work down into smaller compartments.
Or, another kind of game:
At the weekend, I had 20 scenes left to finish my script, and I was losing momentum in deciding which one to write next. I needed some new energy, so I cut up 20 little pieces of paper and wrote a scene number on each one. I crumpled them up and put them into a hat. I’d draw one out at a time and write the scene. As the pile of written scenes on my desk grew higher than the scenes left in the hat, my process took on a new level of momentum.
I wrote those 20 scenes in record time.
Pick a game and make a fun association with the end of your writing journey.
Taste the outcome
You know the feeling of finishing something don’t you — the joy, the triumph, the indestructible nature of your soul at that point. Remember that and bear down on the final mile.
Remember it, taste it, savour it and do it.
I hope this has been helpful. Writing words is easy; constructing something bigger is hard, and the last mile nearly always finishes me off, but every time I cross over that line every step of the way has been worth it.
I am. For at least a day, I am done.
Thanks for reading. I’m a freelance storyteller and , sharing the adventures as I go along. To join my monthly newsletter, where I share inspiring and helpful content, then please sign up here.