Know Yourself: Writing To Your Strengths

So this week I’m at the fabulous, wondrous place that is Kilve Court: place where writerly beautifulness happens at every possible opportunity. I’m assisting the awesome Beth Webb on a Writing Retreat (Go Away, I’m Writing) for students in Key Stage 4. They may only be Key Stage 4 but they are writing like pros!

The point of this week is to have them manage their time and reach the outcome they aim for at the start of the week (although this obviously has wiggle room where necessary). So today we started by planning what we wanted to achieve. And since then, we’ve written.

I’m writing two projects while on this retreat – I may be teaching, but the best teaching is by modelling and shared experiences, so I write unless students need me for individual tutorials, which they can ask for at any time. I’m editing WIP 1 (as it’s referred to in previous blog posts) and I’m continuing with the first draft of WIP 2, which I got back into a few weeks ago.

Editing is a morning job for me. Unless I have the luxury of a lazy morning
sat in an armchair in my jammies, I get up and dressed and my creative brain is yet to awaken. Which is an excellent time to pull apart my poor, sorry old WIP 1 (draft two) without getting too emotionally invested. Yay!


Writing, however, is an afternoon job. Usually after a long walk. Occasionally after a very very very long walk and a stomp through some muddy fields whilst grumbling to myself. I need space in my head to think and if I were to start writing immediately after editing, then I would get all confused and instead of my character sitting in my head, my character would be clinging on to the outer reaches of my brain screaming “what’s happening?!” as I sprint in the opposite direction of what it should be.

And WALKING. Ah, the benefits of walking. Aside from, in Mr Darcy’s words, meaning “[my] eyes were brightened by the exercise”, when I walk, my brain gets to breathe and think and be totally free and empty. I’ve really noticed the amount of transfer periods I need from one task to the other while I hop between two projects and if I can’t walk, I’ll curl up with a book instead. (I went for a walk today and then wrote, so my ‘transfer period’ was reading Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall. It’s awesome; you should all go read it!). It also needs to be something totally different to either of my stories. No Sabriel, or Pellinor, or Chaos Walking for me when I am mid-writing! If I’m at home and not on retreat, however, this may involve playing old Harry Potter video games on my not-quite-so-old laptop, but some things seem unreasonable to pack for the sake of four days…

I think I’d always known my strengths and weaknesses as a writer – for example, I can literally write twice as productively as soon as I’ve had dinner and it’s dark outside. And after that I can frequently work until the middle of the night (which is somewhat difficult when one has to abide by society’s idea of a working week.) But sitting here on retreat and teaching it has given me the clarity I edged away from before.

Besides, it’s the summer holidays. It’s a lot easier to organise your brain with the luxury of time. I definitely can see me spending a lot of this summer break using my time as best I can to get some real headway made on both of these projects.

What are your writing processes? Are there any tricks you use to get your brain working to your strengths? Leave a comment!

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You can find a full list of Enrichment Courses run at Kilve Court (including Go Away, I’m Writing 2) on their website:

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