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11 Creative Projects That I Never Intended To Do… This Year

By Creativity, Gay, Health, Inspiration, Life, ThinkingNo Comments

At the start of 2016, I had all my creative projects for the year planned out. So far I’ve done zero of those planned projects. But instead I’ve done 11 Creative Projects that I never intended to do this year. Here they are in date order (older to most recent):

11. My short story Soulmates
I published my short story Soulmates. In Soulmates Robert and Lucas keep missing each other. In fact, they’ve never met. That is until a disembodied spirit assigns himself Robert’s case. Can this spirit create the perfect opportunity for these two potential Soulmates to finally meet? And if they do meet, how will it go?

Here is an except from Soulmates:

Soulmates-by-Antony-Simpson-Short-Story-Excerpt

10. My Tale of Overcoming Adversity
I told my tale of overcoming adversity. This was a post I’d wanted to write for a long time. And when I say a long time, I mean at least over the last few years.

9. Five Wise Quotes from Albus Dumbledore
I put together 5 Wise Quotes from Albus Dumbledore:

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8. A Series of Blog Posts about Creative Writing
I wrote and published a Series of Blog Posts on Creative Writing, see: Beginning, Middle & End.

7. This Mother’s Appreciation Day Poem:

Mothers-Appreciation-Day-poem-March-2016-by-Antony-Simpson

A Poem I wrote for and about my Mum for Mother’s Day.

6. A Series of Blog Posts on Inspirational Quotes
I collated and presented in image format Inspirational Quotes on Gay People, Love, Self-Love, Friendship, Life and some quotes from yours truly.

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Inspirational Quotes on Gay People.

inspirational-quotes-on-love

Inspirational Quotes on Love.

inspirational-quotes-on-self-love

Inspirational Quotes on Self-love.

inspirational-quotes-on-friendship

Inspirational Quotes on Friendship.

inspirational-quotes-on-life

Inspirational Quotes on Life.

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Some Hopefully Inspirational Quotes from Yours Truly (Antony Simpson)

5. A Mind Map: What Makes A Good Nurse?
I wrote a blog post entitled Mind Map: What Makes A Good Nurse? with this mind map:

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Mind Map: What Makes A Good Nurse? (Click for Full Size Image)

4. The History of the National Health Service (NHS)
I wrote this article on The History of the National History Service:

Click here to display content from docs.google.com

Download (PDF, 233KB)

3. Fifteen Lies That Depression Would Have You Believe
I thought about when my depression was really bad. I decided to write this blog post: 15 Lies That Depression Would Have You Believe. Here’s the blog post:

Here are 15 lies that depression would have you believe:
15. That it is bigger than you.
It’s not. It just makes you think this so that it can keep in control of you.

14. That it would be better if you never left your bed/room/house again.
It wouldn’t. You have so much to offer the world and you would miss out on so much if you never moved again. On days you feel like this practice self-compassion. Be kind but firm with yourself. Set yourself a small achievable goal. Force yourself into action to achieve this goal. Achieving a goal, no matter how small the goal is, will help you to feel better.

13. That you’re a failure.
Firstly you can’t be a failure. Failure only comes by attempting to do or achieve things. Failure is no bad thing – you learn more through failure than you do success. Don’t believe me? watch this TED video where J.K. Rowling talks about the benefits of failure.

Depression likes to magnify experiences in your mind. It focuses on only the negative aspects of an experience. Most experiences are a mix of positives and negatives. Try to put experiences into perspective. Examine the positives. Try to practice balanced thinking and self-compassion.

12. That you’ll never laugh again.
You will and often. People can and do recover from depression. Feeling okay doesn’t mean that you’re in recovery, starting to feel good again does. If you’re just feeling okay, go back and see your GP.

In recovery you will start to experience a number of long lost emotions such as happiness, joy and elation. When you do, greet them as old friends and experience them fully.

11. That being physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted is a normal state of being.
It isn’t. You might be sleeping for 18 hours and wake up still exhausted or you might be suffering with insomnia. But people usually have a stable amount of energy throughout the day and should sleep for a recommended 8 hours.

Depression is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting, but if you go to your GP and get the right treatment (see my blog post on treatment options for more details) things will improve.

10. That you’re pathetic. That you have no right to feel the way you do. That you are a disappointment to all that know you.
Shame and guilt are two emotions that depression uses to try and control you. Let go of any shame and guilt you feel. Accept how you feel now and know that it is temporary, almost fleeting compared with you life. Be confident knowing that how you feel now will change with the passage of time.

9. That the physical, mental and emotional pain you feel is all that there is.
There’s more to life pain. There’s care, love, happiness, joy and so much more. Just hold on. You have experienced the more-than-pain emotions before and you will again.

8. That you can’t do anything right or well enough.
My mum has lots of wisdom. She once said that all anyone can ask is that you try your best. Remember these words.

Remember that depression likes to magnify failures and things that didn’t go as well as you hoped. On days when you feel like this, practice self-compassion, use balanced thinking and try to put things into perspective. What where your intentions? Did you kill anybody? No? Well then, it’s not the end of the world.

7. That you are worthless.
You are unique. There has never been anyone exactly the same as you and there never will be. You are priceless and beyond value measures. Don’t listen to this lie, instead remind yourself that you are special and remind yourself what makes you, you.

6. That you’re going mad, mental or loosing your mind.
No you’re not. Your brain is just overwhelmed with cortisol – the stress hormone at the moment. Take a break and stop doing anything that you don’t need to. Practice relaxation techniques and be kind to yourself.

Remember that among the great and the good are people who’ve experienced depression. Even at the height of their success.

5. That everything is too much effort. That just getting up and out of bed is too exhausting.
Set yourself a small goal each day and try your best to achieve it. The goal might be as tiny as having a bath, calling someone for a quick chat, changing your bedding or going for a short walk.

Despite how you feel, get yourself to your GP and get treatment. If this seems too ginormous of a task, break it up into smaller steps. Ask family members or friends to help you to do this.

4. That your soul or higher self is being destroyed.
Your soul or higher self has survived several lifetimes and the accompanying reincarnation processes. It can and will survive depression. Depression is tiny and insignificant in comparison to the challenges your soul or higher self has already experienced.

3. That everything is hopeless.
You may feel this way, but it is not and will never be hopeless. According to The Royal College of Psychiatrists people can and do fully recover from depression.

2. That life isn’t worth living.
Here’s a plea from the heart: darling you might feel this way now, but how you feel will change. If you are feeling suicidal please visit your nearest A&E Department for crisis support.

1. That you’ll never be happy again.
You will. It will just take the right treatment and time.

(From: 15 Lies That Depression Would Have You Believe.)

2. A List of Famous People with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia
Following on from my tale of overcoming adversity, I came up with the idea of doing A List of Famous People with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia and/or Dyscalculia, which I did.

1. The difference between a House and a Home
Home has always been really important to me. But I noticed that people tend to use the word house and home interchangeably. So I wrote a blog post about The difference between a House and a Home.

My creative output has dramatically increased. Which is brilliant, especially considering how exceptionally busy 2016 has turned out to be so far. I’m already working on the next creative project, which I hope to share with you soon.

Take care,

Antony

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Creative Writing: Middle

By Creativity, ThinkingNo Comments
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Inkwell & Quill. (Image Copyright: Sye Watts/Antony Simpson.)

This is the second part in a blog post series, where I’ll be sharing some of what I’ve learned about creative writing over the last few years. The first blog post in the series was Creative Writing: Beginning.

1. Remember Your Aim
You should be writing something that entertains and is enjoyable to you and others. That’s all your creative work needs to do. It doesn’t need to be a work of literacy genius.

2. Your Writers Voice
Your writers voice is part of the art of creative writing. It will be influenced by Perspective, which I have wrote about here. It may change dramatically in different works.

Some writers try to emulate the voice of writers that they admire. This can be an interesting exercise and way to explore how those writers show their distinctive voice. To get the most out of this exercise, rather than passively read, you need to analyse how they crafted their voice.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert whom has written of many books, developed her writers voice by writing each of her books to friend or family member. Her writers voice in Big Magic, a book about living creatively, is warm, caring, passionate, engaging and captivating throughout.

Your unique writers voice will generally develop over time, with regular writing practice. The key point here is: practice.

Simple Writing – Writer’s Voice: What it is and how to develop yours is a good article to read, where the author writes about phrasing, tone, attitude and gives some tips on how to develop your writers voice. But nothing really beats writing lots.

3. Keep Going
Don’t let fear hold you back from starting, continuing or finishing a piece of creative writing. Even if, as your writing, you think it’s the worst thing ever written, keep going.

As author Anne Rice says in this video, ‘Just kick out the pages:’

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So keep writing, everyday if possible. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t manage everyday. Just write when you can. Whatever time you are managing to write, it’s better than not writing at all. Remember that if you keep going, eventually you’re going to finish. You’ll be bringing a new story into the world, which is wonderful.

4. Dialogue
Some rules generally apply:

  • Less is more.
  • Most people don’t talk to themselves. So don’t have characters do it.
  • It should be a conversation, not a monologue or full of large longwinded statements.
  • Don’t have a character explain to another character what happened in the last scene you wrote. It feels repetitive and tedious to the reader. One character can summarise to another character if absolutely necessary. But if the other character needs to know the details, then maybe he/she should have been in the last scene as a witness to events.
  • Only on rare occasions should you cut the end of dialogue, like this: . If you do it all the time, the dialogue isn’t moving the story along and the reader will get frustrated that no character ever finishes a sentence. Plus regularly cutting the end of sentences will lose its value and significance.
  • Dialogue tags such as he said and she replied are useful to identify who is talking and how they are saying what they are saying. But the overall tone of the conversation should be clear from the words in the dialogue.

To improve your dialogue listen to the conversations of strangers in every public place that you visit. The dialogue you write should sound like that. It should have hooks. During the editing process, which I will write about in the next blog post in the series, it is useful to read it aloud to yourself or someone else.

5. Tense
Generally past or present tense is used. Future tense is rarely used. Once you’ve decided which tense to use, be consistent and use it throughout your creative work. Here’s an article that explains tense simply: Creative Writing – Tense.

6. Description
General fiction set in the real world needs less description than creative works set in other worlds. If your creative work is set in the past, future or another world consider: societal structures, culture, religion/belief systems, etc. Only tell the reader what they need to know.

Avoid writing cliché opportunities to describe a character or settings. One such example of a cliché opportunity is the main character standing in front of a mirror observing and describing themselves to the reader. It’s been done so many times, that it has become a cliché.

A good tip, when it comes to description is to make references. So for example, rather than writing: Jean drove off in her red car. Write: Jean drove off in her red Nissan Micra. Be aware that over time these descriptive references might date your creative work. Some descriptive references are so embedded into society that they could never date your creative work.

In my short story A Few Amazing Moments I deliberately used descriptive references to set the time in recent history that the various scenes were set in.

Perspective alters how you describe things. You can read more about perspective here. Pacing alters the amount of description a scene has. You can read more about pacing here. But the rule is: in slower scenes more description is allowed. In action or fast-paced scenes there should be less description. To much description or to little can significantly impact on your overall pacing.

7. Back-up Your Creative Work – Regularly
We’ve all heard nightmare stories about writers whom have lots their entire work because of a computer crash or computer dying on them. They either didn’t hit the save button or didn’t back-up their computer or both. I’ve lost large chunks of scenes in the past because I didn’t hit the save button often enought. I’ve also lost entire creative projects because a computer decided to die on me. So here’s the advice:

  • Hit the save button at the end of every paragraph.
  • Back-Up your work regularly. Some people use the cloud. I personally use Time Machine and then do a manual copy/paste back-up on an external hard drive once a week.

8. Done Is Better Than Good
This advice comes from Author Elizabeth Gilbert. In her book Big Magic, which have reviewed here, she writes about the danger of perfectionism.

If you aim for your creative work to be perfect you will drive yourself insane. No matter how much time, energy, effort and work you put into a creative work it will never be perfect. So rather than striving for perfection, aim for completing your creative work to the best of your current ability.

So many creative people, leave work in their desk draws, unfinished, because they don’t feel it’s good enough. Because they are aiming for perfection. Just take a second to imagine the number of superb stories that never see the light of day, let alone get read, because the writer is aiming for perfection.

9. First Draft
Congratulations on completion of the first draft of your creative work. But for a good writer, it’s not even half finished yet. The manuscript now needs to be edited, which may include some re-writing.

In my next blog post of the series, I’ll be writing about editing (including an editing checklist), feedback and publishing options.

Write soon,

Antony



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Creative Writing: Beginning

By Creativity, ThinkingNo Comments

In this three part blog post series, I’ll be sharing some of what I’ve learned about creative writing over the last few years.

I want to start this blog post with a short video, which is just over a minute long. In this video Stephen King describes a magic moment after reading a book where you think to yourself: This really sucks. I can do better than this. This magic moment is usually the trigger for someone starting to write creatively. But what drives a Writer is a need or deep desire to tell a story.

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Inkwell & Quill.
(Image Copyright: Sye Watts/Antony Simpson.)

1. The Idea
The idea should be imaginative and well thought out. No idea is orignal, everything has been done. But what makes new literature unique, is the Writer’s showing and telling of the story. The unique voice of the Writer.

2. Scope & Size
Consider the scope and size of the story before you begin. According to Wikipedia here are approximate recommended word counts for different types of creative writing projects:

Short story – under 7,500 words
Novelette – 7,500 to 17,500 words
Novella – 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novel – over 40,000 words
(From: Wikipedia, Last Accessed: 11/02/2016)

I would add in word counts for the following:
Blog Posts – Up to 1,500 words
Flash Fiction – 200-300 words
Poems – Unknown, but generally quite short.
Music Lyrics – Unknown.

If journalism is your thing, online magazine The Gay UK has submission guidelines for word counts. They are as follows and likely to be inline with industry standards:
Reviews: 300 – 500 words
Interviews: 1000 – 2500 words
Columns: 400 – 1000 words
News item: 500 – 900 words
Top List: 300 – 500 words

These word counts are not set in stone, you are allowed to be a little under or be a little over. But if you are hundreds, or even thousands of words over, then the scope of your idea is either too big or you are likely to have overwritten and will need to cut in the editing. Editing will be discussed in detail in the next blog post of the series.

If you are planning to submit a piece of creative writing somewhere, ensure you know the word count limits before you start and adhere to the word count. It is unlikely that the person or people reading submissions will read a piece of work over their stated word count. No matter how good it is.

Next let’s discuss essential elements of any story.

3. Characters
Characters should be:

  • Believable.
  • Interesting.
  • Flawed.
  • Have room for growth and grow throughout the story, or the part of the story that they are in.
  • Be three dimensional and as complex as any person that you know.

Characters don’t have to be likeable or liked by the reader. In books that I’ve read, some of my favourite characters are bastards. If people read your work and care for your characters, you’re doing well. If readers are disinterested, don’t care, are irritated or frustrated by your characters, then you have some more character development work to do.

4. Storyline / Plot
Every story should have a Beginning, Middle and End. There needs to be conflict and resolution. Plot should be captivating. It should not have long periods where nothing happens. Be aware of genre conventions. It’s okay to make the reader work for the story, but don’t make them have to work too hard. Bare in mind The Seven Basic Plots:

  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth

A great article on plots, one that I would recommend every Creative Writer should read is The “Basic” Plots in Literature.

5. Research
If your story is set in the past, another country, or has a character with specialist knowledge you as the Writer need to do the research. You need to make yourself an expert in subject matters related to your story. Although you need to be an expert, you don’t need to show or tell the reader everything that you know.

6. Perspective
The choice of perspective is really important when writing any story. You can show and tell the story from character’s perspective, omniscient perspective or from several perspectives. A good article on perspectives is available here: The Writers Craft – Point of View in Literature.

7. Pacing
Pacing is bit of an art. Elongated sentences with detailed description helps to slow down a scene. Whereas, short. Sharp. Snappy sentences speed up scenes. Short sentences are ideal for action scenes.

8. Other Tips
You should write lots. Every day if possible. Writing, like anything, people get better at the more they practice it.

Get the show and tell balance right. Generally show more than you tell.

Your story should have hooks, things that grab the readers attention and encourage your reader to read on.

As a Writer you should read lots. Especially in the genre you wish to write in. If you’re unsure what genre you want to write in or type of story you want to write, read a variety. But don’t just passively read. Study the things you read. Look at the elements mentioned above, along with what you liked and disliked about the work. Try to understand:

  • What did the Writer do? Did they do it well or not?
  • Where in the piece of work did the Writer do what they did?
  • Why the Writer might have done what they did?
  • How did the Writer do what they did?

In the next blog post of the series, I’ll be writing about keeping going, the development of the Writer’s voice and the importance of backing-up your work.

Want to share your thoughts on writing? Leave a comment below.

Write soon,

Antony



I aim for posts on this blog to be informative, educational and entertaining. If you have found this post useful or enjoyable, please consider making a contribution by Paypal:


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