Writer’s Journey with Vicky Adin

Today I have historical author and genealogist, Vicky Adin sharing her creative journey as a writer. Thank you for sharing your love of history and writing Vicky.

What, where, why?

Two separate incidents started me thinking this week. The first was a post by Nora Roberts on “Here’s how I work”.after she became embroiled in an appalling plagiarism mess involving 85 books and 36 authors. That alone is bad enough, but the fallout generated questions surrounding her methods, output and honesty. Nora took to the web to explain herself. I find it sad she feels she has to justify herself at all, but I was extremely interested in her methodology.

Now, in no way do I wish to compare myself with Nora Roberts, but I was pleased to read she, too, spends time ‘staring into space’ and ‘looking stuff up’. I wonder if that is a common trait among authors? I write historical fiction and I ‘stare’ and ‘look things up’ all the time, and while she didn’t use the word pantser, she starts at the beginning and keeps going until she reaches the end, which is also what I do.

In contrast, I tend to re-read what I wrote yesterday, fiddle with it a little bit if something jumps out that says ‘fix me’ and then I carry on. I let the story unfold in my head as I write or sometimes the characters have to have their say about the directions I’m taking. When I’m writing (and I don’t produce more than one book in a year) then I write every day solidly. While the book is away being edited, I work on the marketing and promotion. No-one, it seems, can sell books without a profile and it takes work to keep up that profile and books before the readers’ eyes. Once the editing stage is complete and the book released, then it’s back to writing again. There’s always a new story to delve into.

Which leads me to the other aspect of my writing I often get asked about. Where do I get my ideas? For me, that is easy. I’m a genealogist. I love digging into the past, searching through records, and reading old newspapers online. From that, an enormous number of ideas pop up. Tiny snippets of information will lead to a whole story line. A job – lacemaker, sugar boiler, costume maker, journalist, soldier – can often become the starting point. Other times, it’s the location: Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, but I always end up in New Zealand. On one occasion I found an article about the discovery of a long, lost painting by a Cornish artist hidden behind another painting. The research into the art world of the time was fascinating, and when I discovered links to New Zealand, the story fell into place.

My wonderful husband recognises when I’m in the zone and doesn’t disturb me other than to bring me coffee or wine (depending on the time of day) until I’m back in his world again. Often when we are driving anywhere, silence descends as my mind drifts off into whatever world or era I’m writing about at that time. I do an enormous amount of research to ensure the facts are correct and then wrap the stories of everyday life around the events of the time.

I love history, I love people and I love writing. I love my job. It’s a perfect combination.

Vicky

A fan of historical novels since her teenage years, Vicky Adin writes New Zealand based stories about the tribulations and successes of the people creating history as it happened. As a genealogist, she uncovers some amazing stories of fortitude and endurance and of love and hope. She combines her love of research and writing to weave together family sagas in a way that brings the past to life. Her books vary in format from dual-timeline. She waits for the characters to tell her how the story will unfold. Married to her greatest supporter and best friend for nearly five decades, Vicky has two children and four grandchildren. She holds a MA(Hons) in English and Education and enjoys travelling – especially caravanning and cruising; the opposite of experiences. Her writing has been compared to Catherine Cookson’s stories. Check out her website, books on Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

 

Missing Goals

I missed my writing goal the other day. I wanted to write 5k, but I didn’t make it. Right at this point it was easy to get down that I missed my goal. I didn’t hit my target. I’m now behind. There’s a big but coming here.

But…

How does the situation look if I focus on what I did do? That day I managed to write 4k. And that is a pretty good effort for me at the moment, because the other thing to remember is to take in to account other factors which influence how much I write. Life needs to be lived, and it’s natural for it to get in the way of writing. Sometimes it’s best not to fight this, and to go with the flow, and work with what you’ve got. Writing this many words in one day was a fantastic effort. And this is most definitely a silver lining. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if a goal is missed, as that can create a negative mindset. By focussing on what I did manage to write, I know that the story has progressed, and I’m closer to finishing.

There is a bigger picture, to always keep in mind too. They day before I wrote 6k, when my goal was 5k. So, I can sort of pinch the 1k from the previous day and use it today, and remind myself that I’m on track.

It’s helpful to be mindful like this to ensure that I don’t get down when writing, thinking I can do more. Or getting hung up on the 1k I didn’t write today. Especially when I went 1k over yesterday – and even if I hadn’t. When that happens, it’s too easy to translate into a writing block, and then no words are written. Being mindful means that I’m thinking positive. I avoid creating a block for myself, and I keep on writing. Plus, no matter the word count, the story is being written, and that is what ultimately counts.

Then the next day, I wanted to write 5k, but I only wrote 2k. Life did get in the way that day. On paper, I’m behind in my writing goal, but really, overall, in three days I’ve written 11k, and I’m cruising towards the half-way point – those 2k helped to push that bit closer. And I could only write those 2k because I had a positive mindset.

It’s easy to get down about missing a goal, but what’s achieved during the process can be a silver lining.

Lilliana

New Easter Traditions

Easter for me in the past has meant the time of year when Dad wanted the rain to fall so he could get the soil ready to sow the seeds for the crops. It also evolved around Christian meaning with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

At school when growing up there was the fun and mystery of the Easter bunny. The eating of hot crossed buns, and Easter eggs. This still remains! (I plan to go on a diet after Easter!)

Mum began a tradition of buying us all pyjamas for the winter. A tradition I’m now continuing with my son. I have his new pyjamas ready to give to him on Easter.

There was always a big family focus over Easter for me. This year, this has a new meaning, as my son turns one, and it is his first Easter.

first birthday.jpg

It’s a big milestone, for my son, and for me, making this time very special, and not in the tradition sense. I’ve planned his first little birthday party. Printed photos of him growing over the last year, to make the milestone. The fun of his first birthday and Easter, being a perfect mix for the weekend. The Easter bunny feet are ready to put out (my big of fun too!), and I’ve planned my son’s first Easter egg hunt. It’s a time of transformation, and this year for beginning new traditions for my family. And the creation of new memories.

Happy Easter, however you choose to mark this point of the year.

snoopy happy easter.jpg

Fox it is!

A while back I asked on my Cultivating Creativity FB page for people to say what I should paint next. A giraffe, a tiger or a fox. It was simply a fun exercise for me and a way for me to extend myself by painting out of my comfort zone. The fox was my least favourite choice to paint, it’s just not an animal I connect with. But I thought perhaps I could give it a go. I thought painting the giraffe could be fun, and the tiger something a little challenging.

Everyone who commented suggested the fox. So, I painted the fox. Twice.

The first attempt I wasn’t at all happy with. I’d grabbed the wrong colour, though crazy colours do work with this technique, I just don’t feel it came together in this instance. I couldn’t get the nose right. It was a warm day and the paint was drying quickly making it tricky to do adjustments. At the end of the session, I just felt that I could do ‘better’ but not that day. about to start

The image I used for inspiration was in colour. I remembered that it should be in black and white in order to see clearly the low, mid and high tones. I copied my print of the fox into black and white. Got together my three favourite colours I like to paint with and I attempted to paint the fox again.

first attempt

I also decided not to try and rush, and gave myself permission to take as long as I needed. This time, it took my half the time to paint the fox. Giving myself as much time as I needed took the pressure off, and helped. Having the image in black and white also made a big difference to see the different tones better. And I’d painted the fox before, so I had some experience to draw on.

This is the first time I’ve gone back and painted the same subject again because I wanted to ‘improve’ the outcome, and my skill set. Because of these benefits I’m even tempted to try to paint the fox for a third time. For now, I’ve got lots of other subjects to paint, so a third re-visit isn’t in the near future, but might happen one time. What I can do, is apply what I’ve learnt here not just to other animal paintings in this style (I’m sure I’ll do the giraffe and tiger at some stage). second attempt

second attempt finished

The painting of the fox serviced a bigger purpose, of also making me more aware of my process, so it has been a good exercise to do. And despite good intentions, creative projects don’t always work out well the first time, and that it all part of the process.

Now, onto the next project! (which is to re-paint a rose!)

foxes painted

How Writing Nurtures Me

Today, I have children’s poet Kristin Martin giving an insight to how writing nurtures her. Thank you Kristin for giving a valuable insight to the creative process for yourself.

How Writing Nurtures Me

by Kristin Martin

I am a children’s poet. I write poems about nature, and about children’s wonder and awe at the natural world. I find it easy to put myself in the shoes of a child, because I still am that child. I still feel that wonder and awe.

On Monday Lilliana asked me to write a blog post. I typed the title on my laptop: How writing nurtures me, but I didn’t know what to write. So I closed the document and went back to writing poetry.

Today I spent the entire day writing children’s poetry. When I say ‘the entire day’, I mean that I dedicated today to writing poetry, rather than I sat at my computer and typed poems all day, because that is not possible, at least not for me.

In order to put myself in the right frame of mind this morning I looked out at my back garden. I saw something moving under a tree, and realised it was my turtle! I hurried outside because I rarely see her out of her pond, and watched as she rambled off into the bushes.

turtle hiding
Can you find the turtle?

And that was when I noticed the path. A smooth path under the rosemary bush, leading into the darkness. She obviously has wandered along this path regularly, as she has worn it smooth. I put my head down and peered along the path, under the jumble of branches and sweet smelling leaves, and her little face peered back at me.

And then I returned to my laptop and tried to capture my joy at discovering this mysterious path.

That poem is not finished yet, but the challenge of writing words, with perfect rhythm and rhyme, to tell a story about this path is one that I relish

Next, I opened a poem that I have been writing over the past week, but that still had a couple of lines I didn’t like. I read it, then left it open on my laptop while I went into the kitchen to make apple sauce. While I chopped apples I ran over the words in my head, and played with alternatives, and that is when I came up with the solution. I rushed back to my laptop and typed in the words. After finishing the apple sauce I re-read them, and they still sounded perfect.

I had solved the puzzle I had set myself. I had written a poem that tells the story I want and conveys the emotions I want it to, as well as having the correct rhythm, and rhymes that are true.

I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment.

After going for a walk, and then working on several other poems, all of which are unfinished, I realised that I felt happier and more fulfilled than I had in weeks. I felt nurtured. So I returned to the ‘How writing nurtures me’ blog post, and wrote this.

 

Kristin Martin writes poetry and short fiction for children and adults. She is the author of two poetry collections, To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme? published by Glimmer Press in 2019 and Paint the Sky, published by Ginninderra Press in 2016. Her poems and short stories are published in numerous anthologies, including Tadpoles in the Torrens and Wild, in magazines, including Page Seventeen, Orbit, Count Down, Blast Off and The Caterpillar, on websites and in art exhibitions. You can read more of her children’s poetry on her website, Poems For Kids, at kristinmartin.net.

The Benefits of Creative Rest

I was in the flow of writing the first draft of a story, when I found that I had an influx of edits to be done which took priority. When doing these edits, it meant I didn’t have the brain space for creative writing. I knew the edits were coming, but I’d been struck with a new story idea and I wanted to get writing.

Timing is everything, but it’s a tricky beast when you’re creating. So, when I was inspired to write, I did. I got over half the story written. It meant that I had to then stop writing this story when I didn’t want to because of the editing that needed to be done. I don’t like doing this, especially when I’m inspired to write. This time I had to, otherwise I would’ve ended up doing neither of the jobs well.

After a few weeks break from the story, I finally had the time to go back to it. It took a day to get back into the story. Then I re-found the flow, and managed to finish writing the story in three days. Wow! I even surprised myself with this output.

I could only do this because I trusted myself.

I was connected to my writing process, and aware of what works for me and what doesn’t work.

And I had a creative break during the editing process.

While editing for a few weeks had been a disruption, on the flip side it meant that I had a break from creative writing. When editing I’m using more of the right side of my brain, and during this time my left side had a bit of a holiday. This meant that when I got back to the story with time to write, I could get it done. My creative muscles were ready to flex and do the heavy lifting required to finish the novel.

It was a win-win. I got the editing done and kept on track, while off track for a while with my writing, when I did get the chance to go back to it, I was back on track in a matter of days.

What could’ve happened was that I worried about whether or not I would get back into the flow. This could’ve then resulted in crippling my creativity, and effected both the editing jobs and the story I was writing, and potentially the next story. It didn’t. Because I trusted myself that when the time was right, I’d get back writing the story. It reminded me that sometimes a break or interruption can work in my favour. This time it did. This positive creation also extends out into other areas of my life, helping my general wellbeing.

Have you ever experienced a time when you had to take a break from a creative project, to go back to it later expecting that it would take ages to get back into it, but then managed to finish it quickly? Please share below in the comments.

Ripping Up My Notebook

As part of art class we’re doing a collage activity. My inner child was inspired and excited, as well as my adult self as I got ready to mix mediums to embark on a more grown up version of a technique I haven’t used since primary school.

I’ve come prepared with tissue paper from home, and have both acrylics and oil paints to use. The brief was to draw a figure and I selected a Victorian looking lady from the pile of images. I’d rather not to have to draw another figure because I find it hard, but I’m inspired so I embraced the task. Victorian Lady

There were stencils to use and I sat thinking what I to include in order to add texture and variety to the background of this rather pensive lady I’d chosen to draw and paint.

Why not use my own words? Written on paper with my fountain pen? My notebook and fountain pen are always in my handbag. Inspired I took them out and turned to the back of my notebook to write words I think will compliment this lady.

writing for artNot once do I think about how I’m going to have to rip out these pages of my notebook ~ one of my rules is not top rip out pages. If I don’t like what I’ve written too bad. It stays, a record in time of a difficult writing day. Right now, I’m too inspired about the canvas I’m working on to even care about this rule.

I want to get the words written, paper ripped up to see what magic I can create on the canvas. Then to see how the colours change, the image forms over the next few weeks. This is the part of creating I love. The experimenting side. The hold my breath stage, maybe it will work out, but maybe it won’t. The time when I have an idea of what I want to do, I’m going along with the journey and the destination could be quite unexpected.

When did you create art which was completely different to what you set out? How did you feel about this? Please share your comments below.

Signature

I’ve taken the step and have signed my painting. Seascape is the first painting I’ve signed! (I’m disregarding the paintings done at school)

It’s long overdue, I have finally signed my most recent painting. It is a big deal. For one, I never felt a painting was feeling finished enough to sign. And two, how was I going to sign my name?

Isn’t it interesting what I was hung up on? What did it matter how I signed my name? As long as I signed it. I thought about writing my initials, or my full name, or a shortened version of my name. Then I realised it didn’t matter.

What mattered was that I took the step to sign my artwork. Because in doing so, I was saying to the world, but more importantly to myself, that I am happy, proud, and content with what I’ve created. And I am just that with this seascape. My signature might change with time, but of course that won’t matter. It’s all part of my development as an artist.

Driven to finally take the step of signing my name on my painting I realised I didn’t know what brush to use. Or what colour. These details do sort of matter. I asked my teacher. The colour didn’t have to be black, but a colour used in the painting. So I used a blue tone. I borrowed the teachers brush. I didn’t have a brush that was thin enough. Then I jumped in. I didn’t practise. I simply signed my name. And I think that it’s the best part of this painting.

I look forward to signing many more paintings.

 

Seascape

The fine line between not liking your work to being constructive about what you’ve created is important. Actually, it’s important in life as well.

I was reminded of this boundary between my perspective of negativity versus constructive thoughts in regard to a recent workshop on painting seascapes. Not only did I learn how to paint waves I also learnt the value of looking at my work, seeing how I feel about it, by asking myself some questions.

Do I like what I see? Is the painting working? No. What can I do about it? What can I change?

It’s the last two questions which I found particularly helpful. Because the answers gave me positive action to take. By asking these questions, it also prevented me from spiralling down into a puddle of negativity that what I’m doing isn’t good enough.

Why were these questions so valuable?

Not only did the answers help keep my mindset positive but also allowed me to pause and consider how I could improve the painting. The answers gave me a positive focus. And a chance to try something with the intention of progressing the painting.

Whatever I do may not improve the painting (to my liking) but I can keep repeating these questions until I do. Or worse case, if I’ve tinkered too much or overworked the painting, then this becomes a valuable lesson for me to have learnt, which I can apply to the next painting I do.

How did I apply this process to my seascape? The big wave in the centre wasn’t turning crashing over like it is now. It was rolling in a white top across the canvas. This looked a little boring. I wasn’t happy with it.

step 4 seascape.jpg

With the help of the teacher the wave was changed part way across so that it was partly rolling over. It worked. It could’ve easily not have. And if that was the case, then I would’ve tried something else. Or learnt what not to do for the next seascape I painted.

 

Seascape Finished

It’s too easy to get down on your creative project, so it’s a good safety net as such to have process like asking yourself a few questions. “Am I happy with this? No. Then what can I do about it?” Because this can help generate inspiration and ensure the creativity keeps flowing.