Writers love to share the backstory of their book: where, when and how they were struck by a spark of inspiration. Bec recently returned to the exact spot where she had her lightbulb moment, a puzzle that led to an obsession with writing productivity,
My lightbulb moment arrived at Lumb Bank, the Ted Hughes Arvon Centre for writing, the site of many creative inspirations. I recently delivered a guest reading there from our book Written. However, rather than talk about life-changing breakthrough I told the audience about a block.
Back in 2010 I landed my dream job as a centre director running a writing centre in my home town of Hebden Bridge. I’d started my career many years before, working on the shop floor of a high street bookshop, moving into publishing as an editor, then managing teams of writers in broader communication roles.
Everything I needed to write?
I was a keen short-story writer, part of an engaged and supportive writing group, and getting positive feedback on my initial story submissions. I had high hopes for my new job, seeing it as the break I needed: the job would give me inspiration, a network, connections, everything I needed to make it as a writer.
Instead, I stopped writing.
In theory I had everything needed for creative success – I was ambitious, motivated and surrounded by the best writers of a generation. But rather than supercharge my creativity I was stuck, blocked and unable to find the time, energy or ideas to write.
The puzzle of the perfect writing environment
I became fascinated by the difference between my own failed attempts and those who achieved success with their writing. What were the tutors and guest readers doing right? And what was I doing wrong? How did they keep going when I had stalled? Was it innate talent, innovative ideas, feats of willpower and persistence, or the perfect writing routine?
I researched people’s writing habits. I went deep into academic papers on the psychology of creative practice and persistence. I spoke to aspiring and successful writers about how they got the writing done and what stops them. In hindsight it looks like an epic exercise in procrastination, but it was a spark of curiosity that took my writing in a completely different direction.
I started a blog about adventures in writing habits. I interviewed writers, shared stories and research, and passed on practical tips on things to try. My obsession with creative persistence spread to my husband Chris and after a decade led to us co-writing Written: How to Keep Writing and Build a Habit That Lasts.
Your writing superpower
One simple idea drives our work: noticing how you write and taking a more mindful experimental approach is the most powerful thing you can do to gain a happier, healthier and more productive relationship with writing.
Since 2010 I have learnt a lot about my own writing. I have tried lots of different approaches and found a system that works for me. That system has, of course, changed over time as my life changed, it’s also different depending on what I’m writing and where I am in the writing process. I figured out what I need to keep going and along the way Chris and I have helped countless others do the same.
Productivity is personal
Chris and I did a Zoom Q&A on Tuesday 21 February. I spoke about Lumb Bank and the spark of inspiration that led to my obsession with writing productivity. I explained why productivity is personal and together we answered questions and shared tips on how to find a writing habit that’s personal to you and your life.