A Guide to Surviving the Summer

No, this isn’t about safety abroad or using sun protection; (although we do advise those things) this is about how to get through the long summer months which fall between exam period and fresher’s week without losing your mind.

Summer

The last week of term after exams always feels free, and celebratory, but what then? What do you do from late May to September? Of course, a lot of students have jobs or internships, but in the last few years it has seemed more difficult to find these opportunities, which means you may lose motivation.

So what can you do? Well…

Write something – you have all the time in the world now to just write something you want to write, not because you’ve been told to, not because you have an impending deadline. You could write something fantastic that would get published, you could write something utterly terrible that you never show to anyone, that won’t get you a bad grade. You could explore and develop some of the things you wrote over the academic year (because don’t we all improve so much between week 1 and now?) The point is that if you do something which feels productive, it is likely to motivate you to do other productive things.

Take up a hobby – It doesn’t have to be a new craft, it can be something that slowly became less prominent as the academic year got more and more crazy. What do you love to do? Think about it, do you miss it? Do it. Again, sometimes it’s difficult to get motivated to even do things that you know you love doing when you feel like you have nothing to do, but seriously, go and make a pie, bake an upside down cake, build a computer, make your own dress, plant some vegetables. Seeing and holding the product of your own work is extremely fulfilling.

Read a book – Read two books, read ten, read a hundred. This is your opportunity to pick up any book in the world and read it just because you want to. Apart from being one of the best feelings in the world, it will still hone your reading skills and your writing skills. One of the first things I was taught at Brunel was ‘the more you read, good great or terrible, the better your writing will be’.

Do voluntary work – If you’re looking for actual paid work, then voluntary work won’t get in the way. It is flexible, it’s far easier to get into than a paid position, because in general, if you have the time, you are qualified. It will also look great on your CV and will get you out of the house for a few hours each week.

Start a blog – This kind of goes hand in hand with ‘Write something’, but then again, you blog doesn’t have to be for stories or your other creative work. You can take anything you enjoy and blog about it. Film reviews, books, games, crafts, cooking, health and fitness, nail art. The world, as the say, is your oyster when it comes to blogs, and it’s hard to explain how surreal and satisfying it is seeing views accumulate from all over the world.

Those are a few tips, hopefully they’re useful to you in some way. What are your tips for staying productive over the summer?

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Under the Weather

Living in England, we are used to the weather being ridiculously temperamental. A few weekends ago, people were walking around in shorts, with horrific sunburn. Now, it’s big jumpers and umbrellas.

Cloudy
*PHOTO CREDIT: andersbjornsbo.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/does-cloud-computing-only-work-in-cloudy-weather/

When I opened my curtains this morning, the clouds were shifting and there was a hint of blue skies. I felt motivated to write for the first time in a long time. Not only that, but my mood lifted instantly. Within the hour, the clouds have returned, and with it, the familiar sense of being entirely unmotivated to write anything at all, save for some sarcastic tweets.

I find myself wondering if this is a common thing – Does the weather really affect us in this way? Do clouds in the sky somehow manifest as writer’s block, clouding our creative vision? Do they make for dull writing? In the same vein, does the sun make us write with more tenacity and verve? Does the rain make our writing take on a more sombre edge?

I’m interested in your viewpoints, writers. Please leave a comment below or send a tweet to @brunelwriter.

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Inspiration

Inspiration can strike at any given moment, although it most likely will strike at a really inconvenient time. Unfortunately that’s just how inspiration is. Last term I was just sitting quietly in Starbucks when all of a sudden I had a great idea for a novel and a few characters. For those writers who don’t always carry a journal I highly recommend you do so you can avoid texting yourself the idea.

When you go for looking for inspiration you most likely won’t find it. Inspiration is a tricky little bugger. Fortunately, for the times when we are looking for inspiration, we can easily cultivate it.

  1. Music

The relationship between music and writers is often a fond one. Most writers nowadays have a playlist of music they create for each novel they write. This can be a really useful tool if you want to create a certain mood in your writing. If you still don’t have an idea for next writing piece, flash fiction exercises where you have to write down the first thing that comes to mind when listening to a piece of music can be a great way to get started.

  1. Photography

It is often said that one photograph is worth a thousand words. Photographs can provide you with a certain setting, mood or tone that you potentially could capture in your prose. A few good photography websites worth a look are the Lonely Planet and In-Public.

  1. Experience, experience, experience.

I am a firm believer in ‘write what you know.’ Writing from past or present experiences can provide you with interesting scenes in your prose that are unique to you.  Writing what you know can also make your writing more authentic and believable. This does not only apply to creating events and circumstances in your novel but can also be used to create characters. More often then not, when I am developing characters for my prose I take the traits and personality of my friends and family and mix them to create a realistic and interesting individual.

You can also gain inspiration many different ways but these are just a few to get you started. If you’re still staring at that blank page not ready to dive in at the deep end then try something on this list. You never know, you might just find you’ll be inspired.

Kate McKim.

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2014 Short Story Competition

Getting published as a writer in this day and age is increasingly difficult. With so much talent and competition around, it can seem like an impossible task! It’s important for writers to get as much feedback as they possibly can, and perfect their skills to make sure all their work is as amazing as it can be. Since the internet has become a vital tool in networking and getting noticed as a writer, online creative writing competitions are a great way to start off putting your stuff out there. This month the Writers and Artists Yearbook have once again launched their short story competition, designed to help aspiring writers hone their craft and the chance to be published on the internet.

The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook is offering one lucky winner a £500 cash prize, a publication on the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook website and a place on the residential Arvon writing course of your choice! Arvon run residential courses on a variety of platforms including poetry and screenwriting. Published writers are on hand to give ambitious novelists advice on everything they would need to gain confidence in themselves and inspiration for their writing.

Anyone can enter! All you have to do is write a short story for adults of up to, but no more than, two thousand words using the prompt “The Visit”. Then, once your masterpiece is complete, email it to competition@bloomsbury.com with the subject line “WAYB14 competition”.

The closing date for the competition is 15th February 2014 and winners will be announced in March 2014. It’s a fantastic opportunity for all aspiring authors of any age, plus it’s free to submit a story! So whether you’re a would-be writer looking for a break or just wanting to dabble in creative writing for a bit of fun, this could be for you!

Visit https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/competitions for more deals. And get creative!

Hilary Nouwens