I love a good fire, and I’ve learned a lot over the last few months about the importance of laying it well, making sure it can breathe and has the space to roar. Writing deserves the same attention and conscious preparation, so here are my suggested stages, taught by my friend fire…
Gather your fuel
Newspaper, cardboard, kindling and wood. Don’t forget the matches or a lighter for the grand finale.
A writer’s gathering phase is 24/7 – so stay alert. Your creative fuel might be found in an inspiring dream, a conversation with a friend, a quote or news story you hear on the radio or the joys of a solitary walk in nature. You might gather in a concrete and conscious way, carrying a notebook and pen or a voice recording device with you. Alternatively, like me, you might just let the experiences, emotions, images, phrases naturally fill your fuel tanks with delicious top quality muse…just inwardly acknowledge them as they trickle in.
Clean the grate
Fires need to breathe. Clear away any old ash, sweep the sides free of soot, and every now and then give the chimney the full treatment.
I need clear uncluttered space to write, and I need dedicated time, so give some attention to your desk and your diary. Empty the desk of unnecessary clutter and check your diary and To Do lists. Anything that needs doing now now? Do it now. Anything that can be put off (at least 90% usually)? Park it. Your grate is cleared.
Quick alternative. Turn off your mobile phone and go to a cafe without letting anyone know where you’ve gone.
Lay your fire
Lay your fire carefully, scrunching up sufficient newspaper for the base being sure to leave it loose enough that it has some air. Add cardboard, kindling and a couple of smaller well dried out logs to hold it all in place.
Have you got all your writer’s tools to hand? Your pad and pen (or computer if that’s how you work), your earlier notes/draft(s) if it’s an ongoing project. Do you like to have a dictionary available? Do you need a glass of water or cup of tea at your side? Take the time to lay well, it makes the lighting soooo much easier!
Light the Fire!
Light! Set a match to the newspaper and observe, adding a gentle blow to the glowing bits if necessary, but not too strong. Don’t blow it out before it’s even had a chance to catch.
Write! Let it flow. Don’t re-read as you go along, or edit too early – you’ll put out the creativity that’s just come alive and is trying to get a hold. Enjoy. Listen to the crackles, feel the warmth, trust the fire of your creativity – it knows what it’s doing. Just keep your pen moving and give it space.
Fires like to climb
Add fuel regularly and angle it upwards, so the flames can stretch and reach up. They love to grow, so give them the means to climb.
Run ahead, get an idea of the future plot, the ending, let yourself write fast and light. Give your creativity the chance to get where it’s going, seek out its destination, let it play and stretch. Once you have a solid frame you can fill in the warmth and radiance, but don’t let the flames die down too quickly – remember, furious flicker then gentle glow.
Don’t leave your fire alone too long
Keep an eye on your fire and add fuel regularly. It will take a lot of time and energy to start it again if you let it go out.
Little and often folks, write daily and keep that warmth and glow alive. It doesn’t always need to roar, it can simply smoulder and glow, but keep it alive. Don’t put it in a cupboard or a box in the dark where it can’t breathe. Keep your writing where you can see it, so you can add a paragraph or sentence whenever it comes…