JOURNEY PART 2: Descent into despair


There is a lot of noise in my head. Always has been. So many thoughts and ideas swirl around inside my skull, and sometimes they’re so loud they drown out everything else.


the woman with red hair standing among birds, digital art style, illustration painting


I like to think a lot of writers feel this way. It’s a handy problem to have when it comes to making stories, because there’s always plenty of material to choose from. It also has the added advantage of helping you entertain yourself when the real world is boring you to tears. But it makes a lot of things harder, too. I struggle to get to sleep most nights, since my damn brain doesn’t know how to switch off. I don’t like loud music or large crowds, because all that extra sound makes everything become overwhelming. And, believe it or not, it can actually make writing harder.


After completing The Unicorn and her faimily, my love for writing blossomed like a sweet spring rose. Each day I’d get home from school, toss my bag into my bedroom, and start the search for some paper and my rapidly growing roll of connector-pens. Then I would settle down in a corner somewhere and write, and write, and write. The days when we did creative writing at school were just an added bonus.


I wrote stories about anything and everything: a girl who wanted a pony, a ghost and a zombie, the misadventures of a wolf pup, a boy who went missing in the alps, a set of septuplets and their older sister, the glory of fireworks…the list goes on. But all my stories had one thing in common: none of them were completed. Not a single one.


I was seriously on the brink of despair. I loved writing, but all that stupid noise in my head made it nigh on impossible to choose a single idea to explore, and then stick to it. Unfortunately, because I did not have the self-awareness at ten years old that I now have today, I struggled to pinpoint the reason behind my writing woes. All I knew was that I had a growing pile of “books” with pretty covers but mournfully empty pages. It was maddening.


Everything changed when my mum signed me up for a writing workshop one school holidays. The facilitator was a woman named Carole, and within the space of two hours she had rooted out the cause of the problem that had tormented me for over two years. To address the issue, Carole took it upon herself to write me a personally-tailored letter—a letter that completely changed the way I approached my writing (you can read the full letter here).


“Someone like you has lots and lots of ideas just bursting to come out,” she wrote.


I blinked, startled. That sounded remarkably close to the truth.


“You don’t want to keep them waiting and you allow them to all bundle into the one story.”


Correct again.


And then she told me, “You have to be in charge of the ideas, which requires…DISCIPLINE!”


Ten-year-old me frowned, thinking: I know that, but how?


“Keep a little notebook of the ideas you are just dying to use,” Carole suggested. “You’ll always have a plentiful supply of story ideas, then.”


Now there was an intriguing thought. Bursting with youthful enthusiasm, I dragged my mum to Officeworks when the workshop drew to a close. Of course, I didn’t buy a notebook. Oh no. This project required an entire folder, complete with alphabetically ordered tab dividers so I could organise my story ideas by title. Yes, my OCD tendencies were firmly ingrained even then. Sue me.



The Big Blue Folder (aka BBF).


Now, my Big Blue Folder, though deeply beloved, did not solve my problems straight away. I actually don’t recall doing a whole lot of writing over the next two years. But I did dedicate a large amount of time and effort to typing up all of my story ideas, printing them out, and carefully filing them away into the BBF (should I be alarmed how that looks remarkably like BFF?). The exercise was a brilliant lesson in discipline, and lo and behold, I did manage to finish a piece or two during my final years of primary school.


I know that many of the ideas within the BBF will likely never see the light of day, but it’s nice to know they’re there. It’s nice to know that such a record of my earlier years as a writer exists. And some of the ideas do show promise, so you never know—I may revisit them sometime in the future. Interestingly enough, the bare bones of my WIP Graceborn series occupies at least three of the folder’s pages…but that’s a story for another time.




Lessons learned:

  • For a writer, having ideas is a good thing. Having lots of ideas is a great thing. But having too many ideas can pose a problem if you don’t have a system in place to sort through them. Your mind can get too full, and then both you and your writing suffer.
  • Discipline is one of the most important skills a writer must learn—not only the discipline to see a project through to the end, but the discipline to filter out plot bunnies that aren’t absolutely necessary to the story, even if they’re really good.
  • Making book covers is SO much fun! When I was younger I drew them myself, before I graduated to using a computer. I have also recently discovered Canva *rubs hands together in glee*


The story of my writing journey will be continued in PART 3: The hand of the gods


RA_logo _backdrop-01_miniRebecca Alasdair


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