Using pinterest as visual inspiration for writing

About a year ago I stumbled across writer Kirsty Logan. Kirsty’s written plenty of helpful articles and blog posts (which can all be found through her website) about how to become an author and how to write good stories. She uses pinterest to collect visual inspiration for her stories.

A while ago I did the same and put together a pinterest board for the book I was working on last year. The book that is now sitting at the publisher in Finland waiting to be judged and read. I thought I’d share some of those images with you and mentally tumble back into the world I spent the last year and a half exploring. This is Tonby, a town that, so far, only exists in my head, on my computer and on around 200 pages of A4 paper.

Links to source images can be found on pinterest.

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7 things I learned while spending a weekend trading at Spitalfields market

Posh market trader’s breakfast at Spitalfields. No sausage and egg rolls for me.

On Sunday I was standing at a market stall at Spitalfield’s market, watching customers walking past. I was freezing, feeling bored, angry and tried. Life on the markets isn’t easy.

Gerry was doing an art market at Spitalfield’s and I was manning the Plane Clothing t-shirt stall. I’ve done a few markets in the past, but they’ve all been friendly, easy indoor markets. They’ve also been around Christmas time when people spend, spend and spend. Doing a market in April, when half of London is away on Easter Holiday and the other half is watching the London marathon is a different thing altogether. I did learn a few things.

1. Market traders like moaning

If you spend any time at all on the London markets you will meet a varied bunch of other traders. Some have done it for years, some have just started, some are doing the markets because they don’t have any other choice of employment, some are passionate about the product they’ve just started selling.

The one thing all these traders will have in common is the moaning. I did it too. It’s almost impossible to avoid if you’re having a slow day. Moaning and complaining is the market trader equivalent of a doctor joking about his patients, it’s a way to let off steam after a stressful day. You need to complain a bit after the third person walks by and turns their nose up at your stall. Or after someone ignores you when you speak to them.

However it’s easy to get stuck in a negative headspace. This will show through when you start talking to customers. They can smell it, they see it in your tired, dulled eyes. Moan a little bit and then remind yourself of the job you’re there to do.

2. There are plenty of customers out there – some will like your product, some won’t

The market is an unforgiving teacher. If your product isn’t working it won’t sell. But even if you have a good product, not everyone will like it. You will meet some people who adore what you do and some people who don’t understand it at all. What you need to understand is that it’s not personal. Everyone is different. No matter how great your product is it won’t work for everyone.

This gets even more complicated if you do several days at a market where people LOVE what you do and spend money with you one day and no one even wants to look at your product the next day. Again it’s nothing personal, it’s probably just totally random and depends on the customers that happen to come through that day. Try to remind yourself of this. Don’t take the good or the bad days too seriously. Just keep working.

This same advice works for writers and most creatives. Some people just won’t like your style or your subject. Keep working away, put your stuff out there. Learn from the constructive feedback you get and believe in your product.

3. Remember the basics, food and staying warm

It’s easy to forget about eating when you’re watching the stall the whole day. Market trading is tiring work. Eating will make you less grumpy. Staying caffeinated and warm is also important. Make friends with the traders around you and ask one of them to watch your stall when you get a take away from somewhere. Be friendly. Offer to bring people tea or coffee. Wear good shoes.

4. Don’t scare the customers – but talk to them

This is something I learned quite early on. Stand outside the stall, that makes the whole thing less intimidating for people who want to have a closer look at your product. Let them browse at their own pace, but always say hi and make eye-contact if you can. Tell them about the product, but only if they’re in the stall and looking at your lovely wares. Sometimes people need to be told what they’re looking at.

5. Market traders are doing a fucking tough job so make sure you treat them with respect

Market traders run small businesses, many of them make or source their own products. They work their asses off the days they’re not trading and when they’re doing market days they drag all their stuff to a stall, set it up in the morning, stand around selling the whole day and then pack everything down at night. It’s a tough job. Most people who do it voluntarily like it on some level (even though they moan), otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it because it’s fucking hard.

Most of these people are professionals. They and their products should be treated with respect. A market stall is their shop. Don’t put your pram in the stall and have a long phone conversation, you’re taking up space and valuable time. No one will browse through the product when you’re standing there. Don’t flick through the products like it was total cheap garbage, this isn’t Primark. Don’t be rude if you’re spoken to, the traders are just doing their job.

Most customers are great, but some clearly left their manners at home.

6. Market trading can be great – but don’t let that fool you

There is a certain freedom to the job, You’re your own boss, you choose your own hours. On good days you can walk home with your pockets stuffed full of cash. Every time a customer walks away with a bag you get a little kick. Sometimes you’re so buzzed and happy it’s a bit difficult to sleep. But market trading is also insecure, your product can work one day and be totally overlooked the next. You’re depending on the whims of the market so stay flexible, work on other avenues, have a website and put your stuff up online. Make sure you have a mailing list, connect with your customers on Facebeook or Twitter. It’s easy to get addicted to those good market days, but for most traders that won’t be enough to sustain a business.

7. Have fun

Even when the weather is shitty, when you’re cold, when no one buys anything, try to have fun. There are always interesting people to hang out with. Make friends. Chat about life and listen to all the interesting life stories around you. If you’re spending any time at a market you’ll be surrounded by the most fascinating, creative and brave people you’ve ever met in your life.

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Stuff I learned at the London book fair 2014

London Book fair

I spent all of yesterday at the London book fair, which was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with great people like Amie and Emmi and unexpectedly ran into Helena as well. All around a really good and inspiring day. I also learned a few things by walking around, talking to people and listening in on a few seminars.

Get your work out there

I’ve spent the last few years typing away by myself, being too scared to show my stories to anyone except for Gerry, my parents and about two good friends. This is not the way to go about things. The only way to learn, grow and get better is to get feedback. The writing process shouldn’t be a precious, high-pressure thing. It should be fun.

Don’t care so much

It goes back to my previous point. Sometimes I’m still a little bit frightened of sitting down to write. I’m scared that unless the weather is sunny, my mood is good, the stars are perfectly aligned and I’m well-caffeinated I won’t be able to write well enough. I still think that somehow the words I put down have to be perfect to start out with, that I can ruin a text by writing on a bad day or that I’m not always good enough to do it.

One of the panels I watched featured two American authors (Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy) who self-publish around four romance novels each every year. Their books are selling in their millions and combined they’re earning eight (!) figures a year from writing.

They didn’t seem too fussed about the quality of each book. Of course they emphasised writing good stuff, but to them the most important thing was churning out the work. No one book had to be a master-piece, they only had to be fun engaging stories that people wanted to read.

In other words, there is no point being a perfectionist. Especially not when a modern audience prefers speed.

Self-publishing is the future

I listened to two panel discussions about self-publishing, both times the room was packed. After the Book Fair I tagged along to the ALLi party which was sponsored by Amazon.

The atmosphere in the pub where the party was held was great and buzzy. There were some live readings and the crowd was supportive and jolly. The vibe was great. It felt like this was a scene where good things were happening, where people felt positive about writing and putting their work out there. Where they enjoyed both being able to write and also being able to control the publishing process. This is where things were happening.

Genre fiction sells really well on Amazon

Back to the two romance writers I mentioned previously who are selling millions and millions of books every year in a genre which works well for ebooks. So does science fiction, erotica and thrillers. It seems like authors working in these genres can do very well online, especially if they’re writing a series. People love series and if they buy one book they will in all likelihood by a few more.

Learn when to think like a writer and when to think like a publisher

It might be self-explanatory, but in order to do well as a self-published author your also need to think like a publisher. What kind of writing will sell, how should the books be branded to sell, what kind of cover will the target audience like and so on.

Also figure out what it is you want to do. Do you want to sell a lot of books or do you want to connect with people? Do you just want to write for the sake of writing or is it important that other people read your work? These things should inform how and what you write. Wear the publisher’s hat and think about the end goal.

Write every damn day

There is a hashtag on instagram called #yogaeverydamnday. I think there should be a similar one for writing. The only way to do it and to do lots of it is to write every damn day and not to be too precious about it. Don’t think too much. Don’t fret too much. Just write whenever you can.

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The London coffee festival

london coffee festival

On Sunday morning I made my way to the Truman Brewery off Brick Lane for the London Coffee Festival. I’m not much of a coffee geek, but I do love my coffee. I’ve been known to get excited about going to sleep because it means that I can wake up the next day and have a cup of morning coffee.

I’m also lucky to have a brother who is obsessed by coffee and through osmosis I have picked up a few things over the years. I know I like a cold brew (more about that later) and I think washed or naturally processed coffee is very nice (it tastes really fruity). Although I’m also not ashamed to admit that sometimes there’s nothing quite as nice as a cup of instant coffee, it reminds me of the days when I first moved to London and it was the only thing we had in the house.

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

Even though I arrived early the festival was already packed with people. I was a bit overwhelmed by it all and hung out in the chocolate corner for a bit, trying to pace myself. It was slightly difficult though because there were a lot of very delicious looking samples everywhere.

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

I tried a bit of hot chocolate by Jaz and Jules, which was delicious. They have a stall at Broadway Market where you can get a very nice cup of hot chocolate with a huge sinfully sweet marshmallow that will set your heart racing.

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

I also got very excited when I stumbled across the Love Cold Brew people, handing out nice, syrupy cold brews. Very yummy. I was slowly getting quite caffeinated.

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

I moved on to some very coffee geeky looking people and had some more samples.

london coffee festival

london coffee festival

Another good discovery was the people doing Vietnamese coffee, which is cold coffee mixed with condensed milk. It was super-nice and I could easily have had a larger cup. Although by this stage my hands were getting slightly shaky.

london coffee festival

I managed to gulp down one final shot and then went off to meet my friend Amie who’s visiting London and to find some food to soak up all that caffeine.

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16 random facts about the UK

Image via The Retronaut.

1. Swansea is the wettest city in the UK

2. In 2003 Aireborough in West Yorkshire was named the most “average” place in England and Wales.
Aireborough was selected as the most average ward from over 8,000 in England and Wales using data from the 2001 census. It was ranked as the most average, with reference to six criteria: age, home ownership, car ownership, religion, ethnicity and marital status. (Via the BBC)

3. The average British person drinks three cups of tea a day, believes in God, is more than £3,000 in debt, has sex eight times a month, is caught on CCTV camera 300 times a day and drives a Ford Fiesta. Says the Daily Mail in 2007.

4. Richmond is the most copied British place name in the world. (Daily Mail)

5. Ripley in Derbyshire was named the most English place in Britain in 2006 and has the largest proportion of residents with an English ethnic background of any place in England. (more Daily Mail, they would focus on these things I guess)

6. The average British person will drink 2.5 kg tea per year. (says wikipedia)

7. The average British woman will spend over £4000 on handbags in her lifetime. (Daily Mail again)

8. Most British people would like to live in York, with Bath, Brighton and Hove and Edinburgh sharing second place.

9. The average Brit spends four years with a hangover, says the Huffington Post.

10. The average Brit shags 2.8m people during his or her lifetime, indirectly, according to the “Sex Degrees of Separation” calculator from Lloyds Pharmacy, via The Register.

11. The average Brit takes 121 holidays in a lifetime and spends about £168,553 on taking breaks. (Says the Mirror).

12. The average Brit spends about £40 000 on buying drinks for other people. That means as a nation the UK population will spend £30 billion-a-year on round buying, according to the survey of 2,000 people (Via The Daily Mail)

13. According to Tesco the average Brit eats about 7000 calories on Christmas Day.

14. The average British man will spend a month of his life searching for socks. When he’s found them he’ll be off down the pub for around 10,585 hours. He’ll watch 11 years of TV, learn to cook just four meals in his lifetime, sleep with eleven partners and say sorry 1.9million times, via The Sun.

15. The Guardian reports on what insurance policies says about British averages.

Seven out of 10 people take no exercise during the week, but do find time to go to the pub at least once.
The insurer also said that the possessions in the home of today’s Mr and Mrs Average (including furnishing, clothes and carpets) are worth on average £28,000.

16. And finally, according to the BBC in 2008, Manningtree in Essex has the most pubs for its size, with five pubs and 900 people – that’s 180 people per pub.

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