Advent calendar with text: Thisis our advent calendar. Every year we fill it with sweets and little notes to each other. This year we have filled it with ideas. Future stories.

Filling Your Bucket

Back in March 2020, it was like the entire world took a giant swig from the DRINK ME bottle, as we hurtled down the rabbit hole.

I.e. the world shrunk.

And individually, I shrank. Like many people, I retreated into my head, made a blanket fort, and hid there... and I stopped writing. I had nothing to give except anxiety and mediocre baking, and everyone was writing about that kind of thing.

I forgot, for a few months, that we don’t have to write about big things; about travelling the world, seeing loads of people, global pandemics.

Because the pandemic was so big, it eclipsed everything else (and if you’re in any doubt about the truth of that, just look at the horrors the UK government has tried to sneak through when we were all distracted with, you know, coping with the new day-to-day life).

Then I remembered: it’s the tiny stories that matter. The people we love, the memories we create, the little events that make up the huge ones.

So in December 2021, I took charge of my creativity again with a giant pile of mini-adventures because if we wanna write good stuff, we need to fill our creativity buckets with experiences.

And the great thing is: they don’t have to cost anything at all.

The Advent Adventure

Joe and I have one of those reusable Advent calendars. It’s a set of 24 little wooden drawers with space for chocolates or sweets or tea (originally, it was tea).

Of course it was going to be filled with chocolates, but this year I wanted to do something different—so I got a load of coloured paper squares and scribbled down ideas, and I got Joe to do the same.

Ideas like... find the highest point within 15 miles and walk up there at sunrise.

Or... go indoor skydiving.

Or... go for a walk down to the river and make a boat out of bark, leaves, fabric, and sticks, and sail it into the sunset.

Or... learn how to make pottery.

Or... cook Jollof rice for tea.

The point was, I wanted Joe and I to have a rich source of mini-adventures to embark upon together, so we can create memories and so that I can do something worth writing.

And, of course, I wanted to expand our world despite not being able to travel as we used to do.

Could you do something similar?

Next time you feel bereft of ideas, like a dried-up raisin, have yourself a mini-adventure. Find a place within a few minutes of you that you’ve never visited before. Or go in the middle of the night. Or during a full moon. See it differently and have an adventure—then write about it.

Travel Inside Your Head

And if you can’t get out and about at all? Travel inside your head. Our memories are a rich source of stories, and the more we dig into our memories, the more we remember. Brains are funny like that.

Take a look at old letters, photographs, and postcards and rummage around in your memories. What’s lurking there? What do you remember? Write it down... then keep writing as more memories and ideas trickle then flow then flood out.

Here’s a quick exercise that’ll help you do this: make a timeline.

If you’re not working on anything in particular, start with your birth, then record every significant event and see what you remember.

If you are working on something in particular—say, a book—start with the significant event that precipitated it. For example, I received a letter when I was 16 that kick-started what I do now, although I didn’t know it then.

Then, go through your timeline and note down wider world events. For example, when I was on my way home from my first ever gig, we heard on the radio the news that Kurt Cobain was dead. This helps you to set the context for your memories, and maybe trigger some more you can use.

You’ll Never Write Alone

Fill your creativity bucket and you’ll never be short of ideas, experiences, and emotions to write—and remember not everything you write has to be shared publicly. Quite often, the most private stuff can be a springboard for writing we want to put out into the world.

And my next suggestion? Find a writing group of some kind.

Writing is a solitary activity for the most part, but it doesn’t have to be. Writing buddies or a coach won’t just keep you on track, they’ll be a magnificent source of ideas, prompts, and cheerleading.

The work you produce will be richer and more wonderful because of your writing village—and it’ll be fun, too, if you can find the right people.

I’ve been working with an incredible group of women in The Weird + Wonderful Book Society and last week they performed an excerpt from their books in the Weird + Wonderful Author Showcase—and it was THE BEST THING I’ve seen in a long time.

You can watch the replay here if you missed it.

And if that inspires you to write YOUR book, I’m so excited for you! Go forth and write!

Want help? Think maybe you’d like to be part of The Weird + Wonderful Book Society? All the information is over here or you can ask me anything on a quick call.

Notes in the Margin

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About the Author Vicky Fraser