Taking a break for creativity

Steven Brodie is a Scottish writer studying in our Level 2 cohort. Born in Ayrshire on the West coast of Scotland, he relocated to the Netherlands in 2010, and again to Portugal in 2020. Steven believes the places he’s lived and the travelling he’s done, are part of what has drawn him into writing today. His very first short story idea in fact came from a street scene in India, so he has wells of vivid content to draw upon! Having previously squeezed his writing in on the daily train commute, Steven made the decision last year to take a career break, allowing him to commit more time to writing.


Taking time-out and making major changes at a mid-point in your life is a big deal. What spurred this decision?

Okay be prepared for some backstory! The first piece of praise I remember getting at school – in terms of academics – was at around 12 years old, for an interior-monologue piece of writing I had done about a tramp. The teachers seemed surprised at what came out, and I got a buzz from that. However, I was later discouraged from studying English literature by well-meaning influencers in my life at the time and went on to study finance. I’m now almost 45 years old and theoretically around the mid-point of my working years, so I felt it was time to shake things up. A friend recommended that I make the decision from a “death-bed” perspective, i.e. imagine yourself taking your final breaths, casting back over your life, and ask yourself if you’d regret not doing something. This could be shockingly irresponsible advice! Or it could be that it’s given me the push I needed to take life in a different direction. Writing is the closest thing I have to a calling in life; I’m able to lose myself in the creative process, even more so than when reading a great book. So whatever this new direction turns out to be – I’m hopeful for a happy ending.


What does your writing routine look like? Have you got any tricks for getting in the zone?

I tend to binge-write, as opposed to keeping regular hours or making consistent contributions to a word count. Particularly when it comes to IWC courses, I let assignments stew for a while – an incubation phase of sorts. Once I get a concise understanding of the techniques we’re learning that week, and can appreciate them in the example pieces (on which the exercises are formed,) I mine my own imaginations and memories for inspiration. I then try to build the scene, event, or characters which hopefully come together in a way that does justice to the exercise. I try to divide my time between the incubation phase – 75%, and the actual writing phase – 25%, so that once I start writing I know where it is going. Oh and a sneaky 10% for revision!


What has been the most positive aspect of taking an IWC course for you?

I think it has been sharing the experience of writing with other people. Writing can be lonely at times, so having a collective of writers and peers to connect with is valuable, and I’ve been really surprised by how many people (classmates) are actually good at writing! For example, I imagine loads of people would like to be an actor, but are just rubbish at it. I hadn’t written creatively since I was in secondary school, so wasn’t at all sure where I stood or how I would get on. Combine that with being a self-confessed lazy native speaker – who doesn’t have a strong grasp on formal language structure – I wasn’t sure if I’d be out of my depth or not. However the people I’ve met on the IWC courses write week after week, with a quality that I hadn’t expected to be so consistent. This raises the bar for me in a positive way. I also really like seeing some familiar faces when I start a new class, and it’s fun getting to know people’s history and material, and to understand where they are hoping to go with it all. Although I’ve still got a lot to learn and practice (I’m on my fourth course now), the teachers I’ve dealt with have managed to be endlessly positive, which is surely a skill in itself! The thought of putting pen to paper, and having the subsequent output looked at by others is no longer daunting.


To round off, lets do some quick-fire questions!

1) What’s the weirdest thing you’ve written about?
Probably the Queen of England’s beheading amidst an inter-generational war.

2) Do you have a favourite novel you re-read or always go back to?
I’ve probably read “On the Road” more times than any other novel because I used it to get psyched when I was preparing for travels (I’ve taken more than my fair share of adult gap years…)

3) What’s a strange fact about you that your classmates would be surprised to hear?
Probably that my uncle is a reality TV celebrity who has millions from his own books.

4) Future project plans?
I might get back to a dystopia I had started on, when it stops feeling like we are currently living one out. Travel writing might be a direction I’d like to try going in at some point too.

3 August 2021

2 responses on "Taking a break for creativity"

  1. Lovely interview Steven! And yes this classmate was surprised about your uncle. But I was mostly surprised to read about the deathbed perspective. I’m on the exactly same page partly because of something I read (that no one regretted not working more on their deathbed).
    Have a lovely summer and good luck with your writing,

  2. I’m in my early sixties. I (mostly)love the work colleague family I’m with, and my job. Yet I am growing oh so tired of the inevitable internal politics. Also the lack of energy to be creative after work, where I put so much energy in. I am quietly screaming inside for a real creative break for a long long time. Not just a day or two off., as I’d be granted if I would just ask! Leaving work means I’d be impoverished with little hope of regaining employment. I’m a life long artist and a writer of some years. I’ve exhibited and sold art had illustrations published in local magazines, my poetry has been published several times and I’ve come close in selections with bigger literary organisations. Still I have no confidence just a great big aching frustration to get out and give my art a go before I’m at the exit door. Steven, you have to know this : 45 is a lovely age to know and listen to yourself. You are well in time! It inspires me also, to read of your brave decision to respond to your creative need. There is only one you (or me). I read your piece and added it to the call I’m feeling more and more to get to it and believe in myself. Thanks and I wish you all the creative energy in the world! You are an original.

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