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How to get your writing started

Louise Alvarsson is passionate about writing. She is a trained writing teacher, gives courses in creative writing and has published the book Skriv bara skriv ("Write, just write") together with Magnus Lersten. We had the opportunity to talk a little about how to get your writing going and get some of her best tips on how to beat writer's block.

Hi Louise! Tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

My life consists largely of writing. I write myself and tutor others in writing. I have published a book called Skriv bara skriv ("Write, just write") and am currently finishing a new book called Skriv och må bra ("Write and feel good"). These books are produced together with my husband Magnus Lersten, who is a designer and photographer. We also have a child together, so when I'm not writing I'm with them and our two cats. We live in the woods of Värmland in Sweden where I find a lot of inspiration for my writing. 

When did you start writing and what sparked your interest in it?

I started writing when I first learned to write. First words, then sentences and longer texts. I grew up where I live now, so maybe it was the woods that inspired me even then. But I've also lived in other places that have given me both inspiration and perspective. I've always had many thoughts and feelings inside me and I discovered early on that there is a healing power in writing.

Is there a particular type of text that you prefer to write?

I write different kinds of texts, but mostly diaries and reflective texts. As I said, I believe in writing as a healing force and I write a lot to process and reflect. I also have a fictional project in the works, but it will take as long as it takes.

What tools are available for someone who wants to get started with their writing?

My best tip for getting started with writing is free flow writing – to set the clock for a few minutes and write without taking your pen off the paper or your fingers off the keys. Write without overthinking, write without evaluating, write without feeling pressure and demands. It's not for anyone else to read, it's just for yourself. You can get inspiration from words or images and use them as a basis. One tip is to get a writing handbook where you can get tips and inspiration, or to take a writing course where you can meet other writers.

Do you have a specific writing routine or process that you always stick to?

I write every day to keep my writing going. I often write in the morning in conjunction with yoga. I also try to prioritize and set aside time for more writing. For example, I often refrain from watching TV in the evening and write instead. I rely a lot on free flow writing to get me started, but if it's a text that needs editing, I may be stuck for a long time with single phrases to get it as good as possible.

How can one work on one's writing to develop and improve?

You can always develop your writing and, as with other practice, you need to keep at it and set aside time. You can set goals and milestones. It's good to read a lot to see how others write. Taking a course and meeting other writers is also good for sharing your writing with others. Receiving and giving feedback is rewarding for development. But I think it's also important to have the desire, and to believe in yourself.

Do you ever get writer's block? How do you overcome it?

Not when it comes to my day-to-day writing, my keep-it-going writing, but when it comes to larger projects, I can get there. Then I need to turn off the computer and get out and walk or rest from text for a while. One tip is to read something else or write on something else to get some distance. Or to do something completely different that you enjoy. You can also call a friend, because sometimes it's enough to talk to someone about your writer's block.

Another common tip is to keep a writing diary where you can write about your writing. I use your writing journals and think they are great. I have lots of books in different colours. For the moment a yellow one. I also like the ones with text on them – e.g. Don't Forget to Write and More than notes. There are books for all occasions and for different purposes. For example, I also have a little pink one with More than notes in which I write notes and ideas.

Photo: Magnus Lersten

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