The Alchemy: A guide to gentle productivity in your writing

By Anna Vaught

An intimate writing guide that is for anyone who wants to learn how to improve their craft.

Mental health | Recently added
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The Alchemy is about writing a book - a work of fiction of whatever kind - when you thought you could not. This is a book for everyone, but with a particular eye on those who are tired and lacking in confidence, who are disabled, chronically ill or perhaps carers for a loved one who would struggle without them.

Essentially, this has been me for some time now and that is how I know about productivity and challenging what it is. Not from deadlines, spreadsheets, and flow charts (although those things are excellent), but from learning to work with what I had, when I could and, also, in learning that writing your book happens all the time. In laying all this out, I am going to offer you various essays full of ideas and personal experiences and I am also going to suggest writing exercises as I go.

Finally, I am going to offer thoughts on sending out work and navigating the industry, looking after your mental health as you go, This could be a book for beginners, or it might be for you if you are stuck in your habits and practice; perhaps you are newly unwell or constrained in some way or perhaps you just need a pal to guide you through the day to day with the book you wanted to write.

As we go, you will see occasional tips from other writers I know and I have chosen them because they are a. brilliant and b. compassionate, so you are in safe hands.

Let us begin.

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  • anna vaught avatar

    anna vaught

    Anna Vaught is a novelist, poet, essayist, short fiction writer, editor, proofreader, secondary English teacher, tutor and mentor to young people, Creative Writing tutor with Jericho Writers, mental health advocate and campaigner and mum of three.


    Anna is the author of four previous books, including 2020’s novel Saving Lucia (Bluemoose) and short story collection, Famished (Influx). Her reviews, features, short stories, creative nonfiction, poems, and memoir pieces are widely published in journals, anthologies and in the national press and she has been a monthly columnist for The Bookseller. Anna’s second short story collection, Ravished, is published by Reflex Press in autumn 2022 and her memoir, These Envoys of Beauty, in spring 2023. She has edited collections for small presses, speaks as a guest lecturer for Creative Writing students at universities and works as a mentor for Arts organisations. A novella, novel and much more are forthcoming.


    Anna works alongside chronic illness and additional care responsibilities, both of which are central to her vision for The Alchemy: A guide to gentle productivity in your writing.

  • I took a long time to be published; by that I mean, I took a long time to start writing. I did not have the confidence. Now I have, it is like a torrent. I am six years in. When the occasional person decides to be a bit snarky about the seven books I have written in that time, I tend to explain that they were in my head for decades and that is why everything is as it is now. My bravehearts, do your own thing; believe in your work first and foremost and do not apologise for the way in which you work, whether it be 'too fast’ or ‘too slow’. Here is my first bit of love for you all and it is about productivity - but perhaps not in the way you might expect. Also, being gentle on yourself and always working with what you have.

    Read more...
  • 12th May 2022 The Alchemy for Mental Health Awareness Week, 2022

    For this year's mental health awareness week, I am sharing part of the opening section of The Alchemy. Yes, it is a book about writing for everyone but, as I have said all along, I do have a special eye on writers - and those who want to write - who face particular challenges: this includes those, like me, who manage mental health challenges. I also have to work through physical health challenges…

    3rd May 2022 For this week

    Hello all,

    So spead the word about The Alchemy, if you can?

    Some things this week. 

    I have been talking to the small and rather successful company which makes the YUYU water bottle, because I use this beauty to manage pain. The YUYU is, in fact, a very long water bottle with a strap so you can tie it to your body and use it cold and hot. I have written a piece for the website…

    21st April 2022 A writing retreat coming your way

    About time we had an update I thought and this one is a little different, because I wanted to show you what else I am up to (and also note that it is VERY LOVELY to go to my supporters' page and see that independent presses, my literary agent, writers and readers of my previous books have been pledging). Oh, you are now part of The Alchemy, its process, inspiration and story, so I would like to…

    13th April 2022 Don't wait. Thoughts to comfort and motivate x

    Hello everyone and thank you so very much to those who have pledged to get this book out into the world. It was really important to me to break that 10% in the first week, and we did it in four days. YAY. Now onward at the start of week three. 

    I have lots of things coming for you in the next week or so - articles and features and the like - but there is something I have been thinking about…

    13th April 2022 Something to read and hello new supporters!

    Here is a just-published piece to read. https://prolifiko.com/alchemy-of-gentle-productivity/ 

    Have a look and tell me what you think!

    And here is a littlle film from Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CcSveWPFInh/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

    We are also adding some new rewards today and, last night, began to put some other rather exciting plans in place. I am utterly determined to get…

    30th March 2022 Extraordinary You - from The Alchemy

    From the introduction to The Alchemy. Here is something which is at the heart of the book. I had to learn this myself, you see, to be able to discuss it with others. My background had left me with little confidence - what you saw was bluster - and I needed to build some of that. Writing has helped me build. Not only books and other shorter pieces, but ME.

    'Think also about you: reflect on…

    29th March 2022 Hello!

    Saying hello and a big thank you to those who have pledged already as well as those who are sharing across social media.

    I am really touched,

    There's something I wanted to say. This is a book for everyone, but I am mindful of those for whom writing and pursuing a book, a creative project, is perhaps more difficult. And I wanted to emphasise that this is also me. I do manage chronic illness and…

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