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.

Thursday, 12 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, adapt to them, plus...well, you'll see. I am mothering, a pal and I am also - note the rebellious few lines at the end there - increasingly no tolerance for bad behaviour in the industry. I want to prevent things that have happened to me from happening to you. 

Don't you EVER EVER feel ashamed of having mental health problems, of managing mental illness. At any time, one in four people is going to be in the same boat and my hunch is that this is higher. It is hard to work out what is wrong and it's all very well saying 'help is out there' (I think it was Prince Harry who said that), but that is not always true because of resources being stretched and, also, lack of knowledge even among professionals. Truly, I know how hard it can be to find, access and sustain appropriate support, let alone to acknowledge you need it in the first place. It is my profound hope that you find solace and guidance in The Alchemy because creatuve endeavour can be a wonderful release and source of succour in our lives. Not only that, but remember that you need not be wholly well to write your book and get it published.

With all my love,

Anna x

A Welcome

Welcome to The Alchemy. It 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 I want to make it clear that I have 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).


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 I am also going to suggest writing exercises - or writing-related exercises - as I go. These could work for those starting off a book, or those who feel stuck or jaded. 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 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. I also, just in case, want to say some things about the industry as I have experienced it or as it has been experienced by others who have generously shared their experience with me. Or others who would rather not have shared experience, but felt compelled because they were not coping. That happens, too. If it does, you need to know that you are not alone because feeling like you are is devastating. A wise and frankly bestselling and absolutely no-shit author shared this with me when I nearly gave up. A final word: I am a Celt and I bear a grudge, so just to say that if you were ever unpleasant, tried your gaslight on, or radically thwarted me, I have most likely parodied you in this book.

Let us begin.

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