How I Write
All great writers have their own, unique methodology and I am no difference.
Now, my publisher has suggested that I share my writing secrets with you, as I have apparently agreed to write a book. I am, of course, happy to comply.
I think of writing as a destination. The role of the writer is simply to remove the obstacles along the path to this place.
Firstly, all personal admin should be dealt with upon awakening. About 10am. This means reaching for the phone and checking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the news, the weather, email and then Twitter, Facebook and Insta again in case anything has happened in the last 15 minutes. When your battery runs out, it is time to get up.
During this time, if you are lucky, your other half will bring you up a cup of tea before they go to work. I’m fortunate that my partner and I are perfectly suited: she likes to keep busy at all times and I am a writer.
A clean body equals a tidy mind, in my view, and I advocate a 20 minute sing-song in the shower to prepare for the rigours of the day ahead. While waiting to dry, I employ some rudimentary motor skills. I may trim my nose hair or see what I would look like with a Zapata moustache.
At this point, you might be tempted to take a seat at your desk. Resist! To write you must have thoughts, and to have thoughts you need power, and for power one must have toast. My preference is for toast spread thickly with Marmite. It says ‘spread thinly’ on the jar but it is important to be assertive. You are the boss of you, right? I then take my blood pressure pills.
After an all-too-brief 45 minutes on the piano, I take a seat at the computer and begin the important work of the day: Quitting Adobe Reader Updater, declining a new operating system and acknowledging that I understand I have no storage room left in the cloud unless I pay someone, somewhere.
Distractions can be the enemy of the writer. If, like me, you have a busy household, a local cafe can provide a space where you can concentrate on your work. I go to one which is frequented by nurses, near a little pub, where I can sometimes get entire sentences done in one go.
Vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’, is crucial for writing, promoting as it does a sense of general well-being as well as the growth of the actual bones that allow you to sit in your chair. As deadlines approach, a new sense of urgency settles upon the writer, who, after looking it up on the Internet, may quite suddenly announce to loved ones that he is ‘secosteroid deficient’ and before you know it, has spunked 50 quid on a flight to a popular winter sun destination.
Here, I find, one last effort must be made to free one’s mind, to leave your psyche open for inspiration. Throughout the ages writers have used many techniques to achieve this noble disposition, including meditation, solitude, art and nature.
I prefer beer.
Or perhaps a lovely large rum and coke with a slice of lime and three cubes of ice. One pro tip here: In the absence of a poolside table, the closed laptop placed on the lounger can double as a useful drinks stand.
Stay fit with a loll in the pool or by joining the elderly for a game of water volleyball, perhaps followed by a ‘2-4-1’ pork chop dinner and an evening watching the ‘5th best David Bowie impersonator on the island’. Soon you will be ready.
A writer must, by definition, write, lest he becomes a bum. And yet, if you do not service your inner bum (not like that) you may never find the spark that ignites the carburettor of your mind. I can only hope these insights into my practice allow you, too, to get started and, with your engine running, enable you to reach your destination. Good luck.
What’s that? The writing? Oh, I just bash it all out a couple of hours before it’s due, like everyone else.
(A version of this article first appeared on Unbound)
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Image credits: Main image and Writer at work by Fingers O’Baille