Talking to writers I am always surprised by how different we all are when it comes to the process of writing. One of my writer friends starts only when the day is virtually over. She’s basically a bat. Others I know treat writing very much like a job, with a separate room in the house which at nine in the morning they visit, sit there all day until five and then stop. To be that sounds like work. But clearly they like it, and we are all so different, which is what makes life interesting (and material for writing). I heard E.L. James say in an interview that she wrote a lot on her phone on the tube on the way to work. We know Dickens wrote in the garden in a summer house for some of the time, as did Roald Dahl.
I find that I write best in the morning. Somehow it feels quiet and the peace helps my thoughts sort themselves out. I will have breakfast but not start pottering or letting any outside influences seep in. I write before the ‘noise’ of the day interrupts my thoughts. For as soon as it has, I find it harder to hear the stories in my head.
In the winter I mainly write while sitting on the sofa in the middle of my terraced home. It’s probably the exact distance between one end of my terrace to the other (I can see both ends from where I sit as my home is very small - been described as a postage stamp - quite in the middle of Cambridge). My sofa is an old fawn corduroy saggy number. It sits opposite a wood burner which burns in the winter. I’m not too far from the kitchen (which I can see - told you it was small) where I make endless cups of peppermint tea (I’m eating a hot cross bun as I type - hmm, nice). I live in a quiet street and I can hear the birds out in the garden singing their lungs out, if my cats haven’t chased them away. When the summer comes I move into the garden. I have a very small garden with a tiny log cabin at the end. I have a sofa in there too and sit, with the doors open and write - again in the morning.
What about for how long?
Many writers will say they reach a word count and stop. So that might be five hundred words, a thousand, sometimes two. Graham Greene apparently wrote five hundred words a day, many writers up this to a thousand or more. And after that, no matter where they are they put their pen down (Greene did this) or turn off the lap top. For me, the characters dictate when they’ve had enough of me, and leave. Then I stop. I can only describe my writing like this. Like they are giving me the chance to be in their world only for a while, and once they get bored, they leave. It’s just how my writing seems to work. I have to stop when they are gone.
How frequently to write
My father is a runner, and he gets fidgety if he doesn’t run for more than a few days. He’s in his eighties but still has to run. Sometimes it’s like he’s Forest Gump. I’m the same now with writing. I just have to write and if I don’t I start to grow more tetchy - just with myself. It’s a habit, and its addictive because it brings me such joy. Honestly, it also brings me escape. When I’m writing I’m not me anymore. I’m entering another world. For me, this is a strong attraction, which grows stronger. When I first started I think I just had a story to tell. But now, it is a way of life. Whatever happens…
So you are perhaps a writer. Have I go any advice? You must be tired of hearing writers say just write. But that is my first bit of advice. Write. It took me a while to be brave enough to decide that I would not just write in a note book bits and bobs, or thoughts. But decide to write something substantial. It must have taken me a year of failed starts. Writing the first page, or writing a synopsis. But I kept at it. Like learning to play the piano, it takes a while to play both hands together and then go through the grades. You put in the hours and eventually you get better. Then when it comes to where. Maybe you have no where at home, so maybe find a park bench, or a quiet coffee shop. Or, stay up late and write when your home is quiet (or get up early). Do you have a garden to write in? Once you decide you want to write you will form your own habits. Nothing is write or wrong. Whatever gets the words down. Then once they are down you can review them. But that’s another blog. Thank you for reading.