Writing is by its very nature a lonely business. Solitude helps. Somehow, at some point after spending time alone, the magic happens: words, paragraphs, chapters and novels finally emerge to do what they will.
As Anne Enright says in The Guardian’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, ‘The first 12 years are the worst. If you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day… it changes you… It makes you free.’
After a day spent home alone writing it’s good to meet with writer friends. These are people that understand what it’s like to start from scratch and go on to create an imagined world. They also write and rewrite until it works (and hopefully sings), and send out until there’s a positive response.
London literary event The Books that Built Me seemed like a good excuse to get together with writer friends Stephanie Zia and Jacqui Lofthouse.
Writer and playwright Samantha Ellis discussed the books that have had a major influence on who she is and in turn inspired her to write How to be a Heroine.
Her choices ranged from Henny Penny to Lace and personal favourite, Wuthering Heights – always worth revisiting. And more importantly, it was a good opportunity to celebrate the publication of Jacqui’s latest book, The Modigliani Girl. On a sadder note, I heard from another friend who has had to bow out of our writing group due to ill health. He’ll be missed.
Since recently increasing my writing week to six days rather than five my output has greatly increased. The two-day pause of the traditional weekend is, for me, too long making Mondays a wasted day as I struggle to reacquaint myself with whatever project I’m on.
“Total Immersion” is the answer. Writing in The Guardian, Kazuo Ishiguro recently revealed that a process he refers to as the “crash” meant that for a number of weeks he wrote from Monday to Saturday, 9am-10.30pm and that’s how The Remains of the Day came to fruition.
Well, if it’s good enough for Ishiguro it’s got to be worth a go, though I’m not sure his hours would fit in with my family. Even so, squeezing in a couple of hours on a Saturday can make all the difference when it comes to maintaining momentum to make Mondays more productive.
Writing is hard, and rewriting and editing can be even harder. I’m nearing the end of yet another rewrite of a novel that’s taken me way longer than I care to admit, but what’s important is that I’m determined to finish it. In fact, I’m determined to finish all the projects I’ve started, and there are quite a few. Last year I was at Damian Barr’s Literary Salon when Colm Toibin was asked what advice he would give to other writers. Firstly, he said, ‘What are you doing here? Go home and write,’ and he also said, ‘finish everything you start, because then you have something you can sell.’
I don’t have a room of my own, though I’d like one because I’m quite messy and like to leave work in progress out and ready to re-engage with at any time. But, I can write pretty much anywhere as long as no one interrupts.
I write in the car (not while driving), at my desk, in a chair, or the sofa (my dog beside me), in cafes and on trains. The main aim: keep going to the end, rewrite, edit and do it all again until it’s as good as ready.