Do people really get up at half past four in the morning and creep across the dew soaked lawn to a spider infested garden shed to begin the day’s writing? Well, apparently so. According to various accounts of writers’ schedules I’ve read, this is not an uncommon scenario. On the contrary, this, I have been led to believe, is the kind of dedication required if you’re truly serious about writing.
Nobel and Pulizter Prize winner Toni Morrison used to get up to write at dawn whilst bringing up her two children as a single parent and working as an editor at Random House. Well, I’ve been known to get up to write at dawn too. By lunchtime, I’ve either keeled over into my soup or tried to kill innocent people with my bare hands.
As well as rising with the lark, you must also create an aesthetically pleasing workspace. Avoid clutter, post inspirational pictures on the wall, surround yourself with objects of desire, play Gregorian chants, plug in the Fabreze.
There is something undeniably fascinating about an author’s writing habitat; something hallowed and mystical. AL Kennedy writes on a laptop in a chair that allows her to tip herself back and face the ceiling. She is awesomely cool.
Personally, however, I’m not sure I find all this dusky solitude in sacred spaces particularly helpful. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for getting away from people. That goes for whether I’m writing or not. But faced with ideal writing conditions, my brain tends to panic and seize up. Thank goodness, therefore, for life. Life is the thing that rescues you from the writing equivalent of a recording studio and demands that you pack up your geetah and take it on the road.
I used to be incredulous about people who wrote novels on the go. How could they ever concentrate? Well, sometimes it’s a choice between trying to concentrate and throwing away valuable writing time.
I happen to spend long days at swimming galas supporting my children’s aquatic ambitions. I used to squander this time gossiping with swimming parents about other swimming parents. I still do this of course, but not until I’ve accomplished some writing first. I have become adept at ignoring a variety of distracting noises, such as starting guns, loud musical intros to finals and hysterical parents yelling in my ear ‘Come on Lileeeeeeeeeey!’ In fact I now positively welcome these distractions. Let me explain why.
Say I’m really stuck into a piece of writing and a brilliant idea comes to me. It’s not quite there yet. It’s hovering, tantalizingly, around the edges of my mind. Perhaps it’s a major plot twist, or a delicate metaphor. Either way, I’m struggling to get it to the forefront of my brain. This is the moment I need to look up and think ‘Oh my God, did he just breathe out of that dive?’ or, ‘He’s so going to get disqualified for that screw-kick on the breaststroke.’ Chances are, when I look back down, my elusive idea will already be typing itself onto the screen.
In order for the subconscious mind to do its magic, the conscious mind sometimes needs a momentary distraction. If you are working in a writing haven – a garden shed at dawn, or a chair facing the ceiling – there will be nothing irrelevant for your conscious mind to latch onto.
So I say ditch the Fabreze and go plonk yourself in a humid, sweaty, overcrowded, noisy hell-hole instead and just feel those creative juices flow.