Friday, 8 May 2009

A writer on writing

So, how do writers write? I get asked this by friends who appear slightly embarrassed about the fact that someone they know is a "writer", as if it is something apart from the other arts like music or painting or whatever.

And the answer is that each individual's writing methods are different. I treat it like a job - 8.30-4.30 with a break for lunch and, if the weather is nice, a walk down to the sea perhaps. I used to start at 9, but need half an hour to look at e-mails, answer them and - OK, I admit it - spend a few minutes playing Mah-Jong Titans. But, at 9 on the button and occasionally before, my working day begins. I write very quickly. A good day is 4000 words. That is a good day, not necessarily a good 4000 words. I just bang out the words. I don't polish until it is finished. Some days I need to plan by hand - and it has to be good quality paper and a fountain pen, usually my silver Schaeffer Victorian Heritage Legacy and its gorgeous Florida Blue ink - you see, even the tools of the trade have to feel right. The dog has become used to me having conversations with myself just to see if the exchanges sound believable. My office looks like any you will find in a commerical company, except that my desk is huge because I need to spread out - or as my husband puts it, cover the surface with crap.

The last thing I do each day is to jot down three things I have to do next day, so that I am not sitting there wondering where to start. I like to have several projects on the go, not necessarily on the page, but certainly in my head. My husband will end a long mutual silence with the words 'You're thinking again, aren't you?'. And, it's true. My mind is seldom away from a plot, or listening to the "song" of people's speech, their mannerisms, the news about their lives. Writers harvest all that and use it without conscience. But mine isn't the only way, of course. I know one writer who only writes three days a week in the afternoons, who polishes as she goes along, another whose daily target is 1000 words and stays at his desk until they are written. The one thing all writers have in common, be they household names or obscure scribblers, is that we all write. How we write is immaterial. That we write is the point, and, as Wordsworth advised, we "fill the paper with the breathings of our heart".

1 comment:

  1. What Avril says about writing is true. Writers write. It isn't just something they do, it is more something they are. And if that sounds pretentious it's because it is such a difficult thing to express in a way that non-writers will understand. We all write in our own peculiar ways, have our own idiosyncratic habits, needs and wants, our own distractions, but we are united in the simple fact that we write. We don't just talk about it. We do it.