On the whole, I have found that cafés are surprisingly welcoming to writers. I had not expected us to be greatly appreciated: we take up space for an hour or several, and often only buy one or two drinks. Indeed, there have been establishments where I have felt hassled, where staff have come over every ten minutes to ask if they can get me anything else, or have sighed and frowned each time that they pass my table. But there are far more places where I am left alone to get on with my work, whether I end up ordering more or not. Read more
One of the standard pieces of advice to writers is to carry a notebook and pencil everywhere, so that ideas that you have on the move don’t get lost forever. For some people, this may make complete sense, but it seemed incomprehensible to me. I would have loved it if the sort of idea that needed saving for posterity arrived fully fledged in my mind while I was rushing around, delivering children to school or activities, doing the shopping and the chores, or while I was fully focussed on my work. But for me, the initial idea for a story is something that slips fleetingly and repeatedly in and out of my mind, like waves on a beach, leaving barely the shadow of an imprint; certainly nothing tangible enough to be articulated in words. To turn that formless inkling into something that can be expressed takes serious, single-minded concentration, shut away in my study. If I’m fortunate, I will then end up with some sort of diagram that may, after further work, form the basis of a storyline that can be captured in words. Read more
Should a writer write every day? Did we ought to follow a prescribed plan? Can we only consider ourselves writers if we write full-time?
It seems counter-intuitive to associate words like “must”, “got to”, and “ought to” with writing. These words, in my mind, are usually paired with all sorts of things that are good for you, but not enjoyable, like brushing your teeth, cleaning the loo, and paying the bills. Read more
I don’t suppose that any writing advice is universally applicable, but finding some way of connecting with others seems pretty important to me. Writing is, on the whole, a very solitary activity, so belonging to some sort of group adds a dimension to your ways of working. If you are not sure which would be worse: to expose yourself to the comments others might make about your work, or to exercise your creative skills in finding something vaguely pleasant and approximately truthful about that of other people, then fear not – there are many different ways of being part of a writing community, and there may well be one that suits your preferences better. Read more