I’ve been thinking a bit lately about what I’ll say when I start school or bookshop events in January. Working at Ottakar’s for as long as I did, I saw a lot of authors talk brilliantly about their books, or how they wrote them.
It’s funny, but there’s a lot of pressure on authors now, in particular kids authors, to not only be good writers, but performers as well.
There are some extraordinary characters out there entertaining kids, people like Philip Ardagh and Darren Shan, who can hold two or three hundred kids attention just like that (*snaps fingers*), and who are so inspiring. There are canny authors as well, who know that regular contact with schools across the country will do wonders for their sales, as well as allowing them to earn a living between advances.
I have to admit I’m really excited about getting out there. The bit of my job I enjoy most is waffling to customers about books, so to be able to do it about something of my own is going to give me a massive high….
But what to say?
I’ve listened to many writers speak about the hours they pore over their computer or notepad. How they banish the internet or telly between 9am and 5pm. How they can’t work with background noise, or unless the temperature is bang on 20 degree celcius…
Next to that sort of dedication or intensity I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’m not worried about it or anything. Can’t afford to be.
I have to write on the go, don’t have a choice about it.
As I write this I’m sat on the X68 bus, just about to go past ‘The Old Vic’ Theatre, and I should, London pile-ups permitted, be home in about 40 minutes. Just enough time to get this blog written…..
I don’t know how many writers have jobs, part-time or otherwise, I’d imagine plenty of them, but I do really enjoy having to find time to write.
When I was writing ‘Being Billy’, it was all about 8 to 9pm, Monday to Friday.
As soon as the kids were asleep, that was my time.
Alright, it wasn’t a sustained period, but it was usually enough to bash out 750 or 1000 words, words that I’d revisit the following night before cracking on again. Either that or I’d print them off to read on the bus or tube the next day….
I’ll happily write on the move, but if I’m at home, then it’s always in the lounge, in my chair (my beloved reclining, increasingly tatty Ikea chair), and often, more often than not, with the telly on. I know, I know, I can hear the tuts of disgust, but I can’t help it. I’ve always liked background noise, even when I was a kid doing my homework, I’d do it with Eastenders on or something.
The weird thing is though, is that I can’t write with the radio on. Telly yes, radio no.
It doesn’t distract me if Man Utd have just conceded a penalty, I can write through that, but if Mark Radcliffe is cueing up a new obscure bluegrass track, then it stops me in my tracks….
…weird, I know.
One for a psychiatrist I think.
It drives my missus mad. I tried to put it to her that she should be proud of having a husband who can multi-task, that it’s not everyone who can write and watch at the same time.
I got short shrift with that theory, funny that eh?
So what do I say when I’m stood in front of class of year nine’s in January?
How do I make my writing foibles palatable or acceptable?
I’ve ‘hummed and ha’d’ about it and have come up with this theory, which is a bit of a cop-out, whilst being entirely true at the same time.
‘Find what works for you and stick with it.’
If writing one hour a day is all you can do, then commit to it.
If background noise helps channel your brain then embrace it.
Don’t be told that there’s a right way or a wrong way, because it simply isn’t true.
Just make sure that whoever you end up living with or married to, knows you’re a fruitloop before they unpack their bags…..
The original post appeared here with some comments…