does a writer need more than anything else? Talent? Imagination? Time? Brain
space? Faith? Hope? Probably all of these. But above all else the writer needs
self-discipline. That is what creates the opportunity for these other important
qualities to exist.
is a talented writer anyway? I’ve certainly come across some writers who seem
to have a gift. Writing comes easily and without making much effort at all they
produce something beautiful. Where are these writers, though, when they run out
of ideas or the publisher imposes a deadline that’s awkward? In fact successful
writers often even have to be more self-disciplined: it’s no longer a matter of
fitting in a couple of hours after work. The only opportunity to write may come
on a crowded train or in an unfamiliar hotel bedroom after a day of publicity
time goes by we use up all of our good ideas and in fact some that seemed good
actually don’t translate into a story that works. We have to force the
imagination. It may seem a step backwards but trying a few creative writing
exercises can help here. Writers, anyway, need time out. Time when they switch
off from the constant thought about their work. It takes some self-discipline
to create that. It feels and looks bizarre – just doing nothing. That then has
to be combined with the other self-discipline of sitting down with the note pad
or at the keyboard, even when you think you have nothing to say. Faith comes in
here a little: the more often you do that the easier it gets. You know you will
be able to write something. I’ve
actually noticed I often write better when I’ve felt less comfortable with it.
can always make / find time. While the baby’s asleep. In your lunch break.
After the children have gone to bed. Successful writers do. Often, once people
become “full-time” writers, they actually don’t spend any more time writing
than they did when they were fitting it around other things. The experience of
writing may be more enjoyable, and possibly the quality is better but time
isn’t the only factor there. They may well be doing other “writerly” things
with the rest of their day.
trick is not to expect too much of yourself. Don’t say you will write for an
hour a day because if you’ve only got ten minutes, you won’t attempt to write.
Chances are, if you try for ten minutes a day, you’ll more often than spend
much longer at your desk.
you know that it is widely believed that you need 10,000 hours at your craft
before you are ready for the public?
isn’t just a question of time, though, is it? If you’ve had a fraught day, it’s
hard to get into the right frame of mind to write. It is for that reason my
first activity of the day is always my writing. I then feel free to spend as
long as is needed on anything else. I know I am lucky: even though I am not a
full-time writer, my day job is very much about my writing and if my
line-manager walked into my office right now, he would have no problem with the
fact that I am writing this on my work computer in my employer’s time.
wasn’t always thus. I did my Masters in Writing for Children whilst keeping up
with my own writing, entering every competition going (I don’t do that now –
I’m much more selective) and being Head of Modern languages at a challenging
school in Basingstoke. I worked very late in the evening, weekends and school
holidays. Oh, and my own children were teenagers at the time and you know what
have to form an hiatus between your normal concerns and what your writing
needs. Tea or mediation might work. Put all of your concerns about the rest of
your life on hold – write a list, maybe – if it’s on the list it is going to be
dealt with – or try worry dolls. Tell the dog. Whatever works for you. Then get
colleague of mine swears by changing space. Leave the office and go home. Move
to another room. Have a different desk for writing from the one where you pay
household bills. I’ve tried that too – it really does work.