Story Lines: Some Instructions on Writing (and Life)*
From finding flow in the calm of a forest to seeking stimulation in bustling coffee shops, it seems that for the writers’ here, the rituals are as diverse (and inspiring for would-be writers) as the work they publish.
“I’m a shitty-first-draft writer, sploshing the words down ready for later making-right.” – Emma Darwin, author of The Mathematics of Love (2007)
“I procrastinate a lot in the morning, but once I get going, I disappear into the process completely, often forgetting to eat. I love that feeling of ‘flow’, of being totally absorbed. I have to be a lot stricter with myself now that I have the responsibility of family and children.” – Nathan Filer, author of the Costa Book of the Year for 2013, The Shock of the Fall
“Typically I go for a run in the woods, if and when the fog rolls in across my mind.” – Patrick Kinsella, Lonely Planet travel guide editor and author of Devon: 40 Coast and Country Walks (2016)
(Not so) social
“I use Twitter because it provides the illusion of not being isolated. I write in coffee shops a lot for this same reason, but it doesn’t stop me from going on Twitter.” – Hanna Jameson, author of the Sunday Times bestseller novel, The Last (2019)
“Writing is often fitted around other things, so can take place pretty much anywhere. I don’t think I suit acres of empty time, so I find pockets of it instead and work with the metaphorical red light on. I also use the computer app Freedom pretty obsessively in order to shut down distractions.” – Sarah Franklin, author of Shelter (2017) and How to Belong (2020)
“I use Google sometimes, but nothing else apart from Microsoft word.” – Jack Underwood, poet and author of A Year in the New Life (2021)
The pen is mightier than…
“My writing habit is to pick up a pen and start writing. That’s it. I do find it keeps me emotionally healthy.” – Adam Dalton, author of Empire of the Saviours (2013)
‘‘I write the first draft in longhand – in a series of notebooks if I’m writing a short story or novel; on scraps of A4 if it’s a newspaper feature. For some reason writing in long-hand frees me up, allows me to think & feel closer to the material.” – Xan Brooks, journalist and author of The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times (2017)
“I tend to work on a draft-by-draft basis, with pauses in between each draft. While I’m working on a draft, I try to work every day in whatever time is available around teaching or other work and childcare. I did the #100DaysOfWriting challenge last year to create a very rough first draft of a novel.” – Liz Flanagan, author of the Legends of the Sky young adult books
“I write notes, on paper or the computer, and then find time to shape them into poems.” – Rupert Loydell, poet and author of The Return of the Man Who Has Everything (2015)
‘I organise my time/tasks using Wunderlist. I use a modified version of the twelve-week year system (6 weeks, because I’m too fickle for 12) and GROW coaching with my writing partner to set goals.’ – Benjamin Wilson was part of Penguin’s writing talent scheme, WriteNow.
“I make digital text works across a number of software and hardware, but I also use cut up machines, text generators, digital algorithms and imaging software in some of my analogue/page-based writing. I write just a little each week.” – Dr David Devanny, multimedia poet and artist and author of Wasps on the Way (2012)
‘‘I’ve heard many people say that writing only becomes fun when you have a full draft and can crack on with the editing process and I tend to agree. That said, I usually edit as I’m writing a first draft. It feels like a real treat to craft a section the day after or a few days after writing it.” – Dr Amy Lilwall, creative writing lecturer and author of The Biggerers (2019)
*Sub-title adapted from the brilliant and beautiful creative writing bible: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Anchor Books. 1995.