You know that scene in Love Actually where Jamie, Colin Firth’s character, goes on holiday and sits on an old jetty, under a wood gazebo and Aurelia, the beautiful housekeeper serves tea and sandwiches as he types away on an old typewriter filling page after page with words? That, I can tell you, is what writing is not. At least, not in the beginning.If you’ve read Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, you will remember that he wrote with a typewriter on his knees when he lived in a trailer. That is a more accurate account of writing.
Now, I’m not saying move to a trailer, but we tend to think the circumstances have to be ideal to be able to write. Well, they are rarely going to be ideal. We think we have to wait for the muse to infuse our hearts, minds, and fingers before we can write. We think we can only start once we have an idea.
- I keep my tools handy. I charge my computer every night and I take it with me wherever I go. If I am a few minutes early when I pick up my kids or while I wait for an appointment, I can spend those minutes writing. I always have a pen and notebook with me. If I run out of battery or if I can’t take out my computer, I use a notebook. I also hoard pens and have been known to write on the back of
till slips. I’ve learnt to do away with hallowed, expensive notebooks and fancy pens.
- I have learnt to write anywhere. I write in my office. I write in my bed. I write in my car. I write on holiday at small tables in rental flats. I write in my tent when we go camping. I have hidden in a toilet stall to get a piece of writing done. I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. The waiters know me and indulge me with litres of lemon water and cappuccinos.
- Prompts save me every time. Nothing gets me writing faster than a prompt. I print out a list and keep it in my laptop bag. I write down the prompt of the day, set my timer on my phone and let rip. Once I have done that I can write anything.
- I set a daily word count. This is advice John Connolly gave us when we interviewed him. It seemed so obvious when he said it,
but it has taken a load off. I always put myself under pressure to get as much writing done as possible. I never set a solid goal. I always want to do more. He said that we should choose a word count and stick to it. Once you have reached it, stop, close your computer and get on with your life. This has taken away the constant guilt of ‘I should be writing all the time’.
I hope this helps you to reach your writing goals.
If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.
by Mia Botha
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