Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Writing inspiration

It's time for a writing inspiration roundup; all of these are from Writers' Rooms at The Guardian. (Go there: the pictures are interesting, too.)

Justin Cartwright:
I think the secret with writing is to do it every day. I have in this room more or less everything I need, from reference books to Post-it notes, so that I have no excuse for pencil sharpening. There is a small kitchen, where each day starts with an elaborate coffee ritual.

Alexander Masters:
There's no pattern about the way I write, except it's always the first thing I do. I wake up anywhere between 4am and 10am, depending on the merriments of the night before or if a dream jolts me, then scribble, type or slash through yesterday's work till I start to feel a little sick from not eating.

Miranda Seymour:
I don't start writing until I've done the research and got an idea pretty clear. When I sit down here, with my laptop, I've got my work pared down to a bunch of typed notes and a page of scribbles about the way the chapter or piece might take shape. It doesn't always take that shape, but I like the reassurance.

Peter York:
How could books drive me out of my book room? It's just as well that I write in the same facile way wherever I am - no blocks or anguish, no contemplation, no elaborate revision, no need for love-tokens or nice views. Mine is street-level urban W1, but I usually close the shutters.

David Starkey:
I organise my work in the form of a daily diary. Each chapter is strictly chronological but is also monothematic - say, a war, a set of peace negotiations, a joust. I normally begin my first paragraph just before I break for lunch and then work solidly through the afternoon. I start cooking supper at about half past five or six and then go back to the Mac for a final blitz before drinks. Every three or four days, I'll finish a chapter, which James reads over drinks, while I try not to watch his expression. It's better than any publisher's editor and instantaneous.

Jonathan Bate:
The very early morning, before the mayhem of the school run, is the best time for sustained writing. If I haven't hit 500 words by breakfast, the day can be forgotten - the rest of it will be squandered on emails, pencil-sharpening and web-surfing.

Edited to add: Judging my day by Bate's description, I'd better give up right now.


Anonymous said...

Pleased to see that you've discovered one of my favourite slots in The Guardian. Now, why am I not surprised?

Well Done!

undine said...

Thanks, anon! It's a great site, isn't it? I'd seen it before but hadn't looked much beyond the pictures, which are somehow mesmerizing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, as you say, some of the pictures are mesmerizing. I find it interesting to compare the austerity and neatness of writers' rooms in the Victorian era to those of more recent and current times. However, perhaps that is to be expected. Interesting too that some of them, Shaw and Woolf for example, resorted to writer's huts in their gardens.

I always read the text. Some is so frightfully precious. I find it hard to believe - in truth I don't yet, I read on with a sort of cynical fascination. Ah, give me John McGahern, Sebastian Barry or Wendy Cope with their simplicity and (apparent) honesty.

And I have to admit that the untidier the room, the greater the empathy!

Anonymous said...

These are great to ponder. Thanks so much for posting them!

Anonymous said...

Great. Now I am THAT much more depressed over the fact that I live in a TINY, NO-OFFICE house (oh, and I have a toddler at home and a book to write).

Insert whining baby sound here.

undine said...

Anonymous, I liked Jane Austen's especially for that reason: a little octagonal table, and that's about it. The garden hut or writer's house is a particularly tempting fantasy, though.

Ink, you're welcome. Now if it would help with writing!

Pocha23, not whining at all; those are tough constraints. Take a look at Jane Austen's space, though; it's a definition of doing much with almost nothing.

Anonymous said...

"Doing much with almost nothing".

Captures it perfectly Undine. Indeed, it could (almost) be Jane herself speaking!

undine said...

Anon--I'm honored to be mentioned in the same breath with Herself!

Anonymous said...

But rightly so Undine.

Just adapt the (perhaps too) oft quoted: "It is a truth universally acknowledged ..."