Monday, 30 August 2010

Man At Work

Isn't creative writing wonderful?

Whether you think of it as a profession, a hobby or an occasional pastime you can always claim to be working. Are you like me, either planning the next phase of your WIP or thinking up future new plots? Ernest Hemingway once said that writing is long periods of thinking and short periods of writing and that's good enough for me. I can do it lying in bed while waiting to fall asleep or when I wake up before I get up. I can do it while shopping, out on a bike ride or listening to Test Match Special.

So, as a writer, how many hours a week do you think you work? I know that many scribblers claim to always have a notepad handy so they can jot down ideas that spring to mind. Some even have them by their bed at night. Now, as a former shift worker, I know that counts as triple time.

Unfortunately my wife also claims I can do it while, hoovering, ironing or decorating. So it's not all good news.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

There's Always Tomorrow

I gave Jarmara Falconer some advice the other day. Advice that I could do with following myself. It was about procrastination. Or rather about avoiding it. This is how my day goes:

Switch on computer. Log in. Wait for it to warm up, rub the sleep out of its circuits, stretch its peripherals. (It's quite ancient). Go on t'internet. Check e-mails. Go on BBC site. Check weather report. Go on my blog. Any comments to answer? Go on the blogs I follow. Anything worth commenting on? Go on Google Talk. Is my Chinese friend online? If so – type 'xia wu hao'. Have a bit of a chat.

Now I can get down to some serious writing. Go downstairs and make a cup of tea first. Come back. Maybe my friends have woken up by now so check e-mails again. Check blogs. Come on now, Keith. Get to work. O.k. What shall I do today? Novel, short story or sitcom? Oops! What did Ruth say she wanted for tea? Lamb chops. Go downstairs and take chops out of freezer. Go into garden and pick some beans. Peel some potatoes and slice the beans. Back upstairs – tea has gone cold. Go and get a fresh cup. Now then. Where was I? Ah yes. Open up writing folder.

Was that the front door? Hard to tell from the back bedroom. Go and check. No. Just the neighbours slamming their car door. While I'm here, how are the chops doing? Ah, defrosting nicely. Back upstairs. Any e-mails yet? No. Anything interesting on the news? Go on Daily Mail website. They're usually good for getting me irate about immigration or MPs' expenses or something. See a headline about Katie Price and immediately realise where this is leading. Get off t'internet and open up Microsoft Word.

Getting a bit hungry now. Is it dinnertime yet? Go and make a sandwich. More tea. Ooh! I see the sun is shining now. Seems a shame to waste the opportunity. Never know when it might show itself again. I know – I'll go outside for half-an-hour and read. They say you should still keep up with your reading, even when you're writing, don't they? So this can be classed as work really, can't it? Ah, this is nice. I'll just close my eyes for a couple of minutes. Maybe a brilliant idea for a plotline will come to me. Zzzzzzz...

Good grief! Is that the time? Ruth will be back from work soon. Better get the tea on. I promise I'll start chapter fifty six tomorrow – after I've thought about what to write for next week's blog post.

It can be worse if there is a Test Match on. It can be even worse if Nottinghamshire are playing. If the Tour de France is taking place then forget it for the first three weeks in July.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Hang On A Minute, Lads – I've Got A Great Idea

I had an idea for a story today. I thought what if...? But I don't want to talk about the idea. I want to talk about where it came from.

Can all stories be got from a 'what if?' question? Is that where creativity comes from? I don't know. Did Picasso think 'what if everything looked like a set of cubes?' or did Dali wonder 'what if I melted some watches and spread them on a landscape?' Should modern art be appreciated as an example of original thought in its own right or is it just inspiration for the more practically minded?

As a development engineer I was always interested in how thing got invented. Do you remember the old-style kettles? They had a broad base so that they could absorb as much heat from the hob as possible with a handle at the top away from the heat. When the electric version came out, all they did was put an electric element inside, a socket on the back, some rubber feet and 'hey presto!' - a modern marvel. Then someone must have said 'hey, it doesn't have to be like this'. They made a smaller base so that it took less room on the worktop, made it taller, fashioned it from plastic and stuck the handle on the side. Being a technologist, I could never see the point of art, let alone surrealist stuff. But now I wonder if the person had been looking at a Picasso when the kettle idea came to them.

I'm still no closer to finding the source of my ideas. It's probably not important. Maybe the important thing is to stop worrying where it originates from and just look after it when turns up. I picked up this link from Frances Garrood's blog. It's a 20 minute presentation by a guy who is really funny and seems to know what he's talking about. It's well worth a look.

And if you recognised the quote in the title – Michael Caine, The Italian Job. Now that film WAS inspirational.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Thanks, Dad

Olivia Ryan has recently had a post about the relationship between mothers and daughters and it got me thinking about fathers and sons.

Not the same is it? My dad only ever gave me one piece of advice. He was never very eloquent or demonstrative and preferred just to get on with life without analysing things too much. I'm fairly sure he was proud of me but he never actually said so. Dads didn't in those days. That was left to your mum. But he would do anything for anybody. Me and my brother were in the Boys' Brigade and, when it came to needing volunteers to transport us into the countryside for a camping weekend, he was first in line. Similarly, when I did a sponsored walk he put himself forward for marshalling duty. And this myth about modern dads being more 'hands-on' with the kids is complete nonsense. I remember him changing my brother's nappy (born 1956) and cooking our tea when he was home after shiftwork.

He died in 1989 aged 66 but he's staring at me now from a photo frame just below my PC screen. He's supposed to be egging me on with my writing but he doesn't. He's looking at me wondering why I'm wasting my time.

And the singular piece of advice? Bear in mind he came from Norfolk and had a rustic sense of humour. It was - “Never mind your arse, mind your head, boy.”
I think I know what he meant.