When ‘writing process’ was first mentioned, I thought it meant how you put sentences together, how you might start with rough notes and turn them into a carefully crafted story. I see now that it can be considered in a broader way: how do you go about writing?
Discipline is tremendously important for me. I think it comes from a life of having music practice hanging over me. Sometimes ‘hanging’, sometimes something that I passionately wanted to do. But I’ve always had to fit it into my life – somehow. How could I fit writing into my life?
It was very hard until I decided to cut my paid working hours from full time to three days a week. This gave me two precious days a week for writing. I treated it as another job that I do on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So, when friends asked, which are your days ‘off’? I would say, I don’t have any days off. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I write. I make sure that I’m at my desk by 9 am – usually much earlier. If a friend wants to meet for lunch on one of these days I work at the Public Library and we meet at a café near there, for just an hour – like a lunch hour.
I spend most of my ‘writing’ time sitting at my laptop. For me it is a kind of tactile process. Moving the fingers on the keys seems to stimulate my brain! But I walk a lot, usually alone, and I ‘write’ then – imagining my characters, having conversations with them. Ideally, I start a writing day with a 45 minute walk, much of it along the waterfront.
How do you get started? I always need something to latch onto – it can be the tiniest phrase, maybe even a word, a fragment of an idea, a snatch of conversation. The idea for my novel came from a piece of music. When I’m working on something substantial I like to go back over the last bit I wrote – there is always a temptation to go back to the beginning. As Paul Mitchell once said in a workshop, it’s like the tide going in an out: you are drawn back with the current to edit yesterday’s work and from there you wash forward into something new. I like editing – trying to get the story just right, trying it this way and that, picking away like a dog at a bone.