I was never one of nature’s addicts. I smoked spasmodically up to thirty odd years ago then gave it up without a problem when a TV programme showed the damage I was doing to my innards. I once smoked a joint in Amsterdam and such is my abysmal tolerance to drugs that I became almost catatonic. My wife thought I was having a stroke. Luckily she was having a joint herself so she managed to see the funny side. I drink, but not to any excessive degree, in fact I thought I was immune to any sort of addiction until I began writing. This was about seventeen years ago. Since then I’ve written sixteen books published in print, many by mainstream publishers Little,Brown, plus another six e-books, several, so far unsold, scripts, some short stories and a few books started but abandoned.
In short, I write because I’m addicted to writing. I’m a retired builder who always had a couple of sidelines in stand-up comedy and free-lance painting. My writing day begins when the mood and the idea takes me, which can be any time during the 24 hour day. Many’s the time I’ve woken up in the dead of night with an idea I knew I must get down lest I forget it when I get up. I go next door into my writing room―I call it the office ―with the intention of getting the basic idea down and no more. I emerge hours later when the sparrows are singing outside and my wife’s wondering how come she’s got the bed to herself. It’s during these illicit hours when I’m at my most creative. I find my best ideas take shape when my mind is completely at rest, lying in bed having just woken up in the dark, the world is quiet and my brain is giving my ideas its complete and undivided attention.
I’ve tried writing these ideas down on a bedside pad, in the dark, reaching out from under the duvet with a sleepy arm, hoping my pencil is moving in the right direction and ending up trying to translate a page of hieroglyphics the following morning.
I play golf twice a week and never allow that to interfere with my writing. It’s a game for which a have a great love, but little talent. I need the exercise, I enjoy the camaraderie, the fun and the rare feeling of triumph when I hit a good shot. As a stand-up comedian I still do after-dinner work, perhaps a dozen gigs a year. I don’t paint much anymore. I intend to but haven’t yet got around to it, maybe I’m afraid it’ll take up too much of my time. Painting’s addictive as well.
So, I suppose my writing day is between the hours when I’m not doing anything else. There are 168 hours in a week, golf takes up maybe a dozen of these; sleep takes up 50 to 60, being a loving and dutiful husband, father and grandfather takes up time I can’t put a quantity on; leisure time is important although I regard writing as part of my leisure time so, somewhere within this 168 hours, I reckon there are about 40 or so hours when I find time to sit at my computer, happy as Larry (whoever Larry is). When the muse is upon I have been known to write for six or seven hours nonstop―as many as ten thousand words in a day. Others days I spend hours just doing corrections and improvements, not advancing the book a single word, just making it better. This is equally as satisfying. Some days, if the ideas aren’t there I don’t bother to write at all. I don’t worry because I know the words are in there somewhere, just not ready to come out that’s all. This is probably why I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Not sure I believe in it, to be honest.
Quite often, on my way to bed I’ll tell my wife I’m just nipping into the office to switch off the computer. Then I make the mistake of sitting down to take a quick look at what I’ve done that day and perhaps make the odd correction... perhaps more. After I’ve spent ten minutes or so by my writer’s inner clock I’ll switch off and go to bed. My wife will wake up and ask me what I’ve been doing in there for the last two hours. She’s a very understanding woman who realises that two hours of highly concentrated creativity can be compressed into ten mental minutes. At least that’s my excuse.