Monday, January 10, 2011

You don't have to follow me. You don't have to follow anybody!

Denis Lehane, Aaron Sorkin, Tony Jordan...yes you guessed it, some of my writing heroes. But do I really want to know what's going on inside their heads?

The knee-jerk response will of course be 'Yes of course you should'. They have been doing this forever and have managed to make a very successful career of it, so anything they have learned, discovered or invented to make me a good write should be noted and copied with immediate effect. And thanks to Facebook (somewhat), Twitter (big-time) and now websites like, the brains of these behemoths could not be more accessible.

There are two reasons why knowing the processes of other writers, whether you bow to their superior talent or not, is not such a good idea. The first one comes via Monty Python, or more specifically Brian - 'We are all different.' A truism, I will admit, but it is valid. Basically, if I wrote the way a certain horror writer (initials SK) does, I would get nothing done. Not a jot. Because he writes with classical music playing at Volume 11.
I would, first-of-all, spend most of my time recovering from the daily beating from my neighbours on the other side of the cardboard walls. But, more importantly, with any music on in the background, my concentration levels would be at minus-11. I have to have silence.
Irish romance novelist MB tells us that she does her best work in the pre-dawn hours. Me? Get out of bed while it's still dark? Give me a break.
Another successful novelist (the name currently escapes me) writes everything by pen in a notebook and later transcribe to print. No thanks. I need my laptop. I once scribbled a chapter in a notebook while drunk on an Arran island (I forget which one). I then duly forgot what I had written and lost the notebook. I'm still certain that it was the best thing I ever wrote.

Which leads me on to sunny point number two. And that is that I'm precious. I'll freely admit that. I have spent the last almost-three years (more like eight if you include my years as a part-timer) creating my own writing process out of a combination of circumstance, habit, technology-addiction, caffeine-addiction and procrastination. I'm not saying it's perfect or that it's etched in stone - it continues to be sculpted and honed on a daily basis - but it's mine.

So by all means, hero, write your next masterpiece by dictating while hanging upside-down in a door frame, but don't expect me to follow. I'll be too busy drinking a cappucino.

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