Tuesday, April 15, 2014

About writing

My writing desk in Wales

Cait O'Connor, a fellow blogger from Wales, has kindly asked that I say a few words about writing. It's part of a blog-tour cum round robin - though based on recent output, I should perhaps say a little on writer's block. 

Writing is a strange passion. One week you can't stop; the next, you're staring at a screensaver, fingers all fuddled, much to say but no way to...

And the odd thing is, there's no telling when it's going to happen.

Last week, my friend and former colleague passed away. He was one of the most genuine people I’ve known - a model of how to succeed without privilege, politics or the polished veneer that’s so easily mistaken for substance. Alan was 60 years old when he died - he'd retired three years ago.

I bet you weren't expecting that paragraph.

But then neither was I.

And for reasons I can't fully explain it is almost the last I piece I wrote.  I've drafted a dozen tributes to Alan since - each one is in the trash: too contrived; not enough structure; no conclusion of merit. Sometimes it's perhaps best to say it straight: Alan died, I was very sad, it affected me more than I realised; I think I've been trying too hard.

That last point is important.

When I studied for a degree in creative writing the most difficult process was restarting after receiving a high grade. It felt as if the only way was down - which on reflection, is a rather arrogant view of my own output. As a consequence, my next piece was often dreadful. On the positive side, the only way was then up - creative confidence restored!

All of which is a rambling excuse for the quality of this post and for not writing much recently.

I should add that the saxophone continues to obsess me; that I've lost two stones since January (can't be creative while dieting; can't explain why), have barely had a drink in all that time (whisky and writing are bedfellows), and despite all of this, have a deadline of December for a contribution to an anthology on 'Place'.

Meanwhile, Cait asked me to answer four questions; I'll keep this part brief:

What am I working on?

An anthology of Place; a book on writing in business; a response to my sons leaving home. The latter two are largely just ideas - see 'my process' below.

How does my work differ?

I like to think it's plain and honest - and it's carefully crafted, the tone especially so

Why do I write?

Because there's much I want to say - if only to myself.  And because I know of no better way to clarify what's spinning and shaping in my mind.

How does my process of writing work?

In part, I've covered this above.

More directly, I write a lot in my head; I seldom take notes; I think a great deal - getting it down requires days alone;  hours at the keyboard; words moving till the light dies.

'Word's moving till the light dies'...  Gosh, it's 10.30pm; seems an appropriate ending for now.


  1. Writing is a tough game. I only ever feel as good as the last piece I wrote. Once I start a new project the fear and risk and trepidation all start anew. I've got to the point where I enjoy it.

  2. 'Words moving till the light dies' I love this phrase.
    Your writing shines because of its honesty and is is never plain.
    I have found that a lack of inspiration to write often occurs when there is stress in one's life, a bereavement for example.
    I look forward to your future words.

  3. I would very much like to be given the time to write......without being worrited for blasted cups of tea, to find papers, to sort out computers (some hope there) and find change for the milk.

    Fine for blogging...but not for writing.

    There...moan over.

    Solution, take myself off to the house in Spain for a month.

  4. Great to see a post from you again :)

    Interesting how achieving a high grade stopped you in your tracks. I find getting a commission from a newspaper or magazine does exactly the same. The weight of expectancy makes me fear failure.

  5. PS "...no better way to clarify what's spinning and shaping in my mind" particularly resonates with me. If if I didn't write it down ,all that spinning in my brain would send me mad.

  6. Hi! Great to hear you again! I too love your 'Words moving 'til the light dies,' sentence, sounds like a line from a poem. Thanks to your wonderful course at Ty Newydd and your encouragement, my blog is growing slowly. I'm writing about our recent 4000 campervan trip to Greece and back but wanted to put it on a separate 'page' within the blog, if you have time, can you give me an idea how to do this? A blog within a blog. I've studied yours and it's so organised and easy to navigate through. Heeelp! Good luck with your projects. Hope to catch up one of these here days (sorry, slipped into 'Western speak' for a mo there, just watched a James Stewart classic (I know, should have been writing!!!).

  7. HI Mark, just popping in to see if you were still blogging. Haven't seen a post for a while, so good to see you're still at it. I've hardly written anything for months although have plenty of ideas in my head, just can't get the words onto the screen.

  8. I collect sentences. I love to keep them tucked safely in a small notebook like jewels in a box. It's nice to know that there are others that enjoy words spinning and settling.