Writer and publisher Simon Petherick shares his best advice for experienced or first-time writers who have found themselves with time on their hands
There is something terribly exhausting about disciplined and productive writers. Graham Greene divided his day up into sections, writing what he referred to as his serious fiction in the morning, his entertainments in the afternoon, and knocking off a couple of book reviews before the first cocktail at six. The great Thomas Wolfe would stand up all day at his fridge, writing maniacally in longhand in pencil into ledger books propped up on the top.
It doesn’t have to be like this and indeed, the very thought of that level of hyperactivity quite rightly puts many people off the whole prospect. So here are ten tips for getting that book finished without breaking into a sweat.
1. Set yourself a civilised and regular time to write every day. Two hours will probably do it. Knock off what you can in that period then stop and think about something else. The forgetting and daydreaming of the rest of the day will actually be fertilising the next day’s writing.
2. Turn off all distractions during those two hours including social media, children, husbands, wives, debt collectors and most of all, your mobile phone.
3. Do not waste any time worrying about whether your book is any good. If you do worry about that, then the chances are your book isn’t very good. Just say to yourself: my book is brilliant.
4. Stop looking at the inside flap biographies of other writers to find out if they were younger than you when they published their first book.
5. Take up yoga. Two hours sitting at the computer is not good for your posture.
6. Don’t join in any ghastly Twitter hashtag things like #amwriting or put up awful self-serving pleas to other writers like “Hey, who’s having trouble with their second chapter out there?”
7. Spend time in second hand bookshops admiring how beautiful books used to be and start planning how yours will look.
8. Banish the jabbering fizz of contemporary politics from your mind, it will only exhaust you and pollute the purity of your creative art. Content yourself with the consolations of philosophy instead.
9. Never think about money. J.M. Barrie once said that a poet was someone for whom £5 was quite sufficient, and any decent poet finding himself with two £5 notes on his person would immediately fold one of them into a paper boat and set it sailing on the Round Pond in The Kensington Gardens.
10. Carry a notebook and pencil at all times. Not every bon mot that occurs to you as you sit in the sunshine on a park bench will prove to be useful, but some will. A notebook is a sure sign of a civilised life.
Simon Petherick is the author of several books including English Arcadia and The Damnation of Peter Pan, and spent much of his career in publishing.