How do you write?

‘How do you write?’  This might seem like a strange question, but it is one that I’m asked often, along with ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

The answers to these questions aren’t indisputable facts, like two plus two equals four, or that evolution actually happened (yep, I’m a scientist too).  The answers are more variable.  They change with the day of the week, my mood, the temperature of my study and how much sleep I’ve had the night before.  But most of all, they depend on how much time I have.

Not so long ago I was between jobs and languishing in the fear of returning to work and the anxiety of not returning to work, spending my days writing, doing the washing, running at the beach (my other favourite thing to do) and looking after the kids.  I had a lot of time on my hands.

The trouble with a lot of time, like anything in excess supply, is its value declines.  If I think about the hours I wasted…it’s best not to think.  To be fair to myself, I did write a lot, but I could have written more.  What was missing?  Pressure.

Now, I work five days a week and time is scarce, like the endangered Night Parrot.  Impossibly hard to find, but it’s there, just waiting to be uncovered.  So that’s what I do.  Every day I search for the gaps.  Ten minutes here, half an hour there, or an hour and a half late at night borrowed from sleep time, just so I can hit the keys.

And when I do find time, I just write.  There is little planning, and much flowing.  It’s not all straightforward though.  Sometimes my unplanned creativity spins a tangle in the plot that I then need to unstitch and mend, so that ultimately the story holds together.  That can be frustrating, but that’s part of the fun too (fun = challenge).  And when I do find a tangle, that’s when I don my joggers and head for the beach.  There’s something in that ocean air, I’m sure of it, or maybe it’s the view.  That endless stretch of blue sky and deep turquoise water all the way to the horizon, allows my mind to stretch out too, I think, allowing the tangles to loosen and new ideas to form.

When time is short though, I just step away from the computer, and do something else.  Obviously, the former option is preferred (just look at that view).  It definitely beats hanging out the washing to untangle my mind.

But the big ideas, the big bang ideas, that take hold of me and won’t let go until I write them down, they tend to come in my sleep.

So with ideas swirling in my mind, I turn to the computer and begin writing.  Getting the first idea down is a trickle, but releasing it gives way to another idea, until ultimately the ideas course through me like a torrent and flow on to the page to form a story.


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