Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A rueful piece of writing advice

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

No brain today, on account of having written 1082 words of book. I'm like those lady clones in science fiction films; once I've done my words, the lab worker in the white coat comes along and removes my chip, and my eyes go blank. I just stare into space with a vacant Barbie gaze, incapable of any more rational thought. I can just about do some reading, but that's it for original ideas.

So the fascinating diatribe on social mobility that I was going to give you will have to wait. (I can sense your keen disappointment, rushing at me over the airwaves.)

The interesting thing about today was that it was not what I had planned. I slept badly last night and was feeling cross and uninspired. I decided that I would have a reading day. I still have an awful lot of reading to do for this book, and am getting slightly panicked about it. So that was fine. I do not always need to have a vulgar word count, that I can report in triumph. There must be research and contemplation as well.

When I sat down at my desk though, I thought: I'll have a quick look at what I did yesterday. It did not read so badly. (There is always the terror that I will go back to yesterday's words and find they are five different varieties of  nonsense.) I had a quick idea. I'll just do a couple of sentences on that, I thought, before I lose it. The couple of sentences turned into four. Suddenly, I was riffing. It was like jazz, baby. Because I had not sat down with a strict idea of that day's subject, I felt liberated. There was no carping professional on my shoulder. I was going where the music took me.

And there, suddenly, miraculously, were 1082 words on the screen, which had not existed before. Just like that.

I realised there is a piece of writing advice that I do not give my annual summer students, but should. It is: sometimes it's not a bad idea to fool your brain.

Obviously you must be serious and disciplined and keep regular hours. You cannot wait for inspiration to strike. A grave writing career cannot rely on thunderbolts. But there are going to be days when you feel beyond uninspired, your mind filled with silt and detritus. You have not one single useful thought in your whole wide mind. On those days, you can indeed do your research, and that is quite proper. Or you can say to yourself: I'm not really writing today, but I'll just do fifty words of nothing. Just a bit of jotting, you tell yourself. I'll just do ten minutes, and then I shall go and read a scholarly pamphlet. And because you are demanding nothing of your poor old battered brain, you may find that a surprising flight of fancy arrives, quite uninvited.

It's just a thought.

Too tired to take pictures today, so here is a little collection from the last few days, very much on the spring theme:

5th April 1

5th April 4

5th April 9

5th April 10

5th April 11

5th April 12

5th April 13

5th April 17

5th April 15

5th April 15-1

5th April 16

5th April 8

5th April 14

I know this one is slightly out of focus, but I can't resist it:

5th April 17-1

And now I am going to take my iron tonic.


  1. Not rueful at all...but wonderful advice!

  2. Dear Tania,

    I always look forward to swinging by your blog to see how your plants are coming along and to gaze at your lovely hill.

    May I ask about your iron tonic? Is it something you take regularly or just every now and again to give you a boost? I only ask because my doctor keeps recommending iron tablets but they do not seem to agree with me. If this is too personal a question then please ignore it!

    Anyway, thank you for writing for your blog every day as well as for your work.


  3. Michelle - thank you. I think I said rueful because I really should have worked that reverse psychology out by now. :)

    Rifqa - how delightful that you like the hill. As for the iron tonic: I use Floradix or Floravital, which is perfectly balanced and contains no additives or preservatives. That means you have to keep it in the fridge. It is brilliant. The only thing I would say is that it is quite strong, so do not take it on an empty stomach, and I always make sure I drink a big glass of water at the same time. I'm not sure where you are, but in Britain you can get it in chemists and the health food shops.

  4. I think that's useful advice for life generally...well, you inspired me! Thank you...

  5. Colby Kavanagh5 April 2011 at 18:45

    What is that hazy wispy thing in the window? I have looked long and hard and wonder if it's a cobweb or a reflection. Of course, I'm going to have cataract surgery in a few weeks, so maybe there's nothing there at all.

    Approaching tasks obliquely is sometimes a super way to open up thought or creativity or simple energy. That you could write so much on the book and then turn to your blog as well makes me, a constant reader, grateful.

  6. Or, as many have told me before (and will continue to do now and well into the future): Just DO it.
    (Like the Nike ad, a therapist friend says.)

  7. Christine - so pleased you are inspired. :)

    Colby - it is a HUGE cobweb on the inside of my very old and decrepit shed. And thank you for your kind words.

    Pat - YES, YES. Always such good advice.


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