Perspiration or inspiration: What kind of writer are you?

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I’m a pretty ramshackle kind of person – I chose the name of my blog carefully and for a reason.

I do as little housework as possible – I aim for just the right side of biohazard, telling myself that a few germs are good for the immune system and the drifts of skin flakes, woodlice scales and whatever the hell else is hiding in the corners of the room hasn’t killed anyone yet.

If you can’t see the muck on the highest bookshelf, then it will stay there until whichever Armageddon is going to wipe us out hits, or until my other half has a week off work and wizzes round with a duster and vacuum cleaner.

Our home is scruffy. There’s a stack of Lego blocks and Nerf guns on the floor, a selection of push bikes and scooters in the dining room. We put magnetic letter slogans on the clapped out, seventies-faux-wood-burner-gas-fire. At the moment we have a quote from Wayne’s World:

And monkeys might fly out of my butt!

A particular favourite with my eleven-year-old. Last week it was Two Thirds Dead, a quote I invented, the derivation of which is so tasteless, I daren’t explain it here for fear of the tsunami of ‘Unfollows’ that would  inevitably ensue.

I keep stack of writing magazines in the corner near my side of the sofa ‘for reference’, though I also keep them on the dining room table, next to the bed and a current one in the kitchen on top of the microwave for when I’m stirring a risotto, waiting for the kettle to boil or for the washing machine to unlock and release the family’s pants and socks into the wild.

However, I do have some routines.

I work the same days every week and when I’m not working – O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! – I’m welded to the dining room table. No, not because of the coagulated baked beans and the slick of spilled squash, but so I can write.

You see, I’m disorganized and a slob, but I have a routine. I sit down every day off (when husband and son are at work and school of course) unsheathe my Sony Vaio – Dominic Silverstreak – the BT Infinity Hub is switched on and I begin to tap. (Not dancing, you understand , although weirdly, I can salsa a bit, if in a vaguely unsettling, undulating mumsy sort of way – imagine pink custard boogying and you’d have it about right.)

I scan my emails and WordPress comments first. This is supposed to be the mental equivalent of star jumps and stretches – a quick warm up for my brain – but usually extends to a good hour reading and commenting on posts – distraction, distraction – before I settle to the writing business of the day.

I’ll write a blogpost or two (as today) before moving on to writing/ drafting short stories or my novel.

You see, I’ve found I thrive with a loose writing structure. I don’t wait for Madam Inspiration to strike – she’s a fickle old cow, so I keep her manacled to the sticky dining room table, ready for me to ride whenever I need her (well, that’s an image!). What comes out on the screen is not always good – some may argue that it’s mainly nonsense and ‘some’ may be right. But I’ve found I write more because I’ve trained my brain to make the most of the alone time I have.

I confess, some of that ‘alone time’ is spent watching YouTube videos (not dancing cats or skateboarders on their way to A and E, honest) but most is actually spent, fingers dancing across the keys. Because I always figured if I aim to do this for a living – or even a fraction of a living – I’d need to be able to write whenever I have to, not just when I feel like it.


So, what kind of writer are you? Can you only face the page and pen/ laptop and keys when inspiration strikes? Or do you have a strict timetable with word counts to hit and projects to finish?

Do share.

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28 thoughts on “Perspiration or inspiration: What kind of writer are you?

    1. Haha! A man after my own heart! Yes, we need be surrounded by inspiration and that will come with mess and ‘stuff’ not four blank walls. Yes, too much of a coward to publish the story behind ‘Two thirds dead’ – maybe one day, when I’m no longer bothered about people reading…

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    1. Whatever works for you. I found inspiration didn’t strike often enough of her own accord, so I had to force her hand a little! We all have to approach writing how we feel comfortable – the process should be enjoyable after all 🙂

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  1. I actually have a pretty loose writing structure as well. I work full time during the school year (August through the beginning of June) and often work long hours. So when I have the energy at night, which surprisingly is most nights, I write, even if it’s only for an hour. My schedule is a bit more free at the moment because I am currently on summer vacation. Since my kids are older I don’t have to worry about meeting their needs; they are capable of looking after themselves. We do spend family time together regularly, but my family knows that I do have days I call marathon days, when I dedicate the entire day to writing. On those days my family leaves me alone and gives me time to write.

    I don’t have a set schedule for writing. I write when I can, but I try to write/ edit/ revise something every day. When I can’t write, I read or do research for writing. Anything to improve my craft. Some people can’t function on a scattered schedule like that, but when I work full time and have a family, I squeeze writing in wherever I can.

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    1. Sounds like a great approach to me and fantastic that your family sound so supportive. I learned to concentrate when and where I had to when I did my degree, which I cleverly started just before I got pregnant. I got so used to juggling books whilst breast feeding, having to fit writing in here, there and everywhere has come pretty easily 🙂

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  2. ‘You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club,’ someone or other (Jack London?) said. That’s pretty much my approach to writing. If I waited until I’m inspired, I’d never get anything written. I start writing, and if I’m lucky some form of inspiration strikes after a few sentences. Usually, it takes a few paragraphs, sometimes it takes a few pages.
    I do a surprising amount of work in the playground, actually. I like starting with pen and paper, and once I know what I’m writing, I switch to the laptop.

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    1. Nice quote. Yes, my brain works in the same way. I’ve found I actually have more ideas since I’ve developed a regular writing habit – it’s brain training, I suppose. The poor flabby organ knows it’s gonna get a good kicking if it doesn’t pay attention!

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  3. “Put that duster down. Let Armageddon do the work for you.” I like it. Unfortunately till now my policy is to work obsessively on whatever is currently gripping me until I’m so hemmed in by mess that I have to climb over it and put it all away. Once that stage is reached, and I start tidying I can’t stop until the place is immaculate. Then the cycle starts all over again.
    If I try waiting for Armaggedon I’ll be crushed to death by household detritus long before it hits.

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    1. Haha! Great. Yeah, my husband is like that – let’s the muck build up until he can’t stand it any more and can’t find a thing he needs, then he blitzes the place. I go the way of permanent, low level grime, myself – just enough so I don’t cause any major gastrotintestinal upsets is about perfect 🙂

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      1. It’s all about maths: If you have six inches of filth on the floor, it takes the same amount of time to hoover as two inches. So you hoover three times as often as me.
        The other advantage is that if you don’t instantly remove the rotting corpse of the last visitor who made the mistake of inhaling the fuggy living room air, the odour tends to keep subsequent callers from the door, and you can write in peace.
        The funny thing is, I just looked around my living room, and it’s immaculately fresh and tidy. I must be cleaning in my sleep.

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      2. Yeah, you do need to keep the numbers of rotting corpses down or the stink will stop the postman delivering and who would want to miss another tempting offer for a credit card or one of those catalogues with the comfy two-feet slippers and blankets with sleeves. Hmm… snuggly 🙂

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      3. Or the offer of a free bowel cancer testing kit if you say you’d like it – and if you don’t respond they send one anyway, so place it at the botom of the in-tray and forget about, then the next thing you here is that those kits aren’t reliable anyway.
        Just thought I’d mention it…
        I don’t have so much pater to recycle since the corpses built up, and for some reason I’ve lost my apetite lately, so I can now get into size 6 jeans.
        It works on several levels…

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      4. Very glad to hear you’re okay – ah the joys of technology! You’ll return to the blogisphere chockful of ideas, I bet, a whole stream of postings. Looking forward to it 🙂

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      5. I coped by making words on some thin flat stuff I found. I made a thing for marking on the flat stuff with the sharp end of a feather dipped in very dirty water. I’m thinking of patenting my new method of writing. I’m going to call it INKBIT. (“It’s Not Kosher But I Try.”) I think it could catch on. It’s a handy idea for when there’s a powercut. Maybe I when i’ve written all over lots of bits of the flat stuff I could stick them together at one edge to make a thick sandwich-like thing, and sell my work that way.

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      6. And didn’t Quentin Crisp say something along the lines that the dirt doesn’t get any worse after three years? I haven’t tried that technique yet, but there’s time

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      7. Oh, yes, years ago he was on that programme where they looked around the houses of famous people. My aunt used to live next door to him. She wasn’t happy about it, but my mum adored him. That was when he was always getting beaten up for being gay, except that wasn’t the word which was used then.

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      8. I confess I know little about him except from watching the Naked Civil Servant with John Hurt years ago – well, I wasn’t watching it with John Hurt, but you know what I mean. I don’t suppose he was an easy neighbour – his house probably smelled for a start! – but a man with strong convictions and personal courage – definitely something to be admired.

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