Perspiration or inspiration: What kind of writer are you?


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.


A few of my favourite things


I’m not a person obsessed by possessions.

I know we all like to think that– who of us in the developed world want to admit we’ve hitched ourselves to the consumerist bandwagon and that we fall for every TV ad and poster trying to sell us products we don’t need for money we don’t really have. We all want to think we’re immune and few of us really are.

But maybe I consume less than some people. I rarely buy clothes, which of course means everything I wear is faded, all my woollens resembling neglected Old English sheep dogs, all my hems fallen and trailing thread. I bought some knickers a few months ago, but only because the gussets were shredded on the old pairs. Gusset. Is it only me who sees some graphic, anatomically correct image at the mention of that word? Oh, it is. Moving on…

I’m not obsessed by electrical items, either, though I adore Dominic Silverstreak, my laptop. But, then he and I have shared so much, have such an intimate relationship, that he’s no longer just a way to record my mind’s dribblings – we’ve passed into something more spiritual, man.

I recently got a new phone but only because someone else didn’t want it anymore. The old one had become a bit of family a joke, being ten years old and vaguely brick-like in form. But I didn’t see the point in an upgrade costing hundreds if the old one sent texts and made calls- that’s what phones are for, isn’t it?

I do have a weakness, though. Something I find hard to resist spending money on, something that binds me in its spell, that pulls me zombie-like from the high street and into ink – scented caverns of delight. Books. Give me a two-for-one deal or a second hand book stall, and my fingers get twitchy, I’m searching for something, any lump of papery gorgeousness I can buy and feel slightly less myself if I walk away empty handed.

It’s the same with writing magazines. Show me a cover claiming to know the ‘guaranteed way to snare an agent’ or how to ‘improve your prose and make huge wodges of cash from what you love’ and it’s in my bag before I can blink (Okay, I pay for it first.)

Of course, this lack of consumerist urges means I’m the subject of grumbling come my birthday and Christmas. When asked what I’d like I shrug and say, ‘Books. Maybe a book token’. This answer is usually greeted with the complaint that I’ve asked for the same thing every year for decades and people seem to have a problem with buying the identical gift each year, even if it makes the recipient a very happy, book-laden bunny.

I don’t claim this lack of materialism to sound virtuous or superior. I have no control over how I feel. I’m not saintly or highminded and I don’t abstain from spending a fortune on shoes (which, apparently as a woman I should be genetically hardwired to do) because I’m above the grubby exchange of the consumerist society, but because I’m just not bothered.

I do have one possession I would hate to lose.

It lives in a silver cardboard ring box I picked up from a jeweller, though it’s not a ring.  I forget it’s there for weeks on end. I only take it out every six months or so, but when I do it’s tarnished, grey and grubby looking. I guess it’s uninspiring and dull to look at, but to me it’s magical, a time machine.

My Tudor sixpence.

Husband bought it for my birthday nearly seven years ago. A big purchase, he spent much more on that tiny piece of silver than he usually would on anything, but it was that coin that triggered my YA novel idea.

That coin made me realise I had to learn how to write before I could give my characters the lives and adventures they deserved. It led to years of writing badly, to a course with the OU, to meeting my online writing group, to us creating an anthology together, to me becoming a published author and winning a national prize.  It led to me rediscovering something I adored, that defines who I want to be and what I’d like to do for the rest of my life.

Would I have become a writer without that wonderful gift? I hope so, but who knows. I only know that coin represents a turning point, a love and a confidence in my own creativity that had been missing.

Thanks hubby, for my sixpence and for a new life.

Writing 101 Day Twenty Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.

Now, obviously, if my house was burning down, I’d throw hubby over my shoulder, tuck ‘the boy’ under one arm and Dominic under the other, clamp the family photos between my teeth, then run for it.

But I’ve chosen the coin for what it means just to me and the way that one little piece of metal triggered a spark of an idea which ultimately led to this blog and everything else that’s come from my scribbling obsession.

And for that, I have to love it.

We’re going on a Cave hunt… Writing Caves #2


You may find it hard to believe from my beautifully crafted words (Ha! Ha!) but I don’t spend all day, every day, hidden in Writing Cave #1. There are times when I must surgically detach myself from my chair, brush the biscuit crumbs from my stiffened limbs and stumble, blinking into the light.

Leaving Dominic Silverstreak behind is a wrench. I should explain that Dominic is my Vaio laptop and a more gorgeous hunk you won’t find. Okay, so occasionally he refuses to work, he’s slow, sluggish and has been known to lose stuff, but I’ve grown so used to the feel of him under my hands, I can’t imagine another taking his place… Sorry, what was I saying? Ah, yes.

The days I have to leave my beloved behind (sigh!) are usually Work days. This is something I’ve been informed we all have to do to earn money. Now, much as I’ve gone along with this idea for the last thirty-odd years, I’ve never totally understood the concept. It all seems rather unpleasant and inconvenient. Rather than having to turf out of bed- leaving Dominic cold and alone- to do something that’s frankly quite hard and tiring, wouldn’t it just be more straightforward if I stayed at home, warm, cosy, doing what I love to do, and have someone pay me anyway? Just an idea for the future, policy makers of the world.

Anyway, to get to Work I have to cross town, catching two buses in the process, because *I DON’T DRIVE. Now, I realise that to some of you saying I don’t drive is like announcing I can get along without breathing, that I don’t like **Soap Operas and never watch Strictly or X Factor – but I never have driven and possibly never will.

But all is not lost, because whilst in traffic jams (which in Bristol are many and varied), stuck at lights and trying to ignore the fact I have a stranger’s groin/ armpit/ dribbling toddler in my face, I carry the spirit of Dominic with me in the form of a notebook (And no, I don’t have names for my notebooks- that would just be weird.)

In the notebooks I scribble plots and ideas for upcoming stories, random thoughts, earwigged conversations, bizarre bus-bound happenings (perhaps the subject of a future post!) shopping lists and anything else that occurs to me.

So there you have it- Writing Cave #2: public transport.

Now, if you wouldn’t mind leaving- Dominic and I want some ‘alone time’.

*My hubby doesn’t drive either- what kind of freaks are we?
**I also do not like soaps and never watch Strictly or X Factor– that’s how much of a freak I am.