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A Writer On Writing: Writing Lives

Giving up the day job and writing full time may not be the best option, says Sally Jenkins.

Do visit Sally's Web site http://sallyjenkins.wordpress.com

There are as many different methods of writing as there are writers. There is no ‘special’ method that brings fame and fortune with it – we all have to find our own way of creating literary masterpieces whilst paying the mortgage.

At the annual Writers’ Toolkit event in Birmingham, three writers gave an insight into their working days.

Jo Bell is a poet but most of her days are filled with other activities to keep the wolf from the door. Amongst other things, she is a freelance organiser of literary events, teaches creative writing, gives readings and does book promotions. When Jo checked her diary, she had only 3 days in the next fortnight available for actual writing.

She wisely told us that we shouldn’t look upon the essential but non-writing stuff in our lives as an obstacle to being creative – instead it should be seen as something that enables the writing to happen.

Jo also advised, “Work out what you want to do and then go out and find it. This might mean knocking on doors and suggesting workshops or offering yourself as a writer in residence. Above all, make sure you get paid because otherwise you devalue Writing as a whole.”

Mike Gayle is a full-time novelist but doesn’t believe that having all the time in the world is an effective way of writing. http://www.mikegayle.co.uk/ He wrote his first book whilst still earning his living elsewhere and looked forward to his snatched periods of writing time.

“But as a full-time writer I found there was a tendency to take a whole afternoon to eke out one paragraph,” he explained, “and it’s easy to feel removed from the real world and ordinary people. This means there’s no ready raw material to feed the fiction.”

Having discovered he’s a morning person, Mike now squeezes his writing day into 9am – 1:30pm, giving himself a structure within which to work.

Chris McCabe writes novels under the pseudonyms John Macken and John McCabe. http://authorsplace.co.uk/john-macken/ He is also a full-time Professor of Molecular Endocrinology at the University of Birmingham. He writes during his lunch hour and from 8:30 – 10:00 in the evening. He has no time for writers’ block and has to make the most of every minute.

Chris did try taking a year out from his ‘proper’ job to concentrate on writing but it didn’t work for him.

“Even though I hate gardening I found myself doing it to avoid having to write,” he said. “I need a time a shortage to get me going.”

So, giving up the day job and writing full-time might not be the best option. Most people need a little bit of time pressure to make them effective and we all need outside stimuli to feed our work.


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