Saturday, 26 March 2011

Displacement activity, revolving cats... and WWWhen the internet comes good

We've all been there. Sitting in front of a blank computer screen, waiting for inspiration to strike. The wonderful Douglas Adams put it very well when he said that writing was easy, and 'all you have to do is stare at a blank piece of paper until your forehead bleeds.' My forehead is unscathed, so I'm obviously not doing it properly yet.

It is so easy to get distracted and drawn into other things when the words just won't come, especially if you work at a computer, rather than writing by hand, and have the internet on tap.

I had a day like that yesterday. It finally struck me quite how low I had allowed my afternoon to sink when I found myself yielding numbly to a 12-second YouTube clip of a tabby cat spinning wildly from the cord of a ceiling fan. And don't tell me the colour of the cat isn't important.

But I did redeem myself, I think. Minutes later, I found this item on the Guardian online: Guardian Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

It's a lively selection of advice from some of our best-known writers, including Margaret Attwood, Hilary Mantel, Roddy Doyle, Michael Morpurgo and Jeanette Winterson. I found myself really galvanised into action once I'd read it.

Here are a few miscellaneous snippets (the italics are mine):

  • Writing is work... Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you're on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine. (Margaret Attwood)
  • Do give the work a name as quickly as possible... Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy. (Roddy Doyle) Yes, it must have been ...
  • The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (Neil Gaiman)
  • ... record moments, fleeting impressions, overheard dialogue, your own sadnesses and bewilderments and joys. (Michael Morpurgo)
  • Stay in your mental pyjamas all day (Colm Tóibín) I liked that one especially.
and finally:
  • Work on a computer disconnected from the internet (Zadie Smith) ... Hmm. Yes.

So then. Back to work. With a pencil and a piece of paper. And no internet. Completely free of distractions. Oh, hold on, though. What's this? Oooh, the Boat Race! I think I'll just...


    1. Liking your blog so far. Love the book title pun on the blog title. Looking forward to reading your musings. The results of my displacement activity are finely polished light switches in every room.

    2. Thank you dropping by Sue, and for leaving the first ever comment on my blog! I'm glad you've enjoyed what you've seen so far.

      I'm afraid my displacement activity doesn't stretch as far as cleaning the house - writing is always a way better proposition than that, however lazy I'm feeling!