Weekend or writing week beginning?

If you’re lucky enough to have your weekends free you should make some time to write.

It’s easy to lose your days off in a whirlwind of chores and life admin tasks.

But in 30 years from now, would you rather look back and think that was the weekend that I started my path to become the greatest writer who ever lived or that was the weekend I mowed the lawn?

Who knows you just might make it onto The New York Times Bestsellers list…

Do you only blow out candles on your birthday?

I often wonder if it was easier to write many, many years ago. Just imagine it, the clock strikes the seventeenth hour of the day and as the sky around you slowly begins to fade into twilight you down tools and you make your way home. Depending on the era the occasional flickering streetlight might be there to guide you back and then once you’re there, asides from eating, I suppose there must have been little other distractions.

Making the assumption that, at the time, you were educated enough to be able to write to a decent standard – you take a seat at your desk (in front of a roaring fire or candle), fill your pipe with tobacco and what else would you have time for but to write?

I always attach a certain kind of charm to writing by candlelight, I firmly believe in the Danish art of Hygge and I think a simple candle flame really can conjure up the right environment for you to centre yourself and collect your thoughts. So, what could be more perfect than having to use a candle to write with as a necessity rather than just an extra touch?

Of course, I’m being idyllic – I’m sure it would be rather annoying that your only source of illumination could be scuppered at the mere rustle of the wind. Plus, no matter which era you found yourself in times could likely be hard/busy and I’m sure the time to write probably wouldn’t come so easily. Still, it’s a nice thought isn’t it?

I mentioned Hygge earlier – here’s a definition just in case it prickled your curiosity:
Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special.  (http://hyggehouse.com/hygge)

(Look at me using the lazy blogger art of copying definitions)

While in my ‘Sandwiched’ article, I mentioned that you shouldn’t spend too much of your time trying to find the perfect setting and moment to write, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make the odd tweak to your surroundings and your mood.

Start by embracing a bit of ‘Hygge’ and buying yourself a few candles – I was in Copenhagen not so long ago and the Danes absolutely love them. With good reason too. They create the perfect kind of cosy vibe that I find helps me to write – my mind rang with creativity throughout the whole trip.

Whether you write at a desk, or in bed – go out and get yourself some candles. Have them burning away while you write and see if it helps you find some focus – I wonder how many words you could write in the time it takes a standard candle to burn down to its wick?

If you’re interested in finding out some more about Hygge, check out this book – my girlfriend swears by it, and so do many others: Hygge

Are you listening, or just waiting for your turn to talk?

Do you ever find that, in your head, you’ve got the perfect anecdote to tell and you’re just waiting for the other guy to shut up so you can share yours?

Yeah, me too.

I get that a lot.

But, do you know what I’ve found? Life’s much more rewarding when you genuinely listen rather than wait for your turn to say something.

Life isn’t a play, you’re not just waiting to say your line when the cue comes.

Spare a moment and an ear for those around you, ‘cos let’s face it, we tend to like those who take the time to listen to us. Those who are interested in us.

Plus, when it comes to writing – while, like me, you may always want to base your main character on yourself – you need to realise that the greatest stories and perspectives of all come from those around us.

Real life is a great inspiration – but, if you ain’t listening you ain’t gonna get jackshit from it.

Lessons from Charlie B…

“I don’t make movies for critics, since they don’t pay to see them anyway.”
– Charles Bronson.

It’s funny how sometimes the simplest quotes make so much sense, and that they’re often the ones you remember. A family friend, while really ill, said the simplest thing to me a few years back, “the one thing you need in life is good friends”. He’s sadly no longer with us, but that quote – as simple as it was – is one that’ll stick with me through the ages.

Once in a while you do just need someone to point out the obvious to you, or the things you think you already know – because sometimes you take that knowledge for granted, to the point where you don’t even apply it.

However, that’s not what this post is about – although maybe I should do a blog on that subject too! I don’t know if you’ll recognise the chap in the featured picture (mainly because, dear reader, I don’t know who you are!) – but, just in case you don’t his name’s Charles Bronson.

He was in loads of westerns and crime movies from the 50s through to the 90s and was perhaps the most hard-bitten, anti-hero to ever walk amongst the reels and projectors of Filmland.

This simple quote about critics has stuck with me since I’ve read it. Sure we may all want critical acclaim, but the critics don’t control things as much as they used to – the power of e-publishing and open media has changed that.

Plus just getting a book published means it’ll make its way onto the New York Times Bestseller List anyway so…

So yeah, write for your fan-base, write for the people who want to read your books. There are thousands of great writers who churn out classic after classic just for their fan base, and they likely make a decent buck or two from it.

Think of all those terrible Mills & Boon pulp romances – they sold 3.3 million paperbacks in 2010, and god knows how many online editions. If you love money, there’s a love story in buying some shares in those guys!

Success comes in many formats – receiving a gold mark from someone who is paid to be critical (and not to enjoy) is just one of them.

Of course, if you’re a blog critic please feel free to give this blog a great review and heads-up so I can become the greatest writer who ever did live.

That was your lesson, class dismissed.

What’s life got to do with the colour of the sky?

It took me twenty-five years to realise that I was a goals-orientated individual. I guess until someone pointed it out, I was so caught up in the way I was doing things that I hadn’t realised.

I mean it’s not a bad thing, in many ways life (and writing) is all a series of goals – an invisible checklist that exists only in your head, presiding over your waking life. A multitude of boxes waiting to be ticked off as you go. Just in this week alone my goals have ranged from getting a haircut (failed) to becoming the greatest, most influential writer who ever lived (also sadly failed).

It’s the same with writing…if you don’t have goals you’re going to struggle – since I started this blog I’ve said that every day, rain or shine, I’ll post something. And I’ve stuck with it. On some days I’ve felt tired or been busy, so I’ve written a shorter post – but I’ve still achieved that goal and it’s kept me writing.

Set little goals for yourself. It works. Even if you only manage to write 50 words you’ve still written – you’re not gonna be able to whack out a whopping 70 thousand words every day. Keep the momentum going. As I’ve said before, writing is a bit like working out – if you suddenly miss a few days, it can soon turn to weeks and the absence can create a warm spot for the parasite of laziness to develop and you can soon find your New York Times Bestseller (every published book ever) thrown onto the wayside.

When I started this post I didn’t intend to mention goals as much, but hey I’ve got nothing against freestyling.

I wanted to mention that, as goals-orientated about life as you maybe, take a moment every now and then to notice the colour of the sky as you go from A to B. You’ll appreciate it. I spent many years smashing objectives and achieving goals, but lost count of things along the way. Missing the journey as my mind was only set on reaching the destination.

People-watch, look at the colour of the sky, take the route less travelled on your usual commute…whatever it is do something different and, most importantly, look for something different. After all inspiration is often in the unexpected, but if you’re only concentrating on the road ahead then who knows what you’ll miss on the sides of the roads.

Sure, on most motorways you’ll only miss seeing a handful of McDonalds and Little Chefs (other fast food joints are available too)…but inspiration will always be grazing somewhere along the grass – like a unicorn waiting to be found…or at the very least a carrot-chomping donkey.