People often ask me for advice about the writing process. I believe I disappoint them with how little I have to say.
‘I’ve got this great idea for a book,’ someone will say to me. ‘But I just can’t seem to get started.’
I can empathise with that. Except that quite often I don’t have a great idea for a book. I just have a mental ragbag of possibilities which I take out every so often, rummage through it despairingly and then go for a walk.
I do a lot of walking. When Mr F and I went to live in Venice fourteen years ago our need for a car disappeared. When we moved to Ireland three years ago our means of affording a car had disappeared. So we became walkers. Well, I did. My husband became a devotee of radio cabs. But anyway, walking is one of my most important aids to creativity. I find it a good way of shaking loose a knotty problem.
Then there’s the wastepaper basket. The older I get, the longer I’m in the writing business, the greater the volume of stuff that goes swiftly from pen to bin, sometimes to the cane one I keep within tossing distance of my desk, more often to the little virtual one on my computer screen. And if, in spite of niggling doubts, I hang on to something of questionable merit, you know what? Eventually I end up dumping it anyway. So, if you’re just starting out as a writer I’d recommend you to embrace your trash can. It is your friend.
Then there are deliberate acts of not-writing. I’m a big fan of those. We all need periods of rest and refreshment and writers can be susceptible to professional constipation, especially those who take themselves very seriously. I prescribe a daily dose of whimsy. Get out of that chair, dammit, and walk away from your desk for an hour. Use a different part of your brain. The world can wait for your masterpiece, trust me.
My current play-time activities are: making origami hares for my Easter lunch table.
Also, trying to play, without fluffing, Yevtushenko’s lovely Morning Song, composed for the soundtrack of The Last Station.
Advice from the coalface of fiction writing. You are very welcome.