Monday, 26 April 2010

Mortality Bites

Last week I had three exciting social events lined up, I was offered the opportunity to present at a creative writing course, two recruitment agents tried to contact me about a day-job, and an old friend emailed me about the potential of an interesting and low-stress opportunity that would facilitate my writing. A week of opportunity and excitement – except instead of pursuing all this I spent it thrashing about in bed with influenza – and she's not a nice girl.

Needless to say what my writing output was.

That's the thing about writing – real-life does tend to get in the way. The best laid plans can be laid low at a blow. We all know how fragile a writing regime can be if you have any kind of life to go alongside with it, but sometimes, you just have to let it go while you deal with being human.

James Scott Bell talks about writing as an act of war, and in this case, the comparison stands up. Those writers who have water-tight timetables and produce a fixed number of words a day without fail all the time have two effects on me: 1 – they make me sick, and 2, they make me wonder if they actually have lives to write about. Anthony Trollope is frequently held up as a paragon of the writer writing everyday, the same amount of words without fail, before going off to his day job. Well, hats off – but read some of his work, and the production-line approach shows – pedestrian and, in the main, uninteresting.

I don't believe in waiting for inspiration. I believe in dragging it to the keyboard everyday and wrestling some sense out of it – but sometimes it can take three hours of fighting to produce 3 words of fair-copy, sometimes 10,000, and sometimes you get flu.

It's easy to produce 10,000 words of drivel – but we're not in the business of typing, we're in the business of writing – there's a difference. I don't think you're any less a writer if you don't make the word count.

The point being, don't beat yourself up if you get wiped out by some illness – all you can do is retreat, regroup, re-plan, and re-attack. Let's not go to work, people – let's go to war.


  1. Excellent post! You're right--life happens. If we don't win the battleat least we can win the war!

  2. Poor you with flu (I take it this wasn't manflu? No, of course not...)

    A broken shoulder is similarly disruptive, I discovered this year.

  3. @Portia - yes, it's a very long-running campaign; we need to be able to absorb the setbacks.

    @Lexi - I have as much man-flu as the next man (ahem), but this was the real deal - left me with a nasty tonsillitis too!