How do YOU write?

One of the big topics is, how do you write? What rituals, preparations etc. work? The simplest answer is that if you are planning something original and interesting, you will find an original and interesting way to get to it. When starting out, I was given all sorts of advice -read everything by Charles Dickens because he’s the greatest writer ever. Well, I still haven’t got past a few of his short stories, and I do not believe that there is a best writer ever.

Ray Bradbury gave a brilliant speech to aspiring writers, in which he told them to stuff their heads. Read lots, then read some more. Even if you have always read, read like a writer. It is very different. Become more critical, look at what they are doing. Think about why it does or doesn’t work. This is definitely a good idea. It’s like an athlete exercising. You need to learn the moves, the ideas, how great writers and not so great have expressed themselves. I have kept books of quotes since I was about 16 and keep returning to them for inspiration, or just to pass the time. But don’t just read in your own genre.

Do that to learn what works and what you are up against, but also learn your craft. Read the best. I concentrated for a while on Nobel prize winners. They were all great and incredibly varied. The first truly great book I read was ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.’ I liked it so much I was badly injured by it: sunbathing on concrete whilst laughing gave me bruised ribs. I learnt a lot from Hunter S T., mostly that you could succeed not just by having a great story, but a whole different take on reality. Which leads me to another old chestnut, that substance use or abuse can help creativity. Hemmingway is the one most often cited, but he hit the bottle when he was past his peak.

And back to HST, his books ooze illegal substances, but as he said, if he had taken as much as he claimed, he would never have been able to write them. Everyone has a different routine for writing. I tend to write first thing in the morning, and I need lots of coffee to fuel the flying fingers. Then I tend to go for a walk, take a break of some sort, then edit at night so next day I can take a quick look over what I’ve done and charge onwards again. For years I’ve been convinced that I needed coffee to write, but when I had a cold I gave it up for a week. I felt more clear headed and more productive than ever. But now I’m back on the caffeine. Writing makes no sense, so how can there be any guidelines on how to do it? Just enjoy reading, enjoy writing, and someday, maybe, someone will notice you are a genius.