A Writer’s Rites

As we’re coming up on another month of writing, I thought you might be interested to know how I go about knocking out 1670 words or four pages of script a day. It’s not as tough as it sounds.

My prime time for writing seems to be the morning. It’s when my brain seems to spark, and the words come out with very little effort on my part. Frequently, the only thing stopping them coming out in one big lump is my typing speed. This at least gives me the chance to think ever so slightly about what I’m slinging onto the page. After about two o’clock, I can feel my mental processes slowing a little, and writing then becomes a bit more of a chore. I’m an early bird, not a night hawk, and I work accordingly. I’ll only work after 8pm if the situation is desperate (which with NanoWrimo, it often is).

I write on the move. Specifically, on the train between Reading and London Paddington, which works for me on a ton of different levels. Firstly, it falls into the right time slot for creative thinking. Secondly, it’s distraction-free. I can’t hop onto the internet, and phone signal goes into a black hole at least twice on the trip. I have become adept at picking the train that will always have a free seat (the 6:56 from Worcester Shrub Hill, if that level of detail interests you) and for the half-hour journey into That London I can successfully immerse myself in the task at hand. A lot of my recent blog posts have come from the train. If I’m using my iPhone and the excellent WordPress app, then they can be written and posted before I get into Paddington. Anyone that bitches about the iPhone keyboard clearly needs to give it a bit more time, because if a fucknuckled gimp like me can knock out three hundred words in a train trip, then anyone can. If I have to work a weekend, which means slower trains, then I can easily get a thousand words done.

I can and do write at home, but then it’s in concentrated half-hour bursts, After that the temptation to hop onto Twitter or browse my Reader feeds becomes just too strong. I read somewhere that concentration on any one task will slip after 45 minutes. It’s slightly less than that for me, or maybe it’s just for the five years that I’ve been using this method I’ve got used to working in half-hour sessions. But really, it’s down to organisation. I find that if I break the word count for the day down into easily manageable chunks, then I’m less likely to give up and fart around on something else. In simple terms, if I have a day at home, three half-hour sprints would get me a day count of Nano. That’s not really such a bind, and if I work through the morning that’s me done before lunch.

My writing tool of choice nowadays is a Dell netbook, the Mini10v. Dirt cheap and simple to use, with a great, full-width clicky keyboard. It’s light and portable, and doesn’t have all my stuff on it, unlike my beloved Blackbook, which is starting to show it’s age after years of being lugged around.

The Dell is running Ubuntu, a version of Linux that I’m starting to really enjoy. It’s like all the good bits of Windows without any of the virusy nonsense. This is intriguing, as one reason for my choice of the Dell was that it was relatively easy to hack into running OSX, a process called Hackintoshing. I don’t plan to do that now. I’m having much more fun playing with an open system, and getting it to work in the way I want.

I’m not leaving The Church, of course. I am and remain a profound and evangelical Machead. However, working with Ubuntu has taught me that I’m actually less platform dependent than I thought. Without really thinking about it, I have been moving away from proprietary software and towards open-source equivalents. I’m a big fan of OpenOffice.org, which has great auto-correct and formatting tools. I haunt the internet using a mix of Firefox and Chrome, depending on mood. Both are pimped. There’s no excuse for anyone running Firefox not to add extensions like Flashgot and Shareaholic. And I rather like Scribefire, a fully featured blogging platform running in the browser.

My email and calender needs have been cloud-based for a while now, and an arcane net of apps ensure that events update to all our devices, both at home and away. Google Docs and the brilliant Dropbox take care of syncing and back up of all my writing.

The key is flexibility and mobility. I’ve learnt to my cost that I have no control over when and where an idea will drop on me. The seed for Pirates Of The Moon came out of a single misheard phrase in a conversation. Sometimes I don’t even get that much of a warning. The point is, I need to be ready. if an idea is not written down, if an appointment is not noted when I make it, then it may as well not exist. I have a small leather satchel (not a man-bag, alright? A satchel. Shut up.) which carries the Dell, chargers, notebooks, et al and means that I’m prepared for anything, anywhere. I carry my writing space with me. Give me a chair and a flat surface, and I’m good to go. Actually, at a push, I can write standing up on the train. But that’s maybe pushing things a little too far. I may be a nomadic writer, but I’m not a masochist.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

3 thoughts on “A Writer’s Rites”

  1. Just been reading this on that new fangled invention called Face Book – very nice too…

    Hopefully you know this all ready, but I am impressed beyond words at your impulse to write, not to mention your commitment to sticking to it and reaching your goals. And all with the most amazing and imaginative storylines.

    I can’t do this morning thing, myself. I work better in the mornings, I’m more efficient, but I don’t have the creativity. So I do sensible things in the morning and then in the evenings, settled with a glass of something red (or pale yellow with salt round the rim), I can do some creating. But not like you do, I do a post or two – you do a bloody novel or a script!

    The gadgets do make it better. That’s something else I’ve not mastered yet despite the fact that I have all these things. I use the iTouch for making notes when I’m out – it’s great for that. But at home I still use a notepad (preferably one with aliens or superheroes on it) and use the laptop for writing.

    I’m afraid my bus trips to work are taken up with twitter and my bus trips home by a tacky thriller.

    You inspire me though – miust do better. The next time Jake Gyllenhaal is off making a movie in Outer Mongolia, I must have a go at one of your writing challenges.

    Looking forward to looking at the script – you got any actors in mind? 😀

    1. I’m surprised by the friends and fellow travellers that are coming out of the woodwork and committing to Script Frenzy this year. Although I still don’t think we know quite what we’re letting ourselves in for. There’s a meet of the Oxfordshire group this Sunday. The phrase “What the hell are we doing?” will be the mantra, I feel.

      I find it hard to write with booze in me. Dunno why. I guess I’m just more likely to get the words out in a caffeinated whirl. Maybe cocktails are the way to go…

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