The Writer’s Life

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Would you like to be a writer? Does the idea of getting your words published – or even your novel be seen on the best seller lists – fill you with enthusiasm to get started?

In our fantasy of a perfect life of writing, many of us dream of spending our working day in an oak-panelled room, sitting on a soft leather chair, the only sounds being the distant trilling of garden birds. Our dust-free bookshelves groan with reference books. Our computers are perfectly behaved. Printers never run out of ink. No one telephones us (except to offer us book deals). We are surrounded with vintage fountain pens, scented inks, velvet-covered notebooks, and our minds are bursting with ideas. An appreciative and respectful family member enters our room occasionally to give us a cup of coffee and to compliment us on our hard work. In this creative nirvana, we finish each page of fluent prose with a contented smile of achievement. Ideas flow like cascading waterfalls, editors clamour (politely) for our work, and at the end of each day’s constructive writing, we emerge from our (still neat and tidy) study into our families, cook a healthy meal and sit at the kitchen table with our loved ones, clinking glasses of wine, discussing the achievements of the day.

In an old issue of Writing Magazine, there is a full page article written on the subject of “The Right Place to Write”.  The author addresses this subject with enthusiasm. His conclusions are that, in order to write well, we all need the following: (i) a warm temperature, (ii) a comfortable chair, (iii) personal effects around us, (iv) good lighting, (v) essential stationery, (vi) correct timing, and (vi) lack of disturbance. The article is complemented with a photograph of the author, presumably sitting at his writing desk, pen poised in his hand. His facial expression is that of pleasant surprise, the photographer having caught him in creative mid-flow.

The everyday reality is sadly different. There are many demands on our time, problems to solve and bills to pay. Our dream life of creativity can be stunted early on. However, it is useful to remind ourselves that people can and do overcome hardships and still write words of great quality.  

We are reminded from time to time that the author J K Rowling wrote some of her greatest work in cheap spiral bound notebooks, in a crowded café, and with her infant child at her side in a buggy. Roald Dahl apparently wrote his best efforts sitting in a broken chair in a chilly garden shed. So why should we lesser mortals need to be so pampered?

One theory behind the idea that writers are so sensitive to their environments is that the whole business of organising one’s personal writing space is in itself an exercise in procrastination. We seem to need to spend a lot of time trawling the shelves of the local stationer’s. Surfing the internet is also a necessity.  Shuffling around the library shelves is a justifiable way of passing time, and an essential pre-requisite to the actual effort of writing some words. Internet forums related to writing services are popular with writers who wish to write about writing, read about writing, complain about the absence of their muse, discuss writer’s block, wail about lack of time to write… anything but actually sitting down and writing.

Is it any wonder that writers get frustrated? Are we so obsessed with the concept of ourselves as writers – instead of concentrating on our output? If you are one of those people who feel that they have the potential for writing great pieces – whether a novel, short stories or poetry, and whether as a career or for a hobby – one of the surest ways of committing to this writing lifestyle is to sign up for a good quality writing course. The Academy for Distance Learning provides a wide range of writing courses that could kick-start your new writing life.   

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