As a writer, one has certain responsibilities. Being a guardian of truth and beauty in a howling, godless void is a mere detail. We also have to pay the rent, do grocery shopping, clean the toilet, and have meaningful/meaningless relationships. Some of us have soul-crushing day jobs to pay said rent. Some of you will be lucky enough to make a living from your art.
But at the end of the day, you are an artist. Not a performing monkey. Put it this way: if you saw Lionel Messi in the street, would you ask him to nutmeg you? If you met your favourite pop star, would you ask them to sing their biggest hit? Would you ask the barista from the local coffee shop to do your usual on their day off? No, no, three times no. And your restraining order is in the post.
The point I am trying to make here is: there is a time and a place for everything. There is a time for cleaning the toilet, standing at the till of the local supermarket and aforementioned meaningful/meaningless relationships. But: there is also a time for being a writer. So, when is the right time to write? I would say firstly your mental conditions have to be in order. Not necessarily your mental health (though that is important), but you need to know what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. Let’s go back to the barista. I call it ‘The Drip’. Think of that drip, drip, drip of a decent coffee, say Yirgacheffe. That’s what a good writing thought process is: slow, but worth the waiting. Bad writing is a cup of instant coffee: quick, cheap, available everywhere and ultimately unsatisfying.
Currently we are bombarded by information, every second of every day. But writers need some time to sit still and connect to themselves. To achieve this, my tips are: meditation, using the classic ‘rice bowl’ position; a long hot bath; a walk round the park, or down a beach. When you are in ‘The Zone’, as I call it, then you are ready.
And look at your note taking, research, whatever. Most writers carry notebooks; it is also the default pressie for your friends who know ‘you’re a writer’. Some of us now use the ‘Notepad’ function on our Smartphone. But there comes a time when the notepad has to go back in the bag, the smartphone has to be turned off and you have to do what you’ve said you’ll do. Write. Whether you are paid for it, or not is irrelevant. Get your best pad, pick your nicest pen. Fire up the laptop. There is no excuse. Write.
When writing, stay in ‘The Zone’. A laptop is an excellent way to write. It’s also a massively distracting one. The easiest muscle twitch, the merest flick of ALT+TAB means you are on your Twitter page, checking sports results, seeing if that book that person mentioned was in stock. The upside of writing on a laptop is you can check spelling, facts, look for an apposite quote. But you have to stay focused.
And look at your conditions. What does it take for you to be comfortable? If you are Popeye, what is your spinach? For me, it is sitting in my bay window, looking onto the verdant beauty of a Liverpool side street. I burn an incense stick. The radio is on. I have a cup of tea. I am writing, because the conditions for me are perfect.
Of course, there has to come a time when reality kicks in. Reality is like that, it’s the nagging doubt at the back of your mind that says it’s time for dinner, your partner is due home from work, that film you wanted to see is on TV. You have to stop. So, let’s make a subtle distinction. If it’s a short piece, try to stop once you’ve said what you wanted to say. Long forms, like (gasp) novel writing, when you’ve hit your daily word count.
In conclusion, as a writer, you have to know yourself. Knowing yourself will help you write.
Kev McCready was born in Liverpool. He started his writing career on the local newspaper Kirkby Challenge. He then progressed to be Theatre Editor of the short lived and unlamented arts magazine What Goes On?, and gossip columnist of Uptown. More recently, he has written for Ace, Lowdown, Mancunian Matters, Gigslutz, Submit Comedy and GV Mag. He has also taught creative writing, counselled and wrote and performed his poetry. He enjoys the works of Iain Banks, William Gibson, David Mitchell and Anne Enright, art, music, beach walking and a decent cup of tea. He can be found on Twitter @KevMcCready