I, Writer … #22
I, Writer has a new furry addition to the family …
C. S. LEWIS
C.S. Lewis was a British novelist, poet, academic, literary critic, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist. He held academic positions at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters (1942), . (1950-1956), and The Space Trilogy (1938-1945).
In 1930, C. S. Lewis and his brother Warnie Lewis moved into a house called The Kilns in the village of Risinghurst, Oxford. It was here that he wrote all of his Narnia books and other classics. The house itself was featured in the Narnia books. In 1956, he married American writer Joy Davidman. She died of cancer four years later at the age of 45. This period of his life is the subject of the film Shadowlands.
Lewis’s works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold the most and have been popularised on stage, TV, radio, and cinema.
The following insights into his writing routine come from his autobiography: Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955).
“I settled into a routine which has ever since served in my mind as an archetype,
I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better.
A step or two out of doors for a pint of beer would not do quite so well; for a man does not want to drink alone and if you meet a friend in the taproom the break is likely to be extended beyond its ten minutes.
At one precisely lunch should be on the table; and by two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.
The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude, …for eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading. It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table. What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere…
At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven.”
Deborah Moggach is an English novelist and screenplay writer. She has written eighteen novels including The Ex-Wives, Tulip Fever, These Foolish Things (made into the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Heartbreak Hotel. Her latest book is called Something to Hide. She currently lives in the Welsh border town of Presteigne and also has a maisonette in Kentish Town, North London.
In 2016 she was interviewed by the Guardian for their My Writing Day series.
Everyone has their rituals and I have to start the day with a roll-up and a cup of coffee. It gets my brain fizzing – it loosens the connections – and if I’m interrupted, I’m lost. If someone even says “I’ll phone you some time in the morning” it threatens my concentration, which is a feeble organ at the best of times. With screenplays it’s not so bad because it’s a more public process anyway – so many other people are involved – but if I’m writing a novel, I need to shut myself off into my private world. I don’t mind people in the house, as long as they’re not quarrelling and they don’t come in, but I can’t bear music.
The weird thing is that unexpected interruptions can jolt me when I’m stuck and can actually help, like a computer being switched off and on. But I mustn’t expect them. And if there are too many, the morning is flushed away; I can almost hear it hissing into oblivion, like an airline toilet.
When that happens, it is a day’s work gone, because I can only write in the mornings. A lot of writers I know are the same. In the afternoons I become a normal person doing normal things – shopping, cooking, talking to people. If a novel is going well, however, I perform these tasks in a dream. It’s a wonderful feeling, this, but it doesn’t happen very often. When it does, I find that everything feeds into what I’m writing. The swing of somebody’s hair, the odd remark on the bus – they absorb themselves into the bloodstream of the story in a mysterious way, so my day is pulled into the subterranean flow of the novel.
At 6.30pm I’ll go back to my desk, have a glass of wine and another roll-up, and work for an hour. That’s the best time of all, and utterly essential. After that I watch TV.