Tag Archives: writing routine

I, Writer … #22

I, Writer … #22

I, Writer has a new furry addition to the family …

KITTY

 

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C.S.Lewis …

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).

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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.”

C.S. Lewis (1)

C.S. Lewis (2)

Esther Freud …

Esther Freud …

Esther Freud is a British novelist. Born in London in 1963, Freud is the daughter of painter Lucian Freud and Bernadine Coverley. She is also a great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud and niece of Clement Freud. 

Her first novel, Hideous Kinky (1992), was made into a film starring Kate Winslet. After publishing her second, Peerless Flats (1993), she was named one of Granta’s best young British novelists. She has since written six novels, including Love Falls, Lucky Break, Mr Mac and Me, and teaches creative writing at the Faber Academy. Her novels have been translated into 13 languages.

In 2007 she was interviewed by the Guardian for their Writers Rooms series …

When I moved into this room, not very long ago, I imagined I’d put a long desk against the wall, as the previous owner had. But as I don’t have a long desk and there was nowhere to put this round table, I decided to try writing at it. On my desk is a calendar I use as a diary and lots of sheets of paper I scribble on when I’m writing – notes about the book I’m working on, or a reminder to call the dentist. There’s an in-tray which I bought recently. Once something goes in, it never seems to come out, so mostly I spread things around the table if they really need to get done. I don’t need any of these things, just my green chair and my laptop. which is raised up on an old copy of Spotlight.


In a further interview with the Guardian in 2012, she spoke further about her writing routine …

When I first began writing I was so terrified I wouldn’t be able to do it, I made myself start as soon as I got up. Three hours was what I promised I’d do. No more or less. To my amazement, this worked. The pages accumulated. The story grew. Within a year, I had my first novel. But as time has passed, I’ve become less strict. Partly through necessity and partly due to a willingness on my behalf to be distracted.

Another writer once told me about a sign they’d been given: Writer at work, please disturb. And I’ve noticed that as my anxiety has subsided, my discipline has slipped. But by 10am I’m desperate to get to work. If I don’t start soon, I won’t be able to start at all. My morale is higher in the morning, my eye sharper, my doubts ring less loudly in my ears. In the morning anything seems possible. In the afternoon I can’t imagine why I bother at all.

I start every day with rewriting. I go back a few pages or, sometimes, to the very beginning, fiddling and fixing, reacquainting myself with my characters, my landscape, my plot, and then, like a motor revving up, incredibly slowly, I’m moving forward, writing into the unknown. People often ask about the dreaded blank page, but I almost never see it. I’m working from the inside out, fattening things up. This is the happiest time. Nothing can distract me now.

I work till 2pm, but it’s the last 20 minutes that are often the most productive. It’s when, faced with my self-imposed deadline, I stop scrutinising each sentence and write into the story, almost with my eyes shut, forging ahead, laying words down to be examined the next day. Now I am no longer available for distraction. If I hear a door open, or a phone ring, my stomach lurches and my body goes still. Please do not disturb.

Sitting down at your desk every day is an appointment with doubt; that is the nature of writing. I don’t show much of my work in progress to others. I know whether it’s working or not; somebody else’s opinion is not going to change that.

Esther Freud’s website

Deborah Moggach

Deborah Moggach

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Author website

Writers are desperate people …

Writers are desperate people …

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John Mortimer …

John Mortimer  (1923-2009)

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John Mortimer was an English barrister, dramatist, screenwriter, and author. He is best remembered for creating a barrister named Horace Rumpole, inspired by his father Clifford, whose speciality is defending those accused of crime in London’s Old Bailey.

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Horace Rumpole

In 2007, aged 84, he was a featured author in the Guardian’s Writers Rooms series in which he spoke about his daily routine.

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“I live in a house in the Chiltern Hills that my father built when I was nine, and the room in which I write is converted from his garage. It’s the only room from which I can’t look at the garden and be distracted. I’ve worked here ever since we came back to live in the house after my mother died about 20 years ago. I wrote the whole of Paradise Postponed here, and numerous Rumpole novels, scripts, plays and articles.

I write with a pen on long sheets of paper. I’ve never learnt how to type. I try to write as early as possible in the morning, and aim to write 1,000 words a day. I stop at lunchtime, have a drink and then fall asleep. When you know what you are doing, it is good. But at the times when you don’t know, it is very difficult. What I do then is – I just write something. Keep writing. At the moment I am finding it very difficult but I have got a book I have got to finish.”

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During his days as a criminal barrister it was more difficult for him to find the time to write. In a 1998 interview with the Paris Review he mentioned this.

“It was very difficult. I used to get up very early in the morning, and when I became Queen’s Counsel, a criminal lawyer, it was much easier because I would do a big case, then have a gap, then do another big case. And by the end I was only doing about five cases a year.”

Rose Tremain …

Rose Tremain …

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Rose Tremain (born 2 August 1943) is an award-winnng English novelist and short story writer. In 2007 she was a featured author in the Guardian’s Writers Rooms series.

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Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

“I’ve worked in this study for 21 years. It used to be decorated in muted greys and neutrals, office-style. Then, a few years ago, I rebelled against this and put in the bird wallpaper and the heavy, red and gold fringed curtains and the straw-coloured carpet, and I still feel ridiculously pleased with these changes. The computer desk is an ugly, ancient thing – but I don’t suppose I’ll ever replace it. I’ve written 13 books on it. And I’m the kind of person who can feel sentimental affection for a teak plank. The illuminated globe on the desk helps me remember what a small place Britain is in the vast, teeming world. On my other desk I read and make notes before transferring a piece of work to the computer.”

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In a meet-the-author interview for Suffolk Libraries in 2016, she briefly described her writing routine.

“Writing routines vary for every one of us. The most important thing, when I’m working on a novel, is to try to clear the diary of interruptions. This isn’t always easy because talking to audiences about our work has become part of a writer’s life. But my happiest days are those when I can work without being disturbed for six or seven hours.”

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Rose Tremain’s website