I don’t subscribe to the idea that the act of writing is some mysterious creative process that must involve Inspiration and a certain amount of neurosis at all times. Clearly, a pinch must be present but in general I sit down, I have a think, then get some words down. It really is that simple – or rather I choose to believe it’s that simple because I’m a sensible, pragmatic sort of person. Not for me the chaos, draped chiffons and public anguish of the eccentric lady author; the teetering piles of books in my study are about as raw as it gets round here.
Now, I confess I have never been to a creative writing class. I’m sure I would have found it helpful and interesting if I had. But then again, I always wondered whether most creative writing classes were taken by those who needed the kick-start, or the validation, or the blueprint to get started. I have always read greedily, and been interested in how and why books worked, so it seemed that much of what I needed was already embedded in those books. This is, of course, a very personal view of what was right for me - other people will have very different views and experiences.
As far as I can see, the main requirement for starting and finishing a novel is determination. It was quite a while before I found the courage to begin writing fiction, purely because I wanted to write a novel so much, but that’s another issue. When I did finally start, after I’d worked as a journalist for long enough to prove myself, I learned most of the technicalities of writing a book by daring to try.
The symbol of that determination, for me, is this cherished fountain pen. My parents bought it for me when I was fourteen, and I wrote with it for the rest of my time at school, gripped tight through all the important exams, my
entrance papers and, finally my degree. These days it’s only used to write letters to special people, but I never pick it up, and feel it rest in the bump of my middle finger that it made all those years ago, without remembering those make-or-break times, when pushing on towards an end was all I could envisage. Cambridge
This doesn’t give much insight into the writing process, does it? But I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone else how to write. If you have a love of words and language, and you want it enough, you’ll find your own way. But I will share one piece of knowledge that has always kept me writing, and working fast:
It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Deceptively simple, but like so many of the simplest methods, extremely effective. That shouldn't imply slapdash and rushed. What it means is that you give yourself permission to put words on the page that aren’t necessarily the finished product, lines you will go back and polish. It’s so much easier to play around with words that are already on the page than to stare at a blank screen or sheet. You can warm up by writing what comes into your head first – it’s amazing how fast you can hit your stride with the better stuff – and you will rarely be troubled by writer’s block.