… tea, chocolate, and desperation (oh, and Post-it notes).
- Tea. I’m British, and this is the national curative. Just been in a minor accident? I’ll make you a cup of sweet tea for the shock. Bad exam results? Have a nice cup of tea and remember there’s always re-takes. Leg bitten off by a crocodile? Don’t worry, have a nice cup of tea while I wind this tourniquet around the stump of your leg and you’ll soon be feeling much more the thing… While writing tea keeps me going, and a pause for a cup of tea enforces a few minutes’ break during which my tea-lubricated mind can find something to fill in plot holes and generate a few ‘ah-ha’ moments.
- Chocolate. My writing is fuelled by a fairly random reward and punishment system which depends largely on how I feel at the time I’m writing. On a good day, all that’s needed is to let the muse flow through me, the words to add up on the computer, and to note each shiny, new one thousand words with a sticker to show I’m making progress. On days where the words have dried up and the plot descended to implausible treacle, chocolate is required: once I’ve written a thousand words I can have a chocolate brazil. Or maybe once I’ve written 500 words. On truly desperate days, a sentence earns it. Chocolate ensures progress when nothing else can.
- Desperation. I was the class swot. During my educational career, every single essay or piece of work was in early or on time (there was one exception, which stands out precisely because of its singularity, that simply goes to show I’m human, although a swot). Those early, ingrained habits show up now in my writing life (case in point: this blog post was actually drafted a week ago in dread of running out of things to say). To finish a book, all I needed to do was set a deadline for publication and watch myself get more and more focused as the date drew nearer with the thunderous drone of stampeding animals.
- Which brings me nicely to: Post-It notes. There are backs of envelopes and scraps of paper, but I know I wouldn’t be half as productive without Post-It notes. Invaluable not only for plotting stories, they came into their own as I organised all the other jobs self-publishing requires, creating to-do lists which I could screw up in glint-eyed delight once I’d performed the task scribbled on it.
So, those are my four cornerstones. Anything you wouldn’t be without while writing?