How I write

Good morning (or evening depending on where you are)!

On the eve of the release of my debut novel, The Red Light, I wanted to write a post about my writing methods as this is a question people often ask me. What is the best time to write? What conditions do you need to write well? Do you get writer’s block, and if so, how do you deal with it?

Well, I would say that the best time for me to write is at night. I find there are too many distractions during the day, too many chores. At night, I find it calming and freeing to imagine everyone in bed, asleep or watching TV, and that is when the world seems very quiet and inspiring. My mind can wander without distraction and I find words and ideas come so much more easily; then I use the day to edit and go back over everything I’ve done.

As far as other conditions are concerned, I don’t need anything special like flickering candlelight or a sandalwood candle, just a comfortable chair, peace and quiet around me and, preferably, lots of books. I often write in my study with my books all around, and they remind me of why I do what I do – they inspire me to keep going with the ambition to see my own works alongside them.

Writer’s block is a more interesting one. I find it less a case of one day good, one day bad and more a case of a bad week or a good week. There have been times where I have sat at my desk with my head in my hands for days and days, desperately trying to move on from where I left off and, quite simply, nothing happens. Nothing makes it better; not herbal tea, not strong coffee, not chocolate, not wine, not exercise. It is just like a brick wall you can only bang your head against. In these weeks, I just drop the work entirely. I don’t fight in anymore; I simply take my manuscript around with me as I focus on other things – chores, other work, seeing friends or family. I keep reading bits without the pressure of writing, and then suddenly – and always – the inspiration comes back. And the second it does, I pounce. I go straight back to the study and start writing and keep writing until my eyes are red. I can write for hours and hours on end in this state and it is then that my books take shape. I can revise and edit them in the weeks when that brick wall returns and I can’t make any progress.

It is always fascinating to hear other writers’ experiences of writer’s block – perhaps my own can be of help to those who have not quite worked out how to combat it. In any case, I am thrilled to say I conquered that wall enough times to see my novel The Red Light see the light of day, and, as of tomorrow, I hope that all of you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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