In which the principles of writing, creativity, and fun are helpfully illustrated with a range of rodents in an assortment of emotional conditions
Recently, one of my clients had two books to write, both on subjects he loves. One of them was feeling much more exciting, ideas churning, bits writing themselves in his head. “Oh well,” he said miserably, “I guess I should just write the other one first and get it out the way.” What? But that day, I was doing exactly the same. I had two projects, both with the same deadline: a business book to edit; and a novel to read for review. I was enjoying editing the business book, but I’d already spent two days in a row working solidly on just that. “Oh well,” I thought miserably, “I guess I’ll just make myself read the novel instead…” What? In fact – WTF?
“Do what you love – the rest follows,” it said. My brother’s 21st: everyone is in full medieval regalia. One of our coolest friends, already urbane and grown-up at the grand age of 23, throws a crumpled-up piece of paper to my brother. Smoothed out, it shows a man playing a saxophone, next to the words “Do what you love. The rest follows.”
The words hit me like a religious conversion. Of course my life was already full of writing – not writing would be like not breathing – but suddenly, here was authority, permission, validation, all at once. It’s hard to recapture the passionate conviction you feel at 19, but this video does: Continue reading
I make people work fast – and I insist they relax. I make them do an exercise in 10 minutes instead of an hour – then I tell them to take an extra-long shower. I give them a demanding schedule of work – and tell them to take it for a lovely long walk. I do all this not out of crazed split-personality psychosis, but because I know, intimately, the creative process. Continue reading
Writers get less fan mail than most readers imagine. They spend their days largely alone, crafting their work and putting in all sorts of details and care – but it’s rare that they hear from their readers that someone got all that. A thank-you letter has more value than you can imagine. A thank-you letter is equally valuable for the letter-writer, though. Continue reading
Most creatives and ambitious types know how difficult it can be to keep a normal, healthy self-esteem. Doing something good isn’t enough – you want it to be magnificent! And if it’s not magnificent, you are shit. And so self-esteem gets trapped between unrealised magnificence and unrealistic shittitude. A close cousin of this is the overambitious idea-killer. You have an idea and it’s great. You keep imagining just how great it could be until it is so amazing that it’s impossible to do. The idea blows up like a bubble until it pops.
We know this stuff. We can all quote Voltaire, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” (Or if we’re being really perfectionist, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”) But sometimes it still slips under the radar – and one of its techniques is The Evil Secret Stretch Goal. Continue reading
At its heart, writing is communication, and communication is something humans simply do. It should feel simple and natural, but the actual experience of sitting down to write can raise some unexpected obstacles. Suddenly, we don’t know how to phrase something any more. Continue reading
The question makes me blink.
“I mean,” he presses, “If their book’s just shit, do you tell them that?”
I’m at the Institute of Directors, in support of my author, Shirley Mansfield, whose book is being showcased. In the break, a knot of would-be authors has gathered around me at the bar. I glance around the art-deco chic, trying to word my answer. The question is as black and white as the clacking tiles underfoot, but there is no black-and-white answer. The question is wrong – it crucially misunderstands two things. Continue reading