Friday 21 March 2014

How do you write? (Part II)

I went to a thatched cottage in Berkshire last weekend with writing friends. The cottage, in a village was reached by single-track lanes and the Sat Nav of course didn’t take me to the right address so I spent twenty minutes driving up and down the village, until a kind lady walking her dog gave me directions.

This cottage was so remote that when I woke at three o’clock on Saturday morning, an owl hooted outside my window. When I sat down to write at a desk with the above view, a woodpecker was hanging off the birdfeeder. The four of us were immersed in a kind of Disney writer’s paradise. Between us, we brought several bottles of wine and we crammed the fridge with enough food to last us a week. At lunchtimes, we ate cold meats and salads outside (thanks to Jules for bringing all that wonderful stuff!) with fresh bread as if we were in Tuscany or the South of France. In the evenings, we met at the distressed wooden table in a kitchen lit by fairy lights and candles.

Some of us wrote more than others. I’m at a stage with book 2, 'The Painting' where I need to plan and handwrite scenes with pen and paper. By Sunday evening, I couldn’t claim to have written several thousand words (like Jules, who wrote 6000!), but I came home ready to dive right into my manuscript and pick up where I left off in September, before rewriting book 1. I don’t seem to have done that quite yet…, having spent the week doing other stuff and being on Twitter far more than I should be.

I read an interesting book recently called, ‘Daily Rituals’, by Mason Currey. Mason has gathered information on how various writers, artists, philosophers and composers worked (or work). This is a book to keep on the shelf and dip into, especially when stuck as there are loads of ideas on how to get into a daily routine, however busy you are. Some ideas I wouldn’t advocate, such as consuming copious quantities of alcohol, chain-smoking and taking loads of drugs, but it’s the sort of book which you take what you want from. Many writers mentioned wrote (or write) for a minimum of three or four hours each day, took (or take) walks in beautiful countryside and read a great deal. Some had no routine at all and only wrote when compelled to.

Charles Dickens ‘rose at 7:00, had breakfast at 8:00, and was in his study by 9:00. He stayed there until 2:00, taking a brief break for lunch with his family, during which he often seemed to be in a trance, eating mechanically and barely speaking a word before hurrying back to his desk.’

When asked if he had a daily routine, Kingsley Amis said, ‘Yes. I don’t get up very early. I linger over breakfast reading the papers, telling myself hypocritically that I’ve got to keep up with what’s going on, but really staving off the dreadful time when I have to go to the typewriter. That’s probably about ten-thirty, still in pajamas and dressing gown…’
Jane Austen ‘rose early, before the other women were up, and played the piano. At 9:00 she organized the family breakfast, her one major piece of household work. Then she settled down to write in the sitting room, often with her mother and sister sewing quietly nearby. If visitors showed up she would hide her papers and join in the sewing.’

This book has inspired me to write in three hour minimum blocks where possible, as I found an hour here and there wasn’t getting me very far. A scenic walk does help with mulling over bits I’m stuck on. But getting away from it all, especially with other writers always seems to work wonders.

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Polesden Lacey history pages and Georgians Revealed exhibition

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Polesden Lacey history pages and Georgians Revealed exhibition

I’ve been working at Polesden Lacey, a National Trust property as a website volunteer since November last year and I recently completed the new history pages for Polesden Lacey’s website

Edwardian hostess, Margaret Greville bought Polesden Lacey in 1906 and she left the estate to the
National Trust in 1942. Her guests included Edward VII and George VI. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother spent part of her honeymoon there when she was the Duchess of York. The history pages include articles about Mrs Greville, a timeline (from 1906-1960) and below stairs staff. There are some wonderful photos of butlers, housemaids, gardeners, chauffeurs etc

This weekend, I’m off to a thatched cottage in the countryside with friends for writing with wine thrown in! Last week I completed my latest draft of book 1, The Grandson and I hope to make progress with book 2, The Painting so I can submit as many words as possible to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme by the end of August.

I went to the Georgians Revealed exhibition at the British Library in London last week (which finished on 11 March). The exhibition gave a taste of life during Georgian times with maps, posters, books and information on architecture, interior design, theatres and sports amongst other things. Although I found the exhibition interesting, I didn’t learn as much as I’d hoped. However, this should mean I’ve done enough research to get on with book 2, The Painting, and I can refer to information collected when stuck.

The British Library is such an inspiring place, quiet apart from hushed conversations, where student-types mill about with notebooks and pens and laptops and iPads. There’s a great restaurant which serves miniature chicken pies and all sorts of delicious stuff and I’ll be back soon to write there.

Daffodils and snowdrops have sprung up here in the U.K. and the weather has been lovely over the past week. Hopefully that's it for winter this year and that the potholes in the roads will be filled in soon!