I have moments of inspiration, when the muse falls upon me. I sit and for several days begin the great task. The resulting sheaves of notes with plot, characters – and even sometimes which actor would play each role – lay around invitingly and then accusingly for a few days until they then get swept up into the big monthly tidy-up fest.
With most writers I’m guessing there’s an overpowering need to share something – an experience, a story, a journey, something learned or perhaps wisdom gained. As someone who really believes that through the process of reading widely we learn not only about ourselves, but also so much about others, how wonderful it must feel to have written a book.
My perfect day would involve afternoon tea, a bookshop – second-hand or new – chocolate and getting lost in a newly discovered book.
To pour your heart into writing a book and to know even if it doesn’t sell millions, someone somewhere may have read it and it may be discovered again in a dusty, old curiosity shop of a place in decades to come seem to me to be a kind of immortality.
Whenever I interview or meet authors I always learn something about the process – or pains – of writing a book.
Joanna Cannon, who visited Waterstones in Doncaster last week for an evening to discuss her debut bestseller The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, has written a luminous book which for me has become an instant classic.
Set in the scorching summer of 1976 it follows 10-year-olds Grace and Tilly as they try to find out what has happened to neighbour Mrs Creasy who has gone missing.
Now anyone who remembers Blue Peter with John Noakes and Angel Delight for Saturday tea will be whisked instantly away on a cloud of nostalgia – but whether you remember it or not this book speaks about the fragility and humanity in all of us and reads at times like poetry. It’s also funny. Jo worked as a hospital doctor before specialising in psychiatry, which perhaps explains where the tenderness and non-judgmental tone in her writing comes from.
If you haven’t read it I do urge you to. She was a joy to meet and for me, most importantly of all her honest recounting of how Goats and Sheep came into being was an inspiration.
Good writing is never formulaic, but whatever you have to share can surface with a plan – even if that’s just to write a few words every day. Which, thanks to Jo, is just what I intend to do.