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The writing time machine

Making more words per minute – what I learned from a homemade writing retreat

Sometimes I wish I could invent a machine (magical, probably) that made writing time.

My inner critic, Sniffy Neg, predicts I’d waste it all.

There is just so much stuff to do other than writing. I don’t begrudge hunting and gathering for my creative brain, Gonzo. But by crikey there’s more: rent grubbing, body stuffing and wittling, mood noodling, relationship tickling, domestic fettling, admin wrangling, book admiring, stranger tweeting and miscellaneous chaos smiting. Oh, and blogging, of course.

In the absence of a writing time machine, magical or otherwise, my friend M proposed making a homemade writing retreat. The ingredients were a borrowed house (just far enough from home and in a quiet spot) and three empty days.

There I was, three days ago, laptop on lap, fingers on keyboard with absolutely nothing to do but write, or fail. There would be no excuses. Sniffy Neg was shouting her failure forecast through a loudhailer.

She ain’t smiling now. I wrote more in these last three days than ever before, words that work too. Gonzo reclines, tired but happy.

Perma writing retreat is not a viable way of life for me. Aside from the practicalities I’d miss Mr Gaitskell, but there’s good stuff I can take back home, new assumptions about what’s possible, (re-re-)remembered good practice and new routines.

Instructions to myself for writing days

Rise. Get up early. That day-dreamy time you’ve been saying is essential to get in the mood isn’t.

Stretch. Not every day has thousands of words in it, but set a bold target for a week and beat it.

Start. Open your laptop and start writing. Don’t do anything first. Except make a cup of tea, obviously.

Fly. Write continuously for a period you’ve promised yourself, and not fifteen minutes, one or two hours. Don’t stop. No, you can’t have another cup of tea until time's up. If then you want to fly on, get to the end of the scene, then by all means do - up to but not beyond the point of jibber.

Ready. Sketch a few nav points for your next flight.

Rest. Set the time for your next flight in an hour or two. Drink tea, obviously, then do mindless tasks, or eat, jump about or tweet, skip in the sunshine if you like. But get your fingers back on that keyboard on schedule.

Fly. Ready. Rest. Repeat. Until curfew (not too late, or Gonzo will creep into bed with you).

Gonzo is hardly a creature of habit, but it turns out she adores being bothered at intervals throughout the day. She can’t resist it.

Me about to fly: Gonzo?


Me: Gonzo, I’ve started writing this next scene you told me about.

Gonzo: Hhhm? Sleepy. Shush.

Me: Look, I’m doing it now, tippy-tappy-typing. Pronoun, verb, definite article, noun. That's the first sentence.

Gonzo: Me! Me! Let me do the next one.

This feels like making writing time without the magical machine. Every writing day forever and ever will be productive. Hurrah!

Alright, I know I’ll cheat, excuse and meander away. But for the next week, or month, let’s say until 2018 as that sounds bold but it’s close, I can do this.

And to The Amazing M - heartfelt thanks for inviting me, encouraging me and making this possible.

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