Larking Around


A few months ago I was asked to give a talk as part of the Essex Book Festival. It wasn’t my first talk, but it was quite a significant milestone in my career as an author, and the first time I realised that talking about writing was almost as much fun as doing so, and significantly less effort. You turn up, smile a lot, tell the audience a little about yourself, maybe read an extract, and then ask for questions. If nobody says anything we can all go home early. Job done. But that never happens.

I’ve been asked some pretty interesting questions over the past few months.
Here are a few off the top of my head:

How long did your book take you to write? (Six months)
What do you think your wife would make of it? (I think she’d like it.)
Are you happy now? (Yes. Happier than I’ve ever been.)
Are you still working in Credit Card Banking? (No.)
Were you the first choice to read the audio version of your book? (No – I had to audition for the part)
Have you got any other books coming out? (Oh yes.)
Have you met ever the real Peter Jones? (Hang on – am I somehow not real?)

There was one Gentleman at the EBF gig who asked if I was like other authors he’d heard of, and rise each morning at 4am to write – to which I laughed and said that was a ridiculous notion, and I didn’t get out of bed a minute before five.

That was back in March. Four months later and I’m astonished to report that I am indeed getting out of bed at 4am on a regular basis, and sitting at my desk, working, a few minutes later.

I have to say I’m a little perplexed as to why this should be the case. Initially I thought it was something to do with the sun rising around that time – but this morning it was so overcast and dark, it might as well of been October. Then I thought it might be my cat wanting me to let her out, but since I’ve relented and reintroduced the cat litter tray my dawn door opening duties are now surplus to requirements. It was only whilst I exchanged emails and text messages with fellow authors Della Galton, Wendy Steele and David Kendrick – all at around six this morning – did I realise that it might actually be something to do with the job. Authors it seems, are larks rather than owls.

Now why on earth would this be the case?
Is it that we love the work so much we can’t wait to get started?
Are you kidding me!? There have been times recently when working on my current book has felt like trying to wrestle an octopus into a paperbag!
Is it that it’s the only time of day when we won’t be disturbed?
Maybe – though the internet never sleeps and facebook is only a click away.
Is it that our brains are so chock full of exciting ideas that they wake us up in the morning so that we can write them all down?
Unlikely. In my case my brain is probably so sick of dreaming about formatting errors and kindle sales that it’s waking me up in the hopes I’ll do something more interesting!
The truth is I have no idea why my body clock seems to have shifted. All I know is that daft-O’clock in the morning now feels right somehow, and if I happen to lie in till seven or eight, half the day has gone!

But perhaps myself, Dave, Della, Wendy, and the unknown authors that the Gentleman from the EBF knows about, are in the minority. Perhaps it’s nothing to do with being an author. I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, it’s 2pm – time to call it a day!


raspberry-jam-03How to prevent your brain turning to jam

I’ve never been one of those folks who can write in short bursts of five or ten minutes. Some people I know – let’s call them “women” – have this ability to juggle ten things at once, and whilst they make a phone call, surf the web, feed the gold fish, put another load of washing on, and gently remove the kitchen knife that little Johnny decided might be fun to play with, they manage to bash out another scene. If only my brain worked like that. Instead, the lump of grey matter inside my skull prefers to work on one thing at a time, and takes a while to warm up. I’m not suggesting this a male thing, but it’s definitely how I’m wired.

And that’s fine. Aside from the days when my assistant’s here, the only person who requires my attention is CJ. And given that there’s a garden full of birds to amuse her during the day, and mice to hunt during the evening, I’m largely left alone to immerse myself in “my craft”.

Which would be lovely. If only I could keep going.

Two hours in however and my brain is mush. It doesn’t feel like two hours, it feels like two days. I’m ready to throw in the towel, and congratulate myself on a productive, er.. time… if it wasn’t for the fact I’ve barely filled half a screen with words. I end up taking breaks. Tea breaks. Lunch Breaks. Just-check-my-email-breaks. Talk-to-my-assistant breaks. Phone someone-anyone breaks. Anything-other-than-continue-to-climb-the-damn-mountain-that-is-my-novel break.

And that’s a problem. Breaks do just that. They break something. In this case, my flow. I’d return to the writing, and I’d have to warm up my brain. Again.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

A year ago, through a set of circumstances that I won’t bore you with now (partly because I need something to blog about next month) I found myself writing a self-help book (How to Do Everything And Be Happy – available now – all good ebook stores- yada yada yada). Non-fiction writing is something that, like you, I’m so familiar with I don’t really consider it writing at all. In a world where so much communication has gone back to the written word (texts, emails, tweets, blog posts…) writing a self-help book just feels a LOT easier than writing a novel. It’s almost as if it uses less of your brain. Or maybe a different part. I’m sure some smart person will post a comment saying exactly that.

The really interesting thing though is what happened to my “Writing Days”. Rather than “taking a break” (to check my emails, make another cup of tea, etc etc.), I’d simply flip from the novel, to the self-help book – from fiction, to non-fiction – and when my brain felt less jam-like, I’d flip back. In my head at lest, this didn’t seem to register as a break – I’d feel rested yes, but my flow hadn’t been broken. I’d remained in writing mode the whole time so there was no need to warm up – and suddenly I was writing two books far faster than if I’d been writing just one.

I’m keen to know if this is just me. And if it’s the combination of fiction and non-fiction or whether working on two pieces of fiction at the same time would work just as well. Post your comments below.

In the meantime I’m flipping back to the novel.

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