After the recent illness that’s taken up much of this year, I found myself in hospital for some tests and I got chatting with one of the nurses on the ward. After exhausting discussions of the glorious British weather, talk turned inevitably to that other conversation stalwart – work. When I mentioned that I was a writer, her eyes instantly lit up.
I’m sure those of you who write have experienced it before. The moment you mention that you’re a published author, you brace yourself for the inevitable announcement that they, too, have a fantastic story. Unfortunately, for now it’s just inside their head. In the next breath, you find your wide-eyed and star struck companion begging for advice on how to get published, ignoring your many protestations that it’s sheer bloody hard work, not glamorous in the least, and that you need to prepare yourself for a hundred rejections for every sniff of interest in your writing. Even if you do succeed, it’s the exception rather than the rule that becomes the JK Rowling, George RR Martin or even those who, whilst not universally famous, are able to make an exclusive living from their words.
I liked this nurse, though, so we sat down with a cup of tea and I gladly answered all the questions she fired at me. The one that stuck in my mind above all others, though, was when she asked me how to sit down and write a novel from start to finish. "It's simple, really," I told her with a smile. "Just sit down every day and write something - anything. You have to make writing a habit."
But when she left, I realised that since for the last few months, I had let that habit slide. On a good day, I'd normally write upwards of 2k, but of late I often hadn't even bothered to open up the files and look at them, let alone write anything. Half a dozen stories laid on the hard drive untouched, to the extent that I lost track of my plots - and then lost the motivation to sit back down with them and hammer them out again.
It wasn't until I thought over the advice that I'd given to that nurse that I realised just how essential it was. I write because I love it. Not for money, not because someone tells me to do it - but because it makes me happy. However, it's still hard work. Some stories come more easily than others. I can start a sentence and then look up again an hour later to find two or three thousand words have come with almost no conscious effort, but more often than not it's all about finding the self-discipline to push through those tricky plot twists and persuade an errant character to do as I had intended them to. So one day of not doing so turned into two, two into three and then a week went past, and then a month.
Working on the final edits for the Falcon's Chase, though, proved to be the much-needed reminder of just how much I love writing and how strong the sense of achievement is when I type that final word of the fourth of fifth draft. And that feeling is worth fighting for.
So no matter what distractions you have around you or how many other demands you have on your time, you have to remember just why it is that you started writing in the first place. Once you learn how to hold onto that, nothing can take it away from you.