book lover, professional writer & blogger
I was out walking the other day and I met someone I knew. They know I’m a writer and we got chatting about my work (their choice, not mine I’d like to add!). I laughed when they asked me this question: “What’s the most common question you get asked about being a writer?”
I love a healthy dose of irony but, theirs was not the most common question I get asked.
The most common in my experience are questions like: “What inspires you?” “Why do you write?” “How do you find stuff to write about?”
I love talking about my work with people but, I find it tough talking about what inspires me because it’s just so varied and unusual. Inspiration comes from all over the place and in many different guises. When I write, I instinctively think back to my early childhood or the time I spent growing up as a teenager and leaving home. I find a lot of inspiration in the many experiences I had at University or on holiday or at the pub. Most of all, I find material and ideas from the people I meet, people I’ve known in the past, my family and the things that interest me or have affected me: music; art; travel; love; illness; historical events; science; crime; tragedy; the human mind; DIY; food. The list is endless and odd. Imagine that moment when a friend in the street asks the immortal question, “Why do you write?” and I give that reply! To leave anything out seems like an incomplete answer, yet to fully answer seems like complete overkill. If I’m totally honest in how I respond, it often leaves people stunned.
It’s an amusing dilemma. I’ve found it’s better to give a stock answer, depending on who I’m talking to and how long they’ve got. If someone’s really interested, I’ll tell them about one particular book and the reasons I wrote it. If someone’s just passing, I’ll use comedy to get out of giving any in depth description. A bit of humour always diffuses the situation.
“Why do you write?”
“Because it means I can drink a lot of tea.”
“Ha ha ha ha – ha.”
Now, answering the question, “How do you find anything to write about?” baffles me even more. The reply, “I wake up and start thinking,” has attracted a few offended glances. I don’t ever want to offend interested people. But, it’s true.
I find it most unnerving when a fellow writer asks that question. How can a writer with a whole world to look at and a whole imagination to explore not know what to write? Writer’s block is one thing – every person gets that once in a while, often when they’re trying too hard but, not knowing what to write? I think that’s strange. I don’t see that as writer’s block. Writer’s block is like a glitch in the process of creating what you want to create. Not knowing what to create in the first place is totally different. It’s thankfully not something I’ve ever suffered with. My problem is I don’t have enough time in the day to get all my ideas down. I have at least three novels planned in depth and am desperate to get started on them. The only thing stopping me is the other three I’m already working on.
And, I’m happy to keep it that way.