Skip to main content

Why write and how?

It is a frequently asked question - from others and from the writer herself.  Why do you write - and how?  For me it is an itch that, even when an idea is put onto paper, is still there, and only when that idea is fleshed out into a first draft has the itch been satisfied, albeit temporarily.  The Times 2 section in today's paper have put together a great feature on this very issue, asking a bunch of successful writers, which coincides with the Times Cheltenham Literary Festival.  Robert Harris says that, for him, it is a vocation; that is, he would write regardless of whether he was paid or not, labelling it, like my itch, an impulse.  Douglas Coupland says his relationship with writing is 'so tangled up with visual art'.  He says that he can't imagine not doing it and that it is probably the only disciplined part of his life.  I hate to think what the rest of his life is like!  Pat Barker claims to write for the characters, seeing them as separate entities, although acknowledging that they come from the subconscious - and, whilst she may start out with an outline the characters rapidly take over and create their own journeys.  I really identified with Esther Freud's comments that when she's writing, she 'feels so different at the end of the day, like I've got something out of my system.'  And she goes on to compare it to how some must feel after meditation.  Iain Banks says that it helps if you are the sort of person who can spot large scale patterns around you and to do that may usually mean that, to a degree, you're on the outside.  I'm sure artists must say similar things, in fact, anyone who is in touch with their creativity - and I think that, anyone who is 'at one' with what they do, which is definitely not most, that they are in touch with this part of themselves, whether they are bricklaying, baking or writing. 

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Midwinter Break - Bernard McLaverty

The only other book that I've read of Bernard MacLaverty was the sublime Grace Notes, published in 1997, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize of the same year. That prize was awarded to an author of another similar hiatus recently broken, Arundhati Roy, of the widely acclaimed The God of Small Things. I was certain, when buying the kindle version of Midwinter Break, that MacLaverty's first book in seventeen years (Cal, 2001, was his most recent) had made both the Booker Longlist and Shortlist - but having just double-checked - am disappointed and confused to find it had made neither. MacLaverty's prose style feels Yatesian, after the late Richard Yates, US author of Revolutionary Road, and TheEaster Parade
Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam, is written in the same deliciously clear and poignant prose that so widely marked out Grace Notes. The husby and I have not long returned from a late summer break in that same fabulous city. With the visit to the Rijksmuseum still fre…