Monday, November 26, 2012


Miranda Rankin, wife of international best-selling crime-writer Ian, provoked a lot of discussion when in a recent documentary she described her husband's behaviour when he's writing a book.

The first danger point, she says, comes around page 65.  That's when he hits the wall, when all the thoughts and ideas he'd sorted out before he started the book have got used up much more quickly than he expected and writer's block looms.  At this point it is reasonable to infer that, as PG Wodehouse said of Scotsmen, it wouldn't be difficult to distinguish between Ian and a ray of sunshine.  (I think we've all been there.)

The other point of strain is when the book takes over and Ian is in full spate and, Miranda says, 'He's like a teenage student' and there's no point in talking to him.  The family just stays out of the way and lets him get on with it.

The way other authors manage their writing lives always interests me.  I'm very private about it: even my husband doesn't read my books until they come out in hardback and I never discuss progress or,  heaven forefend, the plot - I once made that mistake and it evaporated as I talked. 

When I'm under pressure I'm sure my husband would tell you that the atmosphere gets tenser and certainly the 2am wakings are more frequent but I don't bring the book out of the study to the supper table.  It stems from the fear that if I let myself go I could easily become a demanding Bookzilla, insisting that everything had to be subordinated to the book and its progress - or lack of it.

It must be very relaxing to be one of those wealthy writers who can take themselves off to a country retreat or a luxury hotel with nothing to do but write, where they are in no danger of alienating family and friends by their lack of interest in anything except the story.  You wouldn't have to try to pretend that what was happening in real life was just as interesting as what was going on inside your head.

It's never likely to happen for me.  And when it comes right down to it, I'm not sure I'd want it to anyway.  It would be really scary to be there all on your own with nothing to do but think, if you suddenly found that what you thought was that you couldn't think what to write next.  Even if  I sometimes feel I'm living with a split screen in my head showing tow different programmes, at least if things get difficult in one area or the other, I can change channels.


Charlotte Hinger said...

I still have fantasies of a remote place to finish a book. Actually, my little house on the prairie in Hoxie Kansas was one. I moved to CO after my husband died to be closer to my three daughters. I've been caught up in a whirlwind ever since.

Aline Templeton said...

I can imagine, Charlotte! I adore my grandchildren and we spend our time regretting that they live at the other end of the country but if I lived nearby I don't think I'd ever get another book written!

j welling said...

There is nothing like the freedom of time to destroy my ability to create.

Make me wedge it in, get up at 4 AM to write before work, squeeze outlines in on a business plane trip - cool. Give me a week with nothing to do, a stocked pantry, and plenty of coffee ? Useless.

I had an instructor once who was a work-study guy in school. He told us he made the dean's list every semester after he started sweeping the library for two hours in the evening as it made him budget his time judiciously. That's stuck with me all these years.

The creative muse calls me back with ideas when I'm shaving, in the shower, or working on some other project. Otherwise, she's prone no response at all.