Having researched, completed and published the vital, essential-that-I-spend-three-hours-on-this, ‘difficult second book/album phenomenon’ post, I found myself having to buckle down and do some proper writing. But only for a while. I managed to find another distraction.
This distraction wasn’t online poker, sudoku or experimenting with the different places I could put my (unwritten) subsections on the Scrivener corkboard. Oh no, this was another vital, must-be-done-this-instant, serious distraction.
Let me tell you the full story. It concerns my second novel. I’ve got plenty of time.
My characters are set in a 1930s ish mining village in the Welsh valleys. It’s a place, if not a time, that I am very familiar with. In my childhood there were still echoes of those days in the remnants of the Welsh language spoken, the clothes, the attitudes. I’ve tried to incorporate some of these half-remembered, third-hand-me-down elements into my book.
Let me explain. Even today in Wales there is the odd Welsh word or phrase that creeps into English-speaking areas – dad, eisteddfod, penguin. Penguin, really. It’s from ‘pen gwyn’ (white head). As a child there were many more examples. I remember my grandmother calling me a ‘dirty mochyn’ (pig) when I came home from rugby covered in mud. The outside toilet was known as the ‘ty bach’ (small house). Distracted by these thoughts, and in the name of research, I started googling and eventually found an excellently distracting post by Steffan Rhys:
I digress. Back to my story. I was describing a funeral in one scene and imagining the sight. I remember my first funeral. The men wore shiny suits and caps, not hats, flat caps. These were called ‘dai caps’. This was something I remember from over 40 years ago so I thought I would add them for some colour. Just two words – dai caps. I thought I’d better google them to make sure of ….. something or other. A few hours later I have learnt nothing useful except that they are fashionable now in some quarters and Brad Pitt sometimes wears one.
The point of this lecture, however, is not dai caps or Brad Pitt or my nanna. It’s about distractions. I was appalled with myself when I noticed the time I had wasted on two words. I had spent most of the morning googling, checking, surfing. At this rate the book would take … just let me work it out.. No. Stop. It would take a very long time.
No more distractions for me. But how to stop myself. I googled ‘distractions writing’ and started reading the articles. What I can gather is that there are lots of tips and gadgets and stuff that can help you. For instance there’s one that limits the time you’re allowed on the ‘blocked sites’ you set up. There’s a programme that gives you an ambient sound and a ‘focusing’ background image to keep you single-minded somehow. Apparently this isn’t a new problem. Herman Melville, writer of a book about a whale and great great great grand-uncle of musician ‘Moby’ had his wife chain him to his writing table.
I’m thinking now that the problem may be that I write in a room in a house. How amazing would it be to have JD Salinger’s shed at the bottom of the garden? Or to have George Bernard Shaw’s hut he called ‘London’? Or even get away from it all and write in a motel like Jim Harrison? Or maybe, just maybe I could go away to Llaugharne and write in Dylan Thomas’ boathouse. It looks like an amazing distraction-free place to write.
Where would be the best place to write? Now that could be an interesting blog. Perhaps I could do some research……….