Friday, June 12, 2015

The Writers' Habit.

I have a deadline coming.

It's very close now and my book is so out of focus with half edited bits here and there I think it might be quicker to press delete on 95000 words and start again.


I’m working on it in 16 hour bursts and after a while – 1 hour – 30 mins – 2 milliseconds, my energy gives up and I am left confused by a plot that I have created. I am let down by characters that will not do as they are told. Staying dead seems to be a problem for my victims. They will insist on popping up for pizza or to tell a secret that they have inadvertently taken to the grave with them.
Then I start to stare into space and think weird thoughts. Why does my dog constantly wag its tail. All the time. Even when it’s asleep. I think it has a neurological disorder.

Then  I start to consider the weird contents of my fridge; there is something in there that grows, mutated like a new strain of something. Is there a thriller based on this?

And then I think about stuff getting more expensive; a cup of coffee, ice cream, weddings and plumbing. Yet other stuff like fridge freezers, divorces, Yamaha organs are getting cheaper. But before I go on to contemplate what this means for the planet here is the blog;

I am an Agatha Christie writer for defo laptop sitting anywhere. I’ll write anywhere. At the moment the laptop is under the dog.

I wonder if anybody has ever stapled each chapter then thrown all the chapters in the air and just put them together again in whatever order they land. It would be a sort of unreliable timeline novel the reader will know the who the what and the why but the real mystery will be in what order. The idea is warming to me.


I have been dipping into The Daily Rituals by Mason Currey which is a book about how great minds make time, find inspiration and get to work.

I do not have a great mind. I have no time.  I have more perspiration than inspiration. I get to work in a fifteen year old Fiat with questionable steering.

But the book is interesting to peruse. Some very famous and incredible minds belonged to extremely normal people who had cups of tea and walked the dog. Others had lives that were so bizarre (or substance enhanced)  it was a wonder they ever managed to do anything.

As a wee aside the photographs in the book of writers typing on mechanical typewriters makes you wonder why there is so much RSI nowadays with our lovely flat, ergonomic keyboards.

  The following is a quote from Patricia Highsmith’s biographer Andrew Wilson.  Highsmith seems to be fond of her own company and distrusting of humanity as a race and that shows in her writing I suppose.  Her daily regime of words on the page, two thousand in a three or four hour period in the morning, was a compulsion and she said that she would have been miserable without it. Substance use, abuse is a  common thread in the book.


 Highsmith was a chain smoker all her life with a very high tolerance to alcohol – she reputedly kept a bottle of vodka on her bedside table and had a mouthful the moment she woke up. But to her credit she thought a lot more of animals than she did of people. Cats and snails being her pets of choice.

There is a story that when she moved to France it would have been unlawful for her to take her live pet snails across the border so she simply smuggled them in trip by trip hiding the creatures in her bra.  I think she sounds a bizarre and rather enchanting character.

Her  biographer Andrew Wilson says...
"Her favourite technique to ease herself into the right frame of mind for work was to sit on her bed surrounded by cigarettes, ashtray, matches, a mug of coffee, a doughnut and an accompanying saucer of sugar.  She had to avoid any sense of discipline and make the act of writing as pleasurable as possible.  Her position, she noted, would be almost foetal and, indeed, her intention was to create, she said “a womb of her own.”

My beloved Agatha never used the word 'writer' when she was filling out a form which asked for her occupation. She always just put 'married woman' – inset beat here for intake of feminist breath and gnashing of teeth.  She lived a very ordinary life and just wrote.  She would be here, there and everywhere writing.  Her only requirements were a steady table and a typewriter.  Any table would do dining, kitchen, her desk, table in the hall..

She was quoted as say. 'Many friends have said to me, 'I never know when you write your books, because I've never seen you writing or go away to write.' I must behave as rather as dogs do when they retire with a bone; they depart in a secretive manner and you do not see them again for an odd half hour. They return self consciously with mud on their noses. I do much the same. I felt slightly embarrassed if I was going  to  write but once I could get away however, shut the door and get people not to interrupt me, then I was able to  go full speed ahead, completely lost in what I was doing.'

That last quote of Agatha made me feel a lot better as I too am 'Completely lost in what I am doing.'

Caro Ramsay 12/06/2015


  1. Well, actually, it seems you're completely lost in doing something you're NOT doing: writing your book. What t' hell, Caro??? You're having trouble writing your book, so you riff off a funny, informative, fast-paced scroll-key pounder (just doesn't have the same ring as "page turner," does it?)??? Sounds to me like the three monkeys got it right: procrastination. Your loss, our gain! :-)

  2. Maybe a seance is in order. If you channel Agatha maybe you can get some support for your dilemma. Just be sure to ask the right questions.

  3. A wise woman once told me: 'it doesn't get easier, but (it) will suddenly click and all will become marvellous. Stop trying so hard or the life will go out of it'. I can't remember her name, but she was right.

    You have the bones of a good idea: find the meat, and the gristle, and the blood then feast.

  4. Frankly, if procrastination is in order, I'd rather go searching for the snails. On second thought....