Friday, April 8, 2022

Motivation, Invigoration, Obfuscation...

 What do you read to blow out the cobwebs and invigorate your inner writer?



Morning. Abir here, and today I’m writing to you from my sickbed. I have, you see, after two and a bit years, finally succumbed to the Covid. It was bound to happen sooner or later, I guess, but it’s still a bit of a pain.


I caught it in France last weekend while attending Quai du Polar, the country’s biggest, most prestigious crime and mystery festival. In hindsight I suppose it was always going to happen. French crime festivals are different from British ones. In the UK, a writer’s time at a festival consists of one hour on a panel, one hour signing books, and the remaining two and half days sitting in the pub getting drunk with readers and other writers. All very civilised, I’m sure you’ll agree.


French ones are very different. French festivals make you work hard. Yes, you have to do panels, and yes, they provide all the food you can eat and all the wine you can smuggle into your suitcase, but for most of time, they place you in a big hall surrounded by other writers and get you to shill for business, selling your books to the passing crowd. It’s actually good fun, but over three days can be rather exhausting. Anyway, my tactic: using my poor, broken French to elicit pity and book sales appeared to pay handsome dividends, yielding decent sales and a high number of selfies. However, the downside of such glad-handing was the risk of catching something. I expected it to be a calculated risk. In Britain we’ve pretty much given up worrying about Covid. It’s now as permanent and unremarkable in our fair isle as the rain that meets us every morning. But France – that should have been different. The French take these things more seriously than we do – as befits a country with a presidential election in the offing – so I thought I’d be safer there. No such luck, and here I am, coughing into my computer and penning this missive to you in my delirium with a temperature of a hundred and six and word count of three hundred and sixty without having actually answered the question. 

Signing books at Quai du Polar


So let’s get to it. Let’s talk about le question du jour: What do I read to blow out the cobwebs and invigorate my inner writer? 


It’s not a question I’ve actively considered before. What drives me to write tends to be issues I want to talk about rather than inspiration I’ve received from reading books. Having said that, I am inspired by beautiful prose. When I read something where the language is out of the ordinary – be it the dialogue or the description or even an ingenious turn-of-phrase – that is what gives me pleasure and what pushes me forward in my own writing. 


In that respect, some of the authors who’ve inspired me are Martin Amis, Denise Mina, and more recently, Imran Mahmood. The ability to tell a cracking story with a deftness of touch and a beautiful use of language is for me, the holy grail. I greatly admire writers who can do this.


I realise my actual answer Is pretty short, so let’s widen the discussion. What other things motivate me to write?


I suppose the most important thing is routine. Having a set time and a set place – mornings, after the kids have gone to school, from 9am to 12 noon, sitting on my bed, is when and where I tend to do my most creative work. Afternoons are tougher for me – I find it harder to concentrate – so I’ll generally focus on editing or admin matters in the afternoon.


Other than routine, other factors that help me are heat – I tend to have my best ideas sitting in the sauna – no I don’t know why; and sunshine – I write better in good weather – which is rather depressing, given I live in a country which has approximately four good days of weather per annum.


And then there is that one final factor which motivates me more than anything else: a deadline. There is nothing that focuses my mind more than a date in the calendar by which I’m supposed to submit my work. Deadlines are important to a writer. Deadlines drive the whole process for the launch of a book. You might think that a few weeks’ delay makes little difference, but it can mean that you miss your slot in your editor’s diary (they have many books to edit); that can then delay your re-drafts and can have knock on dates for marketing and publishing – and most importantly, for when you receive the next instalment of your advance. I cannot emphasise this last point enough. It’s all good and well being motivated by other writers, but for me, that is easily trumped by the motivation to stop my bank account falling into overdraft.


And on that bombshell, I should get back to work. I have a deadline looming and an electricity bill to pay.


Wishing you all a happy and safe weekend.

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