Monks, writing and illuminated manuscripts

chemise

I often feel like a monk transcribing and decorating an illuminated manuscript. Patiently, painfully working over years in minute detail on the one book until it is done.

I wrote my first two novels in the corner of the bedroom, my laptop perched on a small cane table while I perched on a kitchen stool. I used the bed to spread out the different edits.

Unlike illuminated manuscripts though, you cannot treat writing too preciously. There never is a right time, never a right space. You can’t wait around for inspiration. Writing begets inspiration not the other way around.

One of my favourite books on writing is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In the chapter called Short Assignments she talks about a one inch picture frame.

There are many days when I lose confidence in my novel, in my own ability as an author. It is times like these that I turn to Bird by Bird. Lamott says that all you have to do is to write down as much as you see through that one inch frame. Just take your story inch by inch or bird by bird as she puts it.

Some authors like to write the whole first draft of their novel without editing. I like to do some refining as I go, especially in the beginning chapters when I’m trying out voice and getting to know my characters.

I recently discovered that keeping my novel writing space away from the office where I pay bills and do all that kind of mundane stuff has helped my productivity. And so, after twelve years as an author, I have once again set up a small desk in my bedroom.

I’m sitting here now, looking out over the terracotta rooftops, my mind slipping in and out of my story and thinking how lucky I am to be a children’s author.

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