Saturday, 30 November 2019

Why do the words flow best when I only have limited time? By Tamsin Cooke

Sometimes, when I write, the words pour out of me as if I’m in a dreamlike state. It’s like my fingers have a mind of their own. They fly over the keyboard and a story seems to magic its way onto the page. I look up at the clock and realise an hour has passed. And when I read through the words, I can’t believe I actually wrote them. They’re good. The scene is almost complete and hardly any editing will be needed. I love it when this happens.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen a lot!!!

More often than not, I stare at the computer. No, I glare at the computer. It’s not as if the story isn’t in my head. I know exactly what’s going to happen. I might have just been on a dog walk and a whole scene has played out in my mind, like a TV show. I’ve hurried home, knowing exactly what my characters are going to say, knowing exactly where the twist will be. I’ve grabbed my laptop, ready to dive into the story, my enthusiasm brimming …. except nothing happens.  The words refuse to play. They stick in my mind as if they don’t want to be shared.  Argh!!!

But I won’t take no for an answer! I will write the beginning sentence for the breath-taking scene I’ve just thought up. As long as I get one sentence down, the others will surely follow … but then the words feel wrong and I end up deleting each attempt. 

Before I forget it, I quickly jot down the scene into a notebook, and then decide I must need a break. I could clean the house. Nah, what a ridiculous idea! Instead I make a hot drink and check my emails. I’ll just have one quick glance at Twitter or Facebook before I get back to my masterpiece. I don’t look at Instagram because I can’t get the hang of it. Maybe that’s a good thing – because the next moment I realize an hour has passed. I have been sucked into social media. 
Right – that’s it. I refuse to use the Internet until I’ve written this amazing scene … except I’m not quite sure what has happened in the world today. What if there’s been some catastrophe that I need to know about? Does the world need me to save it? (Not that I have delusions of grandeur!) And so, I take a quick peek at the Guardian and the BBC website. Phew – we’re all still safe.

Then I clench my fists and know that now is the time to get back to my story. First, I must make another hot drink. Sitting back at my laptop, I force myself to write. I don’t care how bad it is. I will edit it later. Ignoring the awful words trickling out of my fingers, I write and write. Unfortunately, I am not one of those gifted people, who can type while looking at the screen. I need to see the letters on the keypad. Therefore, when I eventually look back up, I find lots of red squiggly lines. Oh well, at least I don’t have autocorrect – otherwise the whole thing would be indecipherable. Like my texts before I edit them!!!

I start correcting the spellings and as I read through my pages, I’m astonished to discover it’s not quite as bad as I first thought. OK, some bits are truly horrific, but I can change them later. And then, finally, the rest of the words start to flow; the scene in my head begins to materialize. I want to do this all day. At this rate I’ll probably finish the entire book and be submitting it well before the deadline.  My agent and editor will be amazed.

But then l glance at the time and am absolutely horrified. I have to stop right now. I’ve got to pick the children up from the school bus.

I stare forlornly at my screen.

Oh well, at least I know what’s going to happen in the scene. As soon as I can, I’ll get back to it. The words will flow ... I try to ignore the niggly feeling that it took me AGES to get into it.

It’s a cruel trick. Why do the words flow best when I only have limited time? 

Tamsin Cooke
Author of The Scarlet Files Series and Stunt Double Series
Twitter: @TamsinCooke1 


Nick Garlick said...

This sounds a lot like my normal working day.

I once spent a whole day pfaffing about getting nowhere until, in a mixture of desperation and anger at my ineffectiveness, dashed off 6 pages in 20 minutes (A lot of dialogue!) and they were great. I hardly needed to change a thing.

Does it have something to do with time available? The more we have, the more our minds wander, and the more possibilities we entertain? There's no focus, because there doesn't need to be.

Penny Dolan said...

So very true!

Tamsin Cooke said...

Ooh - I think you might be onto something Nick. Limited time means you have to focus. I'm glad you got your 6 pages.

Tamsin Cooke said...

Thanks, Penny. X

Lynne Benton said...

Lovely post, Tamsin. It reminds me of the story about a woman who gave up work but then found she didn't get much done "because she didn't have a lunch hour to fit things into!"

Tamsin Cooke said...

Thank you, Lynne. I love that story about the woman who gave up work. I completely relate!