A Video: Writing Inspiration, Displacement and Gregory Peck

Like many authors, when I’m stuck writing a particularly difficult section of a novel, I displace. In the good old pre-WiFi days, this involved watching daytime television and cleaning around the loo – anything to avoid tackling the twisted plot – but then the web became our all-consuming lifeforce and I joined the creative tribe who waste lengthy hours procrastinating online, or as we prefer to call it, ‘research’. Self-justification’s an important element to displacement: Rightmove’s a vital resource for creating settings; Netflix is storytelling straight into the vein; weeping over one’s Amazon reviews inspires one to do better; social media, meanwhile, is all about author visibility. And the Mail Online – as shamefully, secretly addictive for many as porn or funny cat compilations on YouTube – is the very bedrock of writer’s block. Like a syrup-of-figs-and-castor-oil protein shake, if the Sidebar of Shame can’t get you moving again, nothing can. Unless, of course, it takes longer to load the front page than it took the subs to write it…

blog chart 5 cartoon2

When we moved to this house and discovered it took all day to download The Archers podcast, I’d hoped one upside to our glacially slow rural internet speed would be the Brontë-like simplicity of purpose it brought to my working day. Instead, it simply takes ten times as long as my fellow procrastinating writers to ‘research’.

blog cartoon 2At times like this, having written myself firmly into a corner, watching in despair as the busy cursor spins round refusing to show me pictures of a five-bedroomed farmhouse in the Cotswolds where I can imagine my family my heroine’s family living, I remind myself through gritted teeth that it’s worth the wait because the Internet is full of essential support, insight and a great many brightly coloured pie-charts for writers in stasis. Some examples are here, Googled at my desk in slightly less time than it would take to drive to the local town to use Waitrose’s superfast wifi, enjoy free coffee while online, do a full weekly shop, then drive home the scenic route:

blog chart 2 blog chart 6

My new tactic is only allowing myself displacement activities that are irrefutably related to my books and writing career, like this blog. To this end, I’ve just put together a video for all writers who might also occasionally feel we’ve lost the plot and are in need of a little inspiration and guidance.

Creating it has reminded me why I love doing this job, not least because old movies are one of the cocktails that knock the Mail Online’s shake off the menu. Uploading the b. thing to YouTube also usefully hogged all our narrow country lane’s bandwidth for six hours solid, transforming my plotting shed into a metaphysical garret of silence and concentration. I could do with making one every day to carry on this trend, but I’m dying to get back to the book, so I’m just turning off the router instead. Normal service will resume soon…

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