Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Guest Post - 'Leave Me Alone' by Ollie Quain

Today, I'm delighted to be hosting a piece that was written by the wonderful Ollie Quain, the author of She Just Can't Help Herself. It's a really brilliant piece about how to cope with the solitude of writing. So, without further ado...

I am mates with a few novelists. (Obviously, none within the same genre as I write because if they were more successful than me I would have to pretend to be happy. And maybe even forced to attend their bigger, better book launch parties. With more flamboyant drinks. Worst case scenario, a cocktail a-c-t-u-a-l-l-y named after their latest central protagonist. At a free bar. Financed more-than-happily by the publishing company. Kill. Me. Now.) But anyway, I asked these writers how they coped with the solitude which the job entails. All said they loved it now... but had learned to love it. This surprised me as the solo aspect of writing was probably the one thing I found least daunting when attempting a career as an author. I am the sort of person who can spend days on their own pottering about, but admittedly, if the time is being spent at my laptop I need to put certain parameters in place to make sure I actually get shizzle done. Here are a few tips on coping with, well, being with you... and only you. 

To write you cannot be at the behest of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). You need to celebrate JOMO (Joy of Missing Out). Or at the very least be able to muster up TOMO (Tolerance of Missing Out). I cannot write on even a hint of a hangover, so when I was writing my first book I didn't go out on the razzle dazzle. I would tell myself that there is ALWAYS another party - I moved to Ibiza so I was right! - and the only thing I was “missing out” on was having a published book sitting on my own Amazon page. 

On full days which you have assigned to writing, do an intense work out in the middle. Put aside an hour and push yourself... I mean to a point where there is no way that thirty minutes in you'd upload a Millie Mackintosh style selfie on Insta. A post cardio endorphin rush focuses your concentration and boosts confidence in your ideas. This helps to curtail any inward looking negativity which increasing hours in isolation can often cause. 

If you have spent your professional life in busy offices, then sitting at a computer on your own to write will feel alien. Alien and most likely... whisper it... boring. Really effing boring. (Especially if you are working in the evening after returning from that busy office.) So, start with a totally achievable schedule, that way you won't clock watch or fidget. Sixty minutes of pure focussed writing is easily accomplished. If you have a problem to even do this, remind yourself how effortlessly that hour would slip by if you were Googling online... say, checking out before and after surgery pictures of Bella Hadid. Or researching the advantages of Argan Oil. Or enjoying videos of cats knocking over babies. You know what I mean. Anyone? Oh. Just me then. 

The most exciting aspect about being on your own is exploring where your mind can take you... and then seeing what that results in on the page. Being around other 
people or other human stimulus (social media, Smartphones, the Daily Mail showbiz website etc) is obviously essential to day-to-day living but can become a creatively stifling white noise. I find all of the above makes me overly self-aware and consequently, self-conscious. To dig deep on an emotional level I need to create an environment where I feel that my characters are the only real people in the room. 

Or any other coffee shop chain or independent snack outlet. You will not work. This is a fact. Not productively, anyway. You will start off by banging out a few paragraphs thanks to a hyper caffeine/syrup/lactose buzz, but then you will get distracted. By the barista. By the other customers. By the muffin options. By the unidentifiable sticky residue on your table. But most of all by the uncomfortable truth that you have become the living breathing new millennium urban freelance cliché of someone who takes their laptop to Starbucks.

I'd like to end this post by saying a massive thank you to Ollie Quain for writing such a fabulous piece, which I hope you all enjoyed reading as much as I did!