Anyone who has read the novel will know that I’m very interested in hidden parts of Wiltshire. The vampire D’Toeni is found in a tunnel system based loosely on the Burlington Nuclear Bunker, located over near Corsham. In that case, I’ve never been able to visit the location, basing my research on photos and articles. But it’s not the only secret military location in the county.
When I got offered my current day job I got warned that I might be required to travel and would I be OK with that. I think it’s a pretty standard question these days in interviews. I replied that I was more than happy to travel and the thought of being stuck in a hotel with nothing to do but write or find the local geocaches was my idea of Heaven.
This got put to the test this past week when I had to go to Birmingham for a set of training courses. Being in the middle of NaNoWriMo the idea of a week of no distractions sounded great so my Macbook got packed along with my work PC and taken with me.
As everyone gets older it can get more and more difficult to find xmas presents for people. The family decided to do arts and crafts a few years back and that’s been a lot of fun. But for people like my brother and parents, finding presents has been a bit of a pain.
When stuck for something I usually go with the “day out” choice. It gives them a memorable day and something to look forward to. A few years back I got my brother an Aston Martin experience and he had a lot of fun.
So when I heard that they were doing a Harry Potter studio tour, I thought it would be a great idea for a present. My brother and father had made it a tradition to take my father to see the movies since the books made him start reading, so it seemed a good fit.
It’s been a busy couple of days. New Year’s Eve saw me working until the bells chimed trying to finish off a short story submission. I managed to get it in time which felt like as big an achievement as the story itself as this was created in about 48 hours.
As a result the alcohol I’d got in to welcome the New Year waited until everything was submitted. Given that the bottle of champagne I bought to celebrate completing the novel is still sitting in the fridge and getting this story done in the timeframe was a challenge I thought “what the heck” and started drinking at around 12:30am.
This in itself wouldn’t be too bad if I’d not arranged to go with family down to Hayling Island and so I was woken about 8am, slightly hungover and possibly still a little drunk by my mother saying her and my father were on their way to pick me up.
As many regulars will know, outside of writing one of my big passions is Geocaching – hunting the countryside for Tupperware contianiners. What started out as an added incentive to go out for a walk has grown into a near-obsession, with over 9000 finds since I started ‘caching’ back in May 2008.
Some caches are placed in an interesting location or are uniquely camouflaged to add a challenge but some are part of series, where the hide isn’t the challenge so much as the walk.
There is huge reverence placed on finding 100 caches in a day. It’s not an easy task mentally nor, given the rule that no two caches can be less than 0.1 mile apart, physically. Being in the “hundred club” is a badge of honour that denotes you as a hardcore cacher.
And so it was no surprise that a large group from many miles away gathered in Essex on a mild but cloudy Wednesday morning to attempt a new series along the River Chelmer between Maldon and Chelmsford.
So I’ve got a personal deadline looming, a ton of writing to do, and what do I do? Go camping for the weekend, of course.
But one of the most important things about writing is the downtime. My best ideas have never come to me whilst sat at the computer waiting for inspiration, but when doing other stuff, typically driving (although it’s different for different folks). And so it’s important to try and balance my life so that I do have what I call “thinking time”, although it’s not so much thinking as “time to allow the brain to unwind”.
Last year, I made the mistake whilst working on a first draft of cancelling all my free time. All social engagements were cancelled, my normal weekend walking days were given over to writing and I had a pretty miserable existence for a month. With hindsight I went too far, to the extent that my enforced solitude became a hindrance rather than a help.
And therein lies the problem. There are times when you really need to just knuckle down and get on with it, and times where a trip to the shops or watching TV will give your brain time to relax and untie that plot knot you’ve been worrying about.
Of course, you’ll con yourself. You’ll say you need more “thinking time” because you’re still waiting for the muse, and as we know, the muse doesn’t exist (at least not in those instances). So far better to have pre-arranged social engagements that you work around. Guaranteed they’ll come when you think “Gah! I could have written an extra 10k this weekend if I’d been home” but truth is you probably would not have.
My camping trip didn’t really offer me much insight, just mild heat stroke and a banging headache due to the weather, but now I know today I need to knuckle down and get a lot more words done. Deadline is looming!