There’s this theory that as a creative person you need to cut down on your time consuming content and put it into actually creating content. It’s not a bad idea but my creative process is a little different. See, to recharge my creative batteries, I need to consume. I need to consume on a large scale, devour, bury myself in consuming content so much that the real and the fictional almost seem to change places.
And with the latest World of Warcraft expansion released at the beginning of last week, I’ve been doing that. I took 2 weeks holiday from work, played for 26 hours straight, and still took another 10 hours the next day to hit level 90. Between then and Fantasycon, I have been playing pretty solidly. Fantasycon acted as a good buffer to allow me to go crazy but still force me to take a break after a few days.
It seemed like the perfect plan.

By Friday I was WOW’d out and ready to return to the real world. And whilst I still had the soundtrack playing on my iPod on the train down to Brighton, I was feeling fresh and ready for Fantasycon.
There was a time when I remember coming to previous events and not speaking to anyone all weekend. Now it’s a gathering of friends and colleagues, a chance to catch up in person and exchange those stories that could never be told over social media.
In past years I’ve spent most of the convention either going to panels or sitting in the bar. But this year, as friends have gone from aspiring writers to pros, I found myself wanting to attend more readings than previous years. Don’t get me wrong, I love the panels, and made a point of attending a couple of the Guests of Honour interviews. But I love a good reader. I find myself wanting to curl up and close my eyes, which would have been OK if it wasn’t for the heat.
One thing is for sure, the Royal Albion Hotel is built on a Hellmouth. The sweltering heat we blamed on last year’s weather, returned this year. As a result, that cosy feeling often meant I was close to nodding off (although not due to the reading I hasten to add).
I thought that might be the reason for an overarching sense of tiredness that pervaded my weekend, although I suspect that 3 days of solid Warcraft with little sleep probably had more to do with it.
Travelling by train had meant that I’d forsaken taking a few items I usually take with me, including a laptop. It’s often the case that being in the company of other writers is a bit inspiring, and makes you want to write, but I found my head instead going over a million and one plot points of a novel I’m currently working on. Not the usual simple point A to B type things, but those horribly difficult plot points in the middle of the novel that you usually find yourself saying “I’ll wait until I get there and then sort it out”.
So big was the compulsion that I actually went out on Saturday and bought a pen and notepad, which despite all advice to the contrary, I never do, before returning to my room.

My room was a curious place. For a start it was in the basement. It also didn’t have a window, which meant you could wake at 8am and be in pitch black darkness, only to find yourself wishing you’d memorised where the light switch was as you bumbled around the room in the dark.
The other thing about my room was that it was under the Bar Rouge. It meant you could sometimes hear people walking around on the wooden floor above, or in the case of the Gollancz Disco on Saturday night, turn your room into an earthquake simulator. The room acted as a bass bin and permanently hummed, whilst the pictures and light fittings shook as what sounded like hundreds of people jumped up and down out of time.
Ordinarily I would have been up there and on the dance floor, teaching Mr Pollock and Abercrombie my Gangham Style moves, but my head was bleeding with ideas. This wasn’t anything as pretentious as a muse, just my head coming up with more good ideas than I could hope to remember. These things do not happen. You learn that when they do, you need to make the most of them.
And so I found myself in this ridiculous situation, with my room exploding around me, sitting at a rubbish desk, writing all this stuff down into a notebook, watching all the plot threads link together with dreamlike cohesion.
I did a full page just on different factions motivations, and my timeline had arrows all over the place showing where one thing lead into another. This wasn’t all the obvious stuff I knew before but all that messy stuff in the middle. Typing this all up after getting home took me half a day. And surprisingly, after reviewing it all, I find these are all brilliant ideas.

Of course, I thought on the trip back, playing 3 days of solid warcraft had given my creative batteries a supercharge. It was no wonder my head exploded on Saturday night only to leave me exhausted after I’d poured everything into the little notebook.
I left Brighton late morning on Sunday, needing to be back for a family commitment. Cursing because of the weight of all the books and audiobooks I’d picked up, I found my journey home wasn’t going to be easy. I had to take a bus to Three Bridges, then take two trains a single stop before getting on the world’s most cramped bus from Redhill to Guildford. As a result a 2 hour journey took 5. I travelled further by replacement bus than I did by train. And let’s not go on about the woman sat beside me who had never heard of the term ‘personal space’! Usually it’s me as the “fat one” who inadvertently invades people’s space. Not so this time.
But all things considered, Fantasycon was a fun and productive weekend, although perhaps not in the ways I’d considered.