Unlikely writing techniques 4: pick your pen up…

genuine work in progress
genuine work in progress

… that’s it.

I do most of my writing on the train. My daily rail journey is fifty-five miles each way; it takes about as many minutes. Once I’ve read the office and put my make-up on, I have about forty minutes left. It’s a regular, predictable slot of time, with reliably unreliable internet access, that I can devote to writing. I write all the way from Royston to King’s Cross.

Well, that’s the theory. In reality, of course, it’s earlier in the morning than I’d like it to be, I’m sleepy, I’d rather be in bed, I am wondering why the hell I commute into London anyway, and I am not feeling in the least inspired. I might have thought of what to write next as I cycled to the station, but I equally well might have not done so.

If I’m in that sort of mood, I make a bargain with myself. I do not have to write anything. All I have to do is get out my notebook and my pen, and find the last thing that I wrote, the next blank page.

And then I wait.

Sometimes it works instantaneously. I catch sight of the last thing I wrote the previous day, and I remember what was going to happen next. Suddenly the train’s passing Stevenage and I’m most of the way down a page.

Sometimes – less often, actually – it doesn’t. In which case I accept that it probably isn’t going to happen, read something instead, and try again on the way home.

Barbara Sher and Havi Brooks would call this an example of a CWU. Officially this stands for Complete Willingness Unit, but Havi is a great advocate of renaming boring initials, and I’m a trade unionist, so in my head there is a bunch of grumpy postmen saying, ‘Our members are prepared to take the lids off their pens, but that is as far as they will go.’

Sometimes I make it Cockatrices and Wyverns Union. But they still have postbags.

Talk of the Town


2 thoughts on “Unlikely writing techniques 4: pick your pen up…”

  1. ‘Our members are prepared to take the lids off their pens, but that is as far as they will go.’ LOL.
    I don’t have the luxury/curse of the daily writing time/commute but I fear I may belong to the same union.
    Power to the pens.


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