Prolific author and Lit Bits contributor, Robert Rigby, talks about finding time and space to write…
Often, when I’m out and about, running writing workshops in schools, talking to reading groups, meeting people on my travels, I hear something along the lines of, ‘There’s a novel inside me and I’m desperate to get it out, but I just don’t have the time or the space to write.’
The easy answer to that of course is, ‘If you really want to write then somehow you’ll find the time, and the space.’
And that’s a fact; writers have been suffering for their art for centuries, locking themselves away, starving in some dank and draughty, rat-infested garret, their red-rimmed eyes streaming and sore from the smoke of a stuttering fire and a single candle that casts flickering shadows and barely illuminates the spidery scribbling filling the numerous pages…Are you getting the picture here?
With that amount of suffering authors deserve a bit of success. But does suffering produce a better novel? I’m sure in some cases it has, but generally, as a rule – not a fixed rule but for guidance only – wouldn’t we all prefer not to suffer for our art, if at all possible?
I know the realities and stresses of modern life mean that it isn’t easy to put everything else aside, even briefly, to start that novel. Family, day job, mortgage (if you can get one), commitments, they all conspire to continually delay the moment when we finally move on from the title page. But it can be done.
I’ve worked in a few metaphorical if not literal garrets, but these days I’m fortunate that much of my writing happens in a beautiful part of south-west France. My next novel for young readers, The Eagle Trail, is set there, during the early days of World War II. It’s a beautiful and inspirational part of the world, and locating the novel in that area continues a practise I’ve tried to maintain with every book I’ve written, which is to know the place I write about, or at very least to visit and get to know it.
Writing can be a lonely occupation. I’ve been at it for years and I’m used to spending entire working days speaking to no one but myself. But some writers, particularly those in the early stages of their career, need to talk, about their work, their thoughts, their writing fears and ideas.
So, with all this in mind, plus the fact that I enjoy running writing workshops, I’ve decided to host two week-long residential writing courses in my favourite corner of France. It’s close to the Pyrenees, deep in Cathar country; it isn’t fair to keep it entirely to myself any more.
And anyway, it’ll be good for me; I’m a writer, I don’t get out much, even though I have given up the garret.