Monday, 9 January 2012

The Real Reason Why You Shouldn't Give Up the Day Job and A-Z Challenge

Greetings. Sorry about the long-winded title, all will become clear. Quite a significant day for me today as I'll be going back to work on my novel with renewed vigour. It feels like months since I've worked on it, although I know it's only been about three weeks. The main reason for the break was the kids being off school, therefore they stay up late, and I can't get quiet time. (Fussy, I know.)

I don't want this to be a moan - new year, new beginnings, etc - so I turned the situation around to come up with the topic for this post. I know I don't have a full-time job (as in, having to leave the house and deal with the vagaries of public transport in this country, or drive any further than the primary school). But many of you will and I've been there myself while writing my first novel. I know how it feels when you feel like you're wasting those precious hours that should be spent writing, but did you ever stop to think about all the things you do at work and people you talk to and how much inspiration they provide? Even if you hate them. Hate can be a driving force in stories and you can't write anything successful without conflict.

I moved to Glasgow from Brighton to study journalism at 22, when I was still trying to work out what I wanted to do. I didn't think I could make it as a fiction writer, so at least journalism meant I would be writing for a living. After finishing I got a three month temporary contract at my local paper, and that was as far as I ever got. But I got more great ideas during that three months than the whole two years at college, despite the fact that I live in a fairly quiet, semi-rural town surrounded by cows and sheep.

That was because real people and their stories are interesting. One story I dealt with at that time inspired a flash fiction piece that was published five years later. Others are still kicking around in my grey matter and I know they would make for good pieces if I got round to them.

I know that most jobs don't involve people ringing you up and telling you what's happened to them, but the principle applies to any job, however seemingly mundane. Say you're a binman for example (or to be politically correct, refuse collection agent). The things people throw away can be amazing. Maybe you see a smashed photo frame and you come up with a story about the people or things in the photo and how it came to be thrown away. Now I'm a stay at home dad, and again, the kids are a great source of inspiration. I've got a whole heap of ideas just based on offhand things they've said that would make some great children's books.

So, I'm trying to say that being free to write all day can be a blessing and a curse. The next time you're heading into work, instead of grumbling about it, just think of all the possibilities and ideas that day could offer. If you're sitting by yourself most of the time, then what you have to write about is going to get reduced, isn't it?

Onto my news. As you might have guessed, I'm pleased to announce that I'll be taking part in April's A-Z Challenge this year. (Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh for giving me the heads up on this last week - check out his blog, or the official A-Z Challenge blog, for loads more details.) It is quite daunting, but I think I've come up with a theme for my posts, which I will reveal shortly (it may change). I'm hoping to finalise it soon, though, and get most if not all of my posts done beforehand, so when the time comes I can just enjoy getting to know as many new people as I can.

So, who else is doing the challenge? And, is your job a great source of inspiration for your writing? Tell me all!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you're up for the Challenge. It really is more fun than challenging, especially if you plan ahead and have a theme.
Most of my ideas have come from hours of movie and TV watching. I wonder what that means...? (Probably that I stare at a screen too much!)

Nick Wilford said...

Alex - I'm looking forward to it and seeing what everyone's posts are like.

Nothing wrong with movies and TV for inspiration, I wish I had time to watch more (at least properly). I can't even remember when I last went to the cinema!

Martin Willoughby said...

I won't be doing that particular challenge, I've taken the write1sub1 monthly challenge.

As for ideas, Michael Palin found inspration for a film from one line in his grandfather's diary. Too many writers think that being isolated is a good idea, when it's people that can give the best inspiration for stories and for characters.

Mark said...

You touch on a very valid subject here about day jobs. After all, how can we write about characters who suffer and struggle if we don't endure the same thing ourselves? I've certainly gotten lots of inspiration for villains at some places I've worked;)

Nick Wilford said...

Martin - Good luck with the write1sub1, I hope some good successes come out of that. Yep, it all comes down to people and their foibles - as writers they're what keep us ticking over!

Mark - Turning them into villains could be a great revenge (names changed of course!) Kind of like that film, Horrible Bosses, but not so extreme. :)

kjmckendry said...

Great post! My work as a figure skating coach is a great inspiration for me. The kids and all they go through on the road to excellence motivates me. I also have some crazy co-workers!

And yes I'm doing the A to Z, it was great last year!

Nick Wilford said...

K - Nice to meet you, thanks for commenting and following. That sounds like an exciting job. See you in April!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Though I'm a stay-at-home mom now, I've gotten plenty of inspiration from both working the ol' day job and staying home with the kids (not to mention all the work-from-home sorts of things I've tried, such as answering questions on KGB).

Delighted to have you in the A-to-Z! I'm still working on my theme for this year, but I also hope to have it written in advance so I can pay proper attention to those participating in the challenge. Can't wait to hear what your theme is!

Stu Ayris said...

Spot on with this Nick! It's what is all about us that fuels our creativity! It really is a great point you make!

I once knew someone who gave me some advice with regard to building up a therapeutic relationship with people who 'hear voices'. He said "You don't have to be a one-legged Chinese man living in Suffolk, to have an idea of what it must be like for a one-legged Chinese man living in Suffolk."

That kind of resonates with us in the term we imagine lives for characters I think.

Good luck with your novel mate - if it's as well written and interesting as your blog posts then you're surely onto a winner!

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

There is so much to draw on from "working" life Villians, especially :-) The things people say - oh the characters! I look forward to reading you during the A to Z, I'm doing it too.

Nick Wilford said...

Shannon - Yeah, I think inspiration is to be found in all walks of life, if you're on the lookout for it. Answering questions on the KGB? What were you, some sort of cold war spy?! ;) Sorry, you've probably heard that one!

Stu - Interesting story. I think we all "hear voices" in some way
when it comes to our characters. They should feel real to us anyway, our stories wouldn't be very convincing if they didn't!

BTW, Tollesbury Time Forever is now on my Kindle. Look forward to getting into it!

Melissa - Hi, thanks for following. I agree. In my last job, people always said they wondered if they would end up in my book if I told them I was a writer. In many cases, it would have been less than complimentary if they had, but I didn't want to say that! I look forward to reading your A-Z posts too.

Stu Ayris said...

Thank you so much for getting Tollesbury Time Forever, Nick. I really can't wait to hear what you think of it!!

Nick Wilford said...

No problem, Stu! :)

Matthew MacNish said...

It's going to be incredibly epic.

Stu Ayris said...

That A-Z challenge certainly sounds like an epic challenge! Too much for little old me I fear!

Nick Wilford said...

Matthew - It sounds like it.

Stu - Give it a go! It should be a good chance to make more friends. You could try doing the A-Z of Beatles songs, explaining what each means to you. OK, you might need to get creative on X and Z etc, but that's the fun! I'll reveal my theme in my next post.

Peggy Eddleman said...

That's some really great advice!

And the A-Z thing sounds pretty awesome! I just went and checked out their site. I'm seriously considering it. Thanks for the heads up!

Nick Wilford said...

Peggy - No problem! It should be a blast!