What I love most about writing . . .
…is relatively rare for me, but occasionally I’ll get totally absorbed to the extent that I look up and discover hours have passed unnoticed. More often, I find writing a slow, stop-start process in which I’m constantly reviewing and revising even as I add new things to the page. So when this happens it will likely mean that I’ve got a lot down in one sitting, which is also rare (and therefore something else I love).
The toughest thing about writing . . .
…is every now and then I’ll write something that makes me feel a strong emotional response, in the moment and when I read it back. When that happens I’m happy, of course, but I’m also slightly torn. I had the weird experience of having to choke down such a reaction when a piece of mine was being workshopped by my writers’ group, partly because I’d feel exposed if no-one else shared the impression I was aiming for, and partly because it feels to me like laughing at your own jokes – something the teller should never do. Ever time I do an author reading I could be in real trouble!
If I wasn’t a writer, I would be . . .
…no one thing. My employment history looks like someone fed a careers guidance councilor’s note book into a shredder and used what came out as confetti. I’ve worked in offices and call centers, delivered alcohol out the back of a van, washed rotten meat bins for a butcher, taught Spanish bankers to speak English, even worked on a big-budget Hollywood movie as the guy they send to get “anything”, from talking toys and quality bath robes to drums full of toxic chemicals. I ran my own business for six years and worked for the British Army for six months (as a civilian – but don’t ask me about it or I’ll have to silence you). If you told me tomorrow I can never write again, I’ve no idea what I’d do next. So don’t.
When I am writing, I listen to . . .
…a mix of instrument music, which I either match to my mood or use to get in the appropriate frame of mind for whatever I want to write. To offer some extremes, I have a collection of sitar albums I found in a discount basket one day if I want something chilled, or hardcore drum-and-bass if I don’t. I like something a bit random too and Steve Reich’s phasing percussion is, maybe by definition, the best example of unpredictable music in existence. Though it’s precisely predicable too…
Songs with lyrics in English are a distraction if I’m trying to come up with my own words, but something like Buena Vista Social Club avoids that problem (I’m listening to it as I type, in fact!), as does the amazing voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Finally, not music exactly, but I have an app on my phone that plays the sound of rain, with randomised thunderclaps… and I can still play music at the same time as well!
Best advice I’ve received:
The best advice I’ve received (I’m defining “advice” and “received” very loosely) also happens to be the closing words of one of my favourite novels – so, to avoid spoiling it, I’m not going to tell you which one! The advice is this:
Do not advance the action according to a plan.
It’s advice I only follow to a degree when writing, but given the fluid, ever-changing world we live in, I think it is a wise way to live. Plans are born to fail, but that doesn’t mean our objectives are unattainable. Rather than try to anticipate every critical unknown, be perceptive and receptive of what may happen next, and ready to react.
Worst advice I’ve received:
Advice to aspiring authors:
Write every day, read lots, don’t give up, yadda yadda yadda. All that stuff is fine, but telling stories is a skill that can be learned and developed, not something that needs to be forever rediscovered by accident. For me, there are two things to work on: structure and style. A great starting point for structure is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey – an accessible and engaging exploration of how to construct a story that people will enjoy. As for style… well. Write every day, read lots, don’t give up, yadda yadda yadda, I guess.
Andrew Leon Hudson is an English writer resident in Madrid, Spain, with a diverse employment history that ranges from selling devices to make your eyesight better to delivering liquids that make your vision blurry. You can find out more about his writing at his pseudonymous blog, and you can read his thoughts on books, films and other people at The Cartesian Theatre. You can find him on Goodreads, and he occasionally tweets as @AndLeoHud
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