…get reporters off his case.

In his brilliant book, On Writing, King describes how he writes every day. He once told a reporter he skipped his birthday, Christmas, and Fourth of July, because he thought it would sound more reasonable.

In truth, he writes every single day, including holidays, Sundays, birthdays, and holidays. Writing every day makes him happy. Practice brings him joy, and “if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever,” he says.

If you’re a writer, muso, artist, creator – you’ll completely relate to this.


Yesterday I posted a talk by John Cleese. Then I remembered one by the The Boss at SXSW. It’s not short (nearly an hour) but is worth every minute if you, like me, are fascinated by the creative process and wonder how such a guy forges a long lasting career.

Springsteen is humble, but needn’t be. Nor does he have to give this talk. But you get the feeling he actually enjoyed it. So grab a cuppa Joe and listen to some wise words, the best of which come right at the end:

‘So, rumble, young musicians, rumble. Open your ears and open your hearts. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and take yourself as seriously as death itself. Don’t worry. Worry your ass off. Have ironclad confidence, but doubt – it keeps you awake and alert. Believe you are the baddest ass in town, and, you suck!’


Who could ignore John Cleese’s genius?

A Fish Called Wanda. Fawlty Towers. The Ministry of Silly Walks.

But what makes the man tick – and how did he arrive at such lunacy?

Firstly, he has rules – particularly if you’re in a group – when coming up with ideas. Here are a few:

In order to create the right environment for creativity you must avoid people conflict and personality conflict. Personality clashes stand in the way of ideas generation. (Get rid of the nay-sayers.)

Avoid those that hijack the creative process through either a passion for their own ideas or due to people conflict within the group. (Just because they’re loudest doesn’t mean their idea is strongest.)

Stimulating physical surroundings will add to creativity and a boring environment will do the opposite. (Get out of the goddamn office! Quit staring at the walls. Go for walk. Some of the best ideas arrive in the shower, though I realise that’s not always considered a group activity.)

You need at least an hour to generate an idea. It takes 20 mins to slow your mind down from feeling time pressured and task orientated. (I read that Cleese and Palin used to escape to a log cabin in the woods to write. For the first hour they spoke complete rubbish: how’s your family; still got tennis elbow; oh, look, a dead cockroach. Only after this ‘download’ were they ready to think, construct and write.)

You’ll get better ideas from people who are relaxed and ready to think about ideas. Allow new thoughts in.

It’s important that creative people are given real deadlines not fake deadlines. Creative people need pressure off to generate ideas.

Most ideal number for a productive creative group is no more than 8.

(Good luck in the shower. Don’t forget the notepad.)

You can handle being a seagull.

Knowing some days you’ll get the crayfish and others you’ll get the plastic bag.

Make the most of the first and don’t stress about the second.


Dr Seuss was onto something when he said this. 

Here’s proof:

In 1964, Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ was published by Allen and Unwin in the UK. It took over two years to write and underwent multiple transformations. Here are a few:

Originally there were ten kids – in the end Dahl settled for five.

There was no mention of Grandpa Joe

Until the very last minute, oompa loompas were called Whipple Scrumpets.

The original title was ‘Charlie’s Chocolate Boy,’ mostly because in this version Charlie Bucket climbs into a ‘chocolate boy’ mould in the Easter Egg room and is encased in chocolate. He is taken to Mr. Wonka’s house as a present for Freddie Wonka (Mr. Wonka’s son) and while there, Charlie witnesses a burglary. As a reward for helping to catch the thieves, Mr. Wonka gives him his own sweet shop, ‘Charlie’s Chocolate Shop.’ 

Also in the original manuscript, ten golden tickets were hidden in the Wonka chocolate bars every weekMr. Wonka gave a tour of his factory every Saturday to that week’s lucky recipients. In this draft, Charlie finds a ticket on his first attempt. The other nine children on the tour are not introduced to the reader until they meet their respective ends.

Everything stinks till it’s finished. Things change. New characters appear. Have no fear. Just get it on the page!

There’s a line in the song ‘What a Wonderful World’ that says ‘They’ll know much more than we’ll ever know.’ This weekend I discovered first-hand what Louis Armstrong meant when I showed my kids – aged 7 and 9 – the first few pages of a new piece of work I happen to be very proud of.

I knew things weren’t going well when the first comment was ‘Are there any funnier bits?’ The next piece of advice hit me smack square between the eyes. ‘There are too many similies (like, what?) and sorry to say, Dad, where is your solution? You’ve mapped out the problem, but every story needs a solution.’

Great. Thanks. No, no, I appreciate it…

Huh, no, just something in my eye.

neil gaiman

You should write a book about a wizard!

Great idea. Let’s pitch it to J.K Rowling’s publisher Bloomsbury and watch the cheques roll in. They would never have seen anything like it.

What do you do for the rest of the day?

Lazing about on the couch trying to catch thoughts might look like a part time job, but remember what Hemingway said: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. 

A cookbook! Seriously, cook books sell!

I’m pretty sure a recipe for cheese on toast is not in high demand. Thing is, you’ve got to do what you love. In my case, it’s eating, not writing about it.

Why don’t you get into erotic fiction?

Thing is, you’ve got to do what you…wait, let’s leave that one.

You know no-one’s reading books these days, right? 

You may have a point, unless it’s a story about a wizard chef who loves nothing more than showing his magic wand to Christian Grey. 

In his book A Week at the Airport Alain De Botton confirmed something writers have always known: we don’t need the perfect study with the perfect view to do good work.

It makes sense. How many times have you written a surprisingly good scene, despite lying in bed with a hangover? Or completed that painful chapter in a noisy cafe with screaming babies all around? Alternatively, ever sat down, having had ten hours sleep – with a clear head and chore-free day on the horizon – only to be freaked out by it all?

When it’s going well, run with it. The story won’t care where it’s written.

Brilliant. Among Roddy Doyle’s ten rules for writers :

Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph

Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.

Do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven’t written yet.