Archive for September 24th, 2013|Daily archive page

Out of Office (Day 15)

Began the day revisiting the last stuff I wrote yesterday afternoon which I wasn’t as pleased with as previous writing. It wasn’t actually too bad but was certainly improved by a bit of revision and polishing. The second pass editing (i.e. at the end of the complete first draft i.e. yonks away) will be critical in taking the whole thing up a gear.

Next I started setting up my first interview. That’s going to be a vital layer of the text. I’ve been putting it off a bit as I’m not 100% sure how best to record and process interviews live and over the phone. Jemima Kiss of The Guardian recommended a bit of gear called Live Scribe so I took her advice and indulged in some Amazon. It should arrive on Thursday. I saw it in action a couple of years ago when being interviewed by some academics from the London College of Printing/University of the Arts – difficult to make a judgement without seeing the uploading stage. I’ll report back in due course on how I find it as a tool.

My desk

My desk

Since my next task was to process/work laboriously through some other Beat research notes (last lot) I opened a new office on a rug in the garden. At this point my working attire didn’t even involve a second piece aka a top. I broke up the slog with some more Beatles research which is always light relief.

Clocked out at 5pm for a jog in the last gasp of autumn sunshine – tough life.

My research assistant

My research assistant

First light (Day 14)

A London coffee house 1668 (Photo courtesy of Lordprice Collection / Alamy)

A London coffee house 1668 (Photo courtesy of Lordprice Collection / Alamy)

Sitting in a cafe at Marylebone Station on Sunday morning the book, let’s call it When Sparks Fly for now, got its first airing. I read half of Chapter One to my other half. I hadn’t even read it back to myself yet, other than in bits and pieces. Bottom line, she found it engaging, followable and made up of stories she enjoyed hearing. Which was encouraging. Because at this stage I have no real idea how I’m doing.

The story point is particularly essential. Many books of the type I’m trying to write hit the Pareto rule junction. A vestige of maths or physics lessons at school, I can’t even remember which any more, this is the rule about 80% of the effects coming from 20% of the causes. Or, as here applied, you squeeze 80% of the juice out of a book from 20% of the effort. What that usually looks like is: Chapter 1 – here’s my model, here are some brief illustrations. And the model is good, the examples interesting, but by the end of Chapter 1 I’ve got the idea and I reach the junction. Get out while I’m ahead, I’ve grasped the idea, I’ve only expended 20% of the time and effort? Or plough on for the other 80%?

That’s why I started writing this book in a different way from how I’d normally write. I began with a narrative only layer, a sequence of what I hope are interesting and funny and moving stories which illustrate my points – but not much by way of analysis or theory. What was interesting in the read-through was that my wife questioned the need for much analysis and the question arose of how far the stories spoke for themselves, the implications for creative practice for the most part being pretty evident.

On the train journey to Warwick I also came up with an unusual way of summarising the principles, not a way I’ve ever seen, more visually driven. So that’s some good writing progress on the Brighton train this week, an original idea on the Warwick train, a writing landmark in Patisserie Valerie in Marylebone Station, an insightful meeting with Ruth MacKenzie in Notes cafe, St Martin’s Lane. Perhaps the best way of doing this kind of thing is to travel from place to place by train and stop in at cafes along the way.

Chris Ward, author of Out of Office, kindly got in touch the same day in the wake of reading this blog with the offer of a coffee house meeting to discuss the role of the hot black stuff in creativity and related matters so I may chuck the contribution of choo-choos into the conversation.

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