A writer's secret weapons by Cally Phillips

I note that my posts to date on this blog all seem to have been of a serious (some might say too serious) nature and in order to prove (to myself) that I have a lighter side, I thought this month, with nothing urgent to PROMOTE I would engage in an interactive flight of fancy (with pictures). Though maybe this is promoting myself and my lifestyle. Who can say? Anyway, it’s a chance to ‘introduce’ myself.

Okay. Here’s the thing. I have a number of secret weapons which aid writing.
The first is this : An ATV (quad bike to the uninitiated.)

I have 2 very energetic dogs
who require more than 2 hours a day exercise. So while this doesn’t always save time (though if you bomb round the forest really fast the dogs will run in front like sled dogs even though not attached… they love to race the bike)

it certainly saves energy on a regular basis. And for me, energy is nearly as useful a resource as time. Money, forget it, I spit on it and avoid it wherever possible. Time and energy those are my currency.

The dogs themselves are secret weapons because when I’m not Ben Hurring it round the forest I WALK and in walking I THINK and in thinking I PLAN and in planning I WRITE (in my head) and then am inspired enough to put it onto computer when I get home. They also are pretty good at being ‘writer’s dogs’, lying in front of the fire, keeping my feet warm by lying under the desk , proof reading, editing etc….. ( I trained them young!)

In my study I have more secret weapons, for example the guitars. (which you might be able to work out amidst the books.)
I rarely play them but looking at them is enough to make me feel guilty enough to get back to writing. Sometimes I strum out a tune or two while waiting for a download but they are really just back up to remind me that writing NEEDS to be done whereas playing the guitar is just for fun (unless I could ever ever crack writing a great song.)

I realise now that my lifestyle is in fact one big secret weapon. I live 3 miles away from a town, any town and it’s a town into which I only venture WHEN NECESSARY to buy what we can’t grow
I contracted chronic hermititis in 1995 and it got worse when I moved here in 2008The symptoms of this condition are a constant requirement for solitude (aka extreme peace and quiet!) In the last three and a half years I have determined to MAKE NO FRIENDS locally and so the only people I speak to on any regular basis are the librarians, as I do my bit to keep Aberdeeenshire library services on their toes by ordering the most obscure books from all parts of the region (ably delivered to my local library FOR FREE) and the woman in the fish shop (because a fish shop is such a rarity that it HAS to be supported on a weekly basis.) Use it or lose it.

I don’t count the supermarket shop (yes, one HAS to do that) as the conversation would not make good drama:
‘Do you need bags?’
‘No, I have them,’
‘Do you want a help packing,’
‘No, I’m okay thanks.’
‘Do you have a club card?’
‘No.’ (think but don’t say ‘I don’t want Tesco knowing my every move the same as amazon do’) End of conversation. Same every time I go in.

I have an old but robust car which sometimes isn't covered in snow

and the secret weapon of high fuel prices means that I don’t go out in it more than one tanks worth per month (which around here means local trips once a week and far away once a month (20 miles or if I’m REALLY pushing it, 60 mile round trip to Aberdeen library – where I speak to no one but get loads more free books) so even the economic downturn is playing its part in being a secret weapon.

This life will either appall or appeal to you but it works for me. It's taken years to achieve and means I can write my little heart out without distractions. The phone rings maybe once a week. (The doctor demanding blood or the library proffering books to collect). The post comes maybe twice a week (unless we’re snowed in which happens regularly as we have a long driveway which becomes impassable regularly between October and March) and visitors are rare, though welcome- (I suspect it suits those of an anthropological bent - perhaps for them it’s more like visiting the Baka Forest people than your usual social call!)

However, I’ve discovered there is one flaw which constantly threatens all my secret weapons… a good idea. Why do I keep having them? My recent indie ebook review good idea has played right into the hands of the enemy. For the last fortnight I’ve been run off my virtual feet!

So – do a swat analysis of your life and tell me what secret writer’s weapons you employ to make sure you get enough time to write


Dan Holloway said…
Gorgeous dogs! I don't really have a strategy - just hoping there's something in the tank from day to day, though I used to make myself write for an hour each evening when I got back from work, which worked well.
Hi Cally,
I thought I was the only one who didn't have a Clubcard!
I plan/process books/stories while walking too...or at least used to when I lived by a flat canal I could walk round in the dark...now I live beside steep hills and forest, uphill plans are harder it seems...
Good to hear Aberdeen Library mentioned...when I lived there I would frequent that place, borrowed Doctor Zhivago once and never read it (and don't know why I remember that, maybe because it had the cover from the film)...I went to a reading by James Kelman there too, the week he won the Booker Prize for How Late it Was, How Late.
Congratulations on sustaining the hermetism...and yes, excellent dogs!
All best, John
madwippitt said…
Dogs! Definitely the best secret weapon! Every writer should have at least one. Although two is even better.
Jan Needle said…
guitars i can't manage - fingers too diddy - but i have a hand-made mandola (octave mandolin) not that i suppose there's any such thing as a machine made ditto, and a variety of tin whistles on which i play slow irish airs. a burst of music in between bursts of typing is my secret weapon, with the advantage that in the evenings i can whip down to one or other of my locals and play and sing with fellow folkies. i also have a canal boat, which can be very secret. fell overboard once with my mobile in my pocket and discovered a new refinement to the secrecy schtick. the only good mobile, maybe, is a wet mobile, wot don't take or receive calls!

i must say the snow lands of scotland sound superfine, as well. one of my many sons is at university in glasgow. be very careful about saying you welcome visitors, cally. one day it might just happen....
julia jones said…
Breaking my leg has been quite a successful way of ensuring I can't go anywhere or do anything. However it also means I haven't been able to walk the dog and I do agree with Cally that walking is a completely great way to think. Maybe the blood coursing round the body (esp on a brisk winter morning) finally makes it to the poor starved brain ... LOVE the Indie e review by the way
Jennie Walters said…
That's hard core solitude, Cally! But you're obviously thriving on it. Isn't it interesting how different we all are? Love the picture of you on the quad bike and your dogs are gorgeous.
Our secret weapon: removing TV. We had building work done on our house and the builders cut the TV aerial cable. We had intended to get Sky, but discovered we rather liked the peace and quiet. Now we just have a TV and DVD player, get movies or good series from LoveFilm - and therefore only watch properly honed stories, not aimless rubbish!
Love your guitars and your perpetual snow.

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