On Writing

I’ll preface this essay by stating that I am not, and do not consider myself to be, a writer.

I recently visited the Writing Britain exhibition at the British Library, which “examines how the landscapes of Britain permeate great literary works”. It was a fascinating exhibition with manuscripts and notes from Arthur Conan Doyle, J.G. Ballard, J.K. Rowling, William Wordsworth, John Lennon and many more.

I was struck by how many were handwritten. Now I realise that Wordsworth didn’t have access to a word processor or even a type writer, but all of the contemporary writers did and yet each of them hand wrote their drafts or notes.

There is a whole slew of apps in the various app stores that are described as “distraction free writing environments” and marketed as if having a simple text app will help you write more and in some cases more creatively. I write this as an inveterate app buyer and trier.

What is clear to me is that writers write; they don’t wait for the right moment, they don’t wait for the right app or “distraction free” environment – they just write.

J.K Rowling famously started the first Harry Potter book on a long train journey from London to Manchester, and having seen the first few pages of The Philosopher’s Stone we can see she did so writing on sheets of blank A4 paper with biro. She didn’t need a distraction free environment – anybody who has travelled on a British train will agree they are far from distraction free – she just wrote.

I mentioned earlier that I am an inveterate app buyer and trier. I have probably tried every simple text editor or “distraction free writing environment” in the App Store today, but do you know what I haven’t done with any of them?