Sunday, 13 July 2014


One of the great challenges of life is to live in the moment, which is not to be confused with not taking responsibility for what happens in future moments. Writers are in the business of pinning down moments, but ironically this can mean that actual moments (and hours, days, weeks, months, et cetera) are spent in dark rooms in front of a white screen. The sun shines, stuff happens and we are locked away.

But it is a worthwhile mission. This is a way of finding meaning in a chaotic world. Instead of letting experience wash over us, we try to get inside it. And this can help us cope when we need something to cling to. Life isn't a meek, biddable creature, at the beck and call of any of us. It's a mean, unpredictable monster of a thing. And yet some of the time, most of the time, we are numbed by its routine.

Philip Larkin's poem Days expresses some of these feelings and contradictions...


  1. I read your "How to be a Writer" book yesterday. It was a very enjoyable read, but I still don't know how to go about getting an agent. There was only half of one page about that, advising "research which agents handle the kind of stories you write", which I have already done. I suppose I was hoping for slightly more specific information. I would like to know the way to properly approach an agent for the first time. The expected format. Is there a more accepted way to envelope it? (Folded letter-like in a business envelope, or uncreased in an 8X11?) Be friendly and approachable, or use a serious business tone?

    The chapter on networking has me depressed, as my job prohibits any sort of social life. I work a changing schedule, I work days and nights alternately, and never the same schedule week to week, which means I cannot join any regularly meeting group, or commit to any sort of book club or writing group. I don't even have a group of friends, because I am never off when anyone else is (I work weekends and holidays as well)... never mind attend cocktail parties - or any kind of party, come to think of it.

    I'm basically a solitary writer. I'm wondering if the chance of getting represented by an agent is slim because I don't have any names to drop.

    Also, do agents actually open every piece of mail that they receive, or do they have "people" that do that for them, and then forward anything they think looks promising?

    Any and all advice welcome! 8-)

  2. Hi Marcheline. Thanks for this feedback! I know there are gaps in How to be a Writer, and it's really useful to know what additional information would be useful. I'll post on this as soon as I can - I'm going away tomorrow, but should be able to post some useful suggestions before I leave. Finding an agent can take time, and I agree with you that networking - and the idea of networking - can be daunting. But I do have some ideas that may help.

    1. I didn't mean to say there were gaps... the book is great - I just want MORE. (Typical American, right?) I really appreciate your help, this website, and the book.

      And just so you know - I love networking! My favorite events are those where I know absolutely no one. I enjoy going to weddings where I don't even know the bridal couple. I lament the existence of a REAL pub where I live, because in a real pub you can sit down, have an extremely interesting hour-long conversation with a complete stranger, and never see them again.

      It's not that I have a problem doing the actual networking, it's just that my career choice has left me with no social life whatsoever. I used to be a police officer, then a flight attendant, so I'm used to seeing and talking to loads of people I don't know all the time. Now? I'm in a darkened room 8 hours a day with nine other people who have absolutely no connection to the publishing industry, and my schedule is all over the place. I love what I do for a living, but it's absolutely killed my social life. I'm lucky I ever get to see my husband - and he's not in publishing, either. 8-)

      Hope you have a great trip, and am looking forward to hearing more of your advice when you return!

    2. Thanks Marcheline, great to hear you are finding the book useful. More soon - might do an additional post on getting an agent because I know how tough it can be and I can go into more detail that way. (There are ways of doing without one, too, which I can talk about.) Off to the Lake District now - and it's raining. #typicallyenglish

    3. Say hello to Uncle Monty and the boys! 8-) #Withnail&I