Archives de catégorie : Writing

Morning writing

A change of country is like the start of a new year – a chapter-beginning that provides a chance to make resolutions and adjust habits. Over a good number of years I’ve woken up early (530/545am) on week days for exercise before work; usually a run or a circuits workout from a phone app. At the beginning of this month, I’ve made quite a radical shift – no more exercise in the morning, but instead, close to two hours of writing time, with a 5am wake-up. At about 720am I drop off my daughter at nursery, and then cycle off to work for 8am.

The main idea is that if writing is something I want to do long term, then I need to be doing it regularly. Up to now, this just wasn’t happening. So far in the morning writing hours, I’ve been keeping a journal (first task of the day), going through a fiction writing MOOC course with FutureLearn (one that I unsuccessfully started back in 2013), listening to the ‘Writing Excuses’ podcast, and writing blogs (most work-related).

Two immediate experiences after two weeks:

  • Firstly, before the problem and stress was finding time for yet another priority. But, when you actually carve out a fixed time, then the whole issue with time just vanishes. It’s no longer about finding the time, because the time has been found. Instead it’s about working out what to do to fill the time. It feels very much like you’re giving yourself a daily present, a wonderful luxury. Perhaps from the outside, it’s odd to describe getting up at 5am as a luxury, but that is genuinely how it feels. It’s rapidly turning into one of my favourite moments in the day.
  • Secondly, although I haven’t yet got a writer’s notebook off the ground to make little observations about the world, I can already see that the fiction writer’s obsession with the little details, should help me to be much more observant and aware in the world. How much am I missing as the world spins by? It would be nice to get some time in a busy cafe with a notebook just observing. Eventually, being a writer would also perhaps give me the permission (like a journalist) to get into people’s lives, and asks them questions about their internal life.

The morning writing hours will be fine-tuned, but I think I’ve established the building blocks for a quite interesting life change. In addition to the writing, it’s nice to see the sun rise (my position at the dining room table faces the window and the exact point where the sun comes up through the trees). And I also see my family rise – generally E the nanny first, then my young son J, quite an early riser. Then we have to get the rest up so D can be ready for school. Back in Freetown, I would do my morning exercise and head to work all in the dark without seeing anyone up.


Fifteen years ago, the answer to what do you want to be when you’re older was ‘a journalist in Africa’. For some reason, which I can’t really identify the inspiration for, I went about this mission with a methodical determination. I poured over the CVs of journalists and even student journalists who happened to have got into the best programmes. I tried to work out everything that an ideal African journalist would know and do, and find a way to get that. I worked on my touch typing, I learned short hand, collected work experience across the country, took French classes, I signed up to the right magazines and joined the Royal African Society.

Maybe I’m at that stage again. At least I have an idea that I’d like to do a lot more writing and photography in the future. To take writing, it seems clear that writers write a lot, they read a lot, they associate with other writers, and they know about their craft. I’ve built many of these things into my life, though the key thing – doing a lot of writing – remains rather absent. Today I finally got to write a couple of short creative texts, and hopefully this can continue. Part of the excuse I give is that I spend my working life in front of this computer, and it doesn’t seem sensible to have a hobby that involves more hours at this keyboard. One option I’m considering is being a separate personal laptop that helps me differentiate mentally from work time. Another option, might be to hand write, at least for writing that I’m just doing to exercise the creative muscles.

Between now and the end of the year, I should have plenty of time to find out whether this writing malarkey is my thing.

Becoming a writer

I have an increasing conviction that I need to be writing; disciplined, long-form writing with a view to publication. The grass withers, the flowers fade, news articles disappear almost as soon as they are written, but books seem to last.

Running the marathon was a massive commitment. But a writing life will be harder and lonelier, and it won’t be as healthy. And after all that work, maybe publishers will simply judge my work substandard, and it will all have been a waste.

Is it worth even starting, when the goal seems remote, distant and uncertain? For a start, I don’t presume to think that I’ll be any good – I’m completely untested at long-form. This seems like a huge gamble. Could you train a year for a marathon only for someone to tell you that you don’t know how to run and never will?

Perhaps a few small things give me hope. I) I’m reasonably good at discipline, which seems to be a key skill for a writer, II) I’ve already started listening to podcasts for writers, as well as general cultural podcasts, III) I read a fair bit, though I’d stop short of calling myself well-read, IV) I’ve based a lot of my professional life so far on writing, even if it’s not in the book-length field V) I blog (though with frequent errors, I know), VI) I have a slight philosophical bent, and a touch of humour, both of which seem to work well in high-brow long-form, VII) my writing would almost certainly be focused on Ivory Coast, for which almost nothing exists in English.

On the downside, I’m not currently writing, and I never have (in the sense of long-form). As a white Brit writing about West Africa, I’ll probably be rather unpalatable in the very field I want to be a part of.

At least in the modern age, one can self-publish online as a last resort to rescue something from failure.

Just don’t start asking me how my book’s coming on.