The insistent idea


A good idea is insistent, it just keeps knocking on the door.  

Graham Linehan, co writer of Father Ted

I stuck my iPod on at random the other day and was surprised to find I was listening to a podcast I didn’t even remember downloading. It was called Chain Reaction and featured Graham Linehan interviewing Adam Buxton. Now I was a massive fan of the Adam and Joe show on BBC radio. I used to listen when driving long distances for work and sometimes it made me laugh so much I would have to pull over. You can probably still get the podcasts if you want to give it a try.

Anyway I left it on because it sounded funny, which it was, but as I listened I realised that a lot of the discussion centred around the creative process and difficulties associated with writing. As well as the quote above, which just struck a bell in my head, was the following, Graham Linehan again:

Writing a first draft is basically where you have to … make contact with the incredibly mediocre person that you are. You basically write something and it’s not as good as the worst thing on television and then you rewrite it and it gets a little bit better, and you rewrite it and it gets a little bit better and stuff like that, so you have to be able to be a bad writer before you go on to make stuff really good.

His point was that writing something, anything, is the hardest part. After that it just gets easier. On the one hand I find thIs very encouraging. It means that even if what I write isn’t very good, it is still worth doing, as long as I tenaciously try to improve it. On the other hand having spent nearly two and half years writing a book that I have yet to finish (although I’m nearly there) it is slightly dismaying to consider the amount of work still to do.

And then there’s all the other writing, the stories I’ve started, the planned sequel, the book I started seventeen years ago and never finished (lost and then found in the attic), not to mention things that haven’t got out of my head and onto the page yet. Like the man said, good ideas are insistent, they just keep knocking on the door.


5 thoughts on “The insistent idea”

  1. Martin, a good thought provoking post. It raises the question that asks is a piece of writing ever really finished? I have just read “Writing Down the Bones” where Natalie Goldberg tells us that some of her writing is complete when it hits the paper first time, whereas other pieces can take years to get right. It is an interesting subject and something, as a new writer, I’d like to learn more about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a fascinating area. I think it depends a lot on the speed at which you work and how much is done before you get to the actual writing. Sometimes I feel like I’ve got it all in my head and I just have to get it down, others I feel really stuck and struggle to get anywhere. That’s when I often end up writing a piece over and over, I know I’ve got to make progress on that bit so I just write something, and that gives me something to work on.


  2. I also recently listened- completely by accident- to some great writing advice by Graham Linehan. He’s great, isn’t he? I like the lack of BS in his approach; his advice is – unlike much that i see about the place- actually helpful, practical, and yes- reassuring!
    “Writing a first draft is basically where you have to make contact with the incredibly mediocre person that you are..” Never a more relatable line! I used to despair at just how difficult i found it to write anything; all the bloody rewriting involved had me convinced that perhaps i was just no good at it. I still feel frustrated and worried about that, but at least i know it’s normal, now!
    The aspect of his advice that really hits home for me is the “just write it!” part. Perseverance is really important.
    Anyway, best of luck with the writing! I’m off to hide myself away to do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the like and the comment.
      I’m really struggling at the moment. I’ve finally decided that enough is enough and I’m sending my book out to agents but I find it hard to motivate myself to do it. At the same time I’m try to start the next book but I’m finding that difficult too. I’ve managed about 1000 words in a month!
      I know I’ve just got to keep going though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries! Pardon my annoying overuse of the word “great” up there; only just noticed.
        Well I wish you the best of luck with the book!
        Some days are indeed difficult :/ I’m in the process of writing a kid’s book. (Trying to be the next Roald Dahl. Nothing overambitious about that, eh? 😉 ) But same thing; I find myself making very little progress. On a good day I’ll find myself getting a lot done, but then the next day, I’ll go back and realise I hate half of what I’ve written. I feel as though I’ve rewritten the last thousand words about ten bloody times. It’s maddening! Oh well.
        Anyway. I hope you’re feeling the words flow more steadily ASAP!

        Liked by 1 person

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