Six things that help my writing process – Emma Burstall

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By Emma Burstall

Most authors will tell you that there’s something of a ritual to their writing, and I’m no exception. For instance, although I work at home, I couldn’t possibly start until I’ve showered, dressed and even put on a bit of makeup. Weird, when you think that I often have only my two cats for company, but writing in my pajamas just wouldn’t feel OK. I think it’s left over from the days when I used to leave home by eight a.m. for the office, all suited, booted and with hair blow-dried and lippy in place. Now, I can’t start my working day without feeling properly ready to face the world, even if it that world is only the computer screen!♥

Here are six other essentials to make my day go well:

1. Coffee. Three or four cups at least. It must be cafetiere coffee, medium strength, with lots of hot, frothy milk. My version of a latte, in a favourite pink mug which was given to me by my daughter. I drink tea, too, but it’s coffee that seems to get the brain cells going. I like the ritual of making it and the smell, of course, when you open the packet. There’s nothing like it.

2. My great friend, Joanna. She works at home, too, and I don’t know what I’d do if she wasn’t at the end of the line and up for a chat. She’s a freelance journalist, but right now she’s writing a book as well, and it’s good to be able to compare notes and complain about deadlines, but mostly we’ll talk about anything but our jobs – husbands, kids, films we’ve seen, plans for the weekend, new clothes and hair-dos. We’ve known each other for many years and she’s like a sister to me. We even argue sometimes, which is a sure sign of familiarity!


3. My cats. They’re greedy and lazy, they scratch the furniture, plonk dead mice in my bedroom, hide frogs in my shoes and … I love them to bits. When I’m at work, one of them, usually Pablo, the boy, will miaow outside the door until I let him in, then he’ll curl up in a warm patch on chair or sofa and keep me company all day long. Sometimes, when I’m a bit stuck, I’ll wake him up, put him on my lap, tickle his tummy, stroke his silky ears and listen for a while to his rhythmic purring. Then, likely as not, something will unlock and my creative juices will start to flow again. I’m not much good at meditating but I reckon this is the next best thing.

4. My e-cig. I know, I know, it’s a terrible habit. I used to smoke about ten a day, then I gave up for years and started again, stupidly, three or four years ago. Now, I’ve quit cigarettes once more but I do love vaping. There’s something so relaxing about it, and it helps to focus the mind. My kids nag me to stop and I will, but I reckon e-cigs aren’t as bad as the real thing so I don’t feel so very bad. Plus it’s lovely not to have to head outside into the wind and rain to light up!

5. My ponytail. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? But my hair is fairly long at the moment and although I like to wear it loose at other times, when I’m writing I have to have it right off my face and out of the way. I keep my fringe short, too, as I can’t bear to have strands in my eyes. I keep my nails short as well, to stop them tapping on the keyboard, but when I’m on hols I’ll let them grow and treat myself to a luscious manicure.

6. Silence. My husband likes the radio on, others listen to music when they work but I prefer complete silence. I live in a fairly quiet road, so that I can usually catch birdsong, hear the distant voices of children in the school playground, cars starting up, the odd passer-by. These are comforting, everyday sounds to me, rather than noise, which I find distracting. My time for music is at the end of the day, when I’ve closed my laptop and the evening has begun.

Emma Burstall is the author of four acclaimed novels. Tremarnock, the first in a Cornish trilogy, became a top ten bestseller and is out now in paperback and e-book. The second installment, The Cornish Guest House, is out now, published by Head of Zeus. She lives with her husband in South West London and they have three children.

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