“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words” – Arthur Brisbane.
My UK publicists needed photographs of my life in LA – shots by the ocean in Malibu, having afternoon tea, writing at my desk, relaxing in the sunshine. They asked for images that would capture the contrast between London and California, pictures that would reflect the themes in my novels as well as ones that can be used for my ongoing series Lady Terry’s Tips where I give advice on topics ranging from writing, traveling, public speaking to lifestyle and career change.
I feel that this photograph, taken by my pool on the first day of shooting, captures that formerly elusive je ne sais quoi. It is worthy of Vanity Fair don’t you think? There are many more I will share in coming weeks, but I think this one is perfect to put with some tips on writing and working from home:
- Get out of your sweatpants and fix your hair. It’s a long story, but a few years ago a convicted felon escaping custody drove off in a stolen car Mad Max style down Wilshire and into the side streets of our neighborhood. The police eventually cut him off in our street. He leapt out, ran to our house, shimmied onto our roof and stayed there for six hours until a SWAT team managed to get him down. Fox news filmed the unfolding drama and we watched it all play out on my neighbor’s television. I was ‘unavailable for comment’ mostly due to the fact that I was still in pyjamas and sans make-up. I also met most of my neighbors for the first time that day. I know it’s an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.
- Our best creative work happens when we are in flow, using our imaginations, having fun. Obviously there will come a point where we become hypercritical of our writing and believe we’ll never be the next E.E. Cummings, E.L. James or J.K. Rowling. But remember that’s only because the rest of us all have proper first names. There is a time for editing, a time for revising, a time for throwing most of our work in the trash, but there is also a time for play.
- Also take time for work. I mean the tough stuff, the sitting at your computer for long enough to write a half decent sentence, even if it takes the entire day. Oscar Wilde is famously quoted as saying “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back in again.”
- Keep writing. We can all find excuses. My particular one is that I’m traveling so much. As they say, we can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time. Frankly I just believe that we can’t fool ourselves for very long. Just get up earlier and write or stop talking about wanting to be a writer. Writers write. It’s as simple or as complicated as that.
- I love my vintage typewriter. Even though I use a laptop, just having it there as a prop sets a tone and a mood. Surrounding yourself with novels, books you love, bric a brac you treasure creates ambience. I’m all about ambience as you can see.