The Business of Writing

Simon Whaley's Resource For Writers

All You Need Is A Seat And A Lap

Enid Blyton … writing

When you wake up on 11th August, raise a toast to Enid Blyton, who was born that day 120 years ago.

I recently re-read her first Famous Five novel, Five On A Treasure Island, which in itself brought back many happy childhood memories.

The writer in me today, though, questions the use of quite so many exclamation marks (Golly gosh!). However, there are several aspects of Blyton’s work ethic that writers today might find useful.

For Blyton was, if nothing else, a prolific writer. As the author of over 700 books, nobody could claim she wasn’t a writer, and her lifetime sales now exceed 600 million copies.

So how was Blyton so prolific? Well, clearly she avoided Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a start … okay, I’m teasing but the point is there – she avoided distractions. Blyton often took herself outside – where she wouldn’t be disturbed.

In fact, Blyton usually wrote with a typewriter perched on her knees. While portable typewriters may not have been as portable as today’s laptops, they were portable enough for her to write anywhere where she could find a seat. She didn’t need a desk.

She could write in the kitchen, in the living room, in the garden … wherever.

If you can only write in one special place, then you’re reducing the opportunities available to write (unless you’re in that special place all of the time). What about those times when you could be writing, but are not sat at your special place? Train yourself to be flexible and the words have more chance to flow.

Words that flow turned out to be Blyton’s other trick.

She always claimed not to be a planner. She did not intricately plot her novels. Instead, she preferred to sit down and simply write wherever her imagination took her.

With such freedom, it was not uncommon for her to produce 10,000 words a day. Now, they won’t have been perfect words, but they were words.

When it comes to our published words, those that make it to the printed page are frequently completely different to those that first appeared on our screens. But without those first words, or shitty draft as Anne Lamott called it, those printed words would never have appeared. As Jodi Picoult also said:

”You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

So raise a glass to Enid on 11th August 2017. You might not be a children’s writer. You might not like her writing style. But perhaps there was something, after all, in having the freedom to perch herself anywhere with a typewriter, and the freedom to write wherever her mind took her.

Why not give it a go yourself? You might be surprised with what you discover.

Good luck.

2 Comments

  1. I loved Enid Blyton’s books. I read them to my kids and then to my grandson. He hated reading until I introduced him to her books. He’s now an avid and eclectic reader as am I and my kids.

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