1. Muck out my study.
My study is easily the messiest room in the house, and probably our street; I won’t say in the whole of Edinburgh, because there must be a squat somewhere that’s worse. Frankly, I shudder to think what I will find when I finally reach the bottom of all these teetering piles of garbage. However, as I currently have to negotiate an assault course just to reach my desk I think the time has come for my annual tidy-up.
2. Do not lose any more notebooks.
After a somewhat panicky few weeks I have finally located a missing notebook. As always when I mislay these things, I had been ‘remembering’, in its absence, that it contained notes so essential and ideas so imaginative that I would never be able to duplicate them, and the whole of the next book would be impoverished if they were never found. Now that I have said notebook beside me on this desk, however, I see that it contains few useful nuggets amid a lot of complete dross. Nevertheless, the stress I endured while believing it to be the notebook equivalent of the Holy Grail was enough to remind me that I must take better care of my working materials.
3. Be ruthless about protecting writing days
, ie, do not cave in to endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.
4. Follow advice from critics on how to be a better writer.
I always try to act on constructive criticism. When I fail, I attempt to embrace my faults and call them my ’style’.
5. Try and keep children healthy.
As we leave behind the sickliest winter ever known in this family, I pray that none of my kids develops a runny nose for at least a week, thus enabling me to set about serious writing with at least a few hours’ sleep behind me.