Finding a writing catalyst

Olly ?How do you start to write ?

A little while ago I riffed about the problems I was having finding motivation. At the time I was trying to put together a book synopsis and desperately wanted some of our cake-powered banter to shine from the page. You will be pleased to know that this was achieved, passed to Ms Nolan, and promptly torn apart and re-written to become even better. In business world you’d call this (well I would anyway) putting up something to shoot at. The idea being that if you give people a blank page the possibilities are endless and the results patchy. Produce something that is in roughly the right ball-park (I can do buzzword bingo too) and this aims everyone’s creative juices in the same sort of direction and the original idea gets refined to perfection. Even if it’s wrong, it acts like the bamboo canes on an allotment, guiding the runner beans of ideas in something like the same direction.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that I wrote some stuff, Candice refined it, I refined it again and so forth. But without the original draft we wouldn’t have got anywhere. That first page of words was a catalyst.

Which brings me to this post. I’ve been pondering the contents on and off all day. There are a few subjects jotted down on a list, but one of them is a big announcement that needs me to do a bit more work, others don’t feel right for today. The thing is that despite all this pondering, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to write until I started hitting keys.

For me to work I need a catalyst that allows the ideas to germinate.


noun /ˈkatl-ist/
catalysts, plural

  • A substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change
  • A person or thing that precipitates an event
    • – the governor’s speech acted as a catalyst for debate
  • A lyst of cats

The first catalyst for this book is of course my co-author.  When we get together to discuss ideas, what start as a fairly basic premise can grow exponentially, especially if there is tea available. Those weeks spent firing e-mails back and forth at the quango got this book going and without them neither of us would have written anything like it. They say everyone has a book inside them but giving birth to it is another matter. When there are two of you it’s a whole lot easier. That’s probably why babies have two parents.

The other catalyst for me is a computer. While I can plan on paper, what I really need is a keyboard and screen to draw the words from me. It doesn’t matter what I write, blog posts, articles, presentations or great works of fiction, the action of punching those keys seems to tap into the seam of ideas. Maybe it’s muscle memory – my body knows that typing leads to finished articles and so requires it before my brain can really do the detail of a piece. You probably think this is odd, but then for many years I could only remember my PIN when faced with a cashpoint, which was a real b****r when I started using chip’n’PIN cards – so maybe I am odd.

Whatever, it works for me, so what works for you ?


Filed under Phil, Writing

3 responses to “Finding a writing catalyst

  1. Are you saying that Henry, my cat, is your “CAT a lyst”

  2. You have no idea how close that came to being:
    ■A lyst of cats
    -Black and white
    -Charlie from the public service adverts about strangers
    -Grey and White

    Please note, that in the film version of the book, Olly will be played by Henry. Bet he expects his own trailer.

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