Here are my tips for getting into good writing habits.
1. Get up early. Write in the morning. The first thing you do gets the best part of you. I had small children when I wrote John the Revelator, so I had to get up at 5 to put a couple of hours in. Brutal hard, but worth it.
2. Dress like you’re going to do a job of work or meet a date. No lounging around in the bathrobe. Look at pictures of Tom Wolfe or Donna Tartt for inspiration. Keep a clean desk. Messy environment, messy head.
3. Always, always accept feedback with gratitude. Even if it’s useless. Somebody took the time to read your stuff. Unless you’ve paid someone for a report and they stiffed you on the critique, practise good grace.
4. Discipline. Writing is like training. You have to do it regularly to get results. Do it every day you can. And if you can’t do it on a given day, be thinking about it. Keep the project’s circulation going. Make a commitment to it. Put the title on the wall or in your notebook. Make it real.
5. Live clean. At least while in the throes of a project. Eat well. Sleep. Rise early. Save the bacchanalia for the book launch.
Above all, commit to your work. If you build it a little bit every day for a year, two years, five years, whatever it takes, it WILL exist. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-timer or a Pulitzer winner. We all have to put the hours in. CS Lewis said the muse is most likely to come calling when you’re sitting at your desk working.
Peter Murphy is a writer, journalist and spoken word performer. He is the author of two novels, John the Revelator (2009) and Shall We Gather at the River (2013), published by Faber & Faber in Ireland and the UK, and by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the US and Canada. His fiction has been translated and published in Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Holland, Germany, Serbia, Romania and the Commonwealth countries, and nominated for the Costa, the Kerry Group Fiction Prize and the IMPAC.
As well as a number of short stories (‘The Dead’ included in Dubliners 100 (Tramp Press, 2014), ‘The Blacklight Ballroom’ included in New Irish Short Stories edited by Joseph O’Connor (Faber & Faber, 2011), and ‘The Hound From the County Hell (Winter Pages, 2015), he helped develop the radio drama Coma with Kevin McCann, which won the silver prize at the PPI Broadcasting Awards in 2015.
Peter’s journalism and non-fiction has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Guardian, the Irish Times, Hot Press and Huffington Post. He has released two albums with the Revelator Orchestra, The Sounds of John the Revelator and The Brotherhood of the Flood. For ten years he was a regular panellist on RTE’s arts review show The View with John Kelly, and was also a presenter on RTE’s The Works.
He is currently at work on his third book.
“Everything about John the Revelator excited me – I couldn’t wait to turn the page and keep on going. It was like reading for the first time, almost as if I’d never read a novel before.” – Roddy Doyle, author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, A Star Called Henry, The Woman Who Walked Into Doors.
“An absolutely wonderful book… fresh and so contemporary, original and disturbing and brave.” – Colm Toibin, author of The Master, Brooklyn.
“A brilliant book.” – Neil Jordan, filmmaker, author of Shade, Mistaken
“Fabulous… It’s some of the best writing I’ve seen from a younger Irish writer in a while.” – Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin, Trans-Atlantic.
“… A dark and deeply talented novelist. This second novel of his is a wild and inventive butt-kicker, but it’s also strangely tender, and its language is charged, vivid, luminous.” – Kevin Barry, author of City Of Bohane, Dark Lies the Island.