MY HEART DECLARES A HOLIDAY

There's a thing I've noticed. Sometimes I do it. That thing where you list off the stuff you're doing to indicate what a busy bee you are. And there are times when that's right and appropriate. But it really isn't recommended as an ongoing way of life. Trust me.

For most of the last week, I haven't done much that you could call work. I went to London for a couple of days, caught up with people I care about. A writer friend's first adult novel has been published and it was great hearing the story behind the story (her book, by the way, is The Woman Next Door, a twisty-turny psychological thriller that I was pleased to see at my local Asda). Another friend took me to a full-on London art scene party where I talked to some smart and interesting musicians who were all the more fascinating because their careers had given them a measure of success, but on an appreciable scale rather than the kind of gargantuan whammy that I'm sure can't do the likes of U2 any good. 

The main thing was a workshop about actor/writer/director Ken Campbell, an eye-opening day led by the engaging and insightful Jeremy Stockwell, who had cleverly looked at the multi-faceted creative's ability to make fun things happen over decades and found simple body-focused principles at the heart of them. Captivating, and though I'd have preferred there to be more non-actors present it was a day I got a lot from.

And really...well...that's kind of it.

Since then, I've walked a bit, seen some films, and made notes in a chunky blank-paged book I carry round with me that are gradually becoming the basis of a framework for a comic series. Other than that - not a great deal. Which is fine, because I need to be doing not much of anything from time to time, and would recommend the pursuit of nothing in particular to anyone.

When I worked at a London ad agency, I'd make a point of sitting there reading a newspaper when there was nothing for me to do. I expected other people to realise that this was a good moment to ask me to do something for them. Instead, I was told that when I had nothing to do, it was important not to let others think I was doing nothing. Somehow, I'd be letting the side down. Only, if I genuinely have no task to occupy me, why on Earth would I pretend otherwise?

Much of what I do is writing. And from some years involved in this on a regular basis, one of the few things I'm confident of is that time beetling about doing nothing in particular is crucial to the creative process. Before ideas come into focus, you have to let stuff float around. Things you've read, watched, noticed, talked about - in a casual way for its own sake, rather than shackled to purpose. Intent is all well and good at the right time, but that time is to be chosen carefully, and not plunged into merely because Stuff Needs Doing.

Some phases of writing a script require consistent effort, for sure. But that is in contrast to another equally valid part of the process, which is more akin to ambient music - allowing thoughts to drift and settle. It's from this flow that new stuff emerges. Without it, what you're left with is the mere mechanics of writing, the stuff most writing gurus go on about. All well and good in its place, but only after a good healthy dose of doing nothing in particular. No sense arranging pieces before something cool has bubbled up. Without something tasty to glom onto, it's just letters of the alphabet.