First thing: The way they start their day: 17. Keith Waterhouse Writer, Earls Court and Bath
Monday 10 February 1997
In my bedroom in Earls Court the walls are covered with various prints and pictures, and I've got three sets of bookshelves, one of them holding the complete works of PG Wodehouse. My room in Bath is rather more sparse, though there are a lot of books in there too. I like to have books in the bedroom.
I'll have got to bed around midnight. I always just zonk out and sleep straight through, so I always wake up very refreshed. In the summer, I'm awake between 6am and 7, but in this godawful damp weather it'll be about 8 o'clock before I get out of bed. The first thing I do is go and put the coffee on, and I'll have some orange juice before throwing on some clothes to go and get the papers. I'll just put on whatever clothes I was wearing the night before, and slum about in them for the whole morning. I don't have a bath and get ready properly until lunchtime.
When I get back, I'll have some breakfast, which is invariably a bowl of Bran Flakes and all the fresh fruit I can get my hands on, with lots of black coffee. Meanwhile, I'll have Classic FM on as background, in another room, as I find the radio too disruptive otherwise. I'll then read the papers thoroughly; it takes me about two hours to get through them all, usually. I say it's because I have to keep up with the news, but it's just a work avoidance scheme, really.
I like to be working by about 10. If I'm writing my Daily Mail column, that takes about three hours to think out and write, and I'll need to be writing about a thousand words. I'm certainly in a panic if I'm not working by 11, but I suppose that's good for the brain. The morning is my prime writing time, really - I never write in the afternoon - and I work straight through till one o'clock. On column days, I'll have always arranged to go out at about 1.30 for lunch, which induces enough panic to get the adrenalin going. But I'll be going out for lunch anyway, usually, especially when I'm in Earls Court; I barely ever eat at home.
In Bath, I work at a big old roll-top desk that used to belong to an old squire, which is in the conservatory at the back of the house where it's quiet. It's like being seated at a Wurlitzer organ, and I can arrange my notebooks and papers over it and be cocooned by it. I have this need to be in a world of my own when I'm writing: in Earls Court I have a squalid little office upstairs, which gives me a similar feeling. I don't have telephones in either workplace, and in the house in Bath I don't even hear the phone.
The only bad thing about living in two places is that I have to hump work-in-progress backwards and forwards. I do all my writing on an old Adler manual typewriter, and so I have a constant horror of losing my briefcase with the typed copy in it. I once lost 10,000 words of Billy Liar in a taxi, so I make sure that I get everything copied now before I take it anywhere.
Generally, I'm very alert in the morning, and I have very good concentration. Whatever I'm doing, I block everything else out and just think about that one subject. I completely compartmentalise all the different projects that I have on the go at any one time, and I never think about tomorrow's work until tomorrow. I do try to avoid starting work, but once I have started, then I really get cracking. Keith Waterhouse's new novel, `Good Grief', is published next month by Hodder
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