February 2019 Newsletter

There’s an app for that…

‘How do you find the discipline?’ After ‘Where d’you get your ideas?’, the question of discipline and motivation must be the most common question readers ask authors. My stock answer is, the same way you do – the need to make rent. My personality type is pretty well suited to home working. I’m creative, dogged, a bit anti-social and I don’t mind wearing the same leggings for four days straight. But lately even my discipline has slipped a little.

I’m finding it hard to resist the increasing distractions coming my way; adorable children picking snowdrops from the garden to thrust into my hands screaming at me for the wifi code: events to be scheduled and magazine articles to be written as Stone Mothers approaches publication: news sites to be refreshed, to see what the bloody hell has happened now: and trying to reclaim my health after a festive season that would have made Bacchus himself want to check into Champneys for a mini-break and a lie-down.

Willpower is famously finite: you can only try to resist temptation for so long before you surrender to it. With this in mind, I decided to outsource my willpower to my phone. Here are the apps keeping this lazy, weak writer on the straight and narrow this month.

FREEDOM software is designed to stop people like me wasting their lives on the internet. (The problem is that harvesting likes on a picture of some poached eggs is much, much easier than intricately plotting a 90,000 word novel.) Freedom locks me out of social media for prescribed hours every day. If you see me on Twitter before lunchtime I’m cheating and must be arrested.

SCRIVENER I’ve been using this word-processing software (which lays out chapters and lets you shift them around like cards on a corkboard) for four years now but only just found out that it has a daily word count tracker! The bar starts off red and goes from amber to green as you hit your target. I have a deeply ingrained need to please authority figures and it turns out that a computer programme qualifies as one of those. Since discovering this my word count has doubled. Except for today, when I wrote this.

MYFITNESSPAL I’m trying to radically cut the amount of meat I’m eating without my protein intake falling through the floor. Tapping everything I eat into this food diary is keeping me on the straight and narrow, and also making me realise that actually Percy Pigs are not the nutritionally balanced foodstuffs I once thought.

FITBIT Do you know what I hate about my job? It’s not the insecurity, the bad reviews. It’s the sitting down all day until my bum is square and my brain is scrambled. I won a Fitbit – watch, heart monitor, pedometer, nag – at the school Christmas fete and now I can’t remember life without it. How did I break the ice with strangers before telling them how many steps I’d done that day?

All I need to do now is write my damn book, so if someone could hurry up and invent the app equivalent of infinite monkeys chained to an infinite number of typewriters, that would really help me out.


A Book In The Bath: What I’m reading this month 

The Wych Elm by Tana French, Viking


Eleven years ago, I read a book called Into The Woods, the debut crime novel by Irish writer Tana French. After one paragraph I knew I’d found a new favourite writer. There’s a music and assurance to French’s prose I can’t resist, and she writes the best dialogue in crime: understands that despite technology and forensics, crime fiction is really about psychology; that nothing is as tense as a conversation where one person has a guilty secret.

French seems to have parked her Dublin Murder Squad books for now, and The Wych Elm is her first standalone. An extended family are gathered in a rambling, bohemian house in South Dublin for Sunday lunch. Peace is shattered when one of the children finds a skull in the ancient, towering tree in the garden. Whose skull is it, and how did it get there? Solving the mystery will tear the family apart.

This month I’ve been watching…My brain is WRUNG OUT from plotting and all I want is comfort viewing; but actually, revisiting Friends isn’t always the warm hug I remember. I often write about the 1990s because that was my decade. I can be a bit rose-tinted about those pre-9/11, pre-crash, pre-austerity days but watching Friends the 90s doesn’t look like the liberal paradise I remember. So many of their jokes leap off from the assumption that being gay – or even effeminate – is the worst crime a man could be accused of. I know we’ve still got a long way to go, but a sitcom would be called out on this level of homophobia now in a way that, to my shame, my generation never thought to do. Problematic fave indeed.

Stone Mothers On The Road 

Meeting actual, real-life readers is my reward for two years locked in a room with my imaginary friends who do terrible things. I’m taking Stone Mothers on tour this spring, returning to some of my favourite places and visiting new ones for the first time: find out if I’m coming to a town near you here https://erinkelly.co.uk/events/