Should I move to London? Ben Myers answers

Novelist, journalist (& resident of Hebden Bridge) Ben Myers addresses the six million dollar question

I’ve always believed that a keen writer should be able to write anywhere: on aeroplanes, in the bath or in those strange moments hovering between waking moments and deep sub-consciousness. One should be able to write in notepads and telephones, on tickets stubs and in steam on bus windows.

Of course, a quiet room is preferable but if the desire to write is great, it can come at any time. And it is the role of any budding scribe to seize the moment – and the pencil – and get it down, wherever you may be.

Should I move to London? is a question that is often asked. Yes, by all means. Relocate to the capital and enjoy everything it has to offer: the culture, the history, the food, the people. The kinetic energy that flows beneath its gum-flecked pavements. London is the entire world in one city and it is yours for the taking.

Do not move there to be a writer though, or certainly not one of fiction. It’s a simple matter of economics: in London you will more than likely spend all your time trying to scrape together enough money to stay afloat and, as romantic as it appears, the myth of the starve artist is not one to be pursued for any real length of time.

Yes, the book publishing business is based there, but if you can create something of value then your accent, background or postcode should not matter (though it is worth noting that a disproportionate quota of Oxbridge graduates still hold editorial positions). But still, what matters is the work and the person who creates it, rather than their post-code.

The best advice I can offer – and all advice where creative writing is concerned should be taken with a generous pinch of salt, for really there are no rules when it comes to the human imagination letting fly – is find peace. Find a space and occupy it. Fix onto a routine. Make room in your life for writing. To do this sacrifices will need to be made, whether economic, geographic or alcoholic. But that’s OK. Because if the will is there, you will find a way.

Only when I stopped hanging around in pubs did I feel I was beginning to get productive and only when I relocated to my native North after twelve (largely memorable, often exciting, frequently exhausting) years in London did my fiction writing get anywhere approaching what I hoped it could be. So celebrate where you’re from. Everywhere has a story worth telling – every suburban street, every shopping precinct, every sea-front promenade. Step outside where it is you live, study or work and try and see it anew. Sometimes travel can help with this, so do try and see as much of the world as possible. Viewed from three thousand miles away Newcastle or Sunderland, Durham or Redcar can suddenly seem like strange, exotic places.

The only other advice worth heeding is this: enjoy the writing. Don’t write to be successful, write to be better – and to be free. Holding a finished copy of your novel in your hand is an exciting moment, but it is fleeting. As a published writer, I gain the greatest satisfaction from sitting at my desk (or anywhere), working on that first draft. In all honesty, the other peripheral activity is a distraction. That is not why I write. And whatever is going on the world, I usually can’t wait to get to back to my latest idea. I continue to take this as an encouraging sign.

It is, after all, just a case of putting one word after the other. That’s all. One word after the other. Like this.

Keep at it – and good luck.

Benjamin Myers is an award-winning novelist and journalist. His works include Beastings (2014), Pig Iron (2012) and Richard (2010). He has also published poetry collections, biographies and a novella.

Tweet Ben: @BenMyers1