Monique Roffey

Author portrait © Julian Anderson

The acclaimed New Wave Caribbean novelist and writing tutor shares her top ten tips for keeping the creative juices flowing.

1. Perfectionism is anti-creative. Get used to the notion of drafting your work, trying things out and making creative decisions on a regular basis.

2. The quality of attention to detail is the measure of the artist. This came from novelist Andrew Miller, (Pure, etc.), a tip I am passing on.

3. Always carry a notebook. I use three different types, all Moleskine, a mini one for my handbag, a red one for analysis and a black one for novels.

4. Think about writing every day. You don’t have to sit writing a novel every day. But thinking about writing is a pre-requisite for writing.

5. Read a lot. Grow a library. I live amongst books: fiction, non-fiction, Caribbean fiction, books on writing, books on sex and spirituality, poetry, cookbooks, plays. If books are too pricey buy second-hand – and/or join a library. Many of my books are second-hand and your nearest library is portal to the works of masters.

6. Study writing. Some books on writing are quite good. Find a peer group, a small writing community if you are starting out. An MA is a good thing.

7. Don’t discuss your work, unless in a workshop environment with a group of peers. It’s a bad idea to let others, non-writers, see or comment on your work, especially anyone too close to you, like your mother, lover or old school friends. They will always say it’s great and keep asking you when it’s finished

8. Keep hard copies of your manuscripts. You never know, one day you might be able to sell them.

9. Exercise. Some kind of physical practice compliments such a sedentary pursuit, keeps the mind active.

10. Inner work/spiritual practice: yoga classes, meditation. Find an easy and mostly free way to journey inwards and connect with the heart. “The way is in the heart,” said the Buddha.


House_of_Ashes_224Monique Roffey was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and educated in the UK. Her novel The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (2009) was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Encore Award and Archipelago (2012) won the OCM BOCAS award for Caribbean Literature. Her latest, House of Ashes, draws on historical events and tells the story of a gunman, a hostage and a child soldier caught up in a botched coup d’etat. She divides her time between London and Port of Spain, where she teaches creative writing. She is an active member of CaribLit and founder of the St James Writers’ Room. House of Ashes is published by Simon & Schuster. Read more.