Greene would finish writing before the morning had even begun; I have to beat the score on my Gameboy

Each week, the Times book pages feature a regular item on "How I Write" in which someone with a new book out describes whether they use a pencil or a word processor. To people who aren't writers, I would imagine it's about as interesting as "How I brush my teeth" or "How I get to work" would be to me. But I read it with appalled, guilty fascination.

Joyce Carol Oates said that, when writers discuss their working methods, the only purpose is to discover whether other people are as crazy as they are. Admittedly, some descriptions of working methods seem mainly designed to dissuade other people from writing at all. Philip Roth said that his method was to write for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and after about 18 months he generally ended up with a novel. He makes himself sound like a 19th-century prisoner, digging himself out of his cell with a teaspoon.

The place where you write can also be a form of one-upmanship. I love the following extract from Ernest Hemingway's introduction to The First Forty-Nine Stories: "I wrote The Killers, Today is Friday, Ten Indians, part of Fiesta and the first third of To Have and Have Not in Madrid. It was always a good place for working. So was Paris, and so were Key West, Florida, in the cool months; the ranch, near Cooke City, Montana; Kansas City; Chicago; Toronto; and Havana, Cuba. Some other places were not so good, but maybe we were not so good when we were in them."

I need to get out more.

What I want to know of other writers is not "are they crazier than me" but "are they more efficient than me". Last Saturday's "How I Write" with John Lanchester was typically depressing. He writes in a loft in Clapham. He starts writing first thing in the morning and won't open mail or take phone calls until the afternoon. Actually, I've heard more depressing things. The translator Michael Meyer was living with Graham Greene while Greene was writing A Burnt Out Case. Meyer has described how, by the time he would come down in the morning, Greene would have finished his writing for the day and would be ready to enjoy himself. I often think about that when the children are arriving home from school and I still haven't got down to work.

Lanchester also works with a special kind of artist's pen that he buys in bulk and he writes his novels on index cards, like Nabokov did. W H Auden, who could come up with a brilliant argument for or against anything, insisted that one should type rather than write by hand, because one has too much affection for anything written in one's own handwriting.

Personally, I've made an effort not to fetishise any part of writing. This has not always been so. During my final year at university, I was manically obsessive about every aspect of my life. For example, for the entire year I only had three kinds of supper: a salad made of chopped mushrooms and cress; sardines mashed with mayonnaise and ketchup on toast; and a hamburger and chips I bought from round the corner. That was all. And I could only write with a sort of artist's pen that wasn't designed for handwriting and would wear out after an hour. During my finals, I was jettisoning them like baggage from a sinking balloon.

This could not go on, so I've tried - obsessively - to make myself write anywhere, anyhow. I once wrote a book review for this magazine in a car at one o'clock in the morning while waiting for the RAC to arrive. I once wrote a diary in the cab of another recovery vehicle that was towing my car back from the Lake District. I don't have a purpose-designed loft or office, but I do have a small room next to the kitchen. It has a nice view - as I write, I can see snowdrops glimmering in the twilight. The drawback is that everybody likes the room. The children come and play computer games. Those are my games, the ones I play during the part of the day when Lanchester isn't opening his mail. It used to be Tetris on a Gameboy. I had to achieve a certain score before I had "earned" the right to start working. I used to play so often that I saw the shapes on the inside of my eyelids when I went to sleep at night.

The cats love this small room so much that it's where they bring their dead animals. Last week, I found a headless moorhen next to my chair. Unless it wasn't the cats - perhaps it was some sort of voodoo symbol left by the villagers to show what they think of newcomers.

How I write is a very boring subject. How I don't write - about that, I could go on for ever.