I've been trying to work out why I enjoy washing my car. Generally speaking, I'm the kind of person who's perfectly happy for a layer of dust to become, oh, about half-an-inch thick before I feel something needs to be done about it (and even then, it still takes another half-an-inch for me to go hunting for some kind of cleaning implement). I'm also not especially interested in cars in the way that - time for an evil stereotype - many testosterone-fuelled creatures appear to be. But every Sunday, unless it's raining or I'm away from home, I'm out on the driveway straight after breakfast sponging the week's grime away.

Today was no different, except that I started wondering why I enjoy doing it so much. The only answer I could come up with is that it's 90 minutes of effort which produces a definite, visible result. You look at a dirty car and you know exactly what needs to be done with it: there's a spray for the alloys, a soap for the bodywork and some handy wipe-type-things for the dashboard. And, if you feel like adding a touch of flair to proceedings, you can always cover the wheels with some dodgily-named Wet'n'Black.

Writing is the exact opposite. You look at a blank screen and you have no idea what you want to put onto it. You start typing something, but you don't really know if it's the beginning, the middle or the end. You'd like to inject your work with some flair, but you end up regurgitating every cliche in the book.

So does that mean that a writer's success can be measured by the cleanliness of his or her car?

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