I met a deadline yesterday. Relaxing a little today, I had a very pleasant morning and early afternoon with my next one. I’d already done the research and produced a rough draft. Now it’s a matter of making sure it reads well, makes sense and importantly comes in at the right number of words. Hopefully, I’ll manage to send it in a few days early.
This means that tomorrow, I can afford to focus on other things in my life, like catching up with friends. I’m not talking about long lunches, just messaging people to let them know I’m still alive. And laundry. I wish I knew how to drop housework into a writing day, but I don’t really. You’d think it would be easy to put a load of washing on when I’m working in the next room.
If any of you have any tips on the whole freelancing/housework balance thing, I genuinely want to know.
I have changed my mind about voluntary work in the last few years. The term used to conjure up images of motherly women in charity shops or retired men driving minibuses- good people doing things because that’s what good people do.
Until I updated my CV, I didn’t realise I’d done so much of it myself. I may have joined teams because they needed someone, but I stayed because I was having fun.
I’ve picked up skills without noticing. I would never have understood the point of my own blog if I hadn’t written so many run reports for the parkrun website. Or how social media works if I hadn’t needed it to rabble rouse athletes.
It gave me too much joy to count as ‘voluntary work’. I had to check other people’s blog posts conformed with house style (‘parkrun’ is spelt with a small ‘p’ even at the beginning of a sentence; hundreds of people turn up on a Saturday morning for a ‘run’ and not a ‘race’, and no one wins it, although they might finish first.) For a word junkie, there’s nothing ‘voluntary’ about correcting other people’s mistakes. It’s an involuntary reflex.
And that was before I was allowed to process results. Or free reign of the microphone at the briefings.
My article about Harriet Tubman is published on the History Extra website today. My US readers may wonder if I really need to explain who she is. They’ve all learnt about Harriet and her achievements in school. Their treasury is planning to put her on the $20 bill- the first woman since Martha Washington.
Believe it or not, few of my friends in Britain have heard of her. So here goes.
She grew up in slavery in Maryland. After her own escape, she repeated the same perilous journey thirteen times to guide around 70 others to freedom. Later, she became the first woman to lead an armed raid in the American Civil War, releasing 756 more.
Her story is one of the best, inspiring because it’s true. You can read it for free on the link above.
You may not have noticed, but I’ve been blogging weekly since New Year. I’m quite proud of myself.
There are many benefits, the most obvious of which is my connection with you lovely lot. However, I have to fight perfectionism and vanity to do it. I want each post to be as interesting, as amusing and grammatically correct as the last. And the pictures I’ve taken with a cracked £40 phone to be as beautiful as those in a travel magazine.
But you know that’s not the case, and the fact you’re still here teaches me a lesson: we’re imperfect, fallen human beings with the capacity to enjoy imperfect things.
So, I’m posting this on a Saturday, instead of the Thursday I was aiming for. I’ve not told you the half of what’s happened this week, I can’t see a joke in the last 150 words and I’m showing you a picture of the garden because frankly, the house is too messy for anyone to see. But something is going up because it’s good for me.
Thank you for still being here.
It’s been an interesting week. To be honest, I’m a wee bit overwhelmed.
My youngest sister graduated her Masters (with distinction we find from facebook- my family have never been one for facts). And then yesterday another sister welcomed her fourth child into the world, a fifteenth grandchild for my parents (also something I found out from facebook).
I’m worried my new lodger is imaginary. She fits in with my world just a little too well to be real. She hasn’t complained about my cooking and is fine with sleeping underneath our boiler, tangential conversations and four children in the house. Having watched A Beautiful Mind, I know to be careful about these things.
Writing wise, I’ve opened an author page on facebook. I am as ever touched by the people who’ve liked it without me begging. My biggest motivation is to protect my friends on my personal account from feeling spammed by blog notifications and professional bragging.
And there are daffodils all over town. I find myself smiling when I see them. A love of daffodils is one of the few superficials I have in common with the ‘heroine’ of my novel. I took these on the school run.
I’ve not been sleeping well recently. There are of course many downsides. Sleep is pretty important. Upside? I feel justified sitting in bed to write. Insomnia is the ultimate antidote to perfectionism. But I better get this written before I collapse.
It’s half term in Dorset, so anything I achieve other than parenting is a bonus. Yesterday, I sent off three pitches- in a single email, but that’s a day record for 2017. Today, I’ve continued the structural edit of my novel.
I’m at my favourite stage- well away from realities like finding a publisher, but no longer creating something from scratch. I have a plot, subplots and characters. I know my setting. I can now enjoy getting those things right.
It’s a psychological edit as much as anything at the moment, as I focus on plot. Is that really what my main character would do at that point? Is that how she would break the news to her brother? What would he do then? And when he can’t do that? Isn’t that just cheesy? Yes, it is. Oh yes, I remember, you were thinking about word count. It’s all very messy, but it’s getting less so, every time I sit down to write.
I keep thinking of new things to tell you, but can’t think of a coherent order to put them in, so I’ll just spew them out. I think an editor would call this a signposting issue.
I was feeling pretty pleased with myself as I read through the first seventy pages of my novel. After that, parallel story threads started to tangle, which made for interesting but deeply confusing reading. For the last few days, I’ve stared at the words for half an hour or so, then thoroughly overwhelmed, escaped to twitter or the supermarket.
But some prayer and sleep, and I think I’ve located the offending knot in the centre of my metaphorical ball of wool. The sense of achievement allowed me to push through organising the rest of the section. As a bonus, I’ve managed to rationalise large amounts of repetitive whinging from one particularly miserable character. I’m obviously now ready to come on here and boast about a good day. (Sorry about that! I rarely feel like blogging on a bad one.) On with the rest of my structural edit. One can always hope that was the worst bit.
Spring is flirting with Bournemouth. The crocuses (croci?) were planted before we moved into the house (see above).
We’ve one and a half of a couple staying with us from this Saturday, hopefully for the next month or two (although we’ve given them an out clause). They’ve been warned about the mess, the children and the project of a house and are still coming, so we like them already. And if you’re reading C&C, see this for proof I wasn’t exaggerating.