Oops! Apparently I last posted 13 days ago. But my absence represents activity. I have a couple of jobs on the go (in different markets- yay!)
Pitching for articles is much cheerier than submitting a novel. I’m not usually sending emails into a void. Editors frequently respond. Sometimes they take up my suggestions. It’s immensely satisfying to send in a feature that started as an idle thought while I was brushing my teeth.
On the home front, the ‘south wall’ of our kitchen (as IKEA calls it) now has cupboards. Having a kitchen fitted during the Easter holiday is not as bad as I feared, but I’ll feel even better when the new sink’s plumbed in and the water’s back on.
I often vacillate between thinking I should find difficult things to do for discipline’s sake and flirting with the idea it’s possible to find a life entirely devoid of the unpleasant.
But now thanks to the American productivity blogs (to which I might be a little addicted), I’ve learnt the useful term “eating frogs” to describe what I’ve been doing today.
Everybody has unpleasant things to do. JK Rowling has staff, a castle and Ian Rankin as a neighbour, but she still has to read her Twitter trolls and work out whether she’ll respond. Or listen to heart-rending stories and decide where she’ll give her money.
There is some controversy as to whether you eat frogs first, or leave them until you’ve momentum in your day. I tend to leave mine until they’re passing their expiry date. They’re usually about to go off by Thursday.
They tend to be housework and admin (and at the moment running-related). My toads, as I think of the stuff I really hate, are making phone calls, and after that emails I don’t know what to do with.
The interesting thing about frogs and toads is they look really unpleasant on the plate, I might worry about choking on something that size and texture, but they have a surprisingly nice after-taste. Today I found the last few days’ dirty cups, separated washing from lego and went for a run along the prom. Of course, I feel great and legitimately allowed now to write with my next chunk of available time.
I can’t remember what age I was when I decided I wanted to be a writer, but it had nothing to do in my mind with handwriting. Forming letters used to hurt my hand. I still associate the smell of ink with my italic pen scraping and digging into the page in junior school. But the writing I used to avoid is now a pleasure- the gratification to delay while I count frogs and work out which one I should stomach first.
(featured image by LiquidGhoul at English Wikipedia)
Last week two very different books were released. I want to read both of them, as soon as I have a chance.
The first is Conchie- What my father didn’t do in the war by Gethin Russell-Jones, who’s whetting our appetites by posting related material on his blog. We used to go to the church where he moonlights as Baptist minister and good egg, but his more substantial claim to fame is the successful My Life in Hut Six he wrote with his mother about her wartime experiences at Bletchley Park. Lord Kinnock says of Conchie:
This is a searingly honest account of a son’s efforts to comprehend his father’s decision to be a conscientious objector rather than fight in the Second World War. He offers reasons not excuses,gives insights not alibis, details his own youthful embarrassment rather than pride,and shows deep respect for the courage of resolute conviction rather than exhibiting unconditional love. Because of that candour,readers will be left with greater understanding of “a different kind of courage” – and they might join me in having strengthened confidence in a rational system which wages war to defeat evil and,in doing that,protects the right of individuals to believe that it is wrong to fight and kill. The test of civilisation is,after all,not in the treatment of consenting majorities but in the toleration shown to non-conforming minorities.
Getting Started in Historical Fiction by Emma Darwin, was on my Christmas list, even though it wasn’t published yet and I’ve no intention at present of writing historical fiction. But the book has evolved from her blog, The Itch of Writing, a Godsend to me many times. If I come across a writing problem, she’s probably been there first and blogged about it.
Have I told you I’m not very organised? Well, I’m not. Using diaries, calendars and address books doesn’t come naturally to me. But last year, I discovered lists. I’ve written the odd one in the past, felt the benefit, but that’s been it.
We are still in the middle of building work. Today the builders are lifting the kitchen floor tiles. They’re doing well. By the end of the week, the kitchen will be a well-lit, sanded and plastered empty space. However, it’s supposed to be three weeks before our new units arrive. I’m on hold to IKEA at the moment to see if we can change the date. (We couldn’t- Oh well. Worst case, we have takeaways for that time.)
The electricians finally completed the rewiring last week. I think our bed was about the only piece of furniture in its normal place. My priorities were feeding people and getting them off to school. To keep the children out of the way, we went for hot chocolate so often, they started to complain.
I couldn’t find the list of resources the dyslexia teacher had recommended. I wasn’t even reading with my son. How could I ask school to make sure their bits were covered, when I couldn’t get round to that?
For every one thing I could think I needed to do, I had a vague feeling there were six or seven others, but couldn’t remember.
And that’s when I wrote a list. Ahh! The relief.
Those with excellent organization skills won’t understand why I didn’t write one in the first place. And others can keep everything in their head. But with one item on a to-do list, I remembered the others, and writing them down, realised I wasn’t as far behind as I thought. It was all possible.
Today, I went to the library to request an inter-library loan. “Have you looked, on our system?” asked the librarian. “It’s a book about a hospital in Glasgow,” I said. Watching her search the UK for this out-of-print book gave me the same world-expanding feeling I get looking down a train line.
Elise Hancock started it. As with Hilary Rettig’s Seven Secrets of the Prolific, you can tell I’m enjoying Ideas into Words, because I’ve not yet finished. I read half a chapter, but then find myself inspired and looking things up on google.
Beth Skwarecki mentioned the book on Lifehacker. I bought it immediately, mainly out of obligation. Having worked as a doctor, medical research should be my greatest expertise. (Actually it’s stacking the dishwasher, but the market is probably overloaded with experts in that.)
It’s hard to decide whether I loved or hated Medicine. Loved the people side, problem-solving and black humour. I didn’t realise exactly how stressed I was until I left- no idea why! And I know I wasn’t fascinated as I should have been with the one-off unusual cases or the science with no immediate application.
But I did want to go into research- epidemiology- the study of populations, specifically pregnant women and young children. One of my half-chapter revelations was I could write about these stories (like the Zika virus). And the history behind great discoveries and pioneering work. The stuff I’m most interested in.
Today’s story ends with me thinking my computer had been stolen. I was sure I’d put it into my laptop bag before setting off for the library. Later having stressed at everyone I could think of, short of the police, I found it at home- under the sofa.