End-of-term parenting decisions and Zadie Smith-related despair.

I don’t have any deadlines at the moment. I am grateful (in a slightly anxious way), as life has become about deciding which of the children would forgive me most easily for missing a concert/ end of term celebration/ play/ rock climbing session.

About Zadie Smith and Maggie O’Farrell. The reader in me luxuriates in cleverly written books like This Must Be the Place and Swing Time (I’m only halfway through that one, but I assume the rest is as good!)  The writer despairs. How do they do it?

And about editing my novel. I won’t meet my CampNanowrimo goal, but I have chipped away at it most days. So that’s something. I hope to produce a thing of beauty in the end. At the moment, it’s a big mess.

…Like our home. The one thing my life is not about at the moment is housework, though it almost certainly should be. I’m not honest enough to post pictures. There isn’t a corner I don’t mind you seeing, and my phone is refusing to transfer photos. So this is a (boring but appropriate) re-post.20170202_135117-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poached eggs, cultural ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and my failure to multi-task.

Poached eggs, cultural ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and my failure to multi-task.

I should stop mulling over post ideas and just communicate. I really should.

We went to London this weekend for my birthday. It was possibly my best yet (at least a tie with last year’s where there were gluten-free pies.) We had the use of my husband’s boss’s very nice flat. So, on Sunday there were poached eggs and salmon on a rooftop looking out on the Shard and Walkie-Talkie buildings. Then we travelled around central London trying to find art. This was easier said than done, even once we were inside the Tate Modern. Eventually, we realised the speakers on the wall were an installation. We then legged it round the National Art Gallery, going for quantity rather than quality of experience- how many old masters could we appreciate before the children’s patience with culture finally wore out.

Anyway, I’m back, three days behind target on Camp Nanowrimo, but still hopeful the discipline of editing for an hour a day will push my new WIP forward.

I did hope I’d return to my laptop inspired with plenty of article ideas. However, it appears I am useless at creative multi-tasking. I can either concentrate on my novel or pitching features. Sometimes, there’s an overlap and wrestling with the novel suggests an article for Writing Magazine.

 

Novel mode

Novel mode

I’m in novel mode again, a pleasurable, guilt-ridden state. I’m not quite sure who flicked the switch from hard-working freelancer to dreamer. Slowly, very slowly, I’m understanding how I work best…

Storyworld immersion

…and why as a responsible parent, I don’t write fiction all the time. To do it, I need to fully immerse myself in the world of my story.

At the moment, for instance, I  have an image in my head- one of my main characters is stroking a kitten. She was a gift, but from whom, and why? And why was the character’s reaction so negative at the time? It’s all I can think about as I go to sleep or load the washing machine.

Making sure it still feels like fun

I hardly noticed the work I put into my first novel. I was a mum at home; there were many other things I should have been doing with that hour in the afternoon. Because of this, writing rarely felt like a treat in comparison to my other options.

I’m trying to think of this manuscript as socialising with interesting (albeit imaginary) people when I could be earning money or doing something about my laundry pile. Allowing the housework to build up really helps foster that sense of indulgence.

Wasteful editing 

It is common sense to sure up your structure before you try perfecting your sentences. After all, you may be chopping that carefully worked prose later. However, looking at the story as a whole overwhelmed me. So, as working anyway round is more productive than pontificating about process, I’m editing at the micro level before the macro. And I believe I’ve found my stride.

 

Half-term, free writing sessions and Jane Austen.

Half-term, free writing sessions and Jane Austen.

It’s half term. In my humble opinion, I’m not doing too bad a job as a mother. The children have been outside in the garden more than they’ve watched telly. But I did turn a blind eye to an unauthorised water fight yesterday, which I lived to regret seeing mud on my newly cleaned floor, an extra storey of washing on the pile and hearing the misery of younger siblings. As I yelled at the instigator, even he admitted it had all gone a little too far.

If you’re local, Gary Dalkin, Steve Cox, John Pegg and I have been asked to run free creative writing sessions at Gateway Church’s ‘School of Life’ ( 128 Alder Road, Poole, Dorset). They’ll be at 7.30 pm on 21st and 28th June, then 12th and 19th July. We’re hoping they’ll provide aspiring writers with a mixture of inspiration and guidance. Unfortunately, there will only be eight spaces. Booking beforehand is essential, but I hope to post a sign-up link here later in the week.

And if that isn’t enough self-promotion, my latest article, ‘The Jane Game’ is out today in Writing Magazine- 10 reasons why Jane Austen might get overlooked by an agent or publisher today.

 

Yellow Car

Yellow Car

Other writers are often shocked by my family’s low-brow tastes. We have DVDs, not books in our sitting room, and those are more often rom-coms than foreign language films.

But we do like our Radio 4 comedy, particularly John Finnemore.  My eldest son could win the specialist section of mastermind with his knowledge of Cabin Pressure.

The crew of the fictitious MGM airlines play Yellow Car. The rules are very simple: say ‘yellow car’ when you see one before anyone else. And if you listen to the programme, you’ll know you’re always playing, even in the middle of a crisis.

We play the game on the school run. I was going to say it’s a lot of fun, but today I realised how seriously everyone is taking it. People argue. Worse still they cheat- calling yellow car before they go round corners, and counting yellow number plates.

Yellow car! You’ll have to take my word for it.

 

London, school holidays and chicken pox

London, school holidays and chicken pox

I’ve visited Wembley IKEA, but I last spent proper time in London 12 years ago when my eldest was eight weeks. I hadn’t thought through things like breastfeeding on a rush-hour tube- with a rucksac on my back and the baby in a complex set of straps on front.

It was probably unfair I took against my capital city after that. This weekend the sun was out, I had another adult to help me and four weaned children carrying their own stuff.

And then on Monday, my youngest developed chicken pox. It explained why he’d been a bit whingey and decided to sit down in the middle of the pavement on a couple of occassions. He’d done rather well considering he’d been incubating a virus.

I found the rash in the middle of TESCOs. We were duty-bound to get out of there as quickly as possible, but I’d done most of my shopping and we were only an aisle away from a bottle of Calpol and some cooling spray. We left the store prepared for quarantine.

Tuesday was unpleasant for a while. The victim developed a blister in his mouth and didn’t want to eat anything, but he was on over-cooked pasta and yoghurt by teatime.

And today it looks as if everything’s crusted over. His appearance may clear play parks and swimming pools, but he’s no longer infectious. We can leave the house.

Happy Easter!