Happy New Year!
Two of my children went back to school yesterday, relatives left and my husband went back to work. I went straight to Office World to buy some index cards.
I’d call my relationship with routine “passionate”, rather than “happy”. I rail against it when it’s here, but goodness! am I glad to see it after a long absence? School drop-offs that force me to start my day by half past seven. The sense of purpose I get just writing an invoice. The freedom to catch up with my emails, rather than eating another mince pie.
And not having time to look at the first page of my novel, again!
Last month, I showed my first three chapters to my writing group. After two hours of critique, I was as grateful as I was exhausted. They were supportive, encouraging, but rigorous and my first page received most of their rigour.
There’s so much it has to do: introduce a setting and two characters from one person’s POV; keep to the ground rules of grammar, and interest someone long enough to make them read on.
Whining won’t get it written, but I don’t think working on it at the moment will help either. Like cooks and elves after Christmas, it needs a rest.
Three hours of undiluted housework. It doesn’t matter how many hugs I give my children, how many times they’ve been in bed within half an hour of their bedtimes, that they start the day with clean school clothes, or that I’ve attended two parents’ evenings in a week, and come up with tech solutions for my son, if the house is in chaos (untidy is a given), I get crosser and crosser with myself, sure under those piles of papers there are permission slips I’ve not returned or incomplete homework sheets.
Work-life balance isn’t the issue. As a mum-freelancer hybrid, life is work and vice versa. I need to find the writing-housework sweet spot where I’m producing as many words and doing as little tidying-up as I can without any Nixon-like guilt.
Today, I have a sofa full of clean washing (albeit none of it in its right place) and clear surfaces in my kitchen. I’m just about to pick my children up from school feeling like Mother Theresa.
It was dark, but this is Bournemouth, in the middle of a subway, under a roundabout:
Is it just me being pretentious, or is there a metaphor here? Even if it is mid-May rather than November.
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.
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.
I can’t articulate my own thoughts this week, much as I try. So, given so much uncertainty in the world, I thought I would post Neil Gaiman’s instead. Always encouraging.
I’ve found this week difficult.
Last week, I created a Scrivener file of ideas for the next month. This was the year when I was going to professionalise my creativity. I was going to find a process. And every day, pitch at least one idea to a magazine.
This week, I suffered pitcher’s cul-de-sac, a variant of writer’s block. Those ideas looked a lot less brilliant in the bleak light of mid-January. I tried to fit them to good magazines, but the most promising angles were going to take far more time to develop. Others had already been covered by the most obvious outlet. One of my stories disintegrated with research. By yesterday, I’d only sent two of the five pitches I’d hoped.
My conclusion? Creativity might respond to regular hours and discipline, but it certainly doesn’t like production targets, even modest ones. It also becomes easily fed up of the same surroundings and inputs. In the end, I took yesterday off, to see people and think about a new sewing project. I started feeling human, and less like a broken machine.
While I was procrastinating on-line, I read a post from the Getting Things Done people about turning your problems into projects and looking for the ‘next action’. This morning, when there was no pressure- it was Saturday and I might have been at parkrun- I knew what I could do. I opened my computer and browsed through potential magazines on the WH Smith website. An hour later, I had plenty of leads to try next week.