It’s Bournemouth, UK. We have a couple of millimetres of snow and the primary and senior schools have shut. Plus point: I don’t have to get out of bed yet. Negative: I’m going to have to take my two youngest to my hairdressing appointment.
I’m not sleeping well; I am too excited about Saturday. My writing mate Rachel and I are going up to London for the Writer’s Workshop ‘Getting Published’ Day.
There’s the going up to the Capital thing- on a train- without children. That would be quite thrilling enough for two mums usually sandwiched between school runs. But we’re going to meet with other people like us — obsessed by their novels and worried they’re delusional. And receive face-to-face objective advice on our work. And that’s before the seminars and insider tips.
I must be growing a thicker hide, looking forward to the critique. But the book doctor I’ve been assigned has an excellent reputation, for kindness as well as helpful comments. And our appointment is early on in the day. By 10 o’clock, I’ll know what she thinks is working and what is not. I can then enjoy the rest of the event.
As a bonus, I’ve discovered I’ve been selected for ‘Slushpile Live’. In my case, I read my synopsis aloud in front of an industry panel and listen to their reactions with the rest of the audience. I practised it last night in front of my husband, (along with listening graciously to criticism.) I’ll try to remember it’s only a synopsis. These things can be reworked much more easily than 80,000 words of a novel.
And if they don’t jump up and down demanding to see my full manuscript, I’m hoping they’ll like my hair.
I don’t remember learning much at primary school other than reading, writing and how a mung bean grows. Today, my seven-year-old started up a conversation about the trials of finding a publisher. He’d been given JK Rowling’s struggle as an example. I was in my thirties before anyone told me this stuff.
After a hiatus, I’ve turned back to editing my second novel. It’s rough of course, but to my surprise, readable, at least up to page 60. One scene follows on from the next. Unlike my first novel at this stage, there are no scenes just there for the word count.
This time, I’m using third-person with its pitfalls and opportunities. Telling the same tale from different points of view is a lot of fun. But I miss my old narrator. Like any relationship, it took time to get to know her.
I’ve received word of a commission from a new client – a magazine I’ve wanted to work for, for some time. So I’m pleased if a little bogged down in new contributor paperwork.
I don’t understand the choices my computer keeps offering me. The more updates it has, the slower it gets. Surely, they should improve its performance? I still miss being in halls of residence with people who knew about this stuff and importantly, would help me for free.
We started watching Motherland last night on BBC iPlayer. Everything resonated- the spurious temporary traffic lights on the school run; the child throwing up seconds before other children arrive for a party; the phone call about a child’s forgotten swimming things (parent to teacher on phone- “Just a question- did you try my husband?”and eventually,”You and I both know he’s going to end up sitting at the side!”); envying other women with parents round the corner, ever-present husbands and childcare sewn up for all but one Thursday afternoon a month, and so on and so on. (Husband to wife over phone: “remember when you drop one of those balls I’ll be here to pick it up and hand it to you so you can keep juggling!”)
Apologies to the BBC for the paraphrasing, but you have commissioned something brilliant. I wish I’d written it.
Fantasy: (while having perfectly balanced and secure children) to be part of a comedy team that develops fabulous characters and nails a section of life like that.
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.
Well, hello again! Remember me? Yes, I know it’s been a while.
I knew summer was coming, as it did last year and the years before that, so why didn’t I prepare meal rotas, online deliveries and continuous activities in advance? Why, when I had the time, did I prioritise reading reports, and getting to end-of-term concerts and plays?
But in Norfolk last week, while the skies were often blue, the air was cool. Overnight, the edges of the tree in front of our window turned ocre. Autumn’s coming with its promise that this year I’ll perfect the after-school routine. The children will develop self-discipline and consistent consideration for each other. And I’ll make that courgette cake I’ve been thinking about for the last eleven years. Perhaps by next summer, my home will be so ordered and beautiful, other people will ask to come and write there.
And the laws of procrastination mean it’s been so easy to work on my novel. It has been a joyful escape rather than a discipline, partly because my fictional world is much better organised than my real one. My characters’ lives might be a mess, but they manage to keep their couches free of washing.
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.
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.