I’ve decided to stop pushing myself so hard to get the first draft finished. Although I’m worried that this could be a bit of a creative u-turn.
On one hand, I’ve got a lot going on in my life. I’m a single mother (to an incredibly engergetic and sparky six-year-old boy) and I work full time. I have a house that needs cleaning and decorating along the lines of the Forth Bridge. And then on top of that, I’m writing a novel, trying to keep posting in a blog – not to mention attempting to keep up with my professional development and fit in a little social life.
I’m beginning to think that somewhere along the line, I need to fit in a little bit of relaxing!
So I’ve decided to ease up with the novel and let my batteries re-charge. I’m not going to be giving it up, though – just not punishing myself to get it finished. I don’t think that forcing myself to try to meet deadlines is helping me in my writing. I’m getting bits done, but I’m not enjoying it as much as I should be.
Having said all that, there’s a little voice in the back of my head that’s telling me that I should keep going and not stop. That I’m giving up and I will regret it later.
I’ve read about it – but not really ever experienced it in any meaningfully creative way until yesterday.
I wrote a post about how I find it hard to get into a writing frame of mind. Then I had a look a website that I’d seen earlier on – the Learning Space from the Open University. There are free modules that you can study at your own pace, and I’d seen one that I fancied called ‘Writing what you know’.
And one of the first things I came across in this module was an interview with Andrew Cowan (author of several novels) talking about how he finds it hard to get into writing. He has to ‘circle the nest’ first – that is get all the jobs and distractions out of the way before he can write. He talked about putting his first novel Pig aside for weeks at a time while he did anything but write it.
So I feel better now. I’m not the procrastinating freak that I thought I was. (Or at least not the only one.)
Tried to write tonight, but just couldn’t. My mind felt fuzzy and unfocused – probably something to do with spending a day at work then coming home to an overtired and grouchy Josh. Not really conducive to getting into the right frame of mind for writing.
I don’t suppose the glass of wine in the evening that’s become a habit since my holiday has really helped either…
But I got some more words down, and better luck next time!
Talking about fuzzy brain – I just noticed that I saved my last post as a draft instead of publishing it. Doh!
Like, I want to finish getting the typing done so that I can start writing the next section. It’s a simple plan; what can possibly go wrong?
Well, for a start I got into an argument with Josh before bed – and it was a late bedtime anyway because I’d let him stay up late to finish watching a film. (Yes, that was entirely my own fault.)
Then I had to call my parents about next week’s holiday.
Then I found out that my brother’s feeling down. He’s in the toxic situation of having just split up with his girlfriend while still living in the same house. And, to top it all, she’s already seeing someone else and flaunting it.
No matter how important getting this typing done is to me, making sure my baby brother’s ok is always going to top it. Not sure I made him feel any better, but I’ve offered him my house for the week I’m on holiday if he wants it.
So now, I’ve typed about 50 words, and my eyes are so tired I can hardly see the screen.
It’s a times like this that I think, ‘why didn’t I do the washing up straight after tea instead of leaving it?!’ That’s something to look forward to…
Right: 15 more minutes typing up, then I’ll tackle the washing up.
Just as I’d begun to feel more positive about setting myself targets and focusing on writing for two nights a week, suddenly it seems to be breaking down again. Or maybe that’s just the way life works: as soon as you get over one tough patch another appears just to test you.
So last night, instead of making up for lost time on Monday, I find myself only getting in an hour of writing and again feeling too tired to really do it justice. Josh had had an afternoon sleep (which he did need) so he was very alert well into the night. I’d also promised that we’d read to the end of Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire without realising how long those last chapters were! (After reading the four books in a row, it’s a bit of a relief. I was beginning to write in the style of JK Rowling, which is not something I really want to do.)
And despite my promise to myself to focus only on writing on writing nights, there were still jobs that needed doing: washing to put in the machine, washing up, tidying (which I ignored in the end), sandwiches to make for lunch the next day, watering the plants (why won’t it just rain?! This is England!) and getting everything ready for a quick start in the morning.
So it was 9:30 before I started writing, and 10:40 when I realised that I had to stop so that I could at least get a decent-ish amount of sleep before getting up and starting all over again.
And I ask myself: Is it really worth it? My friends get home from work and spend the evening reading books or watching television. I’m tying myself in knots just trying to get a couple of hours here and there to write a book that may not ever get published. Is there a purpose to what I’m doing? If I want to be busy, why don’t I get the ironing done, or see about finishing off my kitchen (six months since I started to get it done)? You know, practical things that have a tangible result.
But a pile of nicely iron clothes isn’t really that much of an achievement. And would I really want to spend my evening deadening my mind with Eastenders or America’s New Top Model? Does the fact that I have no architrave around the doors in my kitchen really matter?
So maybe I’ll just keep on writing – even if it is just to be bloody-minded and not give in.
How very British of me! As soon as we get a little bit of heat and sun, I begin to long for a bit of cloud and some rain. At least when it was raining I didn’t have to keep watering my garden in the evening.
I didn’t get very much writing done last night. It was too hot, for a start, and a knock-on effect of that was that Josh didn’t want to go to sleep (oh, and we were getting to an exciting part of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). I’ll make up for it later on in the week, though.
I’ve set myself a target for getting a first draft of the whole novel completed by the end of October. It challenging but not undoable if I can just get my act together. I’m now at a word count of 16,000 – which is an achievement of sorts, although it is all about quality not quantity.
Ok – who am I kidding? It’s taken me since January just to get the first few sections done!
I think that it should get easier the more that I write. It’s a question of pacing myself – a bit like running. I need to find a comfortable pace where I can keep adding the right level of detail without trying to sprint through important events just because I’m too excited about getting on to the next bit of the story. Of course, I’ll also have to be careful to not swing the other way and take pages and pages just to describe the simplest of actions. (I’m no James Joyce!)
One good thing – Josh has said that when we finish Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire he wants to have a break from the series. I’m glad because four Harry Potter books straight off was a bit too much for me, and also the books are getting to the point of being a bit too old for him. Not so much in their darkness, but more in the way they focus Harry et al beginning to grow up, which is all over Josh’s head at the moment.
Yesterday’s writing didn’t go so well. I’d decided to edit through the first few sections that I’d written mainly to get everything straight. A lot of the story has changed since I began writing and I wanted to change a few loose ends. For example, Arif started out as Stephen’s son – now they are brothers. Stephen and Geoffrey originally met in the crusades – now they are half-brothers and Stephen is the son of a crusader. I’d also toyed with the idea of making Stephen related to royalty, but that all got too complicated to fit in as a sub-plot.
As I was twisting my way back through all the now-contradictory things I’d written before, I just couldn’t focus. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and sleep – so I gave in after an hour and went to bed.
Where I tossed and turned for what seemed like hours, only to be woken up at 4:00 by the cat!