Friday, 30 March 2012

Excuses or fate?

Despite Mr Gove and the Toadmeister's love of Latin there are few advantages to having a Classical education. I have a GCSE A-level AND a degree in the subject and let me tell you, outside of successfully answering the occasional quiz question and guessing what was going to happen in Percy Jackson before it was spelt out, knowing which is the only Greek tragedy we have three alternate versions of (Electra - we still have text by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides) and whether or not there were horses at Marathon (nobody knows but scholars get REALLY worked up on the subject) hasn't done me an awful lot of good *stares gloomily at bank account*. But one thing I do understand all too well is hubris.

Hubris is often thought of as pride or arrogance. It's more than that. Hubris is a mixture of smugness, resting on laurels, pride-going-before-a-fall, self righteousness - mixed with overwhelming arrogance and pride. Oedipus was a little too self-satisfied with his life before it all came crashing down with the realisation he had killed his father and married his mother (look, coincidence happens. I have, incidentally, written three essays in my life exploring whether Oedipus' downfall was due to fate or his own actions. I have no idea what conclusion I came to but believe me, hubris was involved and probably evoked many times in said essays).

So what was I thinking when I, smugly, with wrongful pride and arrogance blogged about my new, amazing, life changing 1000 words a day writing habit? Obviously at that moment Zeus, who let's face it has little else to do now he can no longer go round dressed as a swan to ravish maidens, shouted 'Guilty, hubris!' and made sure that I would now have to come amongst you and, with bowed head and repentant tears, admit I have only managed 2000 words in two weeks. I should, right now,be relaxing, feet up in the sun, enjoying a reading break before the Big Edit. No. I am staring at my keyboard wondering where it all went wrong and knowing I have 7000 words to go. Sure there are excuses, reasons, obstacles - all perfectly good and valid, apart from the day I wasted with a hangover (thanks, Dionysus) - but the main reason is that obviously, the gods were against me. Honestly.
*goes off to sacrifice a goat*
*not really, I am vegetarian*.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Loving my WIP

Turns out blogging is a bit of a displacement activity. Who knew? Well, most of us to be honest but it's easy to justify as self-promotion (promoting what? I'm not published yet!), education and knowledge sharing (hmmm, I'll get back to you when I know what I'm doing but don't hold your breath), entertainment (not quite that arrogant), venting (guilty), writing warm up (some justification tbh) and using as a diary (guilty again). But yes, it's mainly yet another way to procrastinate although, with a Twitter habit like mine you wouldn't have thought I needed to find any new ways to waste my valuable writing time.

And then suddenly I don't have time to blog.

I haven't been away, I haven't been any busier than usual (impossible without discovering time travel or how to survive without sleep), in fact I've been ill this week, spending a couple of weepy, pathetic days in bed reacquainting myself with Marian Chesney's six sisters series. But I haven't had time to blog because I've been writing.

I know, crazy!

Partly it's the success of my positive Lent plan, not to give things up but to do something instead, namely to write 1000 words a day. I have faithfully stuck to this, told you I was deadline orientated!And blogging doesn't count, it has to be 1000 words on my WIP. I am writing every day, if not in the same time and at the same place, just like some bloke called Stephen King advises - apparently he knows what he's talking about. But partly it's because something amazing has happened...

I love my WIP. I love my characters.I love the setting especially as I have just set a chapter in Florence, one of my favourite cities and my very own honeymoon destination. I don't love the plot but we can't have everything and I have the first, second and line edit to go so that's eminently fixable (if I can come up with anything new, I sense a panicked discussion with my CPS will be in order). I am loving writing this book. I would rather write it than blog. The tragedy is it's taken me months to get to this stage and now I only have one and a half chapters, 7000 words to go. Why couldn't I have found this love and enthusiasm earlier?

Still, looking on the bright side I still have the first, second and line edits to go. This WIP has a lot of work in it yet.

And I'm sure I need to google a lot more pictures of Florence before I'm through.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A room of my own - finally!

I may have shared before my love of libraries. Other people have dream kitchens, or bathrooms or gardens. Games rooms or home cinemas. I dream of a home library. Nothing fancy (okay, in my wildest dreams they are fancy, with galleries and those little steps on wheels) but I would be happy with a big square room with floor to ceiling shelves, maybe a cosy loveseat before a fire, a desk and many, many books filling those floor to ceiling shelves.

Instead I live in a small terraced house, open plan downstairs, two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and a small attic room. It's cosy, it's a family home, there are shelves, books in every single room, yep even the bathroom. What there isn't, is any private space.

It has become a bit of a cliché that a woman needs a Room of Her Own in order to be creative. Shared space is apparently as draining to a writer's productivity as a pram in the hallway (writers as diverse as JG Ballard and Maisey Yates would dispute the latter). I have got pretty good at writing with all kinds of noise and distraction going on. Episodes of I-Carly, children running in and out, next door's kids banging on the piano. Maybe not through the last one, I'm not superhuman.

Things came to a head on Sunday. The rain was biblical, we considered building an Ark. My husband had offered to take the daughter out to give me space to write but looking out at the sheets of rain it was clear that wasn't going to happen. At least I considered pretending I thought it was a good idea but I'm a writer not a monster, most of the time anyway. So, I could try to write with family life going on around me, or I could curl up in bed get some peace and quiet whilst destroying my back. Decisions, decisions.

Or... the attic. Too dark for a study, so stuffed with books, camping gear there was no room for  desk. But it would make a cute girl's room. To think was to do. Well, to think meant seven hours of taking things apart, taking about 200 books downstairs, another 200 up, putting beds back together, carrying armfuls of cuddly toys up the stairs. But, finally, the daughter has an attic bedroom and her old room is now a guest room, full of books, the camping gear stored under the bed and a desk. My desk. With a monitor and a keyboard I can plug my netbook into.

It's small, it's not fancy, there's a tent in the corner, the complete works of Agatha Christie and a double bed (useful if I need to close my eyes to think). But it's mine. It's a room of my own. And it's perfect.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

World Book Day tyranny

1 March - World Book Day. The bane of parents all over the UK. There are no worse words in the English language for a busy working parent than ‘Mummy, I need a costume…’ and somehow, at some point over the last few years, it seems to have become enshrined in law that all primary aged children have to dress up as their favourite (or, at least a) literary character on World Book Day. Cue many generic pirates, cowboys, witches and princesses as desperate parents raid the dressing up box.

Some already have suitable outfits and turn up as Alice or Dorothy, Harry, Ron or Hermione regardless of whether they are their favourite character or, indeed, if they have even read the book. Others have parents who can do, who can see a piece of fabric and imagine it looking like something else, who can even thread a needle.  Or at least they are willing to give it a go. That is not me. The daughter is limited to something we can cobble together easily that costs nothing. Luckily for the last couple of years she has wanted her usual costume – World Book Day, Halloween, general dress up, whatever the occasion she is a cat. Four years ago she named our black kitten Sootica, after Gobbolino’s witch’s cat sister, and has dressed up as Sootica ever since – albeit with vampire fangs last Halloween, just because. Even at a James Bond themed party she turned up as Blofeld’s cat.

Not this year… last year one of her friend’s made a big splash as Pippi Longstocking (her mother makes costumes. For a living.) and for the first time daughter wanted more. The flimsy supermarket cat costume, gaudily edged in neon pink is not enough. She looked at me expectantly. My heart sank. I want to be a good mother; we bake, I help with spellings, I read to her, I take her to a lot of activities, we cuddle, we laugh, we cuddle some more. I let her stay up for Call the Midwife (Mummy, in those days babies came out the hard way. Oh baby, they still do…) but I don’t sew.

Inspiration struck! I am reading her Noel Streatfield. I love those books, have read them so many times and now I am sharing them with her. Starting out with the Fossil books we have done Ballet Shoes, are halfway through Curtain Up (Theatre Shoes in the US) and have the Painted Garden ready to move seamlessy onto(Movie Shoes). Could she, she suggested go as Pauline.  Hmm, I said. Pauline, the oldest Fossil. Beautiful, talented Pauline who gives up the stage for Hollywood to pay for Posy’s ballet training. How could we convey that in an outfit. Unless… unless we didn’t go for Pauline, we go for Petrova.

Petrova. The middle sister. Reluctant actress, bored dancer, well-rehearsed Mustard Seed and Mytyl trying desperately to get the right inflection on ‘And I’ whilst dreaming of engines and aeroplanes. It’s original, it’s a book she loves and it’s an easy costume. Old clothes covered in smears of black paint. A few spanners round her waist and, of course, ballet shoes on her feet. She’s happy, I’m happy and World Book day disaster has been averted for another year.

Of course, as I am working I can't attend the parade. Another working Mummy fail.