Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Part timer

My life is made up of part time roles; part time mother, part time worker and part time writer (my husband might point out part time wife, sadly all too true, even more of a part time housewife as the thick dust in my house testifies all too well.). I'm a rubbish sister, a distant friend and a busy daughter. Going out is a vague memory and every card is sent late, if at all.
The problem with doing everything part time is that I never feel like I get do any of it really well. I don't stay late at work, leaping out the door the second the clock strikes three (metaphorically of course, I use the computer to tell the time). I have never been to some of our most iconic sites because there isn't time for me to get there and back, if I do have to work late I need a lot of notice - and collect my lieu time religiously not because I begrudge the the time but because I just can't spare it. This explains why I earn less at nearly forty than I did at thirty and have slid so far down the career pole there's no heaving my soon-to-be-middle-aged carcass back up it.
Because I work part time I manage, just, to be around for my 8yo in term time. I drop her off and pick her up from school, remind her to practice her violin no matter the personal pain, go over spellings and times tables and ferry her to a truly staggering amount of activities whilst managing to forcefeed her fruit and veg. There's always more though; her school seems to demand a lot of parent time for sports days, assemblies, concerts, to accompany trips, to read, to run fetes, make flapjacks. I have never once made flapjacks. We rarely stay at the park after school because I need to get back, play dates are few and far between despite my vow to have an open house for her friends. I seem to spend a lot of time promising 'later' but later never materialises.
As for writing. Every spare moment is poured into it to the detriment of pretty much everything else. I make it to the hairdressers twice a year tops because I begrudge using my vital free time for anything but writing. I want to get into a healthy exercise routine but just don't know where to find the time; my latest idea is to get a cross trainer for the house so I can combine reading with exercising. A true multi tasker. And yet progress is painfully slow. Of course the old procrastination is partly to blame for that,
What I need is one of the time turn-back things Hermione uses in the Prisoner of Azkaban, or to be like the Lawrence Block hero who, thanks to a conveniently place bullet, never sleeps. He uses his extra 8 hours a day to learn languages, read great works of literature, sleep with many women and assassinate people. I would use mine to write for four hours a day, exercise, read and to bake flapjacks whenever they were required. I might finally get round to watching Battlestar Galatica and learning to sew on 8yo's Cub badges too.
And just think, with eight extra hours a day how much more procrastinating I could do.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Lack of focus

On Tuesday the sun came out. I live in Yorkshire so this is a rare, rare thing. A thing to be savoured and enjoyed. Appreciated. Of course it's hard to get the right balance between absorbing enough Vitamin D to stave off rickets for another year and not burning to a crisp within ten minutes like the old fashioned, non sparkly type of vampire (as Dracula knew when he popped into Whitby for some gothic jet jewellery and a portion of chips he was quite, quite safe in the famous Yorkshire coast sea fret). Unfortunately for me the second sunglasses became a necessity and not an eighties fashion statement my eye turned into something from a Halloween novelty counter.

Light hurt, I couldn't focus, read, look at a computer screen. I was in my own personal hell - and that was before I joined the three hour wait at the eye hospital for five minutes with a surly specialist and a prescription (I still don't know what's wrong; one doctor said torn cornea, another ulcer on my eye which may be the same thing, the third said infection. None looked like they cared although one lectured me on swimming in contact lenses which apparently is a Bad Thing. No matter that I a. hadn't been swimming and b. can't see without them which is, amazingly, why I wear them, Still, despite Lansley's best endeavours the NHS is still free so all it cost me was my suddenly disposable time.).
I couldn't go to work, I couldn't enjoy the sun, I couldn't write, I couldn't - brace yourselves - while away the day on Twitter. I suddenly had all this time and none of my usual time filling activities were available to me. Turns out I am very dependent on my fragile, useless, shortsighted eyes to keep me entertained.

It's been one of those months when life seems to be conspiring against me just as I attempt to start my revisions on Summer Fling. A week or so panicking, a false start and then, just as I was ready to go, a severe lack of time. And then an eye infection. And of course the longer I leave it the more doubts I have about my ability, whether I am totally kidding myself thinking I can do this. It doesn't help that I am waiting for my NWS report on Minty, the first chapter of which  entered into the Harlequin Fast Track. We were supposed to have heard back by the 18th May. Ten days later I am still waiting... I like to think they haven't finished laughing at it in the M&B staff room yet.

Paranoia aside at some point you have to pick up and carry on. I still don't have the use of my eye but at least it has returned to normal size, shape and colour. I am back at work, back online in limited periods, reading a bit. Writing? Not yet but 8yo has play dates half of this week and the good old Yorkshire weather is meant to be reverting to its usual sullen coolness so there's only (Only!) the French Open to distract me. Athough I found out today that 8yo has a day off on Friday and I have to return to the Eye Hospital for another fun two hour wait so getting back into routine is going to have wait a few more days.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Five P's

Long ago when I worked in Marketing you had to know all about the four P's - product, place, people and price (I think). Turn's out writing goes one better - there aren't just four P's there are five.

Panic, procrastination, process, planning and plotting

‘Have you got a plan’ one of CP’s asked me sternly yesterday? (I assume she was being stern, it was on Twitter so conveyed in 140 typewritten characters. It felt stern though). ‘You need a concrete plan of what you are going to do before you start.’

She’s right. That is the sensible way to approach things. And I have a got a plan, sort of. I have summarised, into one terrible, stream of consciousness paragraph, the current plot of Summer Fling. Then I have added my R&R email, highlighting in red all the changes I need to make.

There is a LOT of red.

Then I have done a second, terrible, stream of consciousness summary paragraph of the plot incorporating the changes. Because there were things they liked so I don’t need to change everything, just the beginning, middle and end.


And on Monday I started to revise. They want a change to the event at the end of the first chapter. Technically I could just change that bit but then I’m not sure where that chapter leads, rather a problem for any chapter but especially a first chapter. So a new starting place was needed. My plan (see, I told you I had one, only not concrete, more shifting sands) was to make the plot changes first and then edit properly so I wasn’t too constrained by style.
Only it just wasn’t flowing.

Last night 8yo was out at a friend’s house so I had four hours to write. Four Hours. I swept the floor, hung out laundry, read a craft book, phoned my mother, had a bath, ran 8yo’s bath. Do you know what I didn’t do? That’s right. Write. I couldn’t face it. I didn’t like the new beginning, it felt wrong. Maybe, I thought, I should look at the end of that R&R email when they say if I prefer I could send in a new project. A new, shiny project. That would be fun.
No said my CP. Sternly.

And of course I felt guilty, for not writing, for not seizing this chance.

Thing is I always do this with any big project, work or writing. Every time. I sweat the small things first, play around on social media, answer the unimportant emails, tidy files, make cups of tea, bake cakes. Blog.

And panic. Feel guilty I’m not getting on with it. Worry. Start and stop.
Then a break through. A what if? How about it starts like this? Why don’t you try this?
This is obviously my painful creative process.

I procrastinate a lot, I panic about procrastinating but carry on, only feeling guilty and miserable while I do it. Only, the whole time my brain is slowly, painfully processing the project. I find myself planning, plotting. Slowly, very slowly, I get a glimmer of hope.
And then I get to work.
This is my process. It’s a rubbish one but there it is. I should recognise the signs by now. Which means, in theory, I should be able to embrace the procrastination and stop the panic, make peace the fifth P.

Never going to happen!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Source of inspiration

If you had to compile a list of my (numerous) virtues patience, sadly, wouldn't be on top of the list. It wouldn't be in the top ten, the top half, it wouldn't even make the list if you managed to find over one hundred good personality traits. No, I really am not a patient type. Which makes this whole aspiring writer business extra frustrating 'cause there is a lot of waiting around. *deep breath*

Right now I am waiting on the fast track first chapter and the NWS mss - coincidentally (or not really) the same book. I submitted to the fast track 25 days ago, the NWS mss was posted just a week ago. Last year I was spoiled with a really fast reading and an email within 5 days to tell me it was going for a second opinion. As history hasn't repeated itself OBVIOUSLY the book is deeply flawed (does being a big attention seeking drama queen count as a virtue?).

What I should be doing with this waiting time is beginning Big Edit 2 (I hashtagged that then realised my mistake. Twitter addict? Moi?) otherwise known as My First R&R. *panics* Tomorrow I need to sit down and slowly, carefully, with full attention, read the R&R email properly. Make notes. Plan out the changes I need to make. Make them. Sounds easy doesn't it? *panics more*

Summer Fling is set in Cornwall, the first scene (at the moment at least) taking place in the garden of a small bungalow overlooking the sea. Last week I was given a painting that used to hang in my grandparents' house, a picture of their Welsh cottage. Even when I was the only child with divorced parents in my school, unable to afford school uniform, humiliatingly on (inedible) free school meals, I knew I was richer than all my classmates because every Easter, Whit week, summer I went to Nefyn, to climb mountains, scramble up cliffs, rock pool. roam free on the beach. It's the most special place in the world. Sadly, many landslips later, the bungalow is no more and I don't know if I can bear to visit Nefyn ever again.

Looking at the picture, newly hung on the chimney breast, I realised I had recreated our bungalow, View Point, in my story. Not faithfully, there was no terrace, no herb pots and, by the end, no fence - which made taking a small toddler there a lively experience I can tell you. The inside was smaller and pretty basic not the cosy home of my book. Nefyn is in North Wales, not Cornwall.  But the house I saw in my mind's eye as I wrote that first scene was the house I loved so much. And until we hung that picture I had no idea.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

My perfect writing day

Today was a normal day. A rushed, stressed, busy day. Up, late as usual, rush through shower, try to do something with unmanageable hair, breakfast, row with 8yo over time wasting, rush to school laden with swim bag (her), lunch (both of us), bags (both). Drop 8yo off at school, go to work. Work. Leave, post office to drop off NWS manuscript (eek), pick up 8yo. Home laden with wet swim stuff and violin. Mother for tea. Cook, rubbish out, bathe and wash 8yo's hair. Row with 8yo over saying no to TV and pudding. Read to her, put her to bed.

No writing today as I am having a week's reading break between sending off Minty to the NWS and tackling revisions on Summer Fling. But if I was writing then in that day, somehow, I would have to write 1000 words.

When I walk to work, when I'm not plotting, I slip into a fantasy world. Sometimes this is a serious consideration of how I'd spend a lottery win. In my fantasy world I am very generous to friends, family and charities and then spend an obscene amount of time furnishing my dream house. Once I've wasted more time deciding between town, coast and country. Or all three. Or a second home in Italy or Austria.

Other times I daydream that I am a full time writer.

My full time writer self isn't stressed. No grooming time required, she dresses in running gear because ftw me drops 8yo off at school and goes straight for a 5k run. Every morning. ftw me is very fit. She is accompanied by the family dog, a mythical but much longed for animal who mostly resembles a daschund but occasionally is a red setter.

Home (jogged of course). Shower, casually but comfortably chic clothes and writing. All day. No wandering into the kitchen staring desperately into cupboards hoping chocolate magically appears but disciplined writing, snacking on fruit and nuts.

Pick up 8yo, dog in tow. Activities and well planned evening meal. More writing before glass of wine (just the one) and a good book..

Okay ftw me is a little bit dull. We all know the truth would involve more tweeting less jogging, more snacking less planning. The dog would be nice though.

Who knows if it will ever happen but one thing's for sure. If I don't keep writing, keep submitting it's definitely not a possibility. So scary as entering the fast track is, as waiting for my NWS report is, as hard as it is to find time to write, I have to keep going.

Or win the lottery.