My Writing Day
Those of you who know me are aware that I am pregnant and have been suffering with it! Not much writing has been done and I am really missing it but today I feel a little brighter and have even managed my first cup of (decaf) coffee in three months.
What has this to do with 'My Writing Day' I hear you ask? Well, everything really because my routine is about to change again. With my son (now two and a half) I had settled into a writing pattern, although it has had to adapt as his habits and behaviour have altered. Now everything is about to shift and I have no idea how it will work. But it got me thinking back over the past few years and I found a piece I had written when Matthew was about eight months old and had not yet started nursery. It has been sitting idly on my computer so I thought that I would share it with you. Reading it back has been interesting - some of the guilt I used to feel regarding the housework has definitely eased!!
My Writing Day
I decided to write this after reading an interview with a well-known celebrity who has just published his debut novel. When asked about his inspiration for the story, he replied along the lines that a whole family just popped into his head one day and took up residence there. They just wouldn't leave him alone.
This was not the first time I'd heard of a plot manifesting in this way. Many authors claim to have experienced an invasion of their psyche such that the experience of writing is, for them, more akin to an exorcism than a craft.
Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
For me, writing involves the briefest flash of an idea or observation which, if not recorded in some medium almost at once, is invariably lost. Sadly, my characters don't come back to haunt me or talk to me in my sleep, therefore much of my time is spent scribbling on scraps of paper or tapping a note on my phone or laptop before the precious moment has passed. Then the hard but enjoyable graft of adding flesh to the bones begins.
In terms of a typical day, I start early; considerably earlier than I did before I had my son.
He is now eight months old and, despite assurances from many an experienced parent that 'it will get easier', the nights and days are still blurring together with exhausting regularity.
But let's assume that my day begins around 6.30 a.m. and that I have had some semblance of sleep. The baby is changed, fed and watered. His bottles are cleaned and sterilized and I wave at some soap and water before pulling on yesterday's clothes.
Thus far I have not even thought about putting pen to paper. The little man then takes his morning nap and I am left wondering where the last two hours have gone. When he wakes, we have a play around and then I load him into his pushchair.
This is generally when the writing part of my brain starts to kick in, although I have learnt from experience to make sure that we leave the house before I allow it to wander too far. That way I am more likely to pack the change bag properly and less likely to be wiping my baby's face with a pair of my knickers that I had mistaken for a dribble cloth. (Husband, if you are reading this, it only happened once....) I then push the pram down the hill towards the village centre.
This is when I can turn over plot problems in my head, think about the latest critiques I have received, perhaps come up with some good first lines for a new project. Meanwhile, baby is happy being bounced around in his pram, the more potholes the merrier it seems, and generally watching the world go by.
It is the next part of my day which is crucial to actually committing words to paper; I have to time our walk so that his eyelids are nice and droopy when we reach the library. It is a disaster if the lights go out too soon, leaving me wasting precious writing time walking around. I have tried writing on the computer at home during nap times but it never quite works out. The first temptation is the television, the second is the housework. If I am at home working at the computer instead of cleaning up, I feel like I am being lazy but for some reason, (perhaps out of sight, out of mind?) there is hardly any guilt if I use the library computer. In fact, I come away feeling proud that I have worked hard.
So thank heavens for my local library. It provides somewhere safe and sociable for me to play with my son whilst introducing him to books, a sanctuary for me to carry out research and, ultimately, to get an hour or so to myself most days whilst he sleeps. Priceless. I just wish I could get a cup of tea, but then they probably don't want me moving in...
All work is saved directly to a cloud space on the internet so that I can pick up at home where I leave off in the library if I am lucky enough to get some additional time in the afternoon or perhaps at a weekend whilst my husband watches the baby.
The walk back up the hill is arduous. Every sinew is tugged and tested, particularly if I have filled the basket underneath the pram with library books and packets of biscuits (well, I need to keep my strength up for all that walking and pushing) so at this time I'm generally only thinking about collapsing onto the sofa with a much needed brew. Not that it ever happens that way; by the time I get home baby needs feeding, changing. You get the idea.
Sometimes, though, I'll mull over the project I have been working on in the library. Perhaps a new character, or a problem with the plot will come to mind and give me an excuse to stop and catch my breath whilst I make a note of it on my phone.
Once we are home, writing is out of the window and out of my head for a few hours, although I will sneak a peek at a writer's blog or website if I get a chance. Smartphones are great for this. I am a recent convert and love the idea that I can access my work, a how-to article or a piece of advice in seconds. It has really made a difference, with time being so precious.
By the time the afternoon nap is upon us, I am usually too tired to think about my writing projects but occasionally we'll go out for a second walk, or perhaps drive to the local supermarket to pick something up for tea. Again, wheeling around the baby in a shopping trolley gives me time to think (it's a good job he doesn't get motion sickness) although this, too, is not without its perils, like forgetting to pay (never a good idea) or locking your baby away with the shopping whilst you go to the café (again, wouldn't generally advise it).
I get a further bite at the cherry when my husband comes home and takes over baby duty for a while but I must confess that I generally use this time to chuck something in the oven and catch a bit of Law & Order (the older the better).
So that, at least for now, is 'my writing day' but I am discovering that children grow up quickly and my son is due to start nursery for two days a week next month. I have mixed feelings about this; I will miss him terribly but I know in my heart it is the right thing for him and I must confess that I am looking forward to having more time to spend writing. In the meantime I am conscious that my days with the little one are precious and that I must take care to enjoy them to their fullest. Whilst I love writing, I would hate to miss out on my son's baby months because my head is always off in a dreamland. I remind myself of this every day.
Anyway, enough; I'd better sign out. The little man is starting to stir signalling that it is nearly time for our hike back up the hill. Besides, it seems I've forgotten his bottle and I think I might have my t-shirt on back to front... Darn.
4/9/2015 07:56:48 pm
Know the feeling well ... especially the first few months of pregnancy ...in awe that you could write while having a little one ... I must admit I had to outsource my childcare so I could write. So I salute you! Amna
4/9/2015 10:57:02 pm
Love this piece, Bernadette!
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I love most types of fiction - crime, mystery, fantasy. Oh, and historical fiction of course and middle-grade books and, well, you get the picture.
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