Claire King

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The Order of Things

Posted on: January 21st, 2014 by Claire - 18 Comments

As I write this blog post I have the head of a very fluey eight year-old on my lap. She hasn’t wanted to do anything for days – not read, not go out and do this:

Feeling full of energy

 

…not sit on the sofa and watch TV even. Nothing except sleep and be hugged. It reminds me in many ways of when she was very new indeed. We spent hours each day attached to each other, while she fed or dozed or did both. Sometimes, when I’d had all the endorphins going I would use the quiet time to type one handedly and write stories.

It is, of course, lovely to just sit and cuddle your child. Unfortunately there are usually other demands on your time – supper to be cooked, bills to be paid, laundry to hang out, another child to help with their homework… And if, like me, you work from home, then there is also work to be done, and in my case also a book to be edited.

For the last few months I’ve been getting more and more wound up about finishing my new novel (the nth draft – the one I am happy to show my agent and publisher – for more on this dilemma see Emma Darwin’s post here). Partly because it is taking so much longer this time around, partly because I have an exciting new one I want to crack on with, partly because it would be nice to answer this question, which people ask me a lot:

“How’s your new book coming on?”

“I finished it!”

And mostly because recently life has conspired to make writing time even thinner on the ground. Sometimes it just does. And unfortunately there is an Order of Things. Work demands have to be dealt with. When the roof leaks a fix has to be found, and builders have to be chased up and eventually sued (long story). Children have to be taken to school and extra-curricular activities. Christmas must be laid on, or delivered elsewhere in suitcases.

Writing, even though it is absolutely a priority for me, gets pushed and pushed by these other things. And there is only so far you can push it until it tips off the edge of today and into ‘Tomorrow’. My ‘Tomorrow’ sometimes seems to be like the universe –  constantly expanding, with galaxies of edits accelerating inexorably away from me and my very limited gravity.

This week was to be the first of a delicious looking block of three weeks following the Christmas holidays when I could finally be home with nothing (it’s all relative) to do except Finish The Book. Instead, I am being Mummy to a sick and miserable little girl.

“But if you are writing now, why are you writing a blog post when you could be editing?” I hear (some of you) cry. I know! But one thing I have learnt about myself this last year is that whilst I find it relatively easy to use the gaps in between all these demands to write a first draft, I’ve found that I can’t edit properly when I don’t have long uninterrupted stretches of time. I can’t get my head around the whole novel when time is thinly sliced. Cue a blog post on this in the future when it’s all done and dusted.

So, I was feeling frustrated this morning, I’ll admit. Then my publicist sent over a scan of an interview that I did last year, which was published in this month’s Writers Forum magazine. One of the questions was why we moved here, to France. It was nice to be reminded (by myself) that we wanted to create time to have children and be parents, as well as time to write.

We wanted to be there with – and for – our children as they grow up, to ensure there was always one of us at home with them. I feel strongly about that. I remember vividly the way my own mother cared for me when I was sick as a child. No matter how busy she was, or how sick herself, she made time to sit with me and did as much as possible to make me more comfortable. There’s nothing better than being looked after by someone who loves you when you’re feeling sick and miserable, is there? When you’re eight there’s nothing more important than that.

So I am glad today, for being reminded of the Order of Things. And fingers crossed, assuming I don’t catch the flu next, the next blog post will be an excited one.

 

18 Responses

  1. Oh the juggling acts we have to do. Then the times we have to come down off the high wire and just be. Im sending both of you a hug. (remotely, so I don’t catch the flu!). Get well soon small person. Get back to normality soon, bigger person.

    • Claire says:

      Oh thank you, Vanessa! We are doing our best to keep the flu self contained. It’s the upside of not being able to offer a slice of cake over the ether…at least we can’t spread our germs either :)

  2. Annecdotist says:

    A lovely post, Claire. I think we can get so caught up in the importance of fighting to make space for our writing, we can forget that other things in life are equally or more important. Really neat that you should be reminded of this by yourself in a magazine article!
    While we’re eager for your next novel, I’m sure we can hang on till it’s ready

  3. Claire says:

    Thank you, Anne! And very kind of you to say you’re eager for the next one :)

  4. Hi Claire! This is such a lovely blog post and I thank you for sharing it. I chuckled as I read it – yesterday, and reading it again now, I have my brand new two-month-old baby dozing in my lap and so I can relate to the whole “when she was quite new indeed…” thing.

    It feels good to reaffirm the importance of The Order of Things. Babies and kids first, no matter what! Sometimes I get lost in the spin of washing, cleaning, bills and banking, and my writing gets pushed further and further away (like your expanding universe). Baby needs fed and changed and doesn’t care that I am trying to edit a draft of my latest book. I was just feeling like I’ve failed as a writer because I can’t get to it as often as I would like nowadays -and then I read your post and I feel so much better.

    Someday I might have my own little girl’s fluey head in my lap, years from now. And like you’ve said, that is perfectly okay.

    May you get some writing time, but for now, well done for gracefully accepting your erratic schedule. Moms unite!

    -Veronica x

  5. Claire says:

    Dear Veronica,
    Sorry for the delay in response, I read it and then my site was taken down by naughty hackers!
    I am so thrilled by your baby news, and I’m sure there are lots of parent/writers who will relate to that feeling of failing to keep up even an hour a day because life has just got in the way. I remember quite how overwhelming the feeling is of suddenly having no control over your time at all. But something else important is happening, and you don’t want to miss it. There’ll be time for writing later. :)
    By the way, my not so little one is now fully back up to warp-speed, and I am cracking on with my edits like a champ. So as they get older at least these things are more short lived!
    xxx

  6. A lovely post, Claire. Life – it is what it is – and everything passes. This time with your children is so precious. You’re right to cherish every moment that you are able to be with them.

  7. Claire says:

    Thank you, Anne! xx

  8. Katie Fforde says:

    I find it harder and harder to get writing time too. And if I know I’m going to have to stop early I just can’t start. But you are doing it right! xxx

  9. D.J. Kirkby says:

    Beautiful post….I hope your daughter is feeling better soon, and that you get to say ‘I’m finished’ soon too. x

    • Claire says:

      Thank you, Denyse. She’s all better now, and seems to have come out of the other side of her flu even more affectionate than usual, which is lovely! 2 weeks left to write then (touch wood)…

  10. […] most recent post is about finding time for writing amongst all the other things that pull on our time.  It really […]

  11. Jacky Taylor says:

    So glad to hear your little one is better, it’s been a rotten season for fluey things – we’ve had it too. Book will be finished, (and brilliant I’m sure), next one will be started, (one of the fun parts).

    The gobbling up of time is hard to manage sometimes. My daughters are grown up now, but the eldest frequently calls me on the way to work, between meetings etc., youngest is still at home. Often I’m in the middle of a piece, the words coming when the phone goes off. I could put the answerphone on, but I know she just needs to talk with her mum, to be part of my day and me to be part of hers. It can take awhile to get back into my writing, but I think it’s rather wonderful that we can share time this way and I wouldn’t want to change it. Whatever age they are, they are our children and that in itself is rather fabulous.

    • Claire says:

      Thanks Jacky, I hope you are all feeling better too.
      In a way it’s lovely to know that the demands of children don’t go away even when they’ve grown up. As challenging as it is, wouldn’t life seem emptier without them?
      You’re spot on about the next book, as crazy as this one is making me, my treat for when I have finished it is to be able to start the new one!

  12. gill edwards says:

    Why is it that life always gets in the way of our fun times. I know what you mean about being looked after by your mum though, its a special thing and i have done that for my son. Still do and he’s 21 now. Me time is often better for being rationed though.
    Gill x

  13. […] most recent post is about finding time for writing amongst all the other things that pull on our time.  It really […]

  14. […] only 9 blog posts in 2014 and only one of them was about writing or editing, the one from January, The Order of Things and even then it was a post about not actually being able to write because, well, life. But even […]

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