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:
…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.