Back to the real world

It’s a source of great frustration – and yet it is but life – that almost as soon as I get into a project I have to down tools and return to the real world.

I have knocked out some 15,000 words of a new novel, balancing that with reworking Our Kind of Bastard, but now I am sidetracked – or maybe main-lined – by two things. One is an urgent proofreading job: hopefully this will not delay me too long. The other is a return to what we laughingly call normality.

Since Christmas I have been off work – or, rather, I’ve been working from home – due to the general state of the world and my particular vulnerability to it. I had a routine: Monday, Tuesday and Friday, when the Smolrus is at nursery, I would spend all day working, both day-job and writing/editing stuff intertwined, whilst carving maybe a little time on other days as circumstances allowed.

Now my confinement is over and I am returning to front-line regular-houred employment. This is how it goes: there is nothing special about my situation. And yet I am going to have to begin again; I must relearn how to squeeze in regular writing time.

I am a very lucky person in so many ways. I have all boons in life and have always found time to write. The fact that I am tremulous about returning to outside-work is nothing compared to the trials that many go through to get time for themselves.

And it’s not like I’ve not had big changes to undergo before. I started writing this blog nearly eight years ago (tempus fugit and all that) and in that time I’ve had five jobs, all with different working hours, and three houses in different parts of the country. Oh, and one child. One could almost say that change is normal, were that not an insult to the people who’ve had real changes in their life.

But personally I am about to go through a big shift that I can only see as negatively affecting my writing. And I am afeared, because writing is important to me, as is my second job as an editor, and I still have parenting to do, and quality time to spend with my partner, and time to kick back and chill, and I must balance these things.

You know. Like we all have to do every day.

Because what is life but a series of temporary measures?

Lyra

By the time you read this my carefree childhood days will be a thing of the past. Adulthood will have taken a good, hard look at me, scowled and kicked sand in my face before leading me off into the great sunset that is Responsibility. Because of this:

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Lyra Sibella Keynton Triggs. Despite appearances, she is not The Pope. Yet.

You can’t say the hints weren’t there: all the talk of ‘taking six months off work’; of ‘becoming an adult’; of my life changing. Something’s been a-brewing but I’ve not wanted to talk about it directly – partly for fear of jinxation, partly because I’ve maybe possibly been in denial, but mostly because that’s not what this blog’s about.

They say that everyone’s allowed one parenthood post. They can have one opportunity to gush; one chance to say how their kid is the best – better, even, than all the other ‘best’ kids out there. Well this isn’t it. This blog’s to talk about writing. Thing is…

Thing is, how can you talk about writing when you don’t know what shape your life will take for the next year?

Lifestyle affects writing. It’s obvious and it’s true. You can’t sleepwalk your way through a novel: you can’t (yet) download your thoughts directly onto paper or video your dreams. You need time, you need a certain degree of consciousness, you need routine, focus and direction. A wee bub challenges all these things.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible to write a novel with a small child in proximity. I’ve read a good handful of interviews where the starting point for the novelist was the sleeptime of the child. I had a Twitter exchange with Aliette de Bodard where we jokingly mooted writing an article on the problem/opportunity of writing with a smallrus in tow.

I know nothing of this yet. That it will affect me and my writing is not in doubt: the question is whether it will prove boon or bust.

In the short-term all I ask is that you be gentle with me. I don’t know what’s going to change. Maybe this blog will become more erratic. Please understand that I’m not abandoning you, that I’m still out here, across the cyberverse, doing my damnedest to produce wonderful words and wilful witticisms.

But Lyra comes first. And the wife. And sleep. After that – well, after that we’ll have to see.

Something in the way

The planning continues. The grey matter is stretched, twanging like elastic until one breaks and the mind is catapulted back to its starting point. The work is endless, relentless. And I’ve also got a novel to rewrite.

See, I’m getting married in six weeks, and this has caused some degree of disruption to my habitually disorganised routine. Arranging music, guests and the bar – that last a not insignificant concern – I expected. I did not, however, expect to be taken out for a grey-skied stroll with my intended so that the photographer could get some ‘lifestyle shots’ pre-wedding. To be honest I wasn’t even aware that I had a lifestyle, let alone that it was worth recording.

And then in September I start a new job. This will increase my working hours by a third. Great for the old bank balance. Not so good for writing.

That’s life. That’s (apparently) what people say. Everybody out there who’s struggling to make it as a writer has commitments; family, friends, work – all are more ‘important’ than your unproductive scribblings. It’s not likely you’ll be able to earn enough through writing fiction to leave the cubicle (or desk, or van – whatever) behind. Picture it for a moment: twenty years on, still in exactly the same position. Maybe with a bit of a reputation behind you, a string of moderately successful publications to your name – and yet you’re still doing the same old job because you don’t want the distraction of a career.

This is where you need to grit your teeth and get your determination on. To reassure yourself that you’re writing because you want to, not for the material benefits. This is where I need to knuckle down and work out a new routine. Strategies have to change. I read a lot of interviews with authors that get up an hour earlier than they need to get some writing done. Is this a viable option for me? Or will my finely-honed laziness-skills thwart such a plan? Will the long-threatened purchase of a laptop incite me to work through breaks and lunchtimes?

Something will work. Something will have to work. I’ve barely begun this writing thing; seven years? That’s nothing. This is a lifelong commitment and this is just another stretch of tyre-shredding gravel on the long road to fulfilment. And this time I’m not talking about marriage. I ain’t half as introspective about that as I am about writing, which should probably tell you something.

Anyway, time to roll my sleeves up and get to it. Make hay while the sun shines. And other assorted metaphors/clichés.

See you next week, boys and girls. Maybe I’ll even have something writing-related to communicate…