Falling in love with the process of writing all over again, and how that's the key to producing my best workRead Now
Some time has passed since I last updated this blog. In fact, it’s over two years since there was something I wanted to add. And yet, while you might think the implication is that I haven’t been all that busy, there has in fact been a lot of things going on. Looking back, the last post I wrote was just prior to the publication of Little Wishes, and since then Hidden Treasures has also been released. Does that mean I wasn’t taking things seriously, or care about the publication? Of course not. But it’s fair to say that we’ve all had a few other things on our mind since March 2020, and both of my books were released in or around lockdown conditions. Priorities took up what available time I had, and all those little things I used to shoehorn into my days got cast aside. I suspect I need not go into detail, dear reader. You probably spent the last couple of years doing the same. Then again, perhaps you were one of the people who learnt a new language or taught yourself to code in all those new, flexible hours. I, on the other hand, was not.
But if coming back to this blog is part of re-establishing old routines, might it not be a good idea to try to first work out what those routines were? In the last two years, even with two more books published, I don’t feel like I have made any significant leaps forward, either personally, or professionally. I’ve talked before on this blog about how I’m not keen on writing new year’s resolutions, but I find myself with that kind of mentality of late. A willingness to complete a stock take of where I’m at, what I’m doing, and where it is I want to go. But it’s been so long, I’m not sure I can remember what my old routines looked like in order to make the assessment. And even if I could skip back two years, pre-pandemic and pick up where I left off before, were the ministrations of my daily life so well refined that I would even want to slip straight back into them?
When I first started writing, I used to dream about the option of staying home to write all day, alone, like it was some magical thing. It seemed a little impossible. At the time, unpublished me was writing from the reception desk at our medical practice, where I worked as a scientist/receptionist/untrained therapist/and cleaner. But I had a few hours a day for writing, and while they were usually interrupted by telephone calls and supplier visits, I didn’t have children to care for every day, and my day was spent, for the most part, at my leisure. I wrote and worked as and when I liked, which was to say, almost non-stop. Those office days were so enjoyable, creating worlds and stories, all with the hope of getting published, and absolutely no pressure to achieve it other than that I placed on myself. And after a few years of working as a self-published author, I found an agent, followed by a publisher, and a nice two book deal in eighteen territories. Not long after that I went to writing full time from home, the mythical dream fulfilled. But right around the same time I also became a full-time mum. And two full time positions tend to be a little rough on the person trying to fulfil them both.
And so, while I complained about my routines being turned upside down by the turmoil of quickfire political policy and pandemic worthy disease, I have come out the other side of it wondering if I ever really defined what it was that I wanted from my fulltime writing life. I never got to do it alone, because as soon as it began, I was also a mother. Then, with the pandemic, the whole family arrived, and I started to wonder whether I should give up writing altogether and get a job. With an office where I could be alone. I thought maybe I’d become a psychotherapist, so I signed up for a master’s degree, and justified the decision by saying it was just about protecting my future employment opportunities. What if the writing thing ended? What if I never got another publishing deal? A wise friend reminded me if I continued dedicating 50 hours a week to studying for a career I wasn’t sure I wanted, then surely there was no doubt I wouldn’t.
And so this September, after putting aside distractions like ill-advised degrees and weird household side projects - of which I think the less said about those the better - and after a good break in the summer, I return to my writing desk, perhaps for the first time in quite a while, feeling like the writer I used to be. The person I used to be when I had no time to write, but I carved it out anyway. The person who didn’t worry about deals and sales, but instead thought for the most part, only about the story in my head. And as a result of that, I’m arriving at my desk with excitement every day. I look at the world of publishing with awe again, only this time, wiser, more cautious, and with a team on my side from the offset. I find myself remembering the me of six years ago, who had a spreadsheet, and a list of agent names, alongside columns for important facts like sent, received, rejected, full manuscript request. Plus one, final column, far right, entitled offer of representation, which remained empty for about 98% of the time. I had achieved nothing to speak of in many ways, no agent, no publisher, no standing as such in the world of publishing. And yet I was in love with the process. None of the rest mattered.
It’s actually strange to think that in the last two years I only felt that way when reminded by other people of my achievements, like a kind email or news of a new territory from my agent, or my editor with page proofs and a big thumbs up. Maybe a kind letter from a reader. But now, I’m working with a love for the simple craft of writing, one word after the next, and it is magic. Every page has given me reason to smile, and feel pleasure with the thing I am creating. The project I’m working on hasn’t even been signed off by my agent yet, and the truth is it might very well not be. It’s a little bit of a departure from what I’ve written before. The 70k words I’ve written to date don’t even quite work yet, and yet they have felt like the nicest, most simple of daily joys. They have felt like they are for me. On a practical note, my once minimalist office has become something I don’t recognise, can barely believe I’m responsible for it. Until now, if there was anything more than a keyboard on the desk, it was too full. I was all about the aesthetics, not the function. Now I have a wall planner, flow charts, sticky notes and photographs like one of those boards that track murders on the TV. Plot beats pasted at random heights to show intensity and pace. And in the bottom corner, nothing to do with the book, a few words as a gentle reminder to myself of just a year ago. A poem by Cavafy.
As you set out for Ithaka, hope your road is a long one.
For the first time, in a long time, I really do.