I finished up the set of daily Bible reading notes I’d promised the Bible Reading Fellowship, took some days to write Christmas cards – ooh, and incidentally if you haven’t had one from me and think you should have, blame the Badger! I never knew a man with so many friends! I had to re-order cards twice, and we still ran out – er what was I saying? Oh yes – I went to lots of Adventy churchy thingummies, and then back to work, this time editing someone else’s book rather than writing my own.
Now the thing is with writing – even editing, but truest of writing fiction – you do need Total Concentration. And of course you work from home.
People are helpful with advice about boundaries – saying no to those who get in touch asking ‘Can you just . . .’ – but you still get the Person from Porlock effect; even the Sounds Off, of daily life in this shared house, are all it takes to shatter concentration. You know? The cat miaowing – what’s the matter with him? What does he want? Is he shut in? Is he hungry? The organic food box delivery – everything has to be shelved, the old things taken out first so the new can go to the bottom of the pile, the boxes folded and stowed. Then the postie calls – they’re out next door, I wondered if you’d mind taking in this . . . Then a courier – same request. Then you hear the washing machine spinning – darn – meant to put my washing on too – it’s such a lovely day but it starts to get dark by 3.30, if I don’t get it out on the line in the next hour there’ll be no chance of it drying. Then my beautiful mama rings – ‘Are you busy?’
And if you work from home, I bet you can corroborate this – everyone you know thinks you are two separate people; the one who effortlessly produces a novel every few months like a cat having a fresh litter of kittens, and that other person who has bugger all to do and is available whenever required.
There are ways and means – of course there are. We are hatching a plot to make Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays absolute Fortress Days for writing and composing and recording. Silent Days. We ignore the phone mostly, once we start work – by ‘we’, I mean me (writing), Fi (composing music, writing lyrics and recording), Hebe and Alice (writing, designing, painting, book-binding etc). The Badger is a somewhat different kettle of fish – his Impervious Walls of Concentration are impenetrable! He’s noisy though. By ’eck, is he noisy!!! From the moment he ricochets out of bed, stubs his toe on the beam up there in his garret, canters downstairs to bang a few cupboards and starts trumpeting into his hanky, we surely know when he’s home. Bless him
Anyway in the meanwhile, I have reverted to a pretty much bomb-proof plan: I write in the dead of night. This works because in middle age I find I need more rest and less sleep. By the time evening comes, the idea of going out to a meeting/church service/performance/social event feels exhausting to contemplate; I just want to be at home. But my mind is still going tick tick tick. So I often write from early evening until about 3 in the morning – or else flake out early and then start work about 3 in the morning and write through until the household regains consciousness and starts lurching forth from its various burrows – either works just as well. So far it seems quite effective. I’m not such a springing whizzy during the daytime of course, but hey; after all, you don’t really need a fresh mind to hang out the washing or answer the door to the postman.
Gosh, I’m so sorry, is this terribly boring? Well, never mind, that was it . . .
(As in, this)
Useful Cath Kidston nylon shopper that folds up small to tuck away in your handbag.
Dear little fragrant bath things masquerading as cakes.
Orange plastic sundae dishes. Not heart-rending to say goodbye.