dawdling

Week 3: the week it fell apart

This week has been characterised by pain, pyjamas and a paucity of writing, culminating in medication that makes me quite sleepy. Expect more of the same in the week just begun.

In the meantime spare a thought for OneMonkey and his admirable nursing skills, and I’ll see if I can dig out some posts I’d put aside for a rainy day to entertain you.

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Week one of the writer’s life

I’ve drunk a lot of tea and I’m feeling free, as Ian Hunter never quite sang. One week into my season of writing and there’s not much more to show for it than a pile of teabags in the compost caddy and a vague aura of tranquility, though I’m enjoying the pre-breakfast walks and big rollneck jumpers of the new regime. I never did get used to the filtered air and unseasonal temperature of a mechanically-ventilated office.

I’ve had a rejection for a story I sent out in March (seven and a half months to read 350 words!), and I’ve sent out another story to a new magazine, but there’s been no step-change in my submission habits. NaNoWriMo carries on apace, but sadly that’s a snail’s pace and I’m averaging only about twice as many words as if I’d had to cram all my writing into my lunchbreak, as I used to do. If I was including all the notes I’m writing, however, I suspect I’d be nearer the mark (and I’m certainly doing better than last year). I have been doing a lot of poking around the internet and calling it research: Cumbrian folk songs, terraced houses to rent in small Yorkshire towns, maps of the north Pennines. Are you intrigued yet?

Thankfully I’m also finding time to read. I was a bit concerned that without that 40 minutes of sitting on a train with a book, I might fall behind. So far this week though, I’ve finished the Doctor Who novel (7th doctor, one of the Virgin New Adventures) I was reading for the last few days of commuting, read the first couple of chapters of a novel I’ll be reviewing for The Bookbag in a couple of weeks, and worked my way through chunks of two creative writing books (one fresh out of the library, one I own and have read before). And I’ve messed about on Twitter a bit. Obviously.

All in all not a bad start to a break from the 9 to 5. Further updates to follow.

End of the summer days

Where does the time go? One minute you’ve got 12 work-free days up ahead, ready to be filled with all manner of excitement, the next there’s a day and a half to go before you resume the day-job and the to-do list’s as long as your arm and you haven’t written so much as a blog post. Or is that just me?

Squirrel_crop2

This picture of a red squirrel from last week might give you a clue as to what I’ve been doing instead of writing. A day at the seaside, some walks on the moors, a lazy summer afternoon with my sisters, a birthday visit to Big Brother, lots of quality time with paperbacks on trains. And then there’s the small matter of redecorating the study.

The study had pastel candy-stripe wallpaper and cream floor to ceiling cupboards, a relic from the previous owner. In our usual make do and mend fashion we’d covered the lot with posters and got on with our lives for five years. Fuelled by tea and a stack of old cassettes (AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Coverdale Page and The Blues Brothers) it’s now got colourful cupboards, revealed hearth tiles (sadly no fireplace) and two of the walls are papered in carefully selected pages from an out of date children’s encyclopedia. Wall number 3 is largely bookcase which makes it a task for another time. As OneMonkey pointed out, the room needed renaming since neither of us actually study in here any more, it’s more of a creating space like a workshop. Ooh, or a shed! (Influenced by Joanne Harris, I suspect). Behold, The Shed:

TheShed

So here I am, ensconced in The Shed with a mug of tea and good intentions. Best get down to some writing.

(And yes, the title was a Tyketto reference. You should know my questionable musical taste by now)

February? What was that?

Even with the leapday, February ends tomorrow and I’ve essentially failed to blog for the whole month. It seems a matter of moments since it was January, and the weather was weirdly mild and all major deadlines and events were ages away.

I had my usual winter excuse of illness for pretty much the first half of the month, so that didn’t help. For a week I was feeling utterly pathetic. I was even too tired to read for a while (I know – I could hardly believe it either). I did (slowly) read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, which I’d been attracted to in a charity shop because I’d enjoyed The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and this novel was about comic book creators. Wonderfully written, set largely during the second world war (and just before and after), it has some bleak moments but also delightful oddness and humour. And it’s full of excitement about the possibility of comics, which had me itching to get back to work on a couple of half-finished comic ideas.

Brainstorming and planning for both the York Festival of Ideas (storytelling with Alice, like last year) and the Chapel FM Writing on Air Festival has been limping along, with rehearsals planned and notes scrawled. I’ve also had a new review up at The Bookbag (1930s Italian crime fiction reprinted). You see, although I’ve been quiet I haven’t been totally inactive.

March will be more obviously active, with some book reviews here and at The Bookbag, and possibly some musings on the EU referendum depending on how much I feel like alienating the apolitical (or indeed non-European) parts of my readership.

Traditional festive ramblings

Owl cake

Christmas cake dressed as an owl, made by my talented friend

Although the weather might be making you think otherwise, it is very nearly Christmas. Mince pie consumption is nearing its peak, books of the year lists are everywhere you turn, and it’s almost time for the Doctor Who special. For those of us lucky enough to have a reasonable chunk of holiday it’s the last chance to read all those books we promised ourselves this year and it’s also a great concentrated writing slot.

Consider past years, weigh it up according to how well you know me, then answer the following questions:

  • How many words will I actually have written by January 3rd?
  • How many mince pies will I have eaten when I should really have been getting down to some serious editing?
  • At what point on Christmas Day will Big Brother and I dissect the Doctor Who special?
  • How many books will be given as presents in my immediate family?
  • How many of those will be second-hand?

Season’s greetings to all, and I’ll get back to listening to this Hives album, make another cup of tea, grab a mince pie, and try and finish reading The Establishment by Owen Jones before I’m overcome by festive lethargy.

Weekend creativity

Like those conversations in the pub that are full of great plans but never amount to anything, OneMonkey and our artist friend Mark and I have spent most of today drinking tea on the sofa and telling each other what to do, knowing 90% of it will be ignored. If we weren’t shy, if we had more confidence, if we were more organised, if we only had time to do this project justice… The excuses have been flying around, all of us about as bad as each other, but between us we’ve generated a few ideas that might pay off (not in terms of actual money, obviously, but maybe in terms of artistic satisfaction). It’s an interesting exercise having an outsider’s perspective (by which I mean I’m not a painter or illustrator, Mark and OneMonkey are not writers), asking the questions that are so obvious they’ve been overlooked.

So, in between all the book reviews I’m writing, all the books I’m reading, the 3 writing deadlines that are looming, and the continuing amusement of the interactive detective story I’m writing with OneMonkey (not to mention the art history MOOC I’ve just started and the philosophy MOOC I still haven’t finished) I’ll try following up on some of today’s suggestions. When was it I was supposed to sleep..?

Easter, lounging, and ripping up the to-do list

The Easter break looked full of potential, as it always does. I had 5 clear days without having to go to work, and apart from Sister Number One’s birthday gathering, very little in the way of plans. This time I decided to tackle it differently. Not for me the long list of tasks that would only be of use for self-flagellation when I hadn’t done any of them by the end of the holiday. I was going to avoid the avoidance tactics by not giving myself a list of things that (though most of them were things I actually wanted to do) needed avoiding simply because they were on a list. By this cunning use of reverse psychology I would clearly achieve great things.

Five days of mixed weather later I can chalk up the following:

  • Watching several films I had been meaning to see for ages or hadn’t seen for twenty years
  • Putting nail varnish on for the first time since Christmas (spring green, since you’re wondering)
  • Watching a sunbathing squirrel from the study window
  • Talking politics with Big Brother
  • Eating chocolate rabbits
  • Reading a crime novel I didn’t even enjoy, desperate to know how the plot worked out while being too well-behaved to simply skip to the last couple of chapters
  • Strolling by the river listening to birdsong and feeling unfamiliar warmth on my face

On the other hand, I can’t say I managed any of these:

  • Revising the sci-fi noir novel according to the excellent idea I had just as I was falling asleep one night last week, which now escapes me
  • Finishing the crime short story that I’ve been putting off writing (and therefore undoubtedly spoiling) the ending of for about two years
  • Finishing the novella about the young girl looking for her brother (who doesn’t exist)
  • Writing a small batch of blog posts to act as a buffer when I’m busy

But that doesn’t matter, because I never said I was going to.