Friday, 7 February 2014

Torn between repainting the kitchen table a nice maroon, baking banana loaf, taking A. M. Homes’ paperback to bed with a cup of tea, pruning the buddleia, cycling to Nailsea, tidying my study . . . Tracy Alexander

The study
Last Friday at 7pm I emailed my latest book to the publisher. (I don’t like saying that in case it never morphs into a book, but story sounds short and manuscript sounds highfalutin so book it is.)


I have no plan. This is both pleasant and alarming. I don’t remember finishing a book before without another project composting in my back garden – hence the alarm, but what is enjoyable is my empty head. I am not wrestling with how my character should be reacting, interrogating his feelings or wondering how to get him from A to B. I am also not trying to hold down a new idea that is desperate to wriggle out of my soapy hands. I am instead looking forward to a short period of doing other things – see title.

Loving this book
(I suppose what I’m about to write is a complaint to do with being a writer - I’d rather have this particular complaint than not be a writer, but I'd like the complaint brought under control.)


I don’t feel as though I ever stop actively thinking (as opposed to idly thinking). Any moments that aren’t occupied by manoeuvring through busy traffic or having a conversation i.e. those requiring concentration, are filled up with whatever I’m writing. I like standing in the shower debating where my character should be when he hears the news, swimming while deciding how empathetic he should be to his mother, but am aware that the relentlessness of it is the opposite of mindfulness. I’m not ‘in the moment’, I’m in another place altogether. The ‘power of now’ has no punch because I’m no more revelling in the warmth of the water drenching my winter skin than I am noticing my easy breath as I plough up and down the pool. Away with the fairies, that’s where I am. It doesn’t bother me, but I can’t rid myself of the idea that it’s unhealthy. (So perhaps it does bother me . . .)
            I’ve strayed into an area that I find uncomfortable to discuss – my lack of structure. I should have the weekend off, or Thursday off, or some time off, but I don’t. I write whenever I have the inclination and opportunity to do so, and often when I don’t have the inclination but a strong sense that I ought. (I hate the word ‘ought’. If you stare at it, it looks like its beginning is missing.)
If I had regular hours, presumably my mind might switch off. A weekly period with no electricity coursing through me seems a nice idea. When switched on again I might be recharged, fresh . . .
So maybe I do have a plan.

*looks pleased*

I'm somewhere in Wales ( in orange)
I don’t know how long it will take for some feedback to come back from the publisher, but I am not going to write anything (except this blog) or worry about what I might write next. I am going to work through the list of things I’d like to do, starting with the table. I am going to focus on the task in a peaceful and attentive manner, batting away other thoughts. I am going to enjoy the way the paint covers the marks left by my godson’s erratic colouring, watch the shine soften as it dries, enjoy the rhythm of the brush strokes, smell the toxins and reward myself with banana loaf between coats.
When the email arrives from the publisher I will address the content, and whether that means I have to redraw the mountain or just mess around in the foothills, I will keep a day author-free. I will not write or think about my writing or answer writerly emails. Friday seems like a good day to choose as a non-work day because I’m a keen cyclist and there’s often a group going out that I can tag along with. (The weekend would be more obvious but I like working in my pyjamas (like Liz Kessler) and I can only do that on Saturday and Sunday.) So, on Thursday evenings from now on I intend to place the Do Not Disturb sign on the *door*.
We’ll see how I get on . . .

Tracy Alexander


Joan Lennon said...

Taking - REALLY taking - time off every week - so obvious, yet so difficult. If I remember at all, it's always, "Have to be tomorrow - couldn't possibly be today."

Be my role model, Tracy!

Andrew said...

Like your bookcase cum door. Really impressed with that.

Heather Dyer said...

Fantastic! Most envious - but I know how hard it is to stop.... Did a mindfulness course recently - wonderful.