Friday, 29 January 2016

Resolving to write - John Dougherty

The end of January is an odd time to talk about New Year’s Resolutions, isn’t it? By now most lie, forgotten, where they’ve fallen behind the sofa or been carelessly dropped on a road that’s paved with good intentions. And the rest have mostly been assimilated into everyday behaviour and no longer draw attention to themselves.
But actually, it feels to me like a good time to review, and since one of my resolutions was a writerly one, I thought I’d share that review with you.
The last few years haven’t been easy for me in many ways, and one of the difficult things has been simply finding time to focus on my work. What with all the admin of self-employment, the duties of parenthood, and - to be frank - the all-too frequent struggles with depression, there’ve been too many days and weeks when I haven’t felt like a writer; when I’ve got no writing done at all or have only managed a little, forced out at pen-point.
This couldn’t continue; so I decided that 2016 was going to be the year when I remembered that I really am a writer. And I decided that the best way to do that was to write. Every day. Away with the excuses; gone are the days and weeks of writing nothing because other things get in the way.
Of course, some days - for whatever reason - it really isn’t possible to do much; but I promised myself that even if all I could manage was a sentence, I would write that sentence. Proper writing, mind you - shopping lists don’t count. Work that fed into my writing would, though, such as spending the morning - as I did recently - watching Julius Caesar on DVD and making notes, prior to rewriting it for a reading scheme.
So - how’s it going? Really pretty good, actually. Days 1 & 2 of 2016 were ‘not much done’ days; they fell on a weekend when I had the kids, and of course there was all that recovering-from-New-Year’s-Eve business as well. So I only managed a sentence on day one, and a paragraph on day two. 
Then came January 3rd - the day when the kids went back to school, and writing started in earnest. Normally, the first proper writing day back after a break is difficult. Getting focused is tough. If I’m lucky, I might manage 500 words of the work-in-progress, but 250 wouldn’t be unusual.
Not this time. This time I managed 3,800. Before 2.00pm. Enough to get me to the end of the first draft I’d been working on before Christmas got in the way.
Not every day’s been like that, of course; in fact, that’s my highest word-count of the year. It may in fact be my highest word-count of all time, in a single day. But every day on which I’ve written - which is every day in the last 29 - I’ve felt like a writer. It’s changed my view of myself, and my work, and has put all those distractions into sharp relief. And I wish I’d thought of it years ago.
How are your writerly resolutions working out?


John's Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face series, illustrated by David Tazzyman, is published by OUP.

His new books in 2016 will include the next two Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face titles, his first poetry collection - Dinosaurs & Dinner-Ladies, illustrated by Tom Morgan-Jones and published by Otter-Barry Books  - and several readers for schools.


Lynne Benton said...

Congratulations, John! Keep up the good work, and keep remembering that you are a brilliant writer!

Pippa Goodhart said...

Oddly, I had a good writing day yesterday in terms of plotting a story BECAUSE I was in the middle of a very busy school visit day that had me out of the house from 6.30 to 5.30pm. I had an hour's lunch break in a staffroom in which I was socially invisible, so, with no computer distractions to hand, I got out pen and paper and made myself puzzle through the picture book story that's been stalling me. Productivity doesn't always happen when you'd expect! Power to your creative brain and busy typing fingers, John!

Penny Dolan said...

Hope the resolution and good work with the words continue. John. It's very easy to get caught up in things that have a specific time-frame and/or affect other people, and so seem more urgent at that moment than one's writing time. "I'll do the writing later" can be a tempting response to real world demands, but bit by bit one can get out of the habit of writing. Glad you've shifted back into words.

Stroppy Author said...

This is inspiring - thank you, and congratulations. I think I will adopt a variant: every day I will write something, even if only a sentence, of a book I want to write but doesn't yet have a commission. I'm forever writing the books I'm contracted to write and never having time to explore. The new year starts now!

Sue Purkiss said...

Yes - inspiring! I think I've sort of made the same resolution, but only in a vague sort of way - so I will forthwith firm it up!