Monday, 21 March 2016

Deadlines and slumps, and doing my job.

So I have suddenly realised that it is the 20th March, which means that I have to have a blog post for the 21st. It is 10.30 on Sunday night and I am very tired and, to be honest I can't think of what to write. I want to write a brilliant blog post - one which will inspire or inform or enthral my fellow writers, but I'm trying to herd four teenagers off to bed, sort out laundry, stack the dishwasher, and get the school uniform I put in the tumble drier when we got back from Sunday mass tumble- dried for tomorrow whilst trying not to feel guilty about the environment. My husband is trying to sort out family finances on the computer, one of my daughters is doing last minute home work (AAAGH!) my big dog is asleep in his basket and my little spaniel has padded over and is lying beside my chair in solidarity as I frantically type.

So - this coming week. What have I got to do?

I have a deadline for the first draft of a novel for 9-12 year olds and I need to finish it by the first week of April. This novel has been a long time coming and researching and it has suddenly hit a brick wall. I've been ill, and couldn't write it, and then I had so much information and research I couldn't write it, and then I started to write it but lost all confidence. Luckily I have a lovely, lovely agent, who rang me and asked me how I was last Friday. When I paused before answering my usual 'fine' she said 'and tell me the truth,' and I did.

I told her I had got completely caught up with so many things, some necessary, others less so. Sorting out things out for my 88 year old dad who keeps changing his mind about what he wants, trying to get better of a horrible virus, trying to save the world (and probably, to be honest, avoid how rubbish and hopeless I felt about my book) via Twitter and Facebook, grocery shopping, keeping on top of family laundry, claiming back refunds for tickets for a research trip to Lindisfarne I had had to cancel because I was ill, chasing money from some teaching I had done, worrying about family finances, worrying about my writing, writing to my MP about the way the disabled are being treated, reading other people's children's books, (LOTS of other people's children's books) doing yet more research, feeling a bit down and tired and.. finally I admitted...I wasn't very far on with my own book and I wasn't even sure what date it was set in any more. It was all hopeless.

And Anne listened to me at length in my muddled angst about the world and was really nice. And then FINALLY I got round to talking to her about my work, and I read her out a little of my book, the one I was so far behind schedule with and which I felt so despairing about.

And she liked it. I read her four pivotal paragraphs, and she really liked them. I admitted the woeful number of words I had actually written, and she said 'that's not too bad'. She told me she was really excited to read my book when it was finished. And suddenly, everything changed.

Yesterday, Saturday, I stayed in bed until after 1. My lovely husband brought me up breakfast in bed. I did not write to MPs. I did not try to save the world.  I didn't do any family laundry.  I didn't even go to my village's bring and buy sale. I wrote another chapter. This morning I stayed in bed until 1pm again and my husband brought me up breakfast in bed, and made lunch for us all, and I wrote another chapter.

Tomorrow I will have to get up and sort out school lunches etc. I know that I have things to do for my dad this week, and admin. things to chase and emails to answer. I know that there are injustices in the world and people suffering and this is truly horrible. I can't pretend I don't know about this or not try a little to do something.

But I know that feeling responsible for the world is not helping the world or me. I don't know why I don't remember this - every time I get tired and worried about my writing I add on the pressure by rushing around trying to do more things except the thing I am supposed to do. I am a writer, not a politician.

And I also know that if I don't get this deadline then it will be letting down people, and letting down myself, and the story itself, which I actually really love. And it is definitely worth signing petitions and writing letters to MPs, but not as a replacement for doing my job and writing my book.

And the lovely thing was that Anne didn't get cross with me AT ALL about all my distractions and prevarications. She just listened and told me the bit I read her gave her a shiver down her spine (I know that's me sneakily showing off - but believe me, I need to do a bit of showing off to trick myself into believing I can write the rest!) And that bit of encouragement and belief in me has made all the difference.

I have a brilliant and very wise agent. And a very kind husband and family.

So, it is 11.25 now. I am tired. The house is quiet. My husband and three of my teenagers (including the last minute home-worker) have gone to bed. One teenager, home from university today, is still up, playing the piano with headphones on, but I can hear the clicking of the piano keys and faint notes. The clock is ticking and my little dog is snorting a little in his sleep. I will stop the tumble drier and extract the school uniform for tomorrow and drape it over the radiator, wondering why we ALWAYS leave it to Sunday nights. I will replace the loo roll. I will go to bed.

It is 12.05 a.m. I can't remember how to schedule this post and I am really tired. So, as it is the 21st I will publish it now and RT it again in the morning (carefully NOT getting distracted by twitter)  whilst breakfast is happening.

So my blog post deadline is met! Hooray!

And tomorrow,(or rather, later today) I will kiss my husband good bye as he goes off to teach. I will hand the school- goers their sandwiches and wave them off  to school. I will feed the dogs. I will let them out into the garden, give them a dental stick each and promise to walk them in the afternoon. And then I will go back to bed with my laptop. I will leave the answerphone on and will not answer the phone except for emergencies. In the morning I will not worry about laundry, or emails, or even jobs for my dad, or signing petitions or saving the world and I will not come down and do anything else until I have written another chapter.  And I will do this until April. And I will meet my deadline. And I will feel much, much better.

And I wish my fellow- writers all the best with their deadlines too!


Emma Barnes said...

Anne, that is a lovely post. Only one set of school uniform and one dog here, but I identify! I also love the breakfast in bed solution. I too have got a deadline looming and now I'm feeling very tempted...

Penny Dolan said...

Oh Anne, I'm sure so many people can identify with this post, to the same or to a lesser degree. All the continual house stuff that nags at you from the corners, pretending it won't take up much of your time only it does - and then the day ends and you are staring into a pit where a story should be.

Very glad that you and those around you have worked out a way to get your mind focused and the words written, one chapter at a time - even if it's by staying sat in bed, away from the nagging items.

Perdita Cargill-Thompson said...

This is a brilliant post - sending love and empathy (and I do a quarter what you do, I have so much respect for you), Perdita x

Dawn McNiff said...

Anne, your books are so fab because you care about the world and people so deeply, and that comes across so much. I have total faith that you can put more of that care and feeling into this current book. Good luck x PS Your agent sounds lovely :-)

Sheena Wilkinson said...

Great post, which I know lots of us can identify with!

Ally Sherrick said...

Great post - although I'm not sure where you got the energy to write it, Anne. Reminds me of that fantastic book on writing by Anne Lamott, 'Bird by bird' and the focus on small steps. Then hopefully, the big leaps will take care of themselves : )

Miriam Halahmy said...

Gosh - I'm breathless just reading this. BUT - delighted you have prioritised - which seems to me also a lot about prioritising your energy - and got on with the book. We have a lovely agent and I'm so glad she has given you the inspiration and strength to reboot. Happy writing!

Rosemary Hayes said...

Anne, how encouraging it is that so many have commented on your post - and brave of you to admit to feeling overwhelmed. So many of us have experienced similar feelings, demands from all sides crowding in, sapping imagination. Sharing writing highs is good, but sharing lows really important, too, knowing that one is not alone. And you are, indeed, lucky in your agent. She is one in a million.

C.J.Busby said...

Anne - this was brilliant and just what I needed to read, having spent this morning and most of yesterday almost in tears over the number of things I am trying to currently juggle while a looming deadline approaches... School visits, invoices, accounts, meetings, children's homework, children's emotions, children's piano practise, shopping, more school visits, travelling, despairing about the state of the world, getting lunches ready, checking uniform, booking train tickets, worrying about my book, applying for jobs, worrying about money, peeling half my nail off while peeling potatoes and bleeding all over the kitchen, forgetting to pick up my daughter from school, trying to decide what laptop to buy with non-existent funds, trying to decide whether to chuck the whole thing in and never write another word... It's heartening to realise you are not the only one, and so glad you managed to focus on the writing - it's what I've decided I really need to do now, and to hell with the rest of it till the draft's finished!

Wendy Constance said...

So much to do, so little time, but sounds like you're the woman to rise to the challenge Anne. Go Girl!

Sarah Hammond said...

A great post. Thank you, Anne.