Thursday, 5 August 2010

Hard Work

I try to go the gym fairly regularly – some weeks I’ll manage twice or even three times, other weeks I’m too busy. I used to rock climb a lot and I miss that – going to the gym is my attempt to keep myself ready for the return to climbing which I hope will happen in September when I’ll be working near the local climbing wall on a Tuesday afternoon. It’s hard work keeping any physical shape apart from round. I accept that.

I read a lot of books – some weeks I’ll manage two or even three, other weeks I’ll still be ploughing through the same thing I’ve been reading for days. I’ve always read a lot and some days there just aren’t enough hours of peace to read as much as I’d like. I read for work too – I’m extremely lucky that I can pursue a career that involves me doing something I love. It may not pay much and that pay may not be regular or even guaranteed, but I’m lucky (or daft) enough to be able to get by, somehow.

I work hard at planning and structuring my teaching plans. This September I’ll be teaching a minimum of six courses – four will be very similar but I’ll still need to organise things along the way in order to meet the needs of my students. I enjoy my job, I enjoy teaching and I hope I do a good job. The planning and the delivery, while demanding, time-consuming and sometimes tricky, is never hugely difficult. The reason it is no longer difficult is because I’ve been teaching for nearly twenty years now – boy, does that make me feel old! I love those daily demands that teaching make – the need to think on one’s feet, the ability to quickly adapt material to your audience – it is like performing and sometimes your audience just doesn’t get it. Sometimes you misjudge your audience. It all keeps it fresh, interesting and fun; that’s why I keep doing it.

I know that things worth doing take time and effort. Nothing worth doing is easy. I don’t even like doing things that I find too easy – I’m suspicious of ease. Blame that on the Catholic upbringing.

So now I’ve explained to myself why I need to keep plugging away at writing short stories. The plots will develop, the ‘spark’ will appear and I will get excited about a story I can’t put down. Some of that rubbish I’ve written recently will eventually join the other stories that I’m proud of – even if I haven’t sent them out yet. And yes, the three novels I’ve half-written will be finished. The fourth one that is still in the planning stages will be written too, someday. Why not make it today?

Writing is a job just like any other one. It’s hard, lonely and sometimes what you write is just plain dull. If you don’t like it then go and teach A levels full time.

Subconscious, take that as a telling off. Now come up with some brilliant stories. Thank you.

Monday, 2 August 2010


DSC_0023 Today I wrote my Daily Pages in my writing shed – I’ve not been able to use if for months partly because of the weather but mainly because one of the windows was smashed. At the weekend P replaced the smashed and hazy plastic pane with a piece of beautifully clear glass. Now I can see one of the cooking apple trees and the pink American Pillar climbing rose. It’s all rather overgrown in the garden at the moment – pieces of trellis need replacing, the grass needs cutting, weeds need to be pulled and soon it’ll be time to plant new perennials and to hope that they survive the winter.

All sounds rather like my writing these days – so overgrown with other stuff from life, unfocused and in desperate need of close attention. I’ve made a start on both the garden and the writing though, so it’s not all bad.

I wrote long-hand today for one hour. Most, if not all of it, is jumbled rubbish. No real attempt at a story or any definite ideas. Instead I thought about routines and rituals. Each day when I’m working from home I like to drink coffee at about 10am. I have a definite ritual for this – I won’t drink coffee with breakfast, that has to be orange juice and fruit tea (cranberry and raspberry). The ritual involves certain mugs, particular teaspoons and ideally a giant double chocolate cookie. Once I’ve had all of that I can start work. On really good days I’ll already have done an hour’s work and the coffee and cookie are the bribe to myself to finish the stuff I don’t want to do. Afterwards I can reward myself again by doing what I really want to be doing – writing.

Even when it is hard – which is all the time – I still have a passion for writing. Writing is probably the most difficult relationship I have in my life – I never have enough time for it, I never allow it to truly flourish and have independence. It’s my ugly changeling baby that I want to keep hidden yet desperately want everyone to see.

And interestingly writing this blog entry has been incredibly easy compared to the slog of the handwritten hour of Daily Pages. I suspect the Daily Pages make this easier – an intellectual laxative.