As one of the countless number of writer-wannabees on the planet I’ve long been fascinated by how writers spend their days. This interest hasn’t been prompted by some perverse voyeuristic tendency on my part. Instead, it’s been fuelled by a wish to exchange a life wasted in the corporate fast lane for one that is more … well, me. The ‘My Writing Day’ article is always the one I first turn to upon receiving my new copy of ‘Writing Magazine’.
Dreams of the African Velt (whilst on a bus)
Since my late teens I’ve aspired to be a writer. I Blame Wilbur Smith. It was his books that first gripped me with the desire to write – books like the unforgettable ‘When the Lion Feeds’ and its follow-on tales ‘The Sound of Thunder’ and ‘A Sparrow Falls’. I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember so I’ve no idea why these particular novels should have so inspired me. Perhaps it was a ‘time of life’ thing. What I do know is that I’d be so entranced by the pace of his ‘ripping yarns’ while riding the bus to work that I’d miss my stop and end up being transported to Cleethorpes of all places, forced to hop buses, retrace my route and apologise for my tardiness.
Like many affairs, my love-affair with Wilbur, once exciting and new, eventually became jaded. I realised the word ‘spoor’ appeared in every one of his books, whether it be set in darkest Africa, London, Paris or, indeed, Madrid, and the purchase of each new book soon become little more than an exercise in spoor-hunting, driven by curiosity as to the page on which the word would first appear. Despite having since gone our separate ways, I do thank Wilbur for motivating me. And believe me, you will never see the word ‘spoor’ in any of my writing. The present example excluded, of course.
A Name in Print
Wilbur motivated me, but to what exactly? Well, despite taking part in several writing courses and consuming numerous self-help books on the subject, I found it impossible to shoehorn my writing aspirations into a busy schedule. The need to earn, pay the mortgage and act as slave to a variety of commercial masters always took precedent, as well as exhausting my limited energy resources. I have achieved success in having a number of non-fiction general interest features printed in UK magazines. This has given me the satisfaction of seeing my name in print. I’ve also won a prestigious writing competition run by Writing Magazine. Whilst these should have spurred me on to great things it was only one of those life-changing events that allowed me to focus my energies on becoming who I’ve truly wanted to be.
The life changer in my case has been a recurrence of my old demon, epilepsy. This led to a forfeiture of job, driving licence and self-esteem. The last one I’ve since recovered, thankfully. The loss of the first two drove me to look at other options. In my case these have been proofreading and writing – disciplines that seem to complement one another quite nicely. I’ve already included a potted history covering my route into freelancing elsewhere on my website so I won’t dwell on this here. Suffice to say I now have one of those days I’ve long desired for myself. Every cloud has its silver lining. So, how do I spend my day then?
Each morning begins at six, whether weekday or weekend as this allows me to make the most of each day. It also avoids the lethargy that results from a weekend lie-in. The first task is to walk Freyja, our border terrier bitch. I don’t particularly like the term ‘bitch’ but, as she’s keenly intelligent and has a cast-iron will, it seems to apply in her case. Every day is different – some spent in the village and others out one of the many farm-tracks and bridleways that surround my Lincolnshire home. I often take my binoculars with me and indulge in a spot of birdwatching – though I do try to adhere to a strict schedule and try to be home by nine.
On returning home the kettle goes on. Always, no question about that. And while the water heats up I busy myself cleaning out and re-laying the fire. That won’t always be the case but I’m sure it will be for the next few months. We may not be in winter’s icy grip quite yet, but November’s cold caress warrants a fire, believe me.
In the meantime I’ve switched on the computer – to warm-up, you understand. I’m not sure whether they need ‘warming up’ as you would a vintage car-engine. Perhaps not, but it gets a ‘warm’, nevertheless. Once seated I tackle the emails and associated social networking first. As far as social networking is concerned, it’s Twitter. I’ve long since given up on Facebook as I found it to be puerile and often offensive. But hey, that’s families for you. However, Twitter provides a fascinating and like-minded community in which wit and wisdom may be found in equal measure. There’s a heady dose of inspiration, too, which I find useful.
Whilst I do take pleasure in ‘tweeting’ I like to get those jobs out of the way as it removes any shred of curiosity about the content of my inbox, allowing me to focus on the task in hand. At present that task is the completion of my first novel, ‘The Door to Caellfyon’. It’s currently on the back-burner having since been rewritten as a second-draft. I’ll shortly be performing a final polish, edit and proofread of the piece before committing it to the uncompromising glare of the world, a thought which gives me an even balance of excitement and anxiety.
While ‘The Door to Caellfyon’ is simmering, I find myself attending to my long neglected blog and drafting short story ideas, as well as coming up with follow-on plots to my novel.
My own writing space was once our lounge, since turned into a study. As with all things there are pros and cons to this arrangement. The pros are of course the fact that desk, chair, computer, files etc. etc. help to impart a business-like feeling and, once seated, I’m ‘at work’ and it’s time to knuckle down and get creating. The downside is the room’s accessibility. It’s on the route between TV room and dining room and sees a steady flow of traffic. Sadly, that provides distraction and hinders creativity, but it also triggers the occasional break from the computer so I guess it’s not all bad. Productivity-wise, I do like to achieve two to three thousand words in a day. This figure would be higher if I wasn’t so anal. I’m one of those sad creatures who can’t commit words to screen in a continual steady flow as I feel the need to go back and edit, rewrite and improve as I go along. This reduces my potential output but does result in work that I’m reasonably happy with. Not all the time, I grant you.
Goal in sight
So then, that’s my day. I’m earning far less than I had been as a rat-race contestant but am immensely happier (as a pig in poo, so the saying goes). I also have the additional benefit of now being able to achieve my lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist. In a future post I’ll nod the head to those other writers who’ve influenced me and whose works have resonated with me long after I’ve read the final word.
Thanks for reading.