04.05.15 (Day 498 / 55)
I’d Rather be Writing is a book I’m re-reading, by Marcia Golub. The strap line is “A guide to finding more time, getting more organised, completing more projects and having more fun.”
I’ve read the book before and I’m doing so again in readiness for a working week which starts tomorrow. Yes, it is a working week. I write. That is my job. It doesn’t pay much at the moment – a few miniscule royalty payments from The Paradoxicon aside – but the hope it that one day it might. For now it’s a hobby which I enjoy and if I keep working at it, one day I may earn a living from it. My skills are recognised by some and my aim is to have my craft noted by a mainstream publisher.
I’ve worked a little on Bloodstained Knaves this weekend but have been distracted by snooker, newspapers and myself. As well as keeping abreast of current affairs, I read the weekend newspapers – Guardian and Observer – and the supplements to give me ideas for my writing. I’ve been a distraction for myself this weekend as I have deliberately spent time alone to try to find myself after the traumatic period which preceded the time I’ve spent here. For the most part, I like what I’ve found as I’ve become re-acquainted with someone I’d lost touch with and who has changed: the man in the mirror. I also know now where my heart belongs, after lengthy conversations with the love of my once upon a time, who also misses me and our relationship. I lost that and have been coming to terms with the fact that my broken heart may never be healed: that’s the life-long scar I shall bear as penance for screwing the relationship up. With a broken heart come daily regret and remorse: mental pain, more painful than anything physical could ever be.
I’ve concluded that I’m such damaged goods that I’ll never be able to return to doing a “normal” job: I wouldn’t want to. So this is my job now: writing.
I’m grateful to those around me for respecting my privacy and space over this weekend of self-discovery. Now that I’ve decided that what I want to do is to write, that courtesy needs to be extended through my working weeks. I have to exercise self-discipline and not be distracted from what I’m hoping one day to get paid to do. So even though my work is unpaid at the moment, I need people to understand that to me, writing is a job.
I fear my kid sister may be the hardest to convince, calling me daily as she does and asking if she can see me. Why? Because she’s bored. Well, I’m working. That’s not working; it’s your hobby. You don’t get paid for it, so you don’t have to do it. I can hear her now. Well, I do have to do it because I want to and I have to impose some discipline on myself.
My literary hero and influence, Paul Auster, is happy if he’s written one page in a working day which can run to sixteen hours: ONE PAGE. But he is a perfectionist and his writing is perfect, with each word serving its neighbours. Often I’ll write five, six or more pages in a day but only have one or two pages to show for it at the end of the day, once I’m finished editing. I’m happy if I can produce a chapter of a book, or a complete short story in a day. At the very least, a blog post. These posts are not literary; they’re my stream of consciousness, just writing everything down to get it out of my head so that my mind is clear to write something with more artistic merit. If I’m suffering writer’s block, sometimes a blog post will help me get over it. Despite their comparative lack of merit, these blog posts are at least writing. And that’s what I’d rather be doing than wasting my time by myself or in the company of others. I may have to make the occasional concession for the eldest daughter but she can just be folded up and put in a corner with no need for me, while I get on with work. Most others are more needy than my fold-up girl.
Of course, I’ll take breaks. I’ll meet friends for lunch or after work in the bar downstairs. I can take breaks whenever I like to work around other people as I’m self-employed. But this is work: I need to get used to this being my chosen path after a period of reflection and others need to as well. It’s not just the writing itself, of the books or the short stories for magazines: it’s research; it’s critiquing others’ work; it’s contributing to writing groups and online fora; it’s marketing and promotion; being a writer involves a lot of hard work if one is to eventually become successful. So it doesn’t pay but I have the skill and the means to do it and it will pay eventually. It’s like starting a new business and earning nothing while you build it up. I’ve done that before and ended up making a lot of money from the businesses I built and ran. I lost them. Now I need a new start and this is it: my choice.
So, when people ask me what I do? I’m a writer. I’ve published a book and several short stories, in magazines and in an anthology volume. The more prolific I’m able to become, the sooner I may get the break I’m looking for. That means writing full-time.
I am a writer and I would rather be writing.