Mrs. Lacer was on night release tonight, i.e. I had a rare night out. I went to an event at the Kingston Readers’ Festival entitled ‘How to Manage Your Time as a Writer’, the speaker Alison Baverstock. It was interesting and a bit depressing at the same time.
Currently, where I am as a writer, is that I’m a writer who doesn’t do much writing (unless you count this blog, more on that later). Prior to Christmas Boy Lacer was still napping, conveniently at exactly the same time Girl Lacer was at nursery, so I used to get quite a bit of writing done then, I even managed NaNoWriMo. Then Boy Lacer stopped napping and I pretty much stopped writing. I have attempted to start a new project in that time and got to 12,000 words but then lost the flow at a key scene (a big problem of mine) and I haven’t touched it since. My problem is that my free time is in the evening, once the kids are in bed and I’ve cooked and eaten my evening meal, which makes it about 8.30pm – 9pm and by then I am knackered and I just can’t write. Baverstock spoke about finding the right time to write (although she did say if you have only a certain time slot to right you should be disciplined, she used that word alot) and for me it would be sometime during the day and that is not compatible with small children. The only solution may be to be patient; Boy Lacer will be (fingers-crossed) at playgroup 2 – 3 mornings a week and Girl Lacer will be at school in September (and the playgroup will be really close by, so it’ll only take me five minutes to walk back home and five minutes to walk and collect him, so that would be ooh about 1hr50min I think). Other than that, as I’m not an evening person, I have been thinking about waking up early and writing first thing. I never used to be much of a morning person either but I’ve recently started a new medication which seems to be having the side effect of making me wake up early, fully awake, I don’t know if that side effect will continue but it might be a benefit!
Other than finding the time, Alison Baverstock also spoke about finding the space, another thing to depress me. Now (any) regular readers of this blog are probably sick to death about me whinging about lack of space, but all four of us do live in a really small flat. There is no permanent space for me to work in the living room, unless you count the sofa. There is no room for a desk in my bedroom. I quite liked Baverstock’s suggestion for a shed, a la Phillip Pullman, but ours is full of junk and about to fall down.
Baverstock also spoke about surrounding yourself with the right supportive people and avoiding the negative ones, the ones who are full of disparaging remarks about writers. I tend not to tell too many ‘real-life’ people that I write, so I don’t have that problem but I don’t get the ‘real-life’ support either. I have found Susan Hill’s Creative Writing Forum and her blog invaluable though.
Other interesting points included finding creativity in your everyday life, that is filling your life with creativity, not just necessarily writing, this actually made me feel better about my other hobby; embroidery and softies, whereas I can’t write in the evenings, I do have just about enough brain power to be able to pick up a needle and thread and it massages my creative ego, as whereas a novel can take months – years to come into fruition, a softie can take a couple of night’s work and the feed back and appreciation is so much more immediate (from Girl Lacer, who’s my biggest fan, biggest commissioner and (can be) my biggest critic). I was feeling a bit guilty that I ‘should’ be writing in that time.
Baverstock also spoke about how hard it is to live with a writer, someone who is perfectly happy to live within their own heads, which was interesting and I can see that. One of my time issues, is that I need / want to spend time with my husband and in that 8.30pm / 9pm to bed time slot, what do I do, totally ignore my husband or write?
She also spoke about finding creative inspirations, actively doing things to inspire you. Me, I find a walk in the woods, a trip on the tube (for some reason, particularly Tottenham Court Road Tube Station), a good episode of Doctor Who / Torchwood / anything by J.J. Abrams / a Indiana Jones movies (guess who’s rather excited about the new one?).
She also talked about using longhand, when I write I use a word processor, my fingers flying away at the keys, which to be honest probably not as much thought as there could be, as Baverstock described it, when you use a computer you tend to be more verbose, whereas if you write long hand, there’s more thought going into it. Switching to longhand may solve quite a lot of my problems; when I use my computer I’m too easily distracted, e-mail, facebook, forums, my blog stats (lol), are all too distracting. Part of my problem with getting stuck in projects is I get so far through the project and then I have a massive crisis of confidence and think what I’ve written is complete and utter cr*p because of the whole fingers flying thing, with a little bit more thought would I be more confident? My computer is also old and failing, with a faulty screen (it goes all Matrix with great frequency), sticky keys and a bulging hard drive making it slow, it does not lead to a relaxing writing experience. Plus if I wrote long hand I’d be able to indulge in my love of fancy notebooks and nice pens! And if I wrote longhand, would it make my work more portable, even more portable than my laptop and more easy to pick up for a few minutes work even when my children are around? It’s all very tempting, unfortunately I”m currently mid project on two projects and I don’t like the idea of switching from a wordprocessor to longhand half way through.
Also talking about distractions or ‘displacement activities’ as Baverstock described them, I think you could describe a blog as a good one. I am aware that the time I spend writing this, I could be writing some fiction, like right now for example. Thing is, it requires slightly less thought to write this, I can sit here on the sofa, next to my husband watching a horror movie, my gaze can get pulled onto the TV screen every now and then and it doesn’t matter, whereas if I was writing, I couldn’t write properly like that, I suppose it goes back to finding a place to write. Also with me not writing ‘properly’ at the moment, at least with this I feel like I’m writing ‘something’.
Finally there was also talk about juggling the world of work and writing and how it’d be hard to write and have a high powered job. I quite liked the quote she used (and I’m probably paraphrasing a bit)
If you want to achieve something significant in life, it’s important to be slightly underemployed.
I can fully understand that. I am coming to terms that my dream of being a full time writer by the time both my kids are in school is probably not going to happen and I will have to rejoin the world of work, however for more reasons than just writing, I do not want something ‘taxing’, my dream job would be a part time job in Waterstones actually!
Anyway, there are two more talks from Alison Baverstock if you’re in the Kingston area;
6 May, 7.30pm Borders, Kingston – Writing from Home (about using your own life as a starting point for fiction)
20 May, 7.30pm Borders, Kingston – How to Market Yourself as a Writer