Yesterday marked the end of a 4 day run of days off from work with no big commitments to tend to. Over the busy-ness of Christmas and New Year I knew these 4 days were coming in January and I was so looking forward to them.
For most of the days I'd have a good stretch of time on my own while my other half was at work, and I imagined - as I'm sure we all do when we think of a day off entirely to ourselves to write - I'd get so much done! Oh the things that would spring from my fingers would be magic and vast and plentiful... do you see where this is going?
It wasn't too bad, not really, I did make some progress with a few pieces. But not as much as I wanted to, but that's not too unusual - I'm not sure I ever do as much as I think I can do in a day. This is partly down to what I expect of myself, but it's also partly because I waste time, sometimes. So that's what I'm trying to tackle this week.
On Day 1 of those days off I did some research into the Northern Writers' Awards which I knew closed for submissions at the end of January. I'd had a look at the guidelines a couple of weeks ago but hadn't taken in what a task it would be to apply - an exciting and brilliant opportunity of a task - but it's not just sending a few short stories away so they can see you can write. This is an application for funding to support a work in progress which is fully formed and well established enough for you to be able to write a synopsis, as well as submit 3000-5000 words of it. There is also a personal statement and a biography to write, and some questions about your circumstances etc.
My over-riding feelings about this are good ones - it's really rare for an organisation to support you in such a way. I started to think of the half-formed ideas I have, the kind of book I would love to show I can write. My head, a-buzz with ideas, set out to feel around these potential projects.
On Day 2, I got the news about Litro publishing my short travel piece, and that took over my activities for a while. Most of these activities centred around being online, tweeting, writing a blog, responding to stuff. I let this get in the way a bit, though it was nice and good for my ego, it took up most of the time I had for writing that day.
Day 3 and I got up early, set out to a coffee shop with my little laptop and divided my time between looking at word documents that contained some of the work I might work on for the funding application, and looking at the internet. After 2 hours I'd hardly done anything. I felt rubbish about this, disconnected the internet and moved to a different coffee shop. I did an hour, internet-free, and made some slight movement forwards with one story. By the time I got home I'd been out of the house for 5 hours and had very little to show for it.
Day 4. I didn't know how much time I'd spend writing because it was my boyfriend's day off too. He had to pop out to pick up a guitar so while he was gone I disconnected the internet and opened up those word documents again. I noted there are about 3 of those half-formed ideas I could go with at this point. I also note that everytime I get into trying to develop one of these ideas, all sorts of things start happening in my head.
I think this idea is too big for me.
I think it is a rubbish idea.
I can't imagine how this idea could become a good story.
I am rubbish at stories.
I close the laptop. I don't think I can sit at it without knowing what I'm doing anymore. Why would anyone do that anyway? It's not quite looking at a blank page because some of the work is started but I'm expecting to be able to make something when I don't even know what it is I'm trying to make. I'm ten steps ahead. I need to pull back.
So, I know - as soon as I start to feel these thoughts - that I'm doing it all wrong. Quickly, in my notebook I write out these ideas:
For this week
- don't write fiction on the computer
- all fiction to be written in notebook
- max 1 hour per day online
- read more
And that makes sense to me. I'm in the early stages of developing an idea/ideas, they need to breathe. I feel better when I make this plan, though I'm slightly annoyed with myself for it taking me until Day 4 to reach it.
I'll keep an eye on the time I spend online and an hour a day is enough to keep in touch with things. I'm almost at the end of my hour for today, then I'll have a bit of time with the notebook before I head out to work. A busy 4 days follow these quiet 4 days I've just had. That's okay.
Oh - and - a rather nice and timely gift - from my boyfriend, on his way back from picking up that guitar, he picked up a book for me - knowing I'm playing around with some ideas for a children's book - Tove Jansson's first Moomin picture book : The Moomins and The Great Flood.
I love the cover. I'm a Tove Jansson fan, having read some of her short stories a while ago, but I haven't read any of the Moomin books. The Moomins always felt exciting, a bit scary, other-worldly, when I watched them on TV when I was a kid. I'm looking forward to reading this, and a Richard Yates collection a friend bought me for Christmas. Feeding the fire, I hope.
So I'll let you know how I go. Anyone want to join me in this experiment? Let me know if you do and I'll link to you.