Okay, I’ve done it now. I’ve started this. There’s no going back, even if I could afford to return the advance (which I can’t, because we spent it on helping pay off the mortgage already).
I’m really writing books.
Not ‘book’, as in a singular Australian masterwork. ‘Books’, as in a three-part series. Wow. I can’t quite believe I’m so productive. Or that the fruits of my labours are really going out there, into the world. I get all teary just thinking about it. My babies, in long pants.
So I’ve put off the blog-writing thing as long as possible, mainly because I just couldn’t believe that people out there would be actually interested in what I do. As a writer, I mean, because nobody sits to read through the daily exploits of plumbers, or dentists, or teachers (I know, because I am also a teacher, and believe me, nobody is really that interested in what teachers do. Woe.)
But apparently people really are interested in what writers do. Which I get, because I write, so I’m always fascinated by what other writers do. Professionally – how do you live on such low wages? Is it better to send your agent a card at Christmas or a gift? Where do you get those lovely headshot promo pics done? And personally – how do you cope with lower back pain from all the sitting? Is your garden/housework/family as neglected as mine?
But I couldn’t fathom why non-writers would be that interested in all that stuff. What do writers do? We sit. We sit in front of a computer, mainly, for hours at a time, gazing into the screen or into space, while our brains churn. We drink lots of caffeine (I know, not everyone drinks caffeine, but a lot do). We just…think about stuff, and then type it into being.
It just sounds too tedious to be interesting to other people. But it’s a pretty good description of what I do, so I’m guessing it applies to other writers too. And if you really want the blow-by-blow of what happens every day, then read on:
I get up at 4.45 am. That’s when my alarm goes off, anyway. Sometimes I lie in bed, wondering how I can get up, and other times I jump out keen to get started. I shamble into the kitchen and make a thermos of tea in the saucepan. While the tea’s boiling, I change out of my pajamas and into my ‘writer’s clothes’ – ie, the daggiest pair of corduroy trousers the world has never seen, and layers of long-sleeved t-shirts, plus a downie and then a beanie, to keep my head warm. You get cold sitting still in one place for a long time.
I leave my ugg boots on, and take the thermos with me to the study outside. We have an outside study which is big enough for two desks and a bookshelf. There are lots of tangled cords and wires from computers and printers and wireless internet modems etc. There is no heating, and the doors and windows don’t close properly, hence the downie.
It is still black outside. It is very quiet, very peaceful. None of my family is awake.
I deliberately avoid hooking my computer to the internet, and get my current work file open on my laptop. God, I love my laptop. If the house was burning down, my laptop would be the thing I would grab. Considering most of the family photos are on it, this is not as selfish as it first appears.
So there I am, with my laptop, my thermos of strong sweet tea, my fingerless gloves, my lap blanket…and that’s it. I sit there. I read through stuff I wrote yesterday, and then I start typing. Most of the first few things I type are complete arse, but I type anyway. That’s what it’s like. You don’t wait for ‘The Muse’ to waft softly and generously into your presence, and then commune with your Muse. You bash away until that lazy fucker shows up to work. (I didn’t make that up. Stephen King said that first).
About two hours later, as my muse is slowly rubbing the sleep out of his/her eyes and asking for another wake-me-up cigarette, my partner comes in. He spends some time on the throat-clearing/stubble-scratching routines that men have when they get up, and then we negotiate whether I have to come in and help make scrambled eggs on toast for four hungry boys, while packing lunches into bags and getting ready for the school run…or whether I have a few more blessed minutes/another hour before I have to stop (now that I’m actually on a roll).
Eventually the time comes and I have to leave the study, and make myself presentable to the world, and get the kids off to school. So I close everything down and save it (double save it!) and come out of my burrow for another day. And then I repeat the whole routine the next morning. And the next. And the next… and so on. Until a book is written, or until I start to despair of every living a normal life or getting a chance to sleep in ever again.
But I hardly ever sleep in. Because, just for those two hours a day, I’m totally immersed. I’m snagging a memory, or I’m remembering a sound, or I’m having a conversation, or I’m getting angry, or I’m falling in love. I’m reaching for something intangible, and I’m so close. I almost get there… And then it’s time to move.
But maybe I’ll get there tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or sometime next week, or next month, or next year. It’s what keeps me getting up at 4.45am every day of the goddamn week – the stretch for that next word, that next phrase, that will make it just perfect…
So who’s crazier? Me, for doing it, or you guys, for thinking you can understand it? I don’t understand it. It’s un-understandable.