The happier my life’s become, the less inclined I feel to take a holiday. Why go to the trouble of packing a suitcase – or worse, boarding a plane – when you’ve got (almost) all you want at home? Five nights’ in Cumbria seeing friends and family, and researching my possibly third novel, back in April, have furnished a perfectly adequate change of scene for this year, along with a three-day non-residential music course next week.
Last year I successfully used the looming deadline to motivate myself to complete a new strand of my novel-in-progress Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home. Towards the end of last month, I had the bright idea of doing something similar with my current WIP Snowflake, and finish the first draft I’d begun at the end of February. If I’d managed it once, why not do so again?
This is why! When I worked in the NHS, and did feel inclined travel, I’d make a frantic effort to complete my to-do list as the holiday approached. Some of that extra energy proved productive; some crazy as I tried to cram several months’ work into a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, this year’s writing target belongs in the crazy category.
For those who write 2000 words before breakfast, my target of 18,000 words across thirteen potential working days might seem modest. But we must all find the pace that works for us, and I’ve learnt that an average 1000 words a day is fast enough for me. Even so, towards the end of last week the writing was going so well it looked as if I might manage those extra 5000 words.
Until my throat began to protest. If you write by voice rather than keyboard, a sore throat is a sure sign of overwork. And even a struggling soprano knows she won’t enjoy a singing course with an aching throat.
Why had I set myself an unworkable target? Something in Charli’s post last week gave me a clue. She wrote movingly about her husband’s response to increasing disability as a kind of running away. (Forgive the paraphrasing, and oversimplifying.)
We are all prone to this when confronted with the unbearable. Everyone knows about denial as the first phase of grief. Some might follow this with a period of intense activity, a manic attempt to rectify what can’t be fixed.
In a (fortunately short-lived) confrontation with reality, I wondered who or what I’d be if I abandoned writing altogether. Scary moment! But, mindful of my forthcoming short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, I’ve been contemplating my identity as an author, and the function it might serve as a defence against other possible identities. (Old hag, anyone?) But that’s for another post.
Over to you. Are you guilty of overworking to avoid confronting writerly disappointment? Or other kinds of disappointment perhaps?
Although I have accomplished a reasonable amount this week, I’d prefer to close the lid of my laptop with a sense of completion. But perhaps absorption in something completely different next week will also provide the change of focus I need.
With the latest flash fiction prompt – peering from the woods – I thought the following 99-words would comprise my total output on my WIP Snowflake for this week. But, of course, one idea sparks another, and I couldn’t resist composing another 1000 word scene. Let’s hope I can rein in my enthusiasm so that, on Monday morning, I still have a voice.
Birdseed on the fence post again. My heart skips. Who would dare feed animals when people starve? An ornithologist, that’s who. Another forbidden word.
Scrambling over the layers of barbed wire, I pick my way through a soggy carpet of mashed leaves into the shelter of the trees. Birds flit from branch to branch, their sweet song sweeping all worries from my mind. Then I hear it, smell it: someone’s stopped at the fence.
Peering from the woods, I must be dreaming. Whacko has a gentle side? Something to use against him the next time he brandishes his cane.