On Sabbatical: Week Two

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This week was, again, a week of surprises as far as the process of writing the novel is going. After a good break away from it over the weekend, I swung back into the novel on the Monday only to find myself blocked. My book is historical fiction featuring some very well known actual people and places, so needs to have a basis of fact onto which I can build the story. A lot of what I have been doing is finding anchor points for the fictionalised stuff, in the factual stuff. And on Monday I was searching for a place to fit a particular scene that would link two big chunks of plot together smoothly. But because there are several people, many animals, several places that are all part of the story at different time points, it becomes quite complicated. I became quite frustrated because I just wanted to write the story, and felt like I was stuck in a place of constantly referring to different texts and never quite finding what I needed. Cue an avalanche of self doubt over whether I can actually do this and complete it, whether this genre is too challenging, whether I should have just stayed in my poetry lane. In the afternoon I found my inbox beginning to fill with stuff I needed to work on, in particular planning for courses starting at the end of the month and the beginning of next month, editing jobs that people are waiting for, mentoring stuff that I’m behind with. It became a bit of a vortex in which I was being sucked, with the usual frustration of not feeling that I can put my own work first. (#writerlife)

On the Tuesday it rained. I went through my morning routines of journalling and reading etc, while in my PJs and wrapped up in a big fluffy cardigan and feeling all cosy and autumnal with the rain falling down outside. I sat down at my computer and whatever had blocked me the day before, lifted. I found the factual platform to build my scene and I stayed at the computer for almost the whole day, in my PJs, wrapped in my fluffy cardigan, writing and drinking cups of tea, looking out at the rain and then writing again. It was brilliant. I got nearly 6000 words done that day, tied two scenes together, opened the door to a sub plot and also solidified one character who was a bit wispy and 2D. That was a good, good day. Because I’d done so well on that day I decided that the next day I would do some cleaning and decluttering and let that block of work rest until I could return to it with fresh eyes. The rest of the week was spent editing that block, refining it and tidying it ready to move the story forward next week.

I’m starting to panic that I won’t be prepared for the courses and classes I’m teaching, but that’s really just an anxiety thing. I had some training this week on a new teaching platform that I’m not familiar with and got a chance to chat to my supervisor about the new class and how nervous I am about it, and actually feel a bit better. I’ll be fine once the first one is out of the way and I know who I am working with, their experience level and what their needs are, so that I can tweak the learning resources and make sure that I address those needs.

I got my planners out this week too and started to think about how I can continue working on the novel once I ‘return to work’. It became clear when I was working out the next few month’s work that I am still taking too much work on, and I intend on doing more cutting back. How on earth have I managed with the level of work I’ve been doing??!! Oh, I remember… I DIDN’T. All that work coupled with a pandemic and a poorly husband tripped an underling heart problem, pushed me into becoming too reliant on friends to support my mental health melt downs, caused me to not look after my health; relying on booze as a way to relax, and stopped me from enjoying my life.

I am determined to cut more work back and have three mornings a week working on the novel, from day break to around 11am. I deserve to be healthy and happy and working as a creative.

This weekend I dug out my non fiction project and started tweaking it for entry into a big competition. Just like other freelancers, I always have to think about the next job, the next project and how to fund it. This particular award is a good cash award that would in effect fund the writing of the non fiction book, which would be the next project after the novel. I actually had some interest from an agent with this project a while ago, but they wanted to see virtually the whole thing and I just did not have the time to put the research in (not research I can do from my office, unfortunately) and the writing time, so I had to shelve it until I can get to a place were I can afford to spend time on it. So this is something I want to make a good job of, and I do find that having a deadline focuses my mind and makes me think about what is an isn’t important to me. The flip side of this is that I am usually fairly gutted when I get turned down for funding etc because A. it takes so much time and preparation and B. it is such a game changer for a writer to have a project funded, it’s the dream really, and when you don’t catch that dream you feel a bit shit about yourself and your work, like you’re not good enough.

I am sad that my writing month is slipping away and I won’t have the time to work on any of the projects the way I’d like, soon, but the experience has been something that has enabled me as a writer. I feel like a door is opening in terms of me respecting my own process and making the changes in my work-work to enable more creative practice.

Other things I did this week included cycling down to the beach, which is much quieter since the children went back to school. It was wonderful. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed that trip, even with the big hill to climb. And I am pleased to say that I am still sticking to my cut back alcohol programme and healthier eating, and loving it. I’m starting to see a real difference in my health and well being and my mindset around taking care of myself.

I think I will look back on this month as a time of genuine happiness, in all aspects of my life. I really hope I can hold onto it. I feel like I have put some real work in lately, work on myself as well as on the book. I have taken my current favourite mantra to heart:

Everything in your life is a reflection of the choices you have made. If you want different outcomes, make different choices.

Thanks for reading my rambles.

Until next time


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