Recently, I’ve been experiencing a low-level of constant, nervous anxiety. And I think I might have just worked out why: summer holidays! Yes, the countdown is well and truly on as my eight year old gleefully tells me each day, “No homework!” The teacher’s foot is already off the pedal and probably on the hot sand of whatever beach he’s off to next week. As we hurtle towards eight weeks of ‘freedom’ I can feel myself start to panic. How will I manage to keep sane i.e. keep writing, with two young boys to entertain from dawn to (well past) dusk each day?
The summer holidays are a challenging time for all working families, but the truth is the distractions of daily life can always invade our writing time and space. Here’s something I wrote last year when I was finding it difficult to knuckle down. I hope it helps.
I thought writing a second novel would be easier. Guess what? It’s not! It’s not quicker and just because I’ve done it once there seems no guarantee that I am capable of doing it again. Last year, buoyed up by a grant from the Northern Ireland Arts Council, I shelved my freelance work to concentrate on my novel, I was going to put all my energies into it and make it brilliant. However, I hadn’t factored in that I now had two children instead of just one. My eldest son had homework, and a plethora of post-school activities, while the other was an inquisitive toddler that didn’t much like to sleep and required round the clock care and attention. The main thing about these domestic factors is that they exhaust you! Most days I was left feeling as if I’d been run over by a ten-ton truck, so that burning the midnight oil to input words on a screen became a Herculean effort. I had finished my first book – which had occupied most of the previous four years of my spare time – and I felt I deserved to rejoin the human race; start keeping fit again, do some yoga, catch up with friends. We all need a bit of light relief, right?
Wrong! You see, once you start these other ‘non-writing’ related activities, your time gets eaten up; bite by small bite, until suddenly – yep – you’ve no time for writing. Suddenly it became important for me to get my nails done, essential for me to go to yoga, imperative that I exercise every other day. Suddenly, days would go past, sometimes even weeks, when my laptop would remain closed and the longer it stayed closed, the harder it became to open it, and the more excuses I found to avoid it.
So there it is. The confessions of a non-writing writer, because as I’ve read so often before; the only real difference between being a writer and wanting to be a writer is the act of writing itself. It is something that must be done daily, if even for five or ten minutes, it is something that must be persevered with even on the hardest of days, it is something that requires an iron-will and a steely determination. I used to know this about writing, but it’s time I got re-focused. It’s time I ditched the other distractions; it’s time I stopped running from writing.