An Admission of Failure

Annoying, isn’t it, and frustrating, when just as you think you’re beginning to get a handle on things, beginning to get the hang of things again, something happens to derail you, and you’re left feeling like utter rubbish. A Failure.

I haven’t attempted NaNoWriMo since 2011. This year I felt ready, in the zone, itching to fling a constant stream of words at the screen. And I began, and it was enjoyable. The story is utterly ridiculous, but it’s growing out of an idea I’ve had in my head, and various notebooks for a while now. And having spent most of this year editing and redrafting stuff, rather than writing from scratch, it felt so bloody GOOD to be flying free again.

And then I was ill. Felled for the best part of three days by a sore throat and a headache I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I fell behind. Not just on NaNo, but on everything. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Just as I’d finally found that tenuous balance, all the spinning plates came crashing down. Because, you see, owing to circumstances of Life, I am now operating as a single mother. And that’s fine, and as it needs to be. But, if things aren’t done, they remain not done until I do them. There is no one to pick up the day to day slack. And now I’m back on my feet, but setting all those plates spinning again is… hard. I feel paralysed. All I want to do is sleep. After years of not sleeping at all well, now I’ve gone the other way. And there are all those things to be done, waiting for me. Something’s got to give. Preferably not me. Not again. So NaNoWriMo, adieu, for this year. I know it’s all there, my writing, waiting for me. But oh, the frustration. There’s nothing like kicking yourself when you’re down, to compound the knowledge that you’re useless.

 

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It only hurts when I move.

Christmas, frankly, has been a bit rubbish so far. Starting Christmas Eve on a sleep deficit that would run into the small hours of Christmas morning (44 hours in total before my body and mind gave up fighting), before retiring early to bed after Christmas dinner – which I cooked (it was delicious, of course). Nearly three days later, somewhat less germ ridden, and bored with being in bed, I got up, and sping! My back went. 

Marvellous, isn’t it?

Still, I have managed to cook and eat some bubble and squeak, so Christmas IS now properly happening. (Finally!) It will probably be another two days before I need to eat again, so that’s a mercy. In the meantime, as painkillers aren’t really doing much of anything, I am cheerfully taking gin. We’ll see what happens when I try to get out of this chair.

 

It would be nice to start the New Year with some seasonal magic, so fingers crossed…

Ch-ch-ch-changes.

Change. It’s not my favourite thing, unless it is a change for the better. And this new year brings change with it. Changes to the domestic routine, now that my daughter has moved to a different school and we no longer have to get up quite so early. Or pay fees for that matter, so a financial change too.

Routine is important and I need to re-evaluate mine. With the end of the Christmas holiday I must rebuild my writing routine. The hours I have available to spend at my desk are precious to me, but have been eroded by external pressures. And insomnia. Insomnia corrodes everything, as well as my temper. I spend long hours looking at the dark. I’m sure it looks back at me with a sardonic smile, waiting for the punchline of sleep arriving a scant two hours or so before I should be getting up again. There are days when I don’t absolutely need to be a functioning human being first thing in the morning, then I get to catch up with sleep. Unfortunately the corollary of this is loss of desk time. And no matter how I try to juggle my sleep pattern, nothing, at the moment, works. It will pass – after all, it always has before. But it’s awfully frustrating in the meantime. So the change from insomniac to not-being-one is a change I am very much looking forward to.

I don’t believe in making resolutions because the number designating the year changes, so don’t ask me what I’ve chosen to do/stop doing. I want to carry on doing the things that make me happy, all other things permitting. The things that make me not happy, have to be put up with, worked around, got on with, because they also happen to be necessary. Believe me, if they weren’t, then I wouldn’t bother!

One of the things that makes me happy is my ongoing personal revamping project. Over the last year or so I (like to think) that I have acquired a little more polish in the personal style stakes. There have been changes in my skin care routine (see? Changes in routine can be a good thing; this has proved it), in what I wear and how I wear it. Getting my hair cut has become a regular thing (routine again) rather than an event that might happen twice a year. Soon I will be in the market for a new pair of glasses; the frames I currently wear have seen nearly seven years of service, so a new look is definitely called for (the lenses of course have been changed several times). And perfume. I need a new signature scent, one that I can wear everyday. My old favourite, Truth by Calvin Klein, has been discontinued, and I have yet to find the perfect replacement. Beauty is not Truth, in this case. Lanvin’s Arpege is old-school gorgeous/glamorous – and in keeping with the vamp in revamping –  and I love it, but, I’m not sure yet if it is absolutely me. Time will tell…

That Monday feeling…

The holiday is over, normal life will resume shortly. Until then, I have been in a holding pattern of alternating tiredness and complete absence of brain. But the post-holiday laundry mountain has been conquered, the fridge restocked, so eveything else must fall into place shortly.

Two weeks ago today, we were taking the scenic route to Sofia after some sort of technical glitch brought Gatwick (catflap to the world) to a standstill, which meant that we missed our connecting flight from Budapest. We ended up being rerouted via Munich, arriving at Sofia nearly eight hours late. Our luggage caught up with us two days later, coincidentally when the weather improved from sullenly thundery, to clear blazing heat. The rest of the holiday went swimmingly, with good food, good company, too many mosquitoes, and plenty of good Bulgarian red wine. Dipping into Twitter occasionally via my phone, I learned that the UK was taking the fast track to Hell-in-a-Handbasket, and the Home Secretary throwing her weight about declaring all police leave cancelled. (A decision that was not hers to make, but rather the Chief Constables’, and not a decision that they backed; this amuses me.)

Apart from the food and drink thing, what did we do on our holidays? My husband spent a great deal of his time heaving the mower about the hayfield that is the garden at the house where we stay: by the time we left, there was even the suspicion of stripes. My daughter flitted about with her little cousin, or playing in her inner world of fairies, rabbits and The Hobbit; and I slept a lot, drank a lot, read a lot, and scribbled a bit. We went up the mountain, (and came down again), we caught the sun, watched the moon and stars, listened to the cicadas. In short, we relaxed. Bliss.

Next week my daughter goes back to school, and the routines will change again. My hours per week at the Bookshop will be increasing – hurrah! – and who knows, I may even begin the <whispers it> Second Draft?

There Just Aren’t Enough Hours In The Day, or Why I Don’t Want To Be A Zombie…

Once upon a time, I was able to do it all. Once upon a time, I didn’t need as much sleep. Now I find myself pulled in so many directions – too many directions. I can’t do it all. Last night for instance; I got into a good flow of writing, and I would dearly have loved to have just carried on. But no. I had to be up very early again this morning (Very Early), so I had to give in to my body’s unreasonable need for sleep. Once upon a time, I could race through my reading list, gallop and cavort through several volumes at a time. Now, I have to juggle my reading time with writing, and sleeping (never mind everything else, the non-negotiables that come with being a mother and a wife). Maybe it’s an age thing; that has a ring of inevitability about it. I can no longer burn the candle at both ends; not if I want to be taken seriously as a decent-looking, well behaved human being. Zombiedom does not appeal!

But the main reason my brain has wandered down this particular path is the issue of reading. I’m still ploughing through – and digesting – The Seven Basic Plots (Booker, 2005), and I’m still dipping into and loving The Legacy (Bedford, 2005). But the waiting to be consumed pile never seems to go down, and already I have more to add to it. Under Heaven (Kay, 2010) is the hardback treat I have promised to myself for when  the First Draft is completed – so a sort of non-chocolate easter egg. Then there are two new paperbacks, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Mitchell, 2011), and So Much For That (Shriver, 2011). I won’t go on, because if I do, I won’t know where to stop; working in a bookshop is a tremendous source of pleasure, but also frustration! And if I had a penny for every customer who has looked round at the laden shelves and told me that they suppose I spend all my time reading… I gave up trying to read at work when Cold Mountain was published, back in 1997. There are only so many times I can cope with rereading the same page and then being interrupted. I’m not there to read, but to assist, to sort out, to make presentable. The shop can be quieter than a really quiet thing, and I promise you, the moment I think about picking up a book, someone will ask me something. I never did finish Cold Mountain, either… so many books, and not enough hours in the day.

But the sun shines more and more, with increasing strength. I’ve seen celandines, little golden glossy stars that twinkle in the verge. And the washing line once more billows with laundry, while the apple tree promises to unfurl its blossom in a few more weeks. Spring is bouncing around like a bouncy thing in spring, and the WIP is gathering pace. So I’m not complaining, not really.

Day 18

Not so much of a NaNo post today – although I am slightly ahead of target and currently happily sitting at just over 30.5k. There were a few days where not many words would come, but those hemming walls of blankness have been kicked over, and there has been some jumping up and down on the ensuing rubble. Carnage is always good for wordage.

The words to sleep ratio has been increasing in favour of the words. I do a fairly passable impression of a human being when doing necessary things like the school run, and going to work. My family seem to still recognise me, although there have been a few Kubla Khan moments of the flashing eyes/floating hair variety. Thank goodness for Frizzease!

So it’s a Thursday, and I’m older today than I was yesterday, and reflecting on what I have done, and what I hope to do in the coming days and years, both in my writing life and my life day to day. Camel racing still features heavily, as does getting a novel finished and putting it ‘out there’. Both are a tremendous challenge, although only one offers the possibility of broken bones. But the exhilaration! I’ve been feeling some of that while writing this month – not exactly flying, but certainly gliding – or at least falling in style. Hmm; so much for this not being so much of a NaNo post!

Strange to think that after next weekend, normal life will have to resume once more, at least for the run up to Yule…

The last sane blog post for the next thirty days.

So here we are; the last hours and minutes before NaNoWriMo begins. For the next thirty days I will be consumed by the words that need to be written. Real life will get from me what needs to be done – Parents’ Evening, the school’s Advent Fair, work, the necessary stuff round the house, and most importantly, my daughter’s birthday – but for the rest, there will be only the words, and the frustration, and the coffee gone cold, and the little piles of satsuma peel, and the midnight forays beneath the stars, staring for inspiration, and finally, the exhilaration. If I’m really lucky, I’ll be flying with the words. That’s the feeling I’m always trying to recover, that flying feeling where the words are unstoppable; the momentum of writing carries both me and the narrative relentlessly onwards through the hours. That’s the feeling I first found about halfway through NaNo back in 2008. I didn’t find it last year, though I tried. It remained elusive, for several reasons, mostly relating to depression. But I’m in a different head-space now. Not where I was in 2008, and most mercifully not where I was last year. And I am excited. I know that at last I will be finishing that which I began back in 2008, the first draft of my first novel, Leaves to the Wind. And fyi? ‘Excited’ is a massive understatement.

Right. I need to read the last couple of chapters from last year’s installment so I can remember where everyone is, and what they’re doing. Why don’t you join me?  It’s not too late to sign up