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.

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Thursday again already

I’ve been busy. I don’t have much to show for it, beyond the normal minimum of the day-to-day mundanities that make life tick along nicely and keep everyone happily fed and clean and comfortable. I have been reading – and arguing with, sometimes aloud – Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots. This is a fascinating, and sometimes frustrating, but nevertheless invaluable (to my mind) read, with the concommitant effect of making me question whether I really do know what it is that I am doing with the WIP. But then, Christopher Booker has made so many silly mistakes – even getting a major plot point in Star Wars wrong; unforgivable! – that I doubt his reason too. (Read a review here ).  On balance, despite the niggles, I think it will be a greater help in the long run, when the time to comes to completely overhaul my novel and pull it to bits and restructure it. As I move closer and closer to the end I find that I am already trying to work out how the story will have to be rearranged. And the closer I get to the end of the first draft, the more I am trying not to think about the likelihood that it will all be a load of unmitigated rubbish. The odds are not in my favour I think, as far as first novels go. Even so, it has to be done; one word at a time, one tale at a time.

And yet…  there is something strangely exciting in Booker’s ideas that is infusing me with more than the will to write, with the need to write. And so I have given myself a deadline; I have until Easter to get this thing, this baggy bizarre monster of a first draft, done. Now if I can just work out how it’s all supposed to end…

When I start the next novel, later this year, I will be doing things very differently.