It’s pouring with rain outside- it often is down here in the South West of England. Even though it is only 8am in the morning, the corner of the café in which I sit and write every morning is filling up fast.
I’m a familiar face in here. I usually sit at the same table- although only because it has good light – I’m not precious about sitting in the same spot or anything (despite the plaque on the wall that claims the opposite!). Consequently I am something of a fixture and fitting, and people that come to the café regularly see me here, writing away, every time they come through the door. There is even a rumour that I keep a rolled up sleeping bag and pillow under the table, and never actually go home.
A few days ago, one of the lovely regulars came and asked me a question I’m pretty sure they’ve been dying to ask for months. ‘Why are you always writing, don’t you ever get a day off?’
It’s a good question. One my husband asks pointedly every now and then.
The answer is simple- well ‘simple’ is probably pushing it!
I need to write.
Don’t confuse this with being the same as ‘I want to write.’ That is a different thing altogether.
Once upon a time I did want to write. I dreamt of completed stories, and maybe one day having a book all of my own.
These days it’s an addiction. An unstoppable, nail biting, obsession of disappointment and triumph. A roller coaster I can’t imagine ever getting off.
I used to fit my writing around my job and my life, now it is very much the other way around. As a consequence of course I get massive hits of guilt. So, rather than giving my job less time, I give it more; as I live in fear of letting my employers down, and am frequently to be found processing spreadsheets late into the night.
Then comes the real guilt- when you find yourself only half listening to what your child has been up to at school because you have just thought of a killer line for your latest book and if you don’t write it down NOW, you’ll actually explode!
My children (who luckily for me are both very creative in their own right, and totally get the feeling of absorption which producing something unique brings), are wonderful. Whenever I apologise to them for being only half as attentive a parent as I should be, they tell me off for being daft. Telling me they are just fine thank you very much- and could they have a life to karate, their friend’s house, the cafe now please…
Sometimes I look around at my undusted house, with the fluff on the carpet sometimes reaching epidemic proportions, and feel very sorry for my husband. He didn’t sign up for this. When we met and married almost 18 years ago, I was almost the complete opposite of who I am now. My home was cleaned and scrubbed to within an inch of its life. Dust was captured long before it had the chance to settle, and it was a rare day when there wasn’t a fresh cake baking in the over. And somehow, alongside all this, I had 3 part time jobs and was doing a PhD.
My husband must miss that multitalented woman, domestic goddess, and fellow academic. Sometimes I think he deserves a medal for putting up with me, because- to get back to the point of this blog- I really do only have a one week off a year for a holiday, along with a few random days off at Christmas and Easter each year. Not because I have a maverick boss yelling at me, not because I am forced to- but because I can’t stop. I just can’t.
Okay, there are lots of deadlines to deal with, and there are times when I am genuinely very much up against time- but often I have to work because- well, I have to work! If I don’t I’m a ratty, fidgety, grumpy person who is in serious danger of losing my usually permanent smile.
And why wouldn’t I smile all the time- I am addicted to the best job in the world!!
So be warned anyone out here who hopes to write a book some day. You too could also be kidnapped by the world of the imagination- a world that is so much safer than the real one, because you are always in charge. You get to pick the words that shape the lives of everyone you invent- a powerful narcotic indeed…. (Oh- and if you do want to risk it and write-make sure you are married to a very very understanding husband or wife!!!)