NaNoWriMo and more…

There are plenty of people who’ve been trying desperately hard to write in the last few weeks since the start of NaNoWriMo ’15. I can all too easily empathise with their frustrations.

One thing that many people don’t realise, when they set out to write something, is that there are very few jobs quite so difficult and exhausting as writing a novel.

Yes, I know, it sounds pathetic, but I’m not whining. It’s just pointing something out. When you get up early in the morning to leave the house and go and work in, say, a school, or a factory or a retail store, you have reason to complain. You have long hours, often involving actual labour that is tiring, and the risk at all times that someone is going to shout and scream at you for some perceived insult that may or not have been intended, and you’ll have the same commute to get home. How can an author’s life compete with that?

Well, first off, an author has exactly the same financial worries as any other self-employed worker. Money, for most writers, is a constant trial. And yet we are expected to be inventive, creative, imaginative and dedicated at all times. Let alone the fact that we must give up evenings and weekends to go and talk about our books, usually at our own expense. And many have to try to hold down a real job at the same time, to try to make the finances work. Again, this is not a complaint, merely an observation.

London at Night. Nice.

London at Night. Nice.

For example, last week I had a series of meetings covering marketing; I had a formal dinner for crime writers; I had a meeting to discuss a series of short stories; I lost two evenings to meetings; and then on Saturday I had a great day with friends from Devon, talking to readers at Crediton Bookshop and the library. All of this was enormous fun – but at the same time I had to write and edit the current books I’m working on. Today I’ve had to go to the bank, write some private letters, catch up on emails, and later today I have to go to Taunton Literary Festival with my good friend Karen Maitland. But at the same time, I have books to write.

Great display at Crediton Library!

Great display at Crediton Library!

It is not only the act of writing that is tiring. It’s the constant competition of voices in your head. While writing I am living the lives of six or seven different people. All of them are individuals in their own right, they have interests and hobbies and jobs, and rarely do any of them match my own personal interests. That means every time I have a shift of point of view I have to change my own nature and look at things from this other person, my creation. That, I believe, is the most exhausting part of the job: it’s the constant attempt to live, think, breathe as another person.

At the end of every week I am aware that yet another week of my life has disappeared. I’m not strange, I think, in feeling that the passage of time is accelerating as I pass closer to sixty. My father was complaining recently, muttering that things don’t taste as strong, everything takes longer to do, and everything weighs more than it used to (he is 95 and complains rarely, I should add), and I can empathise with his views. I had a Morris dancing practise yesterday, which was not helped by a strained back and sore ankle. Neither is debilitating, but both are ruddy irritating!

The most frustrating thing is, however, the loss of time. The time lost to silly phone calls from cold calling salespeople, the time spent to wade through the junk mail delivered every day, the wasted time sitting waiting for a phone call that never comes, or waiting for the phone to be answered when it never is.

All of which pales into insignificance beside the miserable life of the partner of a writer. They sit at home trying to make plans for Christmas, trying to talk about the shopping, trying to discuss whether to go out to an evening’s theatre or just to the cinema, talking to their spouse or partner, only to realise too late that actually the author was trying to work a specific murder into his/her latest story. And before the long-suffering partner can blink, the author’s switched point of view and is the victim just before dying … and still hasn’t the faintest idea, fifteen minutes later, why saying “You never told me that!” leads to a saucepan being flung at his/her head.

Yes, life for the other party can be miserable. But the author is still trying to get ideas down on paper before they dissipate and fade to mere whimpers in the night.

Which is why, when I am trying to plan a week’s work on a Monday, I am always so grateful for people who contact me and ask for a specific topic to be covered. It saves me thinking about such things. And on YouTube this week I have to record a review of my wonderful Visconti Homo Sapiens fountain pen, because someone has asked for it. Thanks!

So, hats off to NaNoWriMo for attempting a novel while also holding down jobs, keeping the family happy, and hopefully remaining balanced and rational human beings. If you can do all that, you’re better than this author!

For those interested in my videos on YouTube, go and look at them here: https://youtu.be/XKK4UFSH4fc

Have a great week. And now, back to the desk …

My standing desk

My standing desk

 

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Comments
17 Responses to “NaNoWriMo and more…”
  1. I second all that Mike, but we have to be tough. There are three entities involved in the process, writer, agent and publisher. In an ideal world, writers write, agents age, and publishers publish, each in his own little box. But since when was the world ideal?

    All we can do is fight against the distractions, and in that battle there two essential principles: never have a phone in your office, and keep your mailbox closed. Please let me know when you’ve established those: I’ve been trying for 25 years but I’ve still to crack either . . . as this instant comment demonstrates.

    Like

  2. Hear! Hear!

    Being a full time, freelance writer is nothing short of bloody heroic! Very few outside the business seem to realize that, but most of us make Hercules look like Walter the Softy by comparison.

    And it’s not often you get references to Ancient Greek literature and The Beano in the same sentence.

    Good luck!

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  3. Jack Eason says:

    I totally sympathise Michael. ;)

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  4. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    More from Michael :)

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  5. So true – one of the hardest jobs around. Had to laugh at so much here: living the lives of multiple people, frantically trying to get something down before the thought disappears ( and “brilliance” only appears as the most inconvenient times…people get so upset when you ask them to be quiet just for a minute while you grab that thaough)
    Enjoyed the post

    Like

  6. Kay Samuelson says:

    Thank you for your very eloquent and explicit article. I hope more of your dedicated fans who are always waiting for your next book with bated breath read it and realize how much does go into the creation of your books. I like the look of your writing room, too, all those books on the shelves and lying around!

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  7. In my younger days I was going to be a writer. I applied for a distance writing course, and my first assignment was to review a local landmark in 2000 words. I chose the Roman amphitheatre and museum at St.Albans. The tutor said it was the first time she had not had to use her red corrections pen on an essay and I was dead chuffed. And gave up straight away! The time it took to visit the site, research the history, get the important stuff written succinctly, whilst being a single mum,and a full time Operating Theatre Sister, all for 2000 words, seemed far too onerous, and life is so short! I applaud you writers for being able, nay driven, to write your books, and am so glad that you do. (I still would put my job now up against yours for being difficult and exhausting, I provide hearing aids for people who don’t want to have them, and oh man, it’s soul destroying!!) keep writing Mr.Jecks

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  8. dgkaye says:

    Well said Michael, nice summation. :)

    Like

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