Friday, 6 March 2015

Cementing this writing life

Marking the start of term

A couple of weeks ago uni started again. I am so excited, it is like my brain has kicked back into gear. In the first week we got the outlines of our assignments and I have already started thinking about some ideas. I have been learning to grab inspiration when it comes, making a quick note to myself on a scrap of paper, in my diary, on my phone, wherever is handy. I lost one idea recently because I was lazy – in my defence it was the middle of the night - and I thought confidently I’ll remember that, and of course I didn’t. Needless to say it was probably very profound and insightful! At work there is no time to wait for inspiration to strike. You have to think on the run.


Slogging it out
Inspiration is only one per cent, so the saying goes, with the other 99% being the blood, sweat and tears required to deliver on it. And I can attest to that. With the deadline looming for the quarterly magazine I had to prioritise and focus on getting my articles done. When asked earlier what I was going to contribute, I had rashly volunteered to write two articles – one which was part of a continuing theme on infrastructure investment and the second on a farmer wining an award. The pressure was on to get the drafts written, get quotes signed off, facts checked and photos submitted. The cycle from flash of inspiration to delivering the final copy was short but satisfying.

It takes time

For my uni assignments there is the luxury of having more time – in terms of when it is due. But given that there is not much spare time in my week I still have to plan and prioritise – research first, sketch an outline, continue researching to fill the holes and then write the first draft, step back and review, then add and amend as necessary. For my first assignment I am halfway between steps three and four. I have some more reading to do, but I have also started writing down some sentences which may make it to the first cut. Remembering to allow enough time for all these steps is tricky.

Capturing the light
At the moment getting into the habit of writing seems to be as more of a challenge than finding the ideas. I am getting better at capturing the fleeting ideas as they float past. But making myself sit down and focus on turning out a piece is somewhat harder. It is the hard work end of things. I will have to make sacrifices – mainly ones relating to time I suspect, for writing is a cheap activity. I know that making time to write brings me rewards – not least of which is new understanding. Joan Didion is famous for her quote “I don’t know what I think until I write it down”. This really hits the spot for me.

Where is my chair?
It occurred to me this morning that my writing needs to start coming first more often. It needs to come first in my day and it needs to dictate the rhythm of my day. So I should be taking a break when the writing dictates – when I hit a wall, not when life dictates. And therein lies the challenge. I have other responsibilities – to earn a living, to my family and friends and to look after myself. Some of this can fit nicely around writing and some of it can’t. So I’m going to have to make some hard calls. I will continue to flirt with the idea of dropping my hours at work until I feel more comfortable with the idea. And I need to make more time at the weekend to tap away at the keyboard, applying a little more discipline to stay seated and not wander away to do the oh-so-very important housework!