It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Busy busy busy – but nobody’s that busy, really, are they? Choosing where to spend your time is a conscious action, and I haven’t been choosing to spend it blogging. It would be really satisfying if I could say, smugly, oh it’s because I’ve been doing so much work on my novel project. But honestly I’m a bit in the doldrums with it at the moment, so that would be a big fat lie.
It turns out that I like editing and redrafting about seven thousand times less than I enjoy banging out a first draft. I shouldn’t be surprised by that, really. I’m the person who handed in her dissertation at the end of her degree without ever having read it all the way through, let alone put any work into editing into a cohesive piece of work.
(Shockingly, I did not ace that module).
(Nor the one on Renaissance literature for which I literally had not read the texts).
(I would do things differently, now).
(Or would I???)
When I finished my first draft I dutifully put it away for a couple of months, like everyone [Kerry] says you should. And when the 8 weeks were up, I dived straight back in, with no particular plan beyond: maybe each chapter should be about 3000 words long?
I would not recommend this approach to a friend. Joyless, aimless, and led to 15,000 words of utter bobbins. I started putting off my daily writing sessions, because they gave me the same sick sense of dread that my dissertation did a decade ago. Instead of a treat, a respite, a lovely creative thing, they’d become a grinding chore I’d do anything to avoid.
That draft is dead, for now. I’ve refocused my daily sessions onto some serious plotting and character work – and I think it’s paying off. Slowly and painfully and more than a year after I started working on it, I think I might have worked out what the story I’m writing is actually about.
I’m not telling you, though. It’s a tiny baby bird that will die if I uncup my hands and show it to anyone. But bear with me, pals. I’m determined to get it into a shape that’s not horrifying, and when I do I might even let some people read it.
In the meantime, please console yourselves with this partial list of Things I Have Been Doing Instead Of Writing.
Organising a wedding!
Fairly certain that the same rule applies to other people’s wedding plans as it does to other people’s dreams: If I’m not in it, I don’t want to hear about it. So suffice it to say: planning a big party for lots of your favourite people is a joy, especially when you get to do all the planning with your VERY favourite person, who is also The Most Organised Man In The World. If you’re coming, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that I have been doing wildly inappropriate road tests on everything from the bridesmaid dresses to the confetti, and it is all going to be delightful.
(Also: RSVP ASAP kthxbye).
[Not quite] buying a house!
One of my favourite things I have ever written was about accompanying Saz on a not-very-successful day of house hunting. Now she has a lovely flat in Cambridge with two adorable kittens (and a lodger who doesn’t know how to load the dishwasher), so ultimately that story had a happy ending.
We’re not quite there yet. We pulled out of a purchase a couple of months ago because the survey came back showing that the entire ground floor had essentially been constructed out of wet paper towels at some point in the early 1980s.
But just this week, we’ve had an offer accepted somewhere else! And perhaps it will all come to nothing! But just for now, I’m enjoying the little flame of hope in my belly that perhaps this will be a house we actually live in. And perhaps the two open planning applications on the road – one to convert a disused mud patch into a new play area, the other to re-open a derelict shop as a cafe – will come to fruition. And perhaps we’ll go and buy coffee, and take Lars to play on the play area, and then go home and sit by the nice bay window, and all will be well.
Doing some not-very-coordinated yoga!
I’ve done 29 days of Yoga With Adriene’s “True 30 Day Yoga Journey”.
I had thought that I could feel myself getting a bit stronger and bendier. Maybe I can do yoga! Then yesterday, out of nowhere, she pulled out this move:
Tomorrow’s the last day in the series, and I’m not sure yet whether that will be a full stop or a comma for me.
My favourite bit is when you get to have a nice lie down at the end.
I made myself so tense with excitement beforehand that I felt physically sick.
It was brilliant, though.
Doing OK at my new job!
I have got past the point where I walk through doors and immediately have to turn around and retrace my steps because I not only don’t know where I am, I don’t know how where I am relates to where I was trying to be. (The trick is: NEVER GO TO THE BASEMENT).
Someone new joined our team on Monday, which whizzed me straight up the emotional charts from Clueless New Girl to Wizened Old Timer. There are two sets of stairs! I told her, wisely. The Pret that is 19 seconds further away is inexplicably much better than the one that is closer!
I’m basically running the place, now.
Cooking lots of new recipes!
We’ve been consciously trying to expand our repertoire of meals over the last few weeks, with varying levels of success.
I am here to tell you: Every tutorial you have ever seen about how to get the seeds out of a pomegranate is a lie. Bashing it firmly with a rolling pin does not result in gleaming gems tumbling into your hand as Nigella and Jamie would have you believe. Instead, it leads to everything in your kitchen being covered in vibrant magenta splash marks, as if a murder has taken place inside a fever dream.
(The pink goes quite nicely with the thin sheen of silver glitter that’s been indelibly coating every surface since we decorated the Christmas cake).
But that Anna Jones one-pot pasta recipe everyone raves about? Yeah, it’s lush.
Going to what we thought would be a human interest story-centred talk about the German Occupation of the Channel Islands, that turned out to be an impenetrable academic lecture about the concept of narrative in historiography with occasional references to Alderney!
Within about five minutes of the talk beginning, we realised that we’d misjudged things. (If I am in a room in which someone is making reference to Roland Barthes and Becky is not by my side drawing elaborate, vaguely-semiotic themed doodles, I know that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong).
But we’d positioned ourselves in exactly the wrong place to try to make a subtle exit, so we were in it for the long haul.
Luckily, Mark and I find exactly the same things funny in exactly the same way, so while the lecture was excruciating the debrief was sublime.
- The man who interrupted the cursory safety briefing to ask aggressive clarifying questions. “Is THIS a fire exit?!” Yes. “THIS is a fire exit, is it?!” Same door. Still yes. “And we assemble in Russell Square, do we?!” Yes, yes, yes.
- The lecturer repeatedly pausing, mid-sentence, seeming startled by having caught sight of his pocket square in his peripheral vision.
- The lecturer pausing at other – also mid-sentence – moments, to nail entire glasses of water. Each time he went to take another sip, he would find his glass empty, and look baffled and incredulous.
- The woman who opened her ‘question’ with the words, “There is an omission in your research. In 2005, I wrote a play. THAT WAS PERFORMED ON BBC RADIO.”
- The man who wilfully misinterpreted one of the lecturer’s statements and asked, literally six times, “THE GERMANS WERE WELL BEHAVED IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS, WERE THEY? THE GERMANS WERE WELL BEHAVED, WERE THEY? THE GERMANS WERE WELL BEHAVED IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS, WERE THEY? WERE THEY?????????” On failing to receive a satisfactory answer, he loudly shuffled around the back of the room for the remainder of the Q&A.
Friends: if you would like to learn about the Occupation, do not sign up for academic lectures on a whim. Also do not read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; it is entertaining nonsense. Go to the Jersey War Tunnels, and perhaps read a book called The Model Occupation by Madeleine Bunting. The lecturer utterly denounced it; on that basis alone I assume that it is accessible and interesting.
…and that’s January done.
I might be back at the end of February.
I might not.