When Writing is Like Juggling (but Without the Financial Rewards or Job Satisfaction)

A little while ago, when I had the luxury of only writing one book at a time, a fellow author and book blogger asked me to describe a typical writing session. I gave her this. I hope it doesn’t put too many people off writing as a career. It’s laugh-a-minute really. And the chocolate biscuit cake is delicious.

A Typical Writing Session:

Having dropped my youngest son at Montessori, I make a cup of coffee and sit at the kitchen table. Chocolate biscuit cake would be an added bonus and helped me a great deal when I was writing The Galian Spear (chocolate is great for the imagination), but the sequel is going to be much longer, and I don’t think my heart and blood sugar levels could withstand that level of abuse again.

I open the laptop and have just scrolled down to chapter three, when a beep indicates that an e-mail has arrived. I open it. The publishers of a book I am editing are asking for some minor changes. Thirty minutes later, having made and dispatched these changes, I open chapter three once again. Before I start writing, I think to myself, “I’ll just check my Twitter account very quickly.” I do so, and discover tweets from several fellow writers asking me to retweet their latest book promotions. Having done this, I notice an interesting tweet from a friend. I respond to it. The friend responds back.

Fifteen minutes later, I open my writing program again. My phone beeps. A text has arrived from my son’s school telling me that his soccer practice has been cancelled. I return to the table. The phone rings. A member of my family has rung for a chat. In as affectionate and calm a manner as possible, I remind them that I am working at the moment and will call them back later. “Working?” they say in obvious disbelief, “What are you working at?” “I remind them that I am writing a sequel to the book I published last year. “Oh, of course, they say, “How is that going?”

Five minutes later, I manage to hang up. I look at the clock. I have one hour and forty five minutes left for writing, maybe just about enough time to finish the first draft of chapter three. I begin writing. Five minutes later, the phone rings. It is the school telling me that one of my children is feeling unwell. Putting the laptop on the shelf so my dog doesn’t decide to chew it in my absence, I get in the car and go to collect my child. When I get home, I get the invalid a warm drink, a book and a blanket and make her a bed on the sofa.

Returning to the table, I discover that the dog has chewed up one of the sofa cushions and knocked my cup of coffee onto the floor. I spend ten minutes clearing up piles of brown, damp fluff in which tiny shards of china have become concealed. Then I search for plasters for the cuts I now have on my palm and fingers. I eventually find the plasters, not in the medicine cabinet as I expected, but in the drawer that normally holds our collection of old remote controls and defunct mobile phones. I treat my wounds, take the laptop down from the shelf and open it up.

The operating system has chosen this moment to install a series of complicated updates at the exact same time that our Internet connection has decided to operate at a speed that would have been considered slow in 1991. I spend twenty minutes looking at a black screen and a message that says “Do not switch off your computer until the updates have finished installing.”

When it has finished, I get myself a fresh cup of coffee and open up the computer again. This time, I switch on the writing program immediately and begin to read over what I had written the last time I had a few scrambled minutes available. Twenty minutes later, I have to collect my son from Montessori. Another writing day is over.

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