Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Breathing Space

I have a new super-power. I am able to make others turn green. My ability manifests with the words, "I'm taking December off." 

No-one has been quite foolish enough to suggest "this writing lark is obviously a bit of a breeze'. But then they don't need to. It's written all over their faces. Other writers exhibit a much paler shade of a similar hue. But there reaction is usually along the lines of 'I wish I could get my schedule into that kind of order."

The thing is that for the last far too many months I have been writing in the overlap of son no 1 attending school and son no 2 sleeping. I have been writing late into the evening. I have been writing every weekend. I have notched up no less than three thousand words a day and in one memorable weekend sixteen thousand words. Really, I'm ready for a rest.

The harsh reality is that writing very rarely brings rewards equal to effort; no matter how talented you are. Essentially, you have to have something loose in your head to write professionally. You need to be driven enough that you do not mind that the creation of work will literally consume your life and will often yield less reward than a below average national wage. You need to be mad.

Of course all writers hope that the next book will be the one that is the best seller, that buys them the castle in the country and the gin palace - or perhaps, and this is a bit beyond the bounds of credibility, earns out enough to pay next year's heating bills. I don't think I have ever met a writer who doesn't have hope that their work will be internationally recognized and their lifestyle immeasurably altered by their work. Because, you know, writers work ridiculously hard. 

Okay, so we're not doing manual labour. Currently the only active part of me other than my brain is my very busy fingers. But the hours and the level of organization and concentration required are quite extraordinary. If you don't believe me, try it.

But the real rub is this: if you do it for the money you will never succeed. If you do it because you can't help yourself, because you have to write or you will lose all grip on reality, then you a small chance of success... although to be honest you've still got a better chance of getting rich by buying a lottery ticket.

But even to a writer as obsessive as myself there must be things of more importance than writing. If there is nothing else than humanity vanishes in a puff of a word checker and prose becomes as inspiring as lettuce left at the back of the fridge for a week.

Anyway, as I used to write in my university essays, taking all the above into consideration my conclusion is that while I am mad, while I am driven to write, while I will never stop writing no matter who does or does not publish me, I have earned the right to take December off. Above all I need to take the month off because I owe it to others even more than to myself.

It's No 2's first Christmas. No 2 has had a rocky start. He's been hospitalized a couple of times already in his short life and we've been very, very scared for him. But now he's doing brilliantly, thriving and wanting his Mama. And you know, that's one thing that will stop me writing. I might push on writing despite my own health issues, but my family, partner and my sons,  are my centre, my support, my inspiration and the very heart of me. Everything I am springs from them and this Christmas is theirs.


martha said...

You can't write effectively if you're not human. The wish, nay the need to make this Christmas special for your family is an essential part of what makes you a good writer. Those who don't or won't understand are lacking something very necessary.

fiona glass said...

"No-one has been quite foolish enough to suggest "this writing lark is obviously a bit of a breeze'."

Maybe not, but I had one relative recently say, with great emphasis, "Some of us have to work for a living." O.o

Enjoy the break. It sounds as if you've thoroughly earned it.

Anonymous said...

Hope you enjoyed your month off. I had a two-week break, and it gave me fresh motivation. I thought starting again in January would be hard, but actually found that I was keen to get back to writing regularly.

Enjoyed your piece in the Winter 2008 edition of The Author, by the way.

Ghostwoods said...

How very true this all is. If I was even vaguely sane, I'd have jacked in this professional writing long ago. Fortunately, I'm not :) I'd make a better, more secure living at McDonalds, and I'd probably work less hours too, but then writing just isn't about physical reward. All the other benefits more than make up for the lunacy of it.

Without writing, I'd probably sink into a pit of despair at the utter pointlessness of it all, and never come back out again. That's worth some minor considerations like food and shelter :)