These are words I will be saying to myself repeatedly over the coming weeks. They’re especially important in the beginning, when the characters are just beginning to take shape, the details of the plot just beginning to emerge and fill in the many gaps left by my outline plan. They were especially useful today when I finally had time to sit down at the computer after a morning at the soft play catching up with friends and an almost sleepless night comforting Arthur after his latest jabs.
I was all ready with a multitude of excuses – better, reasons – why I wasn’t going to get any writing done today. But then as Arthur was beginning to doze off and I found myself pleasantly surprised as I read over the beginning of the chapter from yesterday I could hear the words “just write” echoing in my head. So I did, and a couple of hours later swelled with satisfaction as Scrivener pinged to let me know I’d met my daily target.
“Just write” is basically the essence of the reams of advice contained in the books about writing that I read as I was preparing to take the plunge. But the advice that resonated most with me came from Maggie O’Farrell in an article she wrote for the Guardian. When I’d told friends and family that I planned to write a novel whilst I was at home looking after my firstborn they were supportive in theory, but told me that it was very unlikely that it would actually happen. I almost believed them, and then I came across that article. And it just made sense. Especially the sling and the chocolate.
I’m lucky that Arthur likes his naps – compensation maybe for him being a bit of a night owl. So when we have nothing else planned I can usually get a stint in front of the computer both morning and afternoon. I soon worked out how to feed him in the sling too which buys precious extra time. The minute he starts to get sleepy I have my square of chocolate, put him in the sling, and off we go. I know he’s safe so my mind can stay focused, and he always sleeps way better in the sling than if I try and put him down.
I know we won’t be able to go on like this forever – I’m sure at some point this year he’ll start to grow out of his naps and I’ll be looking for tips on how to write whilst caring for a toddler. But hopefully it’ll keep working for long enough for me to get this next book finished. And however tired or scatty I’m feeling I’ll be repeating my mantra: just write.