Tag Archives: challenge



“A portrait of my child once a week, every week, in 2016”

This one (pictured here admiring himself in the mirror post-bath) has been more than a little bit challenging this past week.

He has been seeming super grumpy, which is totally unlike him – quick to get tearful and to lash out, and extra clingy at the same time. He had a cold that lingered for ages, but I’m sure there’s something else going on.

Tonight he started chewing on his hands, and told me that his teeth hurt at the back of his mouth, so maybe it’s his molars.

Or maybe he’s just levelling up again – it definitely feels that way as I watch him learn and play.

Or maybe it’s a bit of all three.

Whatever the reason, it’s been a real test of our parenting strategies, and our commitment to using gentle and respectful techniques to help him grow.

I think we’ve just about managed to hold our course…

A writing recovery plan

I’ve said it before, but it’s a game of peaks and troughs this writing lark.

I had a real burst of motivation after my last little dip, reminding myself why getting up early was good for my soul as well as a handy window for escaping into the world of my novel.

But since then life, as it is wont to do, has thrown me a bit of a curve ball. I’ve taken on some new responsibilities for the Connecta Lives blog, I have an epic to do list to help get Shoalstone Pool ready for summer, the school where I am a governor is facing a new raft of challenges. And perhaps most importantly right now the #THISislearning campaign that I have set up with Maddy in protest against what the SATs are doing to our children is gathering steam and demanding a lot of our attention.

All of this is good, and important, and exciting. But none of it is doing anything to give me the headspace I need to write – not even with 6am starts and lemon water.


The lighter mornings have thrown another challenge into the mix. They are great on one level: the creeping peachy light of the morning sun across the bay is undoubtedly much more conducive to getting up than inky blackness. Unfortunately this also applies to Arthur, and whilst he is remarkably good (for a three year old) at keeping himself entertained in his room until the gro clock says it’s morning it is getting increasingly hard to hold on to that little window of time as my own.

I still have to write, though – to meet my goals, and to release the pressure in my brain. It’s not that I have nothing to write about – I know the direction this story is going in, and my characters are clamouring for my attention. It’s just that it is hard to hear them over the noise of everything else. But I have to find a way.

So I’ve come up with a bit of an action plan. Nothing fancy, but enough hopefully to keep things ticking over and move that progress bar from orange to green.

YESTERDAY I measured up and ordered some blackout blinds for Arthur’s room. I’m not entirely sure how we’ve gone three years without them, but they are definitely needed now.

TODAY I am going to take stock (starting here) and clear as much as of my to do list as I can, hopefully clearing out some space in my brain in the process.

TONIGHT I am going to really make the effort to get an early night, and give myself the time to wind down from screens before then. I’m drifting back into night owl mode, and the lack of sleep is slowing me down.

TOMORROW morning, and every morning, I am going to make sure I write something – anything – to keep the progress on my novel going in the right direction. My daily targets have crept back over the 1500 word mark, and for me that is very rarely achievable. Any words are better than none though, so I’m not going to let the fear of not meeting those targets stop me from writing anything at all.

Next WEEKEND, and two weekends after that, I am going to maximise the time I have on the train for two whistlestop visits to London to catch up and get myself properly back on track. When I set my targets in the first place I didn’t include the weekends in my writing schedule, but now it is time to make the most of that little buffer.

It doesn’t really matter (not to anyone other than me) if I miss my self imposed deadline and the writing of this first draft spills over into June. But it’s hard to juggle writing with everything else that’s going on, and if I don’t set myself some boundaries (and do my very best to stick to them) I worry that I may not find the time to write at all.

And now I’ve set this plan out in black and white I’m hoping it will make it all the more likely that I’ll follow it. Not least because you lot can help keep me on track if I don’t…


Writing Bubble


The end is in sight

At the beginning of January, I set myself a challenge. It was one I’d been building up to for a couple of months – researching, outlining characters, padding out the plot – and just like last time there were lots of people ready to warn me that I might be setting the bar too high.

My plan was to write my second novel before Easter. I’d set out to write my first around the same time last year: I got started a little later, as January was spent just coming to terms with being a mum, but I’d actually been writing Lili Badger in my head for ages. And being aimed at the young adult market, my initial word count goal was only sixty thousand.

This time round I was mother to an almost-toddler rather than a newborn and I was aiming for ninety thousand words in my first draft. I wasn’t sure quite how long Arthur was going to keep up his very convenient twice daily feeding and napping in the sling routine. Oh, and on top of all that I’d also decided to start a blog.

Still, once I’d ironed out a few issues with motivation, characters and research, I actually really enjoyed throwing myself into the world of a new novel. As the story progressed, scenes I’d loosely mapped out almost seemed to write themselves, and I was getting a real buzz from watching the progress bar moving in the right direction in the brilliant Scrivener app. There were days when I didn’t write as much as I hoped, and even some when I didn’t manage to get in front of the computer at all, but the deadline was still far enough away that it didn’t make a discernible difference to my overall word count – I really didn’t need to worry about it too much.

And then suddenly we were in March. Arthur was ill – again – and the sleepless nights and constant breastfeeding were really beginning to take their toll. On top of that we had a trip to London planned to promote my first novel which ended up taking out almost a whole week of writing time. It was with trepidation that I looked at Scrivener’s project targets on the Monday after we got back from London: and, as I feared, my daily word count goal had gone way over the fifteen hundred words that I knew I could manage.

But actually it’s been ok. Well, better than ok to be honest. Things in the story have reached a climax, so sitting down to write has got even more exciting. Several times over the last couple of weeks I’ve had to drag myself away after crossing the two thousand words mark because Arthur’s patience has worn thin. He’s generally been pretty fantastic though – still napping well, and enjoying playing independently at my feet (and maybe trashing my study just a little) – so that not only have I been able to get back on track with the novel but I’ve even kept the blog up too.

The first draft isn’t finished yet – still 16,682 words to write, as those of you on Twitter might have noticed from my daily Scrivener updates – and of course the first draft is only the beginning of the journey towards the completed novel. But to have less than 20,000 words left, with 12 writing days to go until my self-imposed deadline, feels pretty damned amazing.


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