Attempting to make it as a writer

There is never enough time.  This is a continual grumble of mine.  In an ideal world I would have time to do everything I want to in each passing day.  They say if you want something done then you must ask a busy woman, but even busy women run out of time eventually.

I class myself as fairly disciplined; you have to be when you are self-employed or working from home otherwise it just doesn’t happen.timer

It is so easy to become distracted as you sit at your desk; the phone rings or someone pops in for coffee.  The dishwasher suddenly needs emptying just as you reach that difficult piece of work.  Face the screen, determined to finish that awkward section of production that you need to really concentrate on, firstly you need a clear focused mind so make a cup of coffee; only the third this morning as your favourite tune heralds the morning quiz on the radio.   While here just peel some potatoes in readiness for the meal tonight.

Suddenly it is lunchtime and you have to go for a lunch meeting.  Despite it being work you realise it will be nice to speak to someone having been working alone; well having been alone all morning.  You hang on to the meeting, dragging it on longer than necessary for the company or to put off the moment of finishing that section of work.

The children arrive home almost as you step in the door, time to concentrate on them.  Listen to their days trials and tribulations, find them a snack to keep them going, get the meal on, help with homework I am sure we didn’t learn it like this when I was at school.  Hubby arrives home expecting his meal which you all sit round and discuss your various days. Having cleared the plates and seen them all disappear to watch the TV you realise there is still that item of work that you have managed to avoid all day waiting for you.  Again you will miss all the soaps and the 9pm drama because this just has to be finished and there is no-one now in the office to ask.

Thankfully I am very much more disciplined than this.  I have my office as a physical room which I go into and fall right into work focus.  Unfortunately for my family the dishwasher awaits their return and the meal is a rushed affair after we are all home.    I do go into the office regularly where I probably have more distractions catching up with the others.  At home though I do have the ability to filter out the white noise, the call of the x-box even day time telly holds no allure for me as I concentrate on work.

So if I am this disciplined why can I not find time to write, that is what I claim to want to do?  It is where my passion lies, where I want to be so why?

Maybe that is the problem, I feel guilty taking the time out to pursue my passion when there is so much to do.   I often blame writer’s block; that blankness when faced with a clear piece of paper or screen, but when I am out and about I see stories, scenes and scoops around every corner.  I invent back stories, and make up questions and answers to every person I walk past.  I can even put it to paper (screen) and create a workable draft to a short story or longer.  What I can’t do is re-visit and find the time around the working week and the family to edit.

I have a catalogue of stories all finished in my mind ready to be sent off but they need careful editing and sending.  So is it just editing or is it the fear of rejection.  If I finish this, I must send it and then it may not make the grade.   What if they don’t like it? What if someone critiques my work unfavourably?

Writing is a part of you, your creation, your conception, your invention so when someone disagrees how do you distance yourself from the criticism?  How do you extract the positivity, instead of tossing yet another virtually ready draft onto the every growing trash can of could have beens? How can you build on what you started and use those comments to develop and finalise my work?

I am still editing memories, I still haven’t sent off my story to People’s Friend, I have two or three stories I was going to look at to send to competitions but they are still filed neatly on the computer.

This week is yet another busy week at work, at home and I will be spending some time writing but can I convert some time developing and maybe looking at sending or even at least post  a blog…….

 

Tiggy

Monday Blog Tour

DSC_0085It was a surprise and delight to be asked to join in this tour of blogs from some very successful writers.  I hope I can do them justice.  Many thanks to Veronica for her tag to join the Monday Blog tour, you can read her blog here.

What am I working on at the moment?

Editing is the most obvious comment I would answer here.  I have my novel “Memories” which is still work in progress but out with a beta reader and awaiting a final red pen edit before taking a deep breath and sending out to some agents.

As part of my writing group, we took on the challenge to produce a story for People’s Friend which is not my normal style of writing.  The challenge to me is writing outside my comfort zone and of course the possibility of being published in such a popular well-read magazine.  I have now finished a possible story but it still requires some serious red pen editing before I feel brave enough to send it off.

I also have my monthly mini blogs I provide for the local community magazine.   This is probably one of the hardest things to do – I have about 250 -300 words to create a whole story for a wide audience who need to be drawn in and hooked.  The time pressure as well as the inevitable writers block are my main stumbling blocks.

Finally I am doing an Open University module on “Start Writing Fiction”.  Although already behind with the assignments I am learning from this and some of the short paragraphs I have to produce I already have ideas for short stories or even longer.

You have to remember that all of this is outside my normal life of being a mother, wife, daughter and full time worker.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I still have questions of my own regarding which genre I mainly fall into.   Memories is definitely for women, mothers who will identify with the main character.  But there are elements to some of my short stories that cross the genres such as horror and crime.  I tend to write from the heart so I create characters made up of me.

This sometimes does not work as readers identify too much with a character and then get upset when the character does something unexpected.  Crime writing is particularly prone to this.   A normal everyday situation faced with an everyday dilemma and in a moment of distraction rather than premeditation the character takes the wrong path and becomes my antagonist.

Why do I write what I do?

This is hard to give an answer to as I probably do not know.  I have always loved writing and creating stories and even real life always has an alternative story going on in my head; that ‘what if?’    I have always felt that I had a novel inside of me but it has taken many years of convincing to have the confidence to actually do something about it.

I have  taken part in NANOWRIMO three times, and succeeded twice. Memories originated here and although that year I didn’t finish in time the story has developed into a passable novel.  National Novel Writing Month, takes place every November and is 30 days to write  a 50,000 word novel.  The end product is raw but the achievement is incredible.   The challenge is certainly one of the reasons I write.

I find it cathartic to let the words tumble out having been given a kickstart.  Sometimes the words are not worth the paper they are written on but sometimes there is a spark of something that might work with development.

Finally how does my writing process work?

I start by writing early in the mornings before the rest of the family awakes.   This is my time and I can get quite emotional if disturbed.   7am is when the world is permitted to wake and I draw to a close whatever I am working on.  If I have not finished,  the story and characters will churn around all day in my mind and next day I begin again.

The words often fall out in a bit of a hurried jumble and often differ hugely from the original story line I started with.   I do very little editing at this stage and only later if I feel there is a market or place to develop this do I go back and edit.   I need space away from the story before I edit.

I do send things out and rely heavily on others to critique but still take everything they say to heart and personalise it.  I find critiquing other people’s work just as difficult.  Each stage, after the initial writing takes huge steps to build my confidence to allow others into my world of fiction and make believe.

 

I am tagging the lovely Elaine from http://www.starsandroses.co.uk/   and  hope to tag tone other who will  continue this exciting tour of blogs so keep checking back.

 

You can see Veronica’s  post at  http://www.veronicabright.co.uk/2014/05/05/monday-blog-tour

 

 

Tiggy

Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at Tea Time Treats 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning

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The sun has got his hat on and is coming out to play.  Have we finally got through all that bad weather and the continual flooding and misery?  Is the sun going to stay with us for a while?  Time to fling open the windows and let the fresh summery air cleanse through the house.

I too am going through the process of spring cleaning, unfortunately for Sexy Sporty Dad this does not necessarily mean he will return from work to a shiny new home.  My deep clean involves a deep reboot of my life.  It will hopefully reset my systems back on the track I started out with.

Those carefree childish days full of sun and aspirations cannot be revisited except through the power of memories.  Experience and emotion railroaded the innocent juvenile ambitions I held then to shape who I have become now.

So with this in mind where do I begin?

I have begun the process to turn my working life around returning back to where I started, relearning skills and techniques I thought were long forgotten.   Technology has developed leaps and bounds over the years but to my surprise the basics I learnt a whole lifetime ago are standing me in great stead now.  Some polishing and digging deep down into the stored memory banks is required to revive and renovate some of those old competencies.

I suspect that nothing I do will take away the years of child bearing and mid-life spread but I have found my way back to the gym if only twice a week and gingerly at the moment. The bike currently remains forlorn if not forgotten propped up against the garage wall.   A step at a time; a slow meandering step at a time is how it needs to be done.

A 5 day reboot on juicing as per Joe Cross’ book Reboot was not as traumatic as I had first anticipated. Although midway through the reboot, I unexpectedly attended a work meal for which I arrived full of good intentions but could not resist the wonderful menu I was confronted with, or the persuasive colleagues I was with.  The rest of the week, maybe boosted by my lapse in starvation or the guilt of having done so left me determined to finish and feeling much better than I had expected.  I have to admit that since then I have not juiced as often as I should but I am managing to maintain my 5 a day intake if not quite coping with the additional advisory 7 a day.

So the only thing still on the list to do is the filing.   That is the metaphysical filing, de-cluttering the  abstract pile of administrative drivel that rolls around my brain each day, tiring me out and leaving me like a horse running the grand national overnight.  My brain I notice mirrors the chaos on my desk so maybe Sexy Sporty Dad will see a change as I throw caution to the wind and throw out some of that clutter.  There is a definite correlation between physically throwing away and mentally de-muddling.

I do own a “to do book” which I write it all down in but I still struggle to curtail the new additions.  For each line I gloriously scribble out I still seem to add two new lines to the important and immediate list.

I still have some capacity for more streamlining with work.  There is still a fair (sounds more achievable than long) way to go to reach the sublime heights of Hollywood model figure.  In the meantime there is plenty to keep me busy de-stressing and re-ordering my mental capacity but isn’t that what they say “little and often”.

Tiggy

 

Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at  Tea Time Treats 

 

 

 

One in a Million

I am nothing if not unconventional. 

My boys are at a difficult age, starting out from the cosseted world of education and trying to make it in the world of business and employment.   School has equipped them with knowledge about many things but not yet how to be The One; the one who stands out from the rest.   I am not sure where that will be learnt.  I suspect the same place as I learned; in the hard competitive university of life.

I have never really conformed to  being a normal person.  I struggle to follow the expected norm from childhood  and in my life since.  I have often felt alone working in a very male orientated world where I slowly erode the pre-conceptions of being a woman to becoming accepted and welcomed.   This is probably a hang up from not being able to study mechanical engineering at university when I was in a very antiquated convent school with my limited options of  nun, nurse, teacher or if I had to housewife.

Only this week I had to rely on my individuality to win a new contract.  Being self-employed and running my own businesses on and off over the years I have been on the receiving end of copious job applications and interviews.  Each time I look for that spark of individuality that says this person is different and I can work well with.   I hope my boys will realise they need to stand out from the norm and bring that extra something.

My first job interview was not what I expected at all.  We were only 16 when my best friend from school was persuaded by her mother to unwillingly apply for a Saturday job at a  well-known electrical retailers.   She was not happy about it and her mother asked me to accompany her to the interview.  If only to calm her down and make sure she got there ok.   I was happy to oblige grateful it was not me being pushed to get a job so young.

We sat in the waiting room, her quietly fuming at her mother and me trying to reassure her that it was just a meeting.   She got called in and I sat twiddling my fingers waiting, chatting to people who walked by, knowing we had enough money for a hot chocolate but with careful budgeting we could indulge in a cake before catching the bus home.   She came out and I stood to leave with her. The interviewer asked me to go in for chat.   Reluctant to be involved and really not wanting a job Saturday or otherwise I was adamant I did not want to.  My friend encouraged me and the lady suggested I came in and saw it as a learning experience in case I ever needed to attend an interview.

They were right of course it was all about learning and experiences.  I went in, chatted amiably telling them all about me and my plans for the future, left my phone number and off we went for the promised drink.   By the time I got home I was met by a very bemused mother who told me I had a job starting the following Saturday.   Why had I not told her that was I was going; simply because I had not planned to?

Needless to say I did take the job and worked for a couple of years till I went off to nursing college.  My friend and I remained close friends.  She found a Saturday job in a small textile shop which gave her much needed discounts to feed her dressmaking passion.   She left college to work full time in the shop and later moved into the management of the chain of shops developing the career she craved.   Her mother did not hold it against me, at least her daughter had gone for the interview and when the right job came along she had that experience to fall back on.

I had not known it then but that was going to be a template for my working life, none of my jobs have I got through formal methods.   A night in a London Wine bar meeting a complete stranger is probably not one I would advocate for the youth of today, but I had heard about it word of mouth and I loved the very unconventional secretarial job that followed that interview.

What was particularly unusual about this week was I wasn’t looking for the job but it all seemed to fall into place and I ended up with a new contract.   I asked him  why me.

“ there were so many applicants, but yours was different,  fast and efficient then you pushed me for a trial.  Your knowledge and understanding of the subject contractmeans that I don’t have to spend time explaining complicated terminology and you already have the equipment”.

To me it is obvious if I don’t understand the work, however lovely, however wonderful the job is, it will not work out.

When the next contract comes up for grabs will I use the same tactics.  Not exactly, I have no doubt I will approach it in the same unconventional way, however each contract is individual and the preliminary research could well lead me to a completely different point of commonality for us to work from. Some I might resort to basic knowledge, some I might have to resort to a touch of moral massaging and there will be some that I need to just be capable.   How do I impart my individuality and difference to my children?   How do I make them realise that being the same is sometimes not enough?  They will always be for me but how do I make them one in a million ready for the working world?

So to the business of writing, and again I am delighted to have a photo and caption in this week’s “that’s life” magazine helping me a little towards this years writing school experience.

Memories is out with a beta reader (someone going through looking for continuity, grammar and probably spelling) who I hope is going to use a gentle red pen as she reads and re-writes it.  It is such a complicated time line for the story that I need to be sure it works in real time and I am hoping that she will still enjoy the story.

Tiggy

Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at Tea Time Treats.

Steaming Guilt

I am carrying the guilt around like so many women I know.  Am I a working mother or wicked mother?

It began yesterday morning with a normal teenage argument “but it’s raining”.

“I have to go to work” I explained slowly and calmly for the umpteenth time.

It ended with the normal teenage explosion of “I hate you”, “you don’t care about me” and the slamming of the front door.

He was right about one thing; it was raining.  It has not stopped raining for weeks and weeks.

Middle Son has been doing work experience  every week for months although the experience was; less work, than turn up and not have anything to do so being let off and spending the day back at home in front of the x-box.   I have not had to take him to there before  so why was today any different?

Actually I knew why. His place of work experience had changed and this time he would have to learn different jobs, meet new people and be involved in something he may not yet understand.   Although teenagers don’t admit to it he was nervous and needed my presence to reassure him.

I of course had to be at work at 9am and he was not due till 10.  I had taken him up there the week before to meet the new people and I had gone in with him then and had a sneaky mummy nose around.

Work was busy, the phone did not stop ringing, the emails pinged as they flooded the system and I cannot actually remember where the morning went.  It was late morning when my mobile rang and I rushed to find out what emergency had befallen one of my children.

“Mum where are you?”

I was at work, where else would I be?  Where was he?

He was walking home.   Taking an early lunch I relented and rushed in the car to pick him up.  A sad forlorn figure so cold and wet he could not take another step towards the house and was sheltering as best he could under what was left of a tree.

He had waited and waited in the torrential rain for them to arrive.  Having arrived slightly early he stayed for two hours waiting.  There was no shelter and the rain continued to pelt down his hair, trickle under his light trendy jacket and fill his totally unsatisfactory canvas shoes.

Sensibly he had made it back to school which was on the way home.    School contacted the work place and discovered there had been a problem this morning and they had been delayed.  In fact they probably arrived minutes after Middle Son trudged dejectedly away from the place.   They were so full of apologies and promises of a better try next week.  He was sent home to dry out and get warm.  It was still raining.

Guiltily I collected him, made him a hot drink and sent him up for a warm steamy bath; then went back to work.  I wanted to stay and make sure he was ok.  I wanted to steamy mugassuage my guilt by sitting on the sofa with him like the old days and feeding him treats and watching some unbearable film just to show him I cared.  But there were more emails, and a report to type and I needed the money.

I had just spent the previous weekend researching the internet, balancing everyone’s different wants and needs from a family holiday and I think I had find one that suited us all but it was very expensive.   I work to help pay the bills but it also allows for the extra treats such as holidays; short breaks and current necessary cannot live without electronic gadgets.

If I stopped work to be with the children all the time would they suffer?  Maybe not but there would be things they would go without.  They would not be able to keep up with the Jones or the Smiths or any of their contemporaries with I-phones, I –pads and x-boxes.    We would not be able to go on holiday and they would have to temper their designer cravings.

This is not a new argument.  I have been battling my guilty conscience about being a working mother since No 1 Son was 3 months old.   Every time one of the children is ill or injured I am thrown into yet another vortex of mixed guilt at having to take time off and let work colleagues down or not being with my child at his time of need.  I am lucky to have had the opportunity to put my career on hold while I worked in a school; so at least I only worked term time and had the holidays with them.

Our lives are changing though with No 1 Son applying for university next year and Middle Son hoping to begin his apprenticeship in September; maybe they will not need me so much.  Maybe now is the time I can kick start my career for me?  I will check the sits vacant this weekend in the paper.

Today I got a call from the school “Middle Son is poorly can you come and get him please”

He is cold, shivery, and full of a head cold and he blames me.

If only I had taken him to work.

 

Tiggy

Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at  Tea Time Treats

tea

 

Appraising the Future

I am chasing my tail at the moment.  Work is so busy having taken on an extra job to help with the spiralling increase in costs involved with growing teenagers.  I still manage to rise early and work on my writing which seems to be prolific and productive but never gets further than my computer.  

I was asked recently how I saw myself in three years’ time.

Just think in three years’ time I may be about to have a book due to be published; but I really need to do something about sending it to an agent NOW.  I might have developed my magazine and people will be reading my monthly mini blog and following my journey.  I could be a grandmother  as one of my oldest friends has just become but I hope not yet when the children are just starting out on their adult lives.  I can always hope for that elusive win on the lottery although it may be prudent to not count on this.

Number 1 Son this week chased his own dream by travelling by train half way across the country to attend an interview with his preferred university choice.  He took with him his portfolio of works to date and a sketch pad of ideas.   Suitably impressed they offered him a place conditional on getting his grades.   It is up to him now to get those grades.

Middle son also took a huge step towards his dream as he attended an interview for an apprenticeship in a kitchen working towards his goal of becoming a chef and running his own restaurant.    He too was offered the place conditionally.   If he realises the work will be long hours, hard work and in the beginning very monotonous where he will grow to hate peeling vegetables.  He will however learn the basics of the trade and on completing the apprenticeship have options available to him.  They have offered him a day each weekend from now until August when he and they can make the final commitment.   It is up to him to wow them with his culinary prowess.

Mini Son is too young to have the burden of future upon his young shoulders and is enjoying school, football and his friendships.

So where do I see myself in three years’ time?

Well if I was honest I see myself surrounded by my best sellers in my luxury office where I would go and work creatively all day producing a fabulous new best seller each month. Attending nationwide literary festivals and judging competitions in my own right.  My name however is not JK so I need to revise my expectations I think.

I am the driver in this dream and if I want the book published I need an agent.  To that end I have researched and found a list of agents who may take my novel.  I have read what they require and how to submit my manuscript.  I need to be working on my self-confidence which is a huge barrier to any self-improvement.  I know now that I need to finish that synopsis, tidy up the spelling and grammar and press the send button……

Too scary!

Or in three years’ time, I could have the same conversation and still be hoping to start the journey to publishing.

Where did I save that synopsis?

Writing

My brother may have given me a dose of unexpected self-confidence when for my recent birthday he presented me with a self-published (by him) copy of my first years’ worth of blogs.  It does not come under the genre of novel but Tiggy Hayes has a book out; albeit a single copy currently.  It is mine and my work and could be all the confidence I need to press that button.  Dawn Chorus Volume 1, 2011 by Tiggy Hayes.   Currently I do not know if there is a way to get a copy I think it would be print on demand but will update this blog if I can get any details.

In Print

In Print

Tiggy

Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at http://tiggy-tea.blogspot.co.uk/

A Large Piece of History

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As anyone with a year 7 child will know or anyone with older children who have been through year 7 at the local school, the history teachers like to challenge the parents of their new intake.

It was the turn of Mini Son and being the third we should have this off to perfection now.      Over the Christmas holidays as if we did not have other things to be getting on with Min Son was set the task of creating a castle.

Having created two previous versions which had been greeted with good marks and pleasant comments from the teachers, Sexy Sporty Dad wanted to change tack.    He and Mini Son plotted together to build the most wonderful gingerbread castle.   They spent time assessing, quantifying and evaluating the task ahead.  I found them looking through my recipe books, researching on the internet and discussing the project ahead.

Finally with a week to go and all the discussions, research and searches complete they came to the conclusion as neither knew how to cook gingerbread it might be better to go back to tried and tested papier-mâché method.

With older siblings to impress, measure up to and outdo, a glut of cardboard from Christmas and some serious parental patience it began.   Glue, scissors, paper and card strewn all over the kitchen floor as the creation manifested itself, rising from the ground a lot quicker than the original castle being copied.   The following day the papier-mâché was applied having been on a reconnaissance recovery route march to retrieve substitute newspapers. We had thoughtfully taken all ours to the tip as they built their own fortress round us.

For safety reasons we moved the construction site to the kitchen table where cats could not play with it so easily, it could not be kicked or stood on and we had somewhere to walk.  The base hung over the side of the table and the monument took up all my preparation space relegating me to the already overcrowded cupboard tops.    The castle took shape and developed as the papier-mâché dried out and it only needed painting and bringing to life.

I was duly informed that as I had not made it I would need to help paint it.    I had nothing to do this week, I who was still working had to realise my work was not as important as this, looking after the children during their holidays was irrelevant in comparison, it was my turn; hadn’t I got out of the other two.   Well actually no but we probably only remember the bits we did and not all the extra put in when no-one else was around.

DSC_0003Amazingly it was painted in short bursts by Mini Son who was by now thoroughly bored with the whole project and desperate to play with his new toys and see his friends.  I imagine our wonderful kitchen pixie did the rest unseen by the rest of the world; each day as I passed by a new coat was added to the newly dried structure giving it more resemblance to the finished concept.  I am sure I will get no acknowledgment of the wonderful support and help given to our son.

The castle was finished; it stood proud and indefensible on my kitchen table.  The school expected it in as soon as they went back to school.   Suddenly a new challenge was upon us.  The weather has not been kind and these few mornings it has been lashing down.   Just the idea of the wet soggy mess that would be if he walked to school left me horror struck.  Not to mention the fact it actually took two people to carry the monster.  How were we ever going to get it to school?

I did relent and agree to take them into school with it, but it would not fit in my car.  It was left to Sexy Sporty Dad to drive them in, No 1 Son kindly helped to load it and DSC_0014to take it to the classroom for him after they had battled to negotiate passing through doors.  It had to be gently turned on its side and edged through as the tower was delicate and tall.

With delight Mini Son informed us that the teacher was pleased and he had received two credits for his and our efforts.  They were sure it was the biggest castle they had ever received in and stood out compared to all the gingerbread versions that had all arrived.

I am thankful that little task is complete but wonder how much marital strife it will have caused in other families where emotions are running high at this time of year anyway.   A plea to year 7 history teachers:  “How about a beautiful picture with a half page description taken from the internet in the future”!

Mini Son came home last night; the teachers need the castles removed as they take up so much room in the history department.

Tiggy

Have a look at what I am up to with my food blog at  http://tiggy-tea.blogspot.co.uk/

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