Friday, 28 December 2007

Writing, routines and the Reading Festival

As I’ve only been writing four days a week for a couple of months (this academic year, to be precise) I’m still working out how best to organise my time. And, clearly, at the moment, I am getting it wrong. Yesterday, I must have been slipping visibly down the slope towards horrible-person-ness because, sometime during the evening, the Other Half suggested that I get up at a reasonable hour this morning and do some writing instead of slobbing in bed til ten o’clock and doing nothing but binge-read before lunch.

Much as I love reading and am enjoying having a lot more time than usual to read, I had to admit that getting some actual work done on the book sounded good. So I got up at eight thirty (that’s still a two hour lie in on normal) had some breakfast, went for a walk and was working (though not in the over-populated kitchen) by ten. Managed nearly three hours with only one blog-induced hiatus. And I felt much better for it. some people get cranky without sleep, or food, or alcohol. For me, it’s writing. I need to do it, especially when the tools of my trade (the kitchen table, the laptop, the teapot) are all there in front of me the whole time saying ‘what have we done – don’t you love us any more?’

I wouldn’t like to say that I’m a creature of routine because, as somebody who works with kids who have an autism spectrum disorder, routines acquire a rather negative spin, but I am a bit like a small child. When I’m at home, I thrive on sameness. On holiday – ie when I’m somewhere else – I can be as slobby as you like. When I went to the Reading Festival with the Bass Player and the Ultimate Frisbee Freak last summer I spent countless hours slobbing out around the tent, reading and listening to podcasts. There were only two bands I really wanted to see (The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kings of Leon, since you ask) and, as I don’t enjoy standing for hours in a jostling, smelly, beer-throwing crowd just to see bands I’ve barely heard of never mind listened to enough to be able to sing along to in the required fashion, those were the only two bands I bothered to go and see for the entire weekend. And I was blissfully happy. I had taken five books and read four and a half of them. I did not miss my routines because, in a tent at the festival site, I had no routine. When I got tired of our tent’s site by the river (I’m not silly, no main arena site for us – being puked/peed/fallen on during the night may be de rigueur if you’re under twenty-five but I can do without those delights) I would wander around the festival and people-watch which was entertaining as I was older than most other festival-goers by a good twenty years. I saw maybe three people the whole weekend who were my age. But then, as the BP and the UFF will tell you, I am unobservant. And I probably wasn’t wearing my glasses as I only took my second best pair (just in case) and they kept falling off.

I’m not one of those writers who keeps a notebook and jots things down. I’ve discovered that when I eventually look at my notes to self I can’t remember why I was so excited about a bit of chewing gum wrapper blowing in the wind or who ‘man with bald head and tattoo of spider with little blonde girl with pink scrunchies’ was or why I wrote ‘Nursery Rhymes!’ without any explanation as to why I was so excited at the thought. My kind of people-watching just involves literally watching, listening if I can (coffee shops are great for that, aren’t they?) and taking in impressions by osmosis. I’ve learned from experience that, later, when I come to write something, it’s all there, in pre-digested form, waiting to be recovered. It’s not that I could necessarily paint a fabulous word-picture of the Reading Festival site, cold, but, if it formed the backdrop to events in a book, I’d be able to pull out details and impressions I hadn’t consciously memorised. Weird, but there you go.

Anyway, what today’s little episode has taught me is that holidays at home are not like holidays away. However much I look forward to spending time at home with the family, I need to insert a couple of hours writing time most days otherwise I’m going to drive them all mad.

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