When the four walls of the kitchen - my usual writing space - begin to close in on me and I feel stale and uninspired, I often take my laptop into town and sit in my favourite Canterbury coffee shop to write.
I always work upstairs where it’s light and bright and where, if I’m lucky, I’ll get the table by the window from which I can watch people scurrying about on the crossroads below.
I really had to get into town today and get some work done. I’ve done nothing serious on the work in progress for nearly a fortnight and I’m beginning to be very wound up by that. Add to that the fact that it’s mid-winter and, as I blogged about before, I have Seasonal Affective Disorder which is aproximately the opposite of a life-enhancing experience. Keep adding things like the fact that Christmas is over and paid work kicked in again yesterday; like the fact that the Ultimate Frisbee Freak and the Bass Player are not yet back at school and - though they don’t deliberately disturb me - their simple presence in the house makes me unable to shut the real world out and enter the world of my book (where it’s blazing summer) and I have not been a happy bunny at all. The Other Half described me as 'floppy'. She was being kind; what I was was unresponsive and morose. I had stopped making eye-contact (always a bad sign) and had begun to form an automatically negative response to any suggestions made to me.
Aliya Whiteley (of whom more below) also has these non-writing difficulties, as she admitted on the MNW blog here.
Why can I work in a coffee shop full of people when I can’t work in my own home? Don’t ask me. Clearly it’s not an absence of other people which I need, but an absence of people who have a right to expect something from me; I can’t switch off properly if somebody might want me for something at any moment. Not that they usually do, you understand, they’re pretty self-sufficient at their age, but they might. I suppose it’s just hard to switch off being Mum.
And, I’m happy to tell you, the coffee shop produced the goods. A nice spider-planned page of pencilled notes and 1,346 words produced on screen. Result. Two mugs of tea consumed and only two other people upstairs whose conversations I had to ignore. Sometimes, when I’m mulling things over, ignoring conversations is far from what I'm doing as I convince myself that listening in to snippets of other people’s chat is ‘research’...
Writerly fact - a laptop is a fantastic thing to hide behind when you’re eavesdropping.
Now that I’m home I’m catching up with emails and suddenly there’s a whole rash of publication-related ones to deal with. This is novel and therefore pleasurable. I’m sure that – like others who have gone through the being-published thing ahead of me – I will soon find it an irritating interruption to work.
I’m doing an event with Faye (L.Booth) and Aliya (Whiteley), two of my fellow-MNW authors in Cambridge on the 25th January. We’re meeting the Heffers’ reading group and doing a bit of book-signing. The three of us are getting together for coffee beforehand so that instead of trying to get to know each other and be interested in other people at the same time, we can introduce ourselves to one another and then speak sensibly to the kind readers who've come to meet us. It should be cool, I’ve been getting to know Faye and Aliya a little bit from their respective blogs and am pleased that I’m going to be able to do it for real, too.
Then there was an email from Sophie, the lovely publicist at MNW, wanting to know if I was planning to go to Oxford any time soon as the Oxford Mail are keen to do an interview and would prefer ‘in person’ to ‘on the phone’. As a) I’m always game for a trip to Oxford which I love and where I have great friends and b) I hate speaking to people I don’t know on the telephone as I’m prone to say rash things because I’m getting no facial-expression feedback, I’m inclined to foist myself on the said friends for the day and go up. But what fun, anyway, that the Oxford Mail is interested in me and Testament!
Then there was an email to be written to Steve who designed my website as we try, yet again, to sort out the non-existent email feed from the site. Apologies to anybody out there who has tried to send me an email from http://www.alishawkins.com/ – for reasons Steve can’t fathom things just don’t seem to be making it through. Hopefully the situation will be resolved soon.
Meanwhile, you can always leave a comment here.