A Balancing Act

This is the week I go part time on the days I wanted – very fortunate. I’ve loved working full time, but I miss writing and my holiday let is getting really busy.

The first things I’ve written since November have been

  • A story about my S1 class, which had them laughing and starred all of them
  • A piece for Scottish Book Trust’s latest project, ‘Blether’
  • A new chapter of the novella I’ve been halfway through since last Autumn.

It’s felt really good. We moved house so there’s been a lot of chaos and thousands of jobs to be done, but I’ve managed to fit in some writing, which means as I get into some kind of routine I can do this balancing act thing, and I think it’ll increase my output. I work really well to a deadline and if I had five days to write a piece there’d be all kinds of distractions creeping in. With a two day deadline I just get on with it. I loved writing the Blether piece – it’s about something I feel really important – connecting with other people.

The novella is a bit of a crazy idea, but I think it’ll work. I’m still working on getting the short stories out there – hopefully by this summer. Then a publisher will read the fantastic reviews, see amazing sales and decide they MUST have me! Or something 🙂

Has this long break affected my writing voice? I don’t think so. If anything I’ve found it easier to find the right words – my brain has been well and truly in gear working as a teacher and I think it’s sharpened me up a lot – after all, I work with words all day long. I play with them, I capture them, I teach them and I speak them.

I’ll be back soon.

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Chaos, chaos and more chaos

Moving house in a week and there are still papers to be signed, working full time, stressed other half, bouncing kids and chaos everywhere.

Teachers, I think, are superhuman. Our average day contains so much drama, attitude, wonderment; moments of sheer joy, other moments of the opposite, work work work; kids who have the capacity to amaze/drive you nuts/make you laugh… So much happens in a single day of teaching. I’d forgotten how wonderful and what hard work it is, in equal measures. Anyone who thinks it’s a breeze or that we get too long a holiday should come and spend a day in an average secondary school classroom. Teenagers are fascinating. I sometimes feel like a David Attenborough of the educational world, as I narrate what’s happening around me, in my internal voice.

As I’m driving to work, the writing ideas keep on coming. But as soon as I get to school I hit the ground running and don’t stop and I’m lucky if the ideas stay there to be written down. Whilst I’m walking around school, to get books/photocopies/my caffeine drip/a form/find a particular person, the ideas keep coming. Ditto catching them.

I find stray sentences and random bits of description floating into my head, constantly. I try to describe the shape of a face, or a smell, or a memory; a meal, love, loss. I try to put the deep sadness I’m feeling about certain things at the moment into words. I try to describe the joy and the excitement of the imminent house move with inadequate adjectives.

And I realise, I’ve done this all my life. I can remember being a child and the inner narration rambling about, giving me these sentences and ideas. Not a voice; it’s definitely my imagination, and it’s been doing this since I was small. Being able to capture these wild imaginings and write them down and see them in print is one of the great joys of my life. Knowing how a story started – with a flicker of an idea, a spark of a story – and then seeing it in print, in a format that’s going to be read by 150,000 people, or even just a few hundred – or, hell, nobody at all – just seeing it in print, in the flesh, REAL, is amazing. Just amazing. How lucky am I, that my dreams are coming true like this.

However, I am too much a depressive and too lazy to be alone in the house for too long. I got as far with my writing dream as I could for now, then the black cloud came and settled on me – since going back to work I’ve had not a moment of grey. Teaching is, if nothing else, immensely colourful. We walk rainbows through our days and orchestrate kids as if they are pieces of music. Some off-key, some perfectly in tune and all unique. Some days are just pure dead mental. Some days are bloody awful. And some days are incredible. 167 kids walk through my classroom doors every week – some for one lesson, some for four. That’s 167 personalities and problems, peers and pressures. 167 hellos. Teenagers can be demanding and difficult and they can be incredibly inspiring. Knowing you’ve helped them understand something/improve/think/write well – best feeling ever.

I’ve not written a thing since I started. I can’t. But once I go part time, I’ll be back, at 90 miles an hour.

Meanwhile this is most definitely becoming packing avoidance. 45 boxes down, about 100 to go…

The house looks like we tipped it upside down, poured half of it into boxes, shoogled the rest about, and then put it back.

The weirdest thing about all of this is how calm I am. I feel like the eye at the centre of the storm. So much has happened lately and I’ve been far too dramatic in my moods for far too long and let the stress get to me. I decided for my health’s sake (lest the cancer or that beautifully-named bastard Graves Disease come back) to make a massive effort to be calm about life. It’s hard, conducting hormonally charged kids, parenting my own pre-tweens, packing up ten years of cluttered life and trying not to snap at my increasingly stressed hubby. It’ll all pass. I breathe, shake it off, Tayloresque-style, and bring the calm back. It’s SUCH a good feeling.

At 46 I feel like I’ve finally become who I was meant to be. It was pretty painful to get here, but here I am anyway.

Right. Boxes.

Invitations and Publications

As I thought, full time teaching leaves no time for writing! I am loving my job though; the school is lovely. There’s no creative energy left at the end of the day but I am still getting lots of ideas which I try to catch. I intend to go part-time for various reasons from February onwards, if everything works out.

I was invited to the People’s Friend 150th anniversary party last Weds, which was lovely! Met some other writers and some of the editorial team. Very glad I went.

I’m currently editing the proof copy of my short story collection which was delivered a week ago. There are heaps more things to edit now I’ve seen it in the flesh… I’m hoping to get it finished within a couple of months, and get it out there to sell! Be lovely if it got picked up by a publisher. And if it doesn’t, well it’s a great way to ‘finish’ a few years’ work, take a breath and begin some new things. It’ll contain a number of my published stories, some entirely new ones and a couple of pieces of flash that I particularly like. I’m collecting some Sci-Fi stories and memoirs for other collections.

I said, three years ago, that I’d focus on entering competitions, writing as much as I could and aiming towards a collection of work being published. Self-publishing wasn’t the route I wanted to go, but having had it edited and then worked on formatting it for KDP myself, I’m actually really loving the process of complete control of it and being able to do exactly what I want with it. More than anything, it’s really fun!  I want now to include some photographs and drawings which fit with some of the stories.

I miss writing, but I was needing a change of scenery. The winter loomed and I began to feel a little down. I’ve not felt a moment’s depression since I went back to work. Teaching is a wonderful challenge on a daily basis and I’m lucky to have ended up where I am. I’ll work part time eventually; we’ve got a house move on the horizon; life will get mad busy as we transit from a smallish cottage to somewhere bigger an completely new with land; things will settle and I’ll finally have a wee office, where I can grab those ideas and work with them. I work incredibly well when time is squished anyway, and the balance of getting out and working will, hopefully, give me even more ideas.

Getting older is great in so many ways. Never have I had so much confidence and self esteem, belief in myself and my abilities. I see the world differently, can write better, can express myself much more clearly and can self-edit to a better degree. I feel like a better person, a better mother, friend and wife. I’m not afraid of anything anymore except the cancer coming back and dying young. Anything up to 96 I consider young. So it’s been good, for me, being in my 40s. The thing now is though, my body’s beginning to get creaky. Already. I’m only 46. 2019 for me is going to be about a focus on health, eating right, the right supplements, keeping an eye on myself. Having had two life-threatening things in the last six years, I really don’t need any more.

Next time I write in this blog, my book will be u for sale, polished and ready to face the world!

That smiley-published feeling

Aaaaahhhhhh… there it is. An inner smile that I’m in print and on a website… It’s been a while since I had any news. I’m back teaching full time – so not part of the plan but I fell in love with it again after going back to supply teaching and I’ve found myself in a lovely rural school with great kids and lovely colleagues doing a term’s English cover. Happy!

I sold a couple of stories to The lovely People’s Friend again which is a great, and I’m on the Reflex Fiction site this week, with a little piece of flash. Still waiting on one or two other things but I’m not sending stuff out because a) teaching takes  a lot of time and energy and b) I’m saving everything for my self-publishing adventure, due to start soonish. If stuff happens to do well but it’s already published, I’d have to withdraw it. Kind of a win if I lose, win if I win thing.

Teaching takes a lot of creative energy. For three weeks I’ve written not a thing – not one thing! That feels strange. I feel out of practice. I miss it however I tend to fall down big dark mental holes in Winter and as my house can be very dark it’s not a good season for me to be at home. The work came along at the best time for me and every morning I look forward to going in. I have, however, had the pleasure of teaching creative writing to four of my classes. And some of them have even enjoyed it.

Bye for now…

On Impulsiveness

Being impulsive is GREAT if you’re a writer. Have an idea? Get it down! Got a story in your head? Write a first draft at furious speed at random times of day or night! Yes, it’s great. Handy. Except when it comes to waiting for results to come in (currently waiting on 21 results – competitions and submissions) and then I am checking every ten minutes and annoying myself by not being able to not check…

And also now – I’ve spent the morning formatting my book, or beginning to. The last step eluded me but I was chuffed as the whole thing looked impossible at first, but the KDP publishing info was spot on and talked me through it. I was nothing short of amazed when I followed the steps and then cool stuff happened to my manuscript, (I’ve got those dropped capitals on the first paragraphs of stories, and everything!) especially as my laptop is a pensioner. The problem now is, do I wait for all the results to come in, in case some have won or been accepted for publication, or do I just publish everything including the things I’m waiting to hear about (which are some of my best)? Because I want to do it NOW.  I want to send my collection out there NOW. I can order a proof copy today if I like, but that would mean withdrawing all the stuff that’s out there that I’ve entered as things have to be mostly previously unpublished, and that counts by me as well.

Dilemmas…

I’ll have to wait. I know this, or I’ll have to take out what I think are some of my best stories that I’m cautiously hopeful will do well.

I was waiting for a publisher to have a look but they’ve had it since August so I’ve run out of hope that they’re going to take it on. Which is fine. I can deal with that and the control freak in me will be delighted that I have full control of MY book. It’s been edited by someone other than me, so hopefully it’ll be okay. Hopefully it’ll be MORE than okay.

Anyway I’ve been staring at my computer screen for hours so it’s time for a lunch break and a rest. And a pat on the back for not being scared of technology and thinking instead, ‘I can do this’ when looking at what initially looked like horrendously complicated formatty stuff.

Yes. Today’s word.