Often, for the last few years, when Easter has come around — and not just Easter, sometimes even Christmas — I have found myself sat for hours writing while nearly everyone I know is spending time with friends, or away on holiday, or with a partner, or doing something most people consider traditionally fun (I suddenly feel about thirty years older for using the word partner; never have liked that word; it just seems so ambiguous and impersonal, insulting, almost). In these early days, there was certainly an element of shame about my relatively abstract writerly activities. Like most people I had grown-up to believe that holidays were holidays, and work was work, yet here I was, often on my own, getting my thoughts down and losing track of time while everyone else did things which seemed to make much more sense.
The first thing people usually say to me when I tell them I’m writing instead of having fun is “But don’t you have any friends to hang out with?”
Yes, I tell them, I do. But I like writing just as much as friends — If I didn’t I would not do it. And I’ll tell you something; writing has been a pretty good friend to me over the last few years, even if it says nothing most of the time apart from “try harder!” or “Chris, that is utter crap.” Obviously it can’t compete with a hug from a human-being-friend or some sage advice from a good friend who has been divorced twice (was not his fault either of these times, of course) and is now making it his life’s work to stop others from making the same torrid mistakes — with these people you have to take the logical advice and politely ignore the raging bitterness — but it comes a close second. Until your computer crashes and you lose 100 pages of a novel you’ve been slaving over for the last few months; at that point it’s a total bastard. At that point, we tend to fall out.
The second thing people usually say to me is either “You must have a lot of work on” or “Well at least it isn’t hard work, what you do.”
Where do I begin.
In a way they’re 100% right: sometimes I do have a lot of work on, although to assume that’s what I am doing on these occasions would be wrong, as writing, to me, can be as much like work as almost any other activity. Often, it’s at these times — when the emails are less and my clients are largely out of the office — that I can get my head down with my own personal work: the stuff I need to put on the back-burner until my paid work has been completed. The point is that through all this, something has to give, and I really don’t mind.
Besides all that, Writer’s Arse is a terrible thing. It happens once you’ve been sitting for about ten hours straight, and there is no known medical cure. My goodness do our arses suffer…
And don’t take that out of context.
That said, I’m obviously not always working. I don’t go entire national holidays without seeing a single soul, locked inside my office, living life inside my head; I do go away, I do live life, I am away from the office, I am speaking to people and being harassed by tramps for money (not all tramps, but one seriously has my number). Once I’ve put in a few hours I’ll go for a walk, visit friends, go to the cinema, even…drink a J20! (Alcohol is still off-limits and this is one of the few options that can actually coerce me into a pub. And no, if you’re visiting this blog for the first time, I’m not a recovering alcoholic — I just have a body which cannot process or tolerate any amount of alcohol anymore. Due to illness, not over-drinking).
I’m well aware that my situation is unique — I choose my own hours (work never really stops, clients email at 2am asking the question Dun my wrk yt?), and I do actually love what I do with a passion; the drive is in-built and, save the times when I am asked to write 100 articles in 3 days about thrush and what a nightmare it can be, always there. For a few reasons, if you work for someone else, national holidays become something to always look forward to, and I know I have been the same in the past; I may well be one day in the future. And I’ve had jobs I hated, too, of course. Back when I worked on the chicken counter at Waitrose — my hours were 2.5 per day, Monday to Thursday, and my God did every full-time member of staff despise me — there wasn’t a day when I turned up at work when I really wanted to be there.
Happy Easter everyone, have fun, get religious if you do, eat chocolate, enjoy life. I’m getting off the computer soon, I’m going to go outside…
NOTE: CONGRATULATIONS ROSE MCCLELLAND! Her debut novel, The Break-Up Test, went on sale throughout the internet yesterday and is currently sitting at (I believe, on last count) number 36 in the women’s fiction chart. Well done Rose, well done.
You can buy the book on Amazon.co.uk here.