One Writer's Week

The reality of a working, free-lance writer’s life is not the peaceful existence a lot of people fantasise about.  Virginia Woolf famously wrote all morning (after ordering meals from the cook), read and wrote her journal after lunch and took a little walk before dinner.  For most writers it's very different.  There's the business end of writing (it is like running a business these days) and then there's the actual writing.  There are usually half a dozen projects swilling around in your head at any one time and the pace is killing.  This week has been particularly brutal.  It started in Italy.

Monday - up at dawn, drive to airport, early Ryan Air flight from Pisa to London.  3 trains in vile weather, eventually make it back to the Mill around 9pm clutching a pint of milk grabbed from a station shop.

Tuesday - up at dawn, open a month’s mail, sort whatever possible, dash out to bank, pay bills, go to dentist, hairdresser, get flu-jab, buy shopping.  Pack suitcase and write talk for Manchester LitFest and print out directions for Library I’m also going to do research in.  Fall into bed with 2 alarms set.

Wednesday - up at dawn, bus, 2 trains, arrive Manchester.  Dash into Library Archive to arrange reader pass and check they received the manuscript order I emailed yesterday.  12 pm Drink coffee in the street on the way to the LitFest to arrange IT for power point and meet the organisers of the event.  Give talk, meet audience and chat, answer questions, sign books, drink bottle of water (no time for lunch). 2.30pm Dash into archive to make a start on the ordered boxes.    3.20 Meet my new poetry editor in a café - latte and about an hours’ chat about book launches etc.  4.45pm sit outside station and eat yogurt and pot of fruit bought earlier for lunch!  5.00pm, train to Daughter no 1's house where I arrive just before 7 in time for supper.  Do email and fall into bed.

Thursday - awake at 5.30am - do email - check library catalogue, catch train to Manchester - all day in archive until 7pm.  Back by train to Daughter no1 about 8.30.  Picnic supper on train.

Friday - ditto.

The problem is that you’re usually working on 3 books at once - arranging publicity for the one that’s in the publishing pipe-line, finishing another and working on ideas for the next.  At the moment I’m publicising the Katherine Mansfield, arranging publicity and readings for the poetry collection Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21 (would anyone like a review copy?), and doing edits for the paper-back of Katherine Mansfield - due out in about six weeks.  Then there’s the permissions for illustrations etc that I have to re-do for the Japanese edition of Katherine Mansfield, due out in 2013.

I’m also working on the Kindle edition of my Christina Rossetti biography - just finished proof reading and sorting out rights and permissions.  By a huge stroke of luck the BBC have decided to do a small Christmas film about Christina, which I’m filming in London next week - so that’s all running around in my mind too.

Then there’s the research I've been doing in Manchester to put together a proposal for a new biography I’ve been asked to look at.  Another publisher has also asked me to prepare a proposal for a non-fiction book that seems an attractive idea.   Two things on the boil.

Then there’s the creative work in progress - almost finished a novel, which I am deeply into at the moment and trying to get time to scribble bits on trains and planes and every single spare moment I get - not easy.  Desperate to finish it.  Fed up with characters running amok in my brain.  But paid work has to come first.

Then there’s the blogs - 2 of my own, (they help me keep sane rather like an online shrink!) I also contribute to 2 others regularly, and I’ve just been asked to be a guest blogger on two other blogs - already said Yes.  Am I mad?  Oh, and I tweet.

And yes, I do have a personal life - a partner and four long-suffering children and I try to see as much of them all as possible, but this week I’ve been too tired to have an intelligent conversation with anyone.  One of my daughters, who is older and more sensible than I am, tells me that I MUST STOP RACKETING AROUND LIKE THIS.   She’s right, of course, but can’t see any chance of it happening soon.  Working for yourself is either all cream-and-custard or it's prison fare.  You have to lap up the cream when you can!


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