I feel I should clarify the assertion in my last post that writing isn’t working out for me. It makes it sound as if I am in a trough of writerly despair, with the back of my hand stuck to my forehead and smelling salts at the ready.
I should correct this. Firstly, it’s not a good and accurate description of where me and writing are at in our current relationship. And secondly, no doubt next week or the week after or sometime soon after that I will be in a trough and I’ll probably write something about it and you’ll think, ‘Oh, ffs, do you never feel good about anything?’
There are two things I want to clarify. Firstly, in case you are thinking of starting out on a freelance career, don’t let me put you off. In the past, I have, in fact, made a not bad living from freelancing. It’s just that this lifestyle is not as suited to freelancing as you might think. The nub of freelancing is relationships and I haven’t quite got the knack of how to maintain said relationships from here. Also, if I want to freelance within the UAE I need a licence. I’m looking into getting one of those this year, but it involves a lot of paperwork and, no doubt, a gazillion passport photos (even our beach club membership required four passport photos of each of us).
The second thing is that I have a kind of mental division of ‘writing’ in my mind and because it’s my mind and I don’t have to explain things to it, I use ‘writing’ interchangeably with ‘writing’, but not always to mean ‘writing’. Such mental divisions rarely make sense to others, but let me have a go at explaining. My mind divides ‘writing’ projects into one of two ‘writing’ categories, both of them labelled ‘writing’, but otherwise clearly distinguishable one category from the other.
The projects on one side are characterised by: focus on income generation, focus on likely attractiveness to editors, they are more likely to be technical, likely to involve direct and directional input from a third party, deadline driven…you get the picture. The projects on the other side are characterised by: endlessness, often dreamed about prefaced by such phrases as, ‘I know! I could…’ or ‘I really want to write about…’ or (on browsing a bookstore) ‘but that was my idea! I’ve been having that idea for years, howcome she’s got an international bestseller out of that?’ The projects on this side include, as I’m sure you would have guessed by now, projects such as ‘write second novel’ and ‘finish memoir about life in Abu Dhabi’. Such projects could potentially generate income, but they can claim no direct connection with ‘I’m over 40 and have less superannuation than anyone else I know I’d best be doing something about that’ lineage of thoughts.
Unusually, I feel that both these projects, the novel and the memoir, along with a few other related bits and pieces, are coming along quite nicely. When I say ‘quite nicely’ I don’t mean I’ve got an advance of any kind or that anyone has shown any interest in taking either of them to an audience wider than the inhabitants of this house. But I do mean that work continues apace and that I have a good sense of how to proceed with both those pieces of work and that each day I do a little bit on both of them.
I have, in short, developed a good writing habit. This is not to say that I have lost my hard-won skills in procrastination. Only a minute ago, for example, I was thinking, ‘my, but that Buddha is placed a little skewed on that shelf, I had best be straightening that before I go on, gosh, I won’t be able to get it exactly right unless I find that ruler the mister uses for making sure that buildings don’t fall down, where is that ruler, ah, here it is in this drawer, my goodness, but the pens in this drawer are not in line with the Earth’s magnetic poles I had best be straightening them…’. So, no, those skills have not been lost, but they have been supplemented with a small dash of tangible productivity (productivity here defined as the creation of a string of words I would not be ashamed to share with the world), that productivity being directly linked to my daily writing habit.
Now that I’ve got a writing habit I realise that if I do achieve success with either of those projects (success here defined as publication of some sort) it will be on the back of that habit.
So in that sense, this whole writing thing is working out very nicely.
(Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just noticed that some of the socks on the clothesline (yes, I can see the clothesline from my desk) have been hung cuff-side instead of toe-side up, and if I do not attend to that immediately, well, who knows what damage will be done to the tilt of the Earth’s axis).