If you are a writer, like me the early mornings may be your best time to work. As it’s springtime, the light is switched on at about five-thirty and the bird chorus gets into gear outside my window. Getting up takes huge amounts of willpower; even more in the winter. At least in the spring, I can open the window without risking frostbite. The small room I use faces the wrong way. All the sunshine pours into the kitchen, leaving my study dismal and devoid of sunbeams. I combat this with lots of colour, but at six in the morning, that’s slow torture for eyes. Pink is particularly cruel.
Three cups of coffee later – and now it’s eight o’clock – I turn on the computer and stare at yesterdays’ words. They look like rubbish today. The grammar reads like a Janet and John book (for those of you old enough to remember) and the characters are from a Disney cartoon; rushing about and making a lot of noise but not actually human. This calls for another cup of coffee.
By now, my heart rate is terrifyingly high, it’s nine thirty and time to shower and ditch the night wear, throw some make-up at my wrinkles and search the depths of my chest of drawers for some matching socks. Noticing that my husband has left the bed unmade, I fulfil that task and then see the dust on the skirting boards. It has to be done. Those particles of dust have no business there.
My wardrobe doors are open and the inside looks like a party after a police raid. The clothes have left their hangers and lay crouched in desperate piles on the floor. The shoes have taken part in a marriage punch-up during the night; not one pair have remained together. All those pretty sachets filled with lavender that I so carefully hung on the coat hangers have slipped their moorings and disappeared. Where are they? Have I mistaken them for sugar and put them in my early morning tea? Has my hubby used them to wash his hair? The mystery will never be solved.
Now it’s ten o’clock and I haven’t written a word. I want to; the will is there but the flesh… It’s time to phone a friend. She’s not a writer and suggests we meet in town for a coffee. Another coffee? Can I do this to my over-worked heart? I decline, reminding my friend that it’s a working day for me. I’m just a bit late starting.
Back at my desk, I stare at the screen. The words merge together, taunting me. In my head, a voice is telling me I’m useless. It’s a forceful voice. It starts shouting, a bit like verbal tinnitus: who do you think you are – Jane Austen? Who the hell will read what you’ve written? Who gives a bleeding toss about your new book? Get real, madam. Go back to your housework, shopping etc. That’s what women should do, not foster grandiose ideas about writing books, for heaven’s sake!
It’s sobering, I can tell you, to have such thoughts, but I bet I’m not the only female writer who hears that voice? The goal is to put it back in its box and hammer down the lid. The trick is to make another cup of coffee, read that damn page you wrote yesterday and say to yourself that failure is the only way to success – at least that’s what those pesky life coaches keep telling us.
Strangely enough, this strategy does work and I have just completed my third book. Now, the whole thing is about to start again. I’m on that early morning roundabout of coffee, avoidance, coffee, critical voice in head, more coffee, dusting and finally writing the first bloody page! Only another four hundred and eighty to go….
The Man Who Thought He Was Happy will be in hardback soon.