Work is no longer a car journey away. It’s at the desk at the end of my bed. It’s hard to switch off sometimes – work and its worries have a way of attempting to follow you around. I think I’m doing better. I know I’m fortunate to be working – even more so to do it from the comfort from my home.
I’ve finished a scarf. It is a bit too short (even though it is taller than me) and is wibbly and wobbly, full of holes, different colours, and dropped stitches. I love it. I’ve worn it to the dentist today.
(Yes, the dentist. I have been to a different place and seen different people!)
Sometimes, I go for a walk in the park. The grass is growing muddy there now – too many footsteps of people not allowed to go far from their homes. The river was swollen, and the trees bare of leaves.
It is cold and it snows now and then. It rains too.
I’ve plunged into editing Project If. No. Wrong verb. ‘Paddled’ would be better. It’s two years old this month. Had a year to marinate. It’s on my calendar in big, bold letters scrawled across each week: X Character Must Die it says for one week. Dark Knight of the Soul is across another. (The ‘k’ is crossed out. I am very good at spelling.)
A Suffragist Abroad is with her editor. I am tempted with the idea of putting a care package for them. They’ll need it.
I’ve read a lot this past weekend. Recharged my batteries. There’s a short course in hieroglyphs I’m taking. I’ve realised that Turkish Delights are delightful. The birds sing earlier in the morning now. The days are getting longer.
Sometimes I catch myself – when I’m walking, masked and avoiding passing people too closely, when I read the news and see headlines with death tolls and vaccines and fishermen’s woes, when I’m talking with my family and wondering what the world will look like when it’s over and saying ‘Uncle X has had the vaccination’ – and I think: wow, this is bizarre.If I time-travelled and told past-me, she would have gaped.
I haven’t been to church in a year, I miss it, but God is not confined to a building. The world keeps spinning, and life keeps moving onwards. It doesn’t wait for us, and yet we can steal moments – in the garden, beneath the stars, or wrapped up warm, with a book in our hands – to breathe.
The stack of books by my bed is as tall as my bed itself. I’ve recharged my kindle and read it most every night. This year, I’ve managed to read 182 books. I’m not sure what I should do with that number. There were so many good ones, and some infamous ones which weren’t quite my cup of tea.
I’m knitting a scarf – it is hideously ugly and terribly done and I am enjoying it immensely. It’s quite refreshing to just do and not be anxious about getting it perfect or doing it well.
(I hadn’t put my finger on my striving to always do things correctly and the ludicrous amount of stress that entails, until I picked up the knitting needles.)
A Suffragist Abroad is still being editing – the final stretch, before it goes to a beta reader. I’m going through it as though I’m the reader instead of the author and it’s quite lovely. (Bonkers, weird, slightly mad – those words apply too). Let me tell you, I cant wait for you to meet Vi and Mr. Sorrow.
The UK is still in the clutch of Tier system and Christmas won’t be the same for many, many people. The stars are still shining though. I checked for you, last night. In spite of the clouds (‘the Milky Way is moving quickly’ was quipped with great humour) and the drizzle, the heavens peered down and two shooting stars streaked across the sky.
Work has been hectically busy. As the dad from Calvin & Hobbes would say ‘character building’. It’s gut-wrenchingly disappointing to discover that you can’t do everything and that you will, eventually, have a mild breakdown in your dressing gown one evening because there aren’t enough hours in the day and work has built up and up and your ability to cope has plunged like a heavy anchor in a turbulent sea.
(YOU WILL PRY PURPLE-PROSE METAPHORS FROM THE CLUTCHING FINGERS OF MY COLD DEAD HANDS.)
It’s because of that, the fact that you can’t really nip off to Mongolia and discover Genghis Khan’s tomb, and my brother having my sister-in-law dye his hair grey that … well, I’ve dyed my own hair. It’s now a slate blue-grey. Ta-da.
Granted, this is somewhat of an extreme reaction, but what can you do? (Dye your hair grey. Apparently. That’s what.) Sometimes, you react reasonably to things, you sit down, you contemplate life, and you sip tea. Other times, you simply don’t. You book a visit to the hairdresser’s and you agree for your hair to be more blue than you anticipated. Marcus Aurelius would probably be excessively disappointed.
I haven’t been a good Stoic. If I was a Stoic. Which I’m not. But if I was, I’d be a bad one. Life is full of disappointments and unmatched gloves.
The point of it all, I think, is just to keep going. To keep looking for the good. (And there is good. There’s so much of it.) To keep plodding on. To reach out if you do need help. (It’s not a weakness, you know. It’s wisdom.)
If you’re reading this (still?!) – I wish you a lovely Christmas. Even if it isn’t quite the usual sort.
I need to finish this current draft of my novel by Sunday the 11th. I know. I’ve got a deadline. ‘Ness,’ I hear you say. ‘Are you ready for that deadline?’
I laugh at your question. I howl with laughter. September was such a busy month that I don’t think I had the umph to touch my novel. And here I am – a week to get it finished off.
Join me? (Or exit this right now because I’m taking you with me – whether you like it or not. So. There.)
SUNDAY THE 4TH – RESOLUTION
I give myself a talking to in the mirror. As per my Plot Spreadsheet, I delete three chapters of Act One. I suddenly realised I haven’t introduced the key concept of the novel. I do that. Poorly. It’s getting late and tomorrow is going to be … a complex day at work, so I need sleep. And also to squeeze in a bit of reading. (Priorities.)
MONDAY THE 5TH – AHHHH
I think that working from home makes the work/life boundaries blur a little – it’s hard to know when to stop and also to not feel guilty about it. (There’s always so much to do!) But I’m trying to learn. I do a bit of 7 Minute Chi to stretch out a little, have a cup of tea, play the recorder, paint my nails, check reddit and … okay, listen, sometimes a girl has to chill. And then, finally, I’m ready to get down to business to defeat … the Huns. It’s 8:47 pm. Let’s do this.
It’s 10:46 pm and it’s time for bed – I conquered an entire chapter which … is not the pace I need to set! If I were a creature right now, I’d be a snail. Tomorrow? I need to mash three chapters into one. And then hopefully the pace will pick up and Act One will be complete by Wednesday.
I LAUGH IN THE FACE OF FUTURE NESS.
TUESDAY THE 6TH – AHHHHHHH
I was a fool. Work was crushingly busy and I worked late and missed Bible study because of it. Then I played the violin. Then I had a mental breakdown in the kitchen. Just your usual Tuesday activities. No writing was done.
WEDNESDAY THE 7TH – AHHHHHH
THURSDAY THE 8TH – HA.HA
FRIDAY THE 9TH – …
SATURDAY THE 10TH
Despite having a bit of a lie-in, I’ve tided my work space and am ready. Candles are flickering, my nature sound app is chirping out bird songs, and some soothing music plays. I’ve got blocking apps on my computer and phone to take away temptation to browse mindlessly.
It is time. The aim is not to have a completely polished draft – that isn’t going to happen over a weekend, no – the aim is to make sure that the story is legible. All three acts go into one word document. I attempt to crack my knuckles. I fail. It’s 12:00 and it’s on.
It’s 18:52 and I feel as though I am hitting my groove. I’ve no idea how far I’ve got to go but I have tea and a fresh candle. I have had breaks to:
do a spot of cleaning
watch youtube videos
browse the ‘net
But using blockers on my phone and internet is really useful for cutting out distractions. I work late into the night; determined to reach Chapter 28; I can do the rest tomorrow. I have to. It’s the deadline after all.
SUNDAY THE 11TH – THIS IS IT, WE ARE IN THE ENDGAME NOW
It’s 12:07 – music on, tea made, candle burning. This is it. I have to get this finished today and not into the wee hours of the morning; I have to go into the office tomorrow and that means driving early. Ain’t nobody got time for sleep-deprivation in this scenario.
So let’s get crackin’.
It’s all done. It’s finished. It’s sent off. I haven’t cried in relief, nor was it sent super late. I am rather impressed with myself; I’m always pleasantly surprised when I actually achieve something. And I did it. Life is glorious. I can now leave this project until November, when Editing/Feedback Week will happen.
Being a discovery writer instead of a plotter is a little tricky but I suppose as long as the end result is a definite ‘HA I KNEW WHAT I WAS DOING ALL ALONG’ that is what’s matters. I’m low-key excited. Right now A Suffragist Abroad is not at all perfect but by George, I’m going to make it so. Or at least, I’m going to make it so I’m happy with it.
Also: there’s slow-burn romance and unicorns and a Wizard and stoic scribe and a monster. It’s inspired by:
Norse mythology (though you’d never know)
A daydream I had whilst in a Moldovan church
And so on …
It’s zany and it’s weird but I had fun. So there we are! Watch this space, world! Something might be coming from it.
I haven’t completely dropped offline, but my blog has been sadly neglected. Here’s some of the devious things I’ve been up to …
REREAD THE AMELIA PEABODY SERIES
It took six months – but it was six months of reading pleasure. More on this later, but let me tell you it was wonderful. (Also, read it in publishing order not chronological because by George … no, I shall save that little rant for later.)
In short, there isn’t a series I’ve read that surpasses this one.
BOUGHT BOOKS, READ BOOKS, STARED AT BOOKS
The book ban feels like quite a while ago, but I must say that my bookshelves are looking terribly interesting; there are some books that I’ll be soon reading about Georgian Britain and the Victorian era that just look so brilliant, I can’t wait!
(Also I’m currently reading ‘How To Be A Victorian’ by Ruth Goodman and DID YOU KNOW THAT THE VICTORIANS GAVE THEIR BABIES OPIUM???!!! HOLY CHEESE CRACKERS, MY DUDES!)
Also a book about Alexander Dumas?! I’m eying up the Count Of Monte Cristo too.
Still haven’t finished a Dickens. I’ll get there. Eventually. Probably. Yup. ‘fo sure.
FINISHED WRITING A BOOK
Originally given the dignified working title of ‘Unicorn Poop’, these days it is called A Suffragist Abroad and will be coming your way next year. As long as I can get past this editing stage, that is.
Lord willin’, a friend and I will be having a writer’s retreat in a little cottage on the coast in November where A Suffragist Abroad’s edits will be completed. While, I’m there, do I expect to:
solve a crime
walk through mist-laden countryside in a nightgown and cloak
stumble upon an ancient mystery that’s been hidden for centuries
… yes. Yes, I do.
BOUGHT A FISH TANK. ALSO: FISH
This is still quite recent. The tank is called ‘Abbey Road‘ and John, Paul, and George have been recently introduced to it. I’m sure it will go swimmingly. (No. No apologies will be made for this pun. NONE.) But I’m also terrified that I’ll wake up and find them all dead and floating on the top and oh my word what have I done- AGONY!!! BEYOND POWER OF SPEECH!
Life doesn’t feel as though it is wildly adventurous, but there is more than enough to keep me busy and I find it hard sometimes to carve out the time for dedicated reading sessions – but that’s okay too. There are books lounging in every corner of my room and all of them are interesting.
(I sometimes feel bewildered by the sheer amount of choice I have – which is admittedly a very privileged position to have.)
I’m trying to learn that it’s alright to not live up to my own expectations (which I never reach and are always far, far too high), it’s alright to plod, it’s alright to take things slow – just … just keep going.
I hope you are doing well – thank you for stopping by!
As you know – or don’t, that’s okay too – I’ve embarked on a book buying ban. Namely, on my last count, I own a lot of books that I haven’t read. The number shames me. Shames! Me!
So, taking matters – and the books, though not all at once – into my own hands, I decided to read 45 of those books.
When I was telling someone from church about this last year, they asked how long it would take me to read all 45.
“Oh,” I said breezily, probably wafting my hand in the air. “Maybe a month or two.”
THREE MONTHS LATER …
At the time of writing, Book 18 is being devoured: ‘The Ministry of Truth’ by Dorian Lynskey is about George Orwell and the creation of 1984. It’s grabbed my interest and has yet to let go. So far? I highly recommend it.
But though I am in the middle of this experience, I have already been learning some lessons. Let me share them with you.
I FEEL BETTER ABOUT MYSELF
Though the list of books I wish to read at the end of this is growing, I feel much better about myself. I’m not longer buying with eyes too big for my bookreading stomach (just go with that analogy). I’m reading what I have. And – astonishingly enough – what I have is really interesting.
Who’d have thunk it, right?
This year has been marked by me trying to be more mindful of the money I’m spending, the time I waste, the books I read, the clothes I buy etc etc. This book buying ban? It’s been so very useful.
I do not need to chase after the next book, the next interesting title … I just need to enjoy the ones I have.
BLAM! UNEXPECTED DOSE OF CONTENTMENT STRIKES UNEXPECTEDLY.
COULD BOOKSTAGRAM BE … UNHEALTHY??
Taking pictures of books and posting them to Instagram is one of life’s little pleasures. However, it has made me question my motives: am I doing it because, personally, it’s something that feels like an expression of creativity OR – more to the point – does it have a whiff of boastfulness about it? A sort of: ‘Behold! I read this book! Bow to me! I am intelligent!’
I hope it doesn’t, but I am growing increasingly wary of Instagram – what are my motives? Why am I even posting this? Is this for my ego? Or is it because sometimes I have to express myself and ramble and to get things off my chest and I use this blog and that Instagram account to do so? (also I relish taking pictures of books and thinking oh wow this has much goodness. First, Instagram – next? NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC!)
We all know that social media can be incredibly unhealthy – showing life how we want to be perceived instead of how we actually are, promoting comparisons and that general feeling of being less and having a life that isn’t quite as good as anybody else’s.
Does my validation come by the number of likes and retweets a post receives? (I mean, if that’s the case, let’s be honest … I am in deep trouble.)
I keep a book reading diary to log what I’m reading and my thoughts regarding it. I don’t update Goodreads anymore because I was so darn proud of the statistics and I just knew that that was the first stage to unabated narcissism and grandiose delusions of grandeur. I don’t post pictures of every single book I’ve read because:
I have a crisis of what is the point does this help anyone oh gosh nothing I’ve posted about books HELPS anyone why would anyone listen to my book recommendations OH WAIT it’s fine I’ll do it anyway no I won’t I can’t be bothered OH MY WORD WHAT IF THE WORLD FIGURES OUT MY PERSONALITY BASED ON THE BOOKS I’VE READ also what if this makes people think they need to buy ALL the books am I promoting an unhealthy mindset also I think my ego is far larger than I’ve ever suspected also I think I’d be a terrible regency heroine because my ankles aren’t finely turned.
I’m occasionally paranoid in a HELP BRING SMELLING SALTS kind of way.
Something in this world has to be private, dang it!
Though possibly overthinking everything can also be unhealthy, it’s worthwhile to examine my motivations.
ALSO THIS PICTURE MAKES ME LAUGH AND ONE DAY I WILL HATE MYSELF FOR PUTTING IT HERE BUT HAHA BEHOLD:
THE EBOOK VS PAPERBACK DEBATE HAS BEEN SOLVED FOR ME
It’s hardbacks and paperbacks and smelling the pages in front of your face. I used to read far more ebooks, but since the great ebook cleanse of December ’19 (300 novels! DELETED!) I’ve been reading almost exclusively paperbacks and hardbacks.
It’s just too easy to spend money on ebooks. In my tumultuous past, I’ve inhaled novels by the dozen. Read two or three in one day. It’s almost shocking how much money – and, more importantly, time – I’ve spent on Kindle.
This ban has forced me to take a step back. To enjoy what I have instead of chasing after what I haven’t. It’s not hoarding if it’s books, one of my cups says. But … to be frank … if I’m buying book after book after book and not reading them … it certainly feels like it is.
I’m all for building a personal library, but I want to do it in a mindful manner. Not in a frenzy of buying a stack of books I’ve haven’t read.