I am just settling back down to work. Chapter two of Novel number 4 – a woman sits in an office, trying to work on her PhD. Her phone rings: it’s her mother in law. Her phone rings again: this time it’s her friend.
The Spotify playlist I’m ignoring stops playing, my phone rings.
It’s Mr HB. Well, it’s Mr HB’s phone. My youngest had asked if he could ring, and Mr HB thought he wanted to say hello and ‘some other nice things.’
Fat chance. He had rung to tell me how bad his day had been.
Then Mr HB told me the oldest had been in trouble again. I listened as they lost screen for the afternoon and melted down.
Mr HB apologised. I went back to work. The woman got some work done. Her phone was silent: for now.
As a woman with mental health issues, and the parent of an enby kid, I’m often aware of other people’s male-cis-het-ableist privilege.
Today, however, I have the most privilege I’ve ever felt in my life.
- I am in an air bnb (financially secure enough for this, and multiple trips to Tesco for cashews and vegan chocolate)
- for two nights (not in a nine-five with four weeks of holiday a year)
- my children being looked after by their dad (co-parenting: surely the ultimate privilege?)
- writing (able to pursue this un-lucrative work for many years now)
- listening to music and podcasts (having decided I can afford Spotify: currently on free trial)
- and reading (only one was free from the library).
This is heaven.
This. An accident of birth, and race, cisgendered heterosexual marriage, and secure family that led me to this point.
For the last six weeks, I’ve been escaping from the teatime/bedtime routine and driving myself into Edinburgh.
I’ve been learning how to build a character, a setting, dialogue, and how to put these elements together into a short story, all under the magnificent captaincy of Dr Claire Askew.
But by far the best part has been meeting the rest of the group. My WLAG colleagues. Writing with them, sharing with them. We have already started championing each other’s work and projects – a meet up is planned at my next spoken word gig! I can’t wait to see what each of them go on to do next. I’m looking forward to saying ‘yes, we did Write Like a Grrrl together.’
Writers work alone. But we need that community, too. That encouragement. The busy silence of a roomful of writers, writing.
There is no future in looking sideways.
Do not pay attention when people look sideways to your path: do not start to compare yourself to others. How can you compare a palm leaf and a pine needle? And yet, both carry life, are beautiful, bring green, bring oxygen, bring peace to the forest, the desert.
We are here to do our work. Not to wonder whether we should do our work, or leave it to other people that we think are better, braver, luckier, richer.
No one else can make what we can make, not in the way that we could make it. A twig can’t be a leaf, a branch can’t be the tree’s trunk.
Your stories have value. Your creative works have substance.
You are not a good judge of the quality of your own work.
Oh it must be Spring. I’m busy!
I like to be busy, but not as much as the average … person? Person in the UK? Person of my generation? ‘Busy’ doesn’t take long to develop into ‘stressed,’ and ‘stressed’ has developed into psychosis – only twice, and a long time ago now, but… I don’t have the option to push myself like other people.
What has been particularly wonderful about this year, as opposed to other Springs, when I was busy with the kids, or busy with work, or busy writing things no one was interested in, is that this year I’m busy with paid, creative work. Sometimes. Other paid work has to fit around the writing, not the other way round.
Meanwhile, the children have to fit around creativity AND paid work, and are no doubt feeling very hard done by!
There is no news about my second novel.
Here is the news about my second novel.
I was very fortunate to meet a lovely agent who read the whole thing, and she really liked it. This was beyond exciting! She had loads of great feedback too, including ‘what’ it is (a comedy) and what the main themes are (parenting insecurity, female rivalry, the pressure felt by, and put on, children).
I re-wrote the draft with all her comments and observations. This is draft 15, but it’s very similar to drafts 7 and 8, (except draft 7 was in the present tense, of course).
Then I did that thing I always do when I’m nearing the end of a redraft. I slow right down because I’m afraid to finish. But I did finish. It’s 10k words longer and it’s back on submission. Wish me luck!
You know I try not to think about male privilege all the time…
Right, now everyone else has clicked off this post – it’s just – OK, I admit that I have never learned to play an instrument. I play oboe, but that doesn’t translate into a folk session environment. I’m lucky to have several people in my life who play the guitar for me – and I’m grateful for each and every one of them.
But without them, I can’t sing at a session. The men usually have huge voices, and can sing away. Folk join in, or listen, or sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t matter – because they can be heard.
It doesn’t often happen that I’m at a session without anyone to play for me. But when it does, I’m left feeling less-than. Because my voice, literally can’t be heard.