This week is my first as a proper writer. I spent the last two at my laptop, hammering out edits and gripped with fear it will all be rubbish. Now that’s done – for now – I have time. The next book isn’t due for a while and I’ve already finished the first draft. What will it be like now I’m literally my own boss? How can I hide my procrastination from the boss when it’s ME? I went back to my partly-started third book a few days ago and I’m happy with it – I need to get back into the excited creative blur where I can pound out several thousand words a day, not spend hours deciding where a comma should go. This is the best bit of writing. The bit where you think, God, I’m amazing. No one has ever written anything as good as this in the history of the WORLD. All those others writers, quite frankly they should just give up now and go home, or not go home since they’re probably already there, but certainly give up and start writing technical manuals for printers or the copy for cereal packets or something.
Annoying, right? It doesn’t last. During the editing stage it’s more like, God, I’m the worst writer in the world. There are toddlers scribbling on walls with their own saliva who write better than me. I’m going to give up and write the copy for cereal packets, etc etc.
So what’s it like being a full-time (ish) writer, I hear you ask? There are perks. Last week I went to my college reunion and had a good answer to the ‘what are you up to now’ question – Well, I’ve quit my job to be a writer. I went to Oxford, so as you’d expect many of my contemporaries went on to banking, law, more law, and management consultancy. But I’m not sure how many felt fulfilled by it. I heard several people say they wanted to take a break or change careers. At the same time I’m reading about the increasing doom and gloom for books – no money, no sales, piracy – and having feelings of alarm. Have I done the right thing? Will it end in tears? I know full well I might not be able to live off it for good, but for now it feels right to write as much as I can and give it my best shot.
I must say I think I’m quite temperamentally suited to home-working. I don’t mind being alone a lot. I often find other people irritating. I like sitting still and drinking tea. I like silence, and I don’t feel the lure of daytime TV. I’m quite self-motivated and I feel the fear a lot and do it anyway.
But what do writers actually do all day? I can go out for walks, I can have lunch, go shopping, write in coffee shops, drink tea all day, read and legitimately call it research. I can sit out in the lovely sunshine we’ve been having. A day at home slips by surprisingly fast. Somehow though I suspect I’ll feel bad if I don’t sit pounding at the computer until I have serious RSI. Tis the Catholic guilt or something. So far I’m really REALLY enjoying it. I love my new house. Steam trains run past the garden and it’s been sunny and quiet and beautiful. The edits are done for now, and the next book is, obviously, the most amazing thing anyone has ever written, ever (for now). So far, then, being a writer at home is brilliant.