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Friday, 11 May 2018

Inter-dental brushes, thirsty tomatoes, estate agents and lolly sticks - or, Things That Stop Me Writing

One of the many distractions at this time of year

I am a very productive writer. 26 books in the last twenty years, approximately. Plus half a dozen yet to find a publisher. And when I’m writing I make myself crank out 1,000 words a day, rain or shine. That, I tell people, is how books get written. Four months, 90,000 words.

On a non-fiction project such as I am working on now (a biography of a retired Member of Parliament), with my research done and lots of notes to draw on, I can do 2, 3, 4,000 a day. Yesterday I peaked: close to 5,000.

But I could do more - were it not for interruptions. Once I get my head down and start typing I hate them. (Single exception: lunch, which could come twice a day as far as I am concerned. Three times. Whatever you like.)

But this week? Let me count the ways.

Phone calls. One from a daughter whose car has broken down. One from another daughter who is looking for a flat in Liverpool. Love them both, but please – can it wait?  Phone call from a guy who wants to follow up on my new website, which his outfit subsidised last summer. Has it changed my business, my life, my social media interaction? I’ll have to think. Texts from mates about the weekend’s footie results (not good, so will you all please bugger off?)

Meanwhile I scribe away, shifting my attention from this set of interview notes to that one, shuffling the pile. There are four sets in front of me, plus a 24-page transcript of an epic recording session. Most of the guy’s stories are told in shreds and patches across every damned encounter. A lot of shuffling is involved. My desk is a sea of A4 sheets, scattered paper-clips and lost pens.

Phone call. I am coming by to talk about that website. This afternoon, if it’s okay. I can’t say no, can I? They did £1000 worth of work, all paid for by the European Community. Sure, see you about two.

Daughter no. 1 is back on: the car’s a write-off and I can’t afford…. Okay okay. Yes. Of course. Open online bank account. Wince. Start again.

Lunch! Yes. Enjoy that and settle back to work. Then I remember. Teeth. I’ve had a finger-wagging from my dentist. They never used to take this long: three minutes of electric droning, then the inter-dental brushes in two separate sizes….

Back to the keyboard, grimacing at the sting of peppermint which has eradicated the gorgeous flavour of my single daily cup of super-strength coffee. When is someone going to bring out a caffeinated dental cream? Or crème?

Pling! An email from my beloved: she is on a rowing boat with her brother. Reply, through gritted teeth: have fun. Don’t drown or anything.

The milkman is at the door, and he wants paying. Would like to chat. Yes, we still have milk delivered in the northeast. By chatty delivery men. Shelve out £45 and go back to my study. Now, where was I? Ah yes, the corridors of power – and a juicy bit of gossip about Mrs Thatcher. 

Phone call. It’s the estate agent, trying to sell us a three-bedroomed house on the edge of town when we already established that we wanted four beds close to the centre. Somehow contrive to be polite, despite feeling like ripping his head off.

As the sun comes out and starts blazing through window, I close the blind, then drop everything and rush outside. At the allotment I open the greenhouse windows and water my wilting, gasping, grateful tomatoes. And stop a while to earth up the spuds (see photo, above).

Back to desk and count the day’s words. Wonder how in God’s name I got to 1,216 already.

Shuffle papers on desk, bang out another 137 words (yes, some days I really do check the total every half hour; doesn't everyone?).

While musing on a way to open the next paragraph I spot under the screen a white NHS envelope. Oh bugger! The biennial bowel cancer screening tests, which have been sitting there for three weeks.

Repair to the toilet, armed with lolly sticks and a waterproof envelope. (You’ve been there? You’re clearly older than you look. You’re bemused? Wait till you pass sixty: that’s when the fun really starts.) 

The door bell. Oh shit: the guy about the website. Spend 45 minutes convincing him that the money was well spent.

Back to it. Somehow, I bang out the words. From somewhere I find the energy to write a blog post. Somehow, when I do the word count tonight, I will have reached my daily target. I always do. Somehow.

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