Thursday, 27 June 2013

A day in the life...


A while ago I entered a competition. It was to write something, 500 words or less, entitled, 'A Day in the Life of a Writer'. It presented a challenge on several fronts:
  1. 500 words and I am only just getting started. 
  2. I still struggle to identify myself as a writer, even with a small 'w'. It feels too dangerous; as if I'll invite a torrent of contradiction and ridicule. If in a conversation and I'm pressed, I might own up to ramblings on a blog somewhere but I have difficulty making eye contact at that point and rarely actually let people know where to find my ramblings, should they wish to. Not in a face-to-face real-life encounter; too scary. I usually say, 'I'll send you a link via email.' And then I er...don't. 
  3. The competition was run by The Association of Christian Writers and every day that I hang around making humorous small talk with other procrastinators on the ACW Facebook page is another day that I risk being exposed as a fraud. Not the Christian bit, the 'writers' bit.
  4. So, sending a piece of writing off to be read and judged by people I so admire; well, when I finally got round to tapping the 'Send' button, I was wincing.
At this point, I'd quite like to tell you that after all that angst, I won. I didn't. Someone else's piece did, and it deserved to win, but (drumroll) I got an highly commended, and also, I'm told, a round of applause at a Writer's Day where the winners were announced. 
Yes I did. Me. 
So I must have written something (and it has 496 words, in case you were wondering).
So I might be a writer. 

Well, inspired by several other people who have added their entries to their blogs, here it is: 


A Day in the Life of a Writer
I am not a writer.

I’m just someone who writes. I write because I can’t not write, but for a writer I spend a lot of time not writing. I write with a digit in Facebook. I write while peering over coffee. I write, but I gaze wistfully at those more clever or poetic or published than I who seem to have said it all, and said it better, and I think, I am not a writer.

I write, because it’s what I do.

I write in my kitchen, at the island unit, looking at the trees in the back garden. From here the kettle is a short stride away; I can reach the fridge without leaving my perch. The fruit bowl is at arm’s length and the biscuits are in the cupboard behind me. Well, they were. There are crumbs on the keyboard.

Mornings are for mentally smoothing out a blank sheet of paper on my screen and planning to arrange words to communicate, encourage and inspire. Yes!

No. Mornings are for gazing out of the window, fretting over blog stats, rejoicing over comments, comparing myself unmercifully with others and making more coffee.

Afternoons are for watching the clock as my peace and quiet ticks away before the school run.  Decisively closing all programs on the computer but the blank page and being struck by delicious inspiration at about two o’clock only to  gather it all into a jumbled pile in my head at three as I dash to the school gates.

Early evening is for sitting side saddle at my island workspace trying to retrieve and nail down the late afternoon magic while the children roller-skate around me demanding snacks and promises while tea bubbles and burns on the cooker (two and a half paces away).  

Early evening is for closing the laptop with exasperation only to find that my best ideas come from my children. We are all just kids on a long journey. Are we nearly there yet?

Nope, there’s time for another story before bedtime.

Evening is for delicious, cosy quiet when the children are in bed.  For angst about what sort of distracted mother would rather write down strings of words than play Twister, and for pouring out my feelings with my fingers on the keys. Evening is for debating whether to take my laptop to bed where my feet will be warm and taptaptap while semi-recumbent or to leave the unfinished masterpiece where it is and turn to my books and pillow for consolation, motivation, inspiration.

Nighttime is for scribbling in my journal - thoughts and prayer, hope and despair. It’s for leaving it all with Him; achievements and intentions, creativity and procrastination.  Nighttime is for trying to switch off the brain that won’t kick in each morning.

It’s for climbing back out of bed and padding down to the blank page on the kitchen island computer and filling it with words.

I am a writer. Sometimes I write.

24 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed your entry. So much of it is my life too. I do like your easy style and the visuals you include, like the crumbs on the keyboard. Oh, yes! Been there!

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    1. Fran, thank you! I thought yours was excellent; made me laugh out loud. Learning an awful lot by reading other people's stuff. Thanks so much for reading and taking the trouble to comment.

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  2. Well, I'm not even slightly surprised that this got an honourable mention. It's funny, it's moving, and the structure is superb, especially the mirror-image effect of the first two and last two sentences. Also, it doesn't give the impression of being under 500 words, and I mean that a a compliment: when I'm working with a word limit I tend to rush through and leave important chunks out, but you have taken your time and still managed to squeeze in imagery and fun asides (like the crumbs).
    I really love your writing.

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    1. Thanks, Amy, that means a lot! I read your writing and wish mine could be so elegant and witty. Thank you so much.
      ...and after our discussion on being verbose and long winded, you'll understand what a challenge 500 was!

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  3. Please don't tell me that the long comment I just typed has disappeared just because I wasn't signed in?!

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    1. Nope, got it. Thanks. :-)

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    2. Phew! It went from my screen and presented me with the blank form again, so I had that sinking feeling...

      Just noticed something else I loved about this piece: the creative use of the word 'island' after you had first introduced your workspace at the kitchen island. It doubles up so beautifully to mean an oasis while the children zoom around you, a still point in a busy day...very visual and effective.

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    3. You are lovely. Thank you.

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  4. Hi Helen, your writing always hits the spot! I really enjoyed the image of the crumbs on the keyboard, too. As another writer who is just "getting going", I like the way you've captured the conflict between the desire to write and the sense of not being "up to it". Thanks for sharing this. Blessings, Fiona

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    1. Thank you, Fiona. It's a constant tension, but I'm persuaded that the only way to be a writer is to write, then write some more...

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  5. I got a highly commended too - and like you I feel a fraud as a 'writer' because I write but have nothing published.....yet! Isn't the ACW a wonderful and supportive group!!

    Lynn http://includedbygrace.wordpress.com

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    1. Have you put your entry up somewhere, Lynn? Have I missed it on the ACW page? I'd love to read it. I've no idea what I'd be like if I won something; I was chuffed to bits (as they say around here) just to get a highly commended!
      Yes indeed - it's a wonderfully supportive group, just look at the kind comments people have made! It's made a real difference to me.
      Thanks so much.

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  6. Helen, this is so lovely. I heartily concur with all the other comments left here. Please DO believe that you ARE a writer, my friend. We do! The evidence is before our eyes. It's not about being published necessarily (I also feel less of a writer in ACW for that reason) but it is about having the heart and soul of a writer - and you have that in spades. I love your style, gifted way with words and tender, gently self-deprecating, deeply spiritual prose that is so meaningful yet often raising a smile too in appropriate places. Much love and blessings to you, fellow writer! :) xx

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    1. Thank you, Joy. It's odd, isn't it, that someone isn't less of a musician because they haven't a recording contract; they still play every day. Or someone who has a room full of canvases but hasn't ever had an exhibition or sold a painting - they're still an artist. But a writer? It's very hard. I wonder why?

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  7. Dear Helen, O Well Done ! Lovely stuff. I've tried to write e-mails in reply to your blogs but they bounce back ? We met at Scargill ACW w/e & I tracked your blog down through Google. Love to you & the family. Cathy

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    1. Hello Cathy! Welcome and thank you for finding me! I've sorted out the email problem now I think (thank you for telling me) so please email again!
      Love to you too. Hope you mail again so that I can reply. x

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  8. Hi Helen,

    Your intro made me chuckle because I am often staggered by your writing. Every time I receive an email that you have written an entry, I set it aside so I can take the time to fully enjoy it. This piece is well deserving of high honor, but I have more than once thought I would buy a book of your writings in a heart beat.

    This piece so captures my life as a "wanna-be." It is funny how starting a blog seems to turn so much of life into a pondering over 'what am I going write,' and then when I least expect it and I am trying to sleep - my best thoughts come pouring out.

    Love this Helen, thanks for sharing.

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    1. You've made my day. Thank you. Ben, that means so much to me. Thank you.
      Do you have notebooks on the bedside table too?!

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  9. Stunning Helen. The other writers must have been awesome if you didn't win. Wow. I, too, loved the visuals you introduce, especially the crumbs, and the island.
    My sentiments exactly. I do dare to call myself a writer, but not without fear of being "found out".
    I worked in people management for a newspaper, and I felt very self concious when I first congratulated one of the writers (the "real" ones) on an article. I had this idea that they would be thinking, "What do you know?" I soon discovered they are the same as us, welcoming feedback, even from me. And when I started writing, they were even very supportive.

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    1. Yes! I wonder if it's an insecurity common to everyone who writes, or tries to?
      Thank you so much for being so encouraging. I really appreciate your kind words.

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  10. You are indeed, a writer. I so appreciate your honesty and the transparency shared through your voice. This site is a treasure to have found, and I am grateful that Steven Sawyer alerted me to it. :) Blessings as you continue to write!

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  11. This is exactly.how.it.feels. I love your words and your heart, Helen. You are a writer. :)

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    1. Thank you! Always lovely to hear from you, Ginger. You are a star. Thanks for kind words.

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