You know how it is: you work all day, you are proud of your output, and then someone comes along and deflates it in seconds.
I had the rare occurrence of a day – a whole day! – whilst the children were at school and I could use it to write. I could have used it to do the tax return, sort the finances, do the washing/ironing/cleaning, file tonnes of paperwork, buy birthday presents, organise music lessons, practice the cello, or any of the myriad items on my to-do list … but no. I chose to spend the day writing.
Furthermore, I chose to spend the day writing a short story that had been floating round my head for a couple of weeks, rather than writing (a) necessary blog posts, or (b) my talk at Ilkley Literature Festival, or (c) my second book about life in Zambia.
You may have gathered by now that I am much better at doing the things I want to do rather than the things I have to do. (Sorry, Mr Taxman.)
But the story was there, was itching to be written, was testing my literary skills. It was not a happy tale: more of a story about a broken woman, a woman that could have been me – or possibly any other mother – if I’d flipped or been pushed just that one step too far.
I wasn’t quite sure how it would end, though I knew what I was trying to achieve, and as I approached the crux of the story a final sentence just fell out of me. A couple of tweaks, and it was done.
Perfect, I thought. Time for a cup of tea. And a biscuit.
A smug feeling settled over me. Ok, so there were still all these other jobs outstanding but I had listened to the experts’ advice: I’d not been distracted, I had sat down and written. Not a 6000-word, storming-through-a-novel day, but a story with editing and something that I was proud of, that I was prepared to show to others.
I started with my resident critic (i.e. husband) later in the evening. That was when I got my damning praise.
“Some of the sentences are really good.”
Some of them? Really good?
“I don’t get it. What’s happening in this final sentence? Who are you referring to as ‘he’?”
This is the life of a writer. Scribbling away for hours on end, crafting a story and living the life of your characters, trying to draw pictures and build emotions in a few words. Then the smack-in-the-face realisation that other people’s minds don’t work in the same way as yours – that for some reason a sentence that makes complete sense to you is confusing and ambiguous to others.
Or, in my case, that my husband didn’t get it. At all.
Back to the
drawing writing board.