I’d already had three books published when a friend told me ‘I never think of what you do as work.’
When I’d wiped the ironic smile off my face, I gave her the grudging benefit of the doubt. Writing isn’t road sweeping. It’s not plumbing. It’s not mountain rescue. In other words, it’s not the kind of work that provides an immediate, daily valuable contribution to society. It’s not an emergency service. It’s not something that keeps a city functioning. It doesn’t even provide interaction with another living soul.
And that’s where the ‘work’ comes in. Writing is slog. It can be mind-numbing stuff. It takes hours, weeks, months and years alone. It needs a vast amount of motivation. It’s done in isolation, unless you’re one of those that rattles out a bestseller while sitting in Starbucks – and that might be worse, to be engaged with your writing while people circulate around you. It’s still exclusion of a kind.
I’m often asked what my working day looks like. So yes, I don’t have a boss breathing over my shoulder. So exact times don’t matter. But I’ll sit down at my desk around 10 in the morning, and finish around 5. Later in the evening I’ll probably read through what I’ve written that day, and edit it. And invariably when I get into bed and have given my brain permission to log off, I’ll think of something that might just take a few minutes, or might still see me working in the early hours. I aim for 1200-1500 words a day. A novel usually takes me about 10-12 months to write (though I produced The Ice Child in 4 months, and my latest The Slow Days of Drowning in 6 months).
I have a dedicated space to work in; in my case, a guest bedroom partially converted to a study. One great benefit of writing is that space-wise you don’t need much to do it.
The books I buy are another matter…………….ideally, I could do with another house for them.