How to MAKE it while doing it all

This is the thing. I’m not aware of any writer out there, any woman out there, who has managed to achieve literary publishing success, while her children are young.

Young. Little. I’m talking 1 + children under the age of, let’s say 4-5.

Because really, when would they have time to do it?

Baby girl is not a baby anymore: she’s a toddler, 18 months to be precise. Life was already busy without her, and now that she’s here, it’s even busier. I’m fortunate in that if left to her own devices, she will nap for about 2 hours a day. This is great. This is unreal. The only thing is, I have so much to do, I don’t know what to do first.

There’s always some kind of cleaning, some kind of food prep or cooking. Today for example, I had phone calls to make. I’ll pay bills online. I always try to squeeze in some writing time though. Like today. I haven’t posted something non-food related for a while, and this post and all the contradictory thoughts that come with it has been stewing in my mind for months. I sit down during her nap, with a coffee, and let the caffeine take me on a journey.

I have so many thoughts about this. There is some way, that I could achieve publishing success, with baby girl, as is. Like, now. But if I were to have another baby, I don’t know where I would find the time. I have this small sliver of opportunity that currently exists during the day. I can, and I do often write at night when she has been put down for the night. But unfortunately on some occasions, I’m just too tired. I’m tired from the day, I’m tired from the constant running around and not stopping. I’m tired of everything.

So instead, I’ll surf the web, or watch something I’ve recorded on Foxtel.

(Tsk tsk tsk).

Two people spring to mind when I think of me as Author (because we all are Authors aren’t we, only no one knows of our impending success yet)… me as Author watching TV.

Stephen King and Jackie Collins.

In Stephen King’s On Writing, he talks about TV being possibly the worst thing to thwart an Author’s efforts to write. He tells us to unplug the thing, and to find places where you can read during the day…standing in queue at the post office for example, or while waiting at the doctor’s office.

Jackie Collins says quite the opposite. In a recent interview, she spoke of how much she enjoyed watching television, and the volume of television she watches. She finds it inspiring and helps her to formulate her stories and give her the inspiration she needs.

I think they’re both right. Stephen King is right, but so is Jackie. You should avoid the TV, just for the sake of not getting sucked into the tedious monotomy of fluff being broadcast to a passive audience, hypnotising the viewers into forgetting about the next 3 possibly useful and effective hours of the night.

But if you’re watching something brilliant, something compelling… well. I find inspiration not just from books, but from movies and television shows. When I watch entertainment on TV, I don’t just stare numbly: I break it down, I analyse. In my mind, when something surprising occurs, I think ‘Oh. See how they did that? It went from A to B and then C was missed and suddenly you were at M and you were like what?! How did they think to create that story?’

So I can’t deny my visual form of entertainment either. I just have to pick carefully because of my limited time.

My foxtel planner is inundated with movies and shows that are yet to be watched. I have DVDS and movies that I’ve bought, and likewise have not had the time to sit down and dedicate myself to it. I feel so bad to sit there, not writing, for approximately 40 mins to 2 hours, when I could be productive and working on my book. I really feel guilty about it, yet I feel like my desire to consume this screen action won’t go away soon either.

I was thinking of the whole theory that Mums don’t have time to make themselves a success while their children were young, when P.D. James died. The night after hearing the shocking news, I googled her and some interesting articles came up on her back story. She had had a very difficult upbringing with her Mother institutionalised due to mental illness while James was still at an impressionable age, and then her string of misfortune continued when her husband developed a severe case of Schizophrenia after returning from the war, resulting in frequent hospitalisation. She found him dead one morning in their home, due to suicide.

She’d had two children with him, and moved in with her in-laws after he died. She worked full time to make ends meet. And you know what she also did?

She would wake up 2 hours before work every day, and write.

I remember the strong emotional feeling I got when I read that. I got very teary in the realisation that she had done, so many years ago, what I’d always known I could do. But I hadn’t.

Basically, in the end, there are no excuses. If you want to write, you will find a way. Like one blogger wrote, you’ll lock yourself in the bathroom away from the toddlers just so you can have 5 minutes of peace and tranquillity and a moment to put your fingers to the keypad. You’ll get up early, you’ll stay up late, or you just won’t sleep much at all.

Didn’t Bon Jovi sing “I’ll sleep when I’m dead?” That sounds about right.

Like another blogger I follow recently posted about, Andrew Toy at Adopting James, he also gets up 2 hours before his work start, in order to get in some writing time.

There are really no excuses.

There will always be things to do. I’m such a planner. I think I organise and plan and think and create more than I can possibly achieve. I love being on the move, being busy, and hate the idea of boredom. So I do it to myself, really. But in the end, do I want to tick off all my jobs on my to-do list, or do I want to say:

“I’m a published writer.”

There is no question there.

And don’t get me wrong, don’t accuse me of procrastinating now. I have been writing my book, the second book in my series in fact. I finished the 1st chapter just the other day, and while I stir up some more creative juices as to what to do in chapter 2, I sit here, and add to my blog, and catch up on stuff, and just generally imagine the possibilities for my characters, for myself, and for life.

Sometimes I think this blog has taken me away from my book writing. Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m totally right. But at the end of the day I have to write, and I have to write somewhere… and this kind of outlet, I wouldn’t give up for anything.

So in reference to the above heading… how to make it, while doing it all?

1. Prioritise

2. Decide on your goals, and what is important to you

3. Forget about sleep. It can wait.

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Murder comes to Darcy’s town

(Disclaimer: I wrote this review earlier in the week, days before the death of P.D. James. R.I.P.)

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P.D JAMES – Death Comes To Pemberley

“If this were fiction, could even the most brilliant novelist contrive to make credible so short a period in which pride had been subdued and prejudice overcome?”

I love this little homage that James makes in reference to the predecessor, and inspiration behind the novel that continues the tale of a little-known couple called Elizabeth and Darcy. Not only did it highlight to me just how little time Darcy and Elizabeth did spend together in Pride and Prejudice before actually making their commitment to one another, but it cemented just how good an author P.D. James is to make a quip such as this one and make it part of her follow-up on the future life of the Darcy’s.

I got a precursor to her clever wit before actually beginning the book though – In the Author’s Note she wrote that she owed Jane Austen an apology for involving her Elizabeth in a murder investigation, with Austen’s views on these matters made clear at the end of her novel Mansfield Park:

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”

James’ response:

“No doubt she would have replied to my apology by saying that, had she wished to dwell on such odious subjects, she would have written this story herself, and done it better.”

I loved the book already, and I hadn’t even started it.

What also amazed me before actually commencing the book, was reading that James had been born in 1920. What? I did the calculations… she was 91 when this book was published, now even older at 94! I only hoped I could still be writing at that age. What an accomplishment, of both age and career.

In a spoiler-less nutshell, James’ take on the future of the Darcy’s takes place 6 years after the end of their tale in Pride and Prejudice in 1803. It is the eve of an annual ball, and the estate is shook by the sudden and unprepared arrival of Elizabeth’s sister Lydia, screaming that her husband George Wickham has been murdered. What follows in the rest of the 6-part book (not including the prologue) is a discovery, a scandal, an inquest, trial, and of course a resolution.

As I started to read through the book, the amazement with James’ ability to match Austen’s prose, and my old love for these characters grew. It was like meeting up with old friends and seeing where they had been and what they had been doing for the last little while. Although there can be fear of a follow-up tale, especially one that is not written by the original author of the successful bestseller, not being even half-way up to scratch against the predecessor, Death Comes to Pemberley is such an original take on the romantic story dealing with issues of class and convention, that many times I actually forgot that Austen hadn’t written this herself.

You see that James shares Austen’s cheeky wit and sense-of-humour in the following line:

“It is my belief that, for a woman, love more often comes after marriage than before it and, indeed, it seems to me both natural and right that it should.”

I find these lines utterly amusing and fascinating. Perhaps I find them so novel because I’m not living in a time where men’s opinions of women are more of ownership, than equal partnership. And of course the above was quoted by a male. Figures.

There was also this beauty:

“It is never so difficult to congratulate a friend on her good fortune than when that fortune appears undeserved.”

There is also mention of a man named Joseph Joseph, so called because his parents were so enamoured by their surname they gave it to him also in baptism. Surprisingly, the fellow ain’t so bright. I loved being pleasantly surprised in moments here and there, giggling at little things like this that lightened the ‘thriller’ aspect of the book, much like I had smiled too often while reading Pride and Prejudice.

For me, reading books such as this one is not only enjoyable because of the writing and the characters, but because of the different time and place in which it is set. I find it fascinating to read of a time where this stuff was the norm, a time when such innocence was prevalent in almost all dealings, while interestingly and factually a decent amount of indecency was usually present.

I found it almost mind-blowing reading about the ‘help.’ Darcy and Elizabeth’s staff are overly accommodating to them and their guests, constantly on top of everything and helpful to the point of almost being able to forecast what is going to happen and prepare for it beforehand! Or at least that’s how it felt like. It would have been a very lovely and innocent time to be living, more so if you had the resources to be waited on hand and foot. Elizabeth observes:

“She was unlikely to encounter them on this floor, but if she did, they would smile and flatten themselves against the wall as she passed.”

There is also a couple of mentions of letter-writing, and the notion of a relaxed and luxurious time when one had the opportunity to sit and write, or just read for hours on end, just sounds so splendid to me.

Another amusing yet also innocent moment comes when the men get together to talk and get their stories straight regarding the night of the murder at Pemberley. All I could think of is “isn’t this like tampering with evidence, that being your minds and memories?” Isn’t that why members of a jury are forbid from being exposed to outside bias during a trial, so as not to be swayed by opinion, and hearsay? I found this absolutely ridiculous, but I think it was deliberately inserted to show the innocence and naivety of the time, even in an age where the law was taken so seriously, as stated later during the inquest and trial.

I could go on and on about how well James imitated Austen’s world, and how fascinating I find that world. I love how during the night of the murder, Elizabeth finds it appropriate to say this:

“But you could at least stay and have something to eat and drink before you go. It is hours since dinner.”

How one could be concerned with eating in knowledge of a dead body is beyond me.

Like in Pride and Prejudice, there are important and very thought-evoking questions of class, society, and manners. One amusing example of this is in an event where Darcy has to make a trip, and knows that it is preferred he arrive in a coach, though he would prefer to ride in on horse, but compromises by taking a chaise. The reputation and prestige associated with what mode of transport you arrive in is baffling, but then not so when I remember that Hubbie and I too are wanting to update our car. James also imitates the same spell-it-out fashion that makes you want to sometimes yell ‘why do I need to know that the larger of the two keys was used to unlock the door?’ It all adds to the style I guess.

What else frustrated me about this spelling-the-details-out, and also similarly the great lead-ups to events and long drawn-out establishing scenes, was that as a new writer, I’m not allowed to do them! I do do them, however I am told that new writers must stick to the rules (that of getting to the point), while established writers are allowed to break them all. As witnessed in Austen’s books, and to some extent in James’ one, as mentioned above. Sigh.

I was happy with quite a few additions James made. She showed a bit more intimacy between Elizabeth and Darcy, something we didn’t get too much of in the original. Maybe because they got together at the end of the book, but perhaps more so because of the time. Not that we don’t get much more than a hug here and there, but still, the contact is nice.

Most characters from the original are in this follow-up, and even if not so they are mentioned in hearsay or via letters, so that you get to find out how everyone is going. Even if there are only brief mentions made of someone, James captures their personality and demeanour perfectly to match Austen’s. A particularly fantastic example is made of Mrs Bennett. If you can remember, she was rather impossible, though hilarious to us as readers (and probably at least a tad annoying). When Mr. Bennett is visiting the Darcy’s, he receives a letter saying she has been hearing footsteps outside the house and has been suffering from palpitations in his absence.

“Why was he concerning himself with other people’s murders when there was likely to be one at Longbourn if he did not immediately return?”

There is a quite sudden tone change towards the end of the book, one I found striking given the type of world the story takes place in. All the good stuff though… gore, chaos, tension, nastiness. Like a soap opera, as I observed at one point. James ties up all loose ends very nicely, however at one moment I was overwhelmed with information to the point that I couldn’t keep up, but fortunately some of it was repeated and I got with the program.

I did find it interesting that later on in the book James chose to explain Darcy’s deeds from Pride and Prejudice, as even further closure. First I went ‘no! she can’t do that!’ Should it be allowed, since it’s not from Austen? But then I realised, neither is this book! I guess writing a follow-up, in some ways a completely different book on where the characters have ended up, is quite different to referring specifically to events from Pride and Prejudice, and explaining the actions of the characters then as written from another author. Food for thought.

Oh, and not to spoil, but I have to mention… in the last section, Elizabeth says something to Darcy, and says she cannot promise him something. This part, is beautiful. Watch for it. Because you know what? Somewhere, someplace, she can 🙂

This book was an absolute pleasure, a joy to read. If you loved Pride and Prejudice, and love thrillers… well what are you waiting for?

Please let me know your thoughts on Death Comes To Pemberley in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you 🙂

Seriously, F^#* Me

I’m so stupefied and shocked, I have to say that again:

Seriously, F#&k Me. (Never mind my choice of characters are different every time).

This week I finished writing up two book reviews. I was going to post my first one up, tonight. P.D. James’, Death Comes To Pemberley.

Only 2 nights ago I was proofreading that review. And I was still astounded at James’ age, moreover, that she was still writing at that age. So I looked her up and sure enough, she was 94.

Was 94.

This morning at work I walked past a TV, to see a still image of her.

“P.D. James” it said underneath her photo.

“1920-2014.”

What????

She was alive two nights ago when I wikipedia’d it!

I googled, and the news had broken of her peacefully passing away, only 2 hours earlier.

What the fuck is happening in the world. I’m not looking up people any more.

“With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write.” – P.D. James