Some weeks the writing ideas zoom in like fat bees in lavender. Other times someone must have sprayed pesticides. There’s no hope for the novel, short shrift for short stories, and even the blog gets bogged down. That’s serious, because the blog’s raison d’être is to unblock the serious writer in me (though all too often it replaces her entirely).
When I taught French to adults, I would excuse uncompleted homework if they could provide a correctly formulated excuse, eg: “Le chien a mangé mes devoirs.”
How do you rate my excuses?
- Last week’s post was too good! Yes, that’s right, I was very pleased with my blog post last week. I admired both my own writing style, and my choice of content. My chest puffed out; I smiled graciously; I stood behind an imaginary lectern spouting wisdom to an enthralled audience. I’ve made myself a hard act to follow.
- The weather. Seriously. My study is the coldest room in the house. The UK climate was playing cruel homage to Antonia White’s wonderful Frost in May. No bees buzzed. I cowered beneath blankets gazing mournfully out at my dying cherry tree. When it’s cold in winter I can write. When it’s cold in spring my pen shrivels (Can pens shrivel? – Ed.)
- I have a busy month coming up. Trips planned, student reunions, family things, cultural highlights. I take packing for these very seriously, and had to put aside a lot of time for inventing obstacles to worry about.
- My reading has stalled, so I can’t give a review for this week’s post. I’m currently in the middle of two books: Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King in preparation for a trip to Milan, and The Book of Night Women by Marlon James, which my son gave me for my birthday. They’re both very good, but as a Goodreads review says, “whenever i read books written in dialect it always takes me at least 40 pages to start to get the hang of it”. As a (highly appropriate and skilfully used) vehicle for intensity, cruelty, and injustice the voice isn’t always easy to process. And why are both printed in such an exhaustingly tiny font? When my reading staggers my writing stumbles too.
- I did my tax return. This is grounds for congratulation – I’ve never completed it so promptly before. It didn’t take long, because to be frank the piles of receipts and associated expenditure on my authorial life are not that high. (The million pound advance for The Magic Carpet must be lost in the post.) So given the level of turnover, can I really describe myself to the Inland Revenue as a writer? On the other hand, bearing in mind recent estimates of average author income, do my low earnings provide the proof?
- Amazon returned the interior proofs for the German translation of The Infinity Pool. I can be of absolutely no help checking these, but there was a lot of associated emailing with my long suffering, hard working, optimistic German translator Michaela and I do so hope for her sake even more than mine that her hard work finds some appreciative readers and reviewers.
- My writing ideas are unrepeatable. A couple of plot ideas did surface recently as a result of memories friends recounted to me, in that innocent way they have over a glass of wine after a concert, unaware their writer friend is salting it all away for use in chapter six. But in the cold light of day I’ve realised what a betrayal it would be to use them.
- I had to cultivate my garden, not in the Voltairean sense but literally. I’d bought some plants before the most recent mini ice age intervened and urgent life saving was needed.
- There are cracks in the living room plaster that could mean anything and have to be watched.
- Le chien a mangé mes devoirs. Je n’ai pas de chien.
- The idea I do have is reserved for Smorgasbord in a couple of weeks.
- Just realised I wrote this post or one very like it shortly after starting blogging, and also the following New Year. More proof I’m a professional writer – glossy magazines have been recycling the same articles for decades.
If you’re still with me through all these excuses, take my advice: you must – like me – have better things to do. Like I said, last week’s post was good. Why not revisit that?
Jessica Norrie ©2018