The Middle of the Night


It used to be fine. I'd wake up at around 3am and trot through the dark to my desk. After an hour or two's writing I could slide back into bed and get more sleep, moving into my second writing shift later in the morning.

I still wake ... but know that at 6.30 the alarm will sound and it's time to start the teaching day. I no longer carry stories into sleep. I wake and all the minor dramas and frustrations of school life start clamouring for attention. I lie there, knowing sleeplessness is going to make the coming day ragged.

Writing is a magical condition to be in. It takes a three day break from the day job to slide back into it, then creativity takes hold, words become luminous once again, daily life is clothed in a warm glow. I know some writers use these early hours before work to pump out books, even mothers with children and upscale jobs manage it, in fact I'm writing this in one of those hours, but it's not the same. Writing time needs gathering and protecting.

Most writing fun of late has been editing a story, Everything I Am, for the online magazine Blithe House Quarterly. It is one of a sequence of stories I've been writing for some years now, it felt quite polished, but the attention of a perceptive and caring editor was terrific. The story took fresh shape through his constant suggestions and encouragement. Even though he prompted me to wipe out favourite pages, I enjoyed the process enormously.

Novels I want to revise are on hold till the holidays, those holidays already booked, time secured in our French writing retreat, while another novel that surely does feel finished is out in the world looking for a home. I'm out in the world too. I like to think that this working routine is giving me material, polishing my writing, in some precious ways that will reveal themselves through the coming years. That's not something I give a lot of thought to though. The day-to-day mechanics of the job are too consuming for that.

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