You may have noticed that my blog has been quiet for a couple of weeks. You may not have noticed, you may not care but as you are reading this blog I’m going to tell you what I have been up to because, for the past month or so, I’ve been really busy.
At this point I realise that most people will be laughing, shaking their heads at their screens and thinking ‘you are a writer, all you do is sit in your pants all day and browse the internet looking for inspiration.’
I’m not going to argue that this isn’t the case some of the time, in fact quite a significant chunk of the time, but there’s more to being a writer than tapping a few words out on a keyboard.
On a recent night out with friends I was asked ‘Are you still unemployed?’, ‘Still enjoying the lazy life?’ and ‘Have you found a job yet?’ When I replied ‘I have a job, I am a writer’, they looked at me as if I needed my bumps felt.
I might not get paid much, I might not go to a place of work each day (apart from my settee) and I may browse the web from time to time but how many of you are reading this whilst at work? Our jobs aren’t that different.
I’m going to give you an insight into the life of a writer and what my diary looks like. Writing books is only a very small part of it and this month I don’t think I’ve written anything of worth but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been productive.
I was tempted to do this in a highly amusing take on the appraisal process carried out in offices around the world. But I hate appraisals and they serve no purpose other than to improve people’s creative writing skills. I hope I never have to do another so you are stuck with this blog in standard blog format.
The first week of the month is usually the busiest, mainly because I have a lot of meetings to attend. You may have thought I would have left all that behind when I left the workplace but meetings are still a necessary evil. There’s not as many and importantly, none of them are compulsory so it’s entirely up to me if I attend.
I’m now getting flashbacks to weekly meetings I had to attend where it was literally someone reading off a spreadsheet. Minute by minute, line by line I would feel my life being wasted. Luckily none of the meetings I attend now are like that. That’s not to say that there aren’t reminders of the typical office meeting. The loudmouth who talks over people and never listens, the person with an agenda, the person who wildly misses the point and the person who only speaks because the only conversation they normally have is with a cat.
Whilst it may not seem like work, the month started with a day/night out with some fellow writers. We met at a monthly social event in Holmeside Coffee (home of our writing group) involving beer, cocktails, music, more beer and more cocktails. I probably shouldn’t write too much more about this other than we acted like writers by drinking Hemingway levels of booze and I suspect that we discussed writing at some point during the nine hours drinking before we stumbled home.
Barely recovered from the night out, on 3rd October I made my first appearance at the Sunderland Literature and Creative Writing Festival. I will be doing a full review of the month long festival at a later date but this was my first of three appearances.
This talk at the National Glass Centre was part of the Literature side of the festival and this year’s theme was local writers which was perfect for a popular local author such as myself. In what appeared to be my perfect job, I got to talk about me for an hour. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds and I did a lot of preparation, thinking about what I could talk about and finding chapters in my books to read that didn’t have swearing in. It went really well and thankfully the audience had a lot of questions. Without questions it can quickly become one person droning on whilst the audience fights to stay awake. Admittedly there’s always the risk of some random mad question but it’s better than silence. A top tip is to have someone you know in the audience who can ask something if it all goes quiet.
My first meeting of the month is usually the ArtWorks-U Networking lunch on the first Tuesday. Anybody who knows me will be laughing at me both networking and mixing with arty types but this has been a very useful meeting. I have not only got work on the back of it but I have gained exposure through radio interviews, been working on a really interesting project about Southwick where I grew up, got a lot of ideas for future collaborations and most importantly of all, I get a free lunch. As an impoverished writer I am never going to turn down free bait.
This was also at the National Glass Centre which is a hub of creativity overlooking the river, a perfect place for arty inspiration as displayed by my friend Lisa stood next to a git big Snowdog.
My next meeting was on the Tuesday evening at Pop Recs. ‘What Next?‘ is a movement bringing together arts and cultural organisations and people involved in arts and culture from across the UK, to articulate, champion and strengthen the role of culture in our society. (I stole that from their FB page). There’s a different topic each month, occasionally guest speakers and yet another opportunity to network. On the back of this month’s meeting I am going to be volunteering to do writing workshops as part of the Sleepout event on behalf of the Centrepoint charity.
Next up on the first Wednesday of each month (but not November for anyone who is thinking of turning up!) is the Holmeside Writer’s group. Run by internationally acclaimed author Iain Rowan, the group has a wide range of talents from novelists to film makers, to purveyors of radio drama and the odd poet. There’s a number of award winners amongst the group and we’ve covered all sorts of topics in the two years since I joined. I’ve really benefited from being part of the group. From having my work critiqued to being challenged to try different forms of writing and most importantly, being given the kick up the arse I needed to get Idle Threats finished, pack my job in and finish my third novel Counterbalance. Iain is definitely to blame for all of this.
The group is possibly a victim of its own success and is incredibly popular. I had mild panic during my appearances in the Literature Festival when everyone seemed to be making notes about the group and saying they were going to turn up. Especially when I realised they were likely to turn up to the November one which has been moved. There may be a lot of confused people wandering around Holmeside next Wednesday.
It’s only a small (but brilliant) coffee shop we meet in so if you are thinking of joining, please contact Iain first. A link to the Holmeside Writers Twitter account is at the bottom of this page.
I’ve written over a thousand words and we’re only up to Wednesday on the first week of the month. Told you I was busy.
I shall return with another blog soon to tell you what happens for the rest of the month.
Also, to whet the appetite of those who are used to my more tongue in cheek blogs, I will be working on a Christmas Special on how to behave at the Christmas Party.