Clocks slay time … time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life. ~ William Faulkner
Hi there, my name is Jay and I’m a writer. I thought that it would be best to start this guest blog off with a simple introduction and that seemed quite apt. Except that isn’t quite true. You see if I was to tell you what I am – and being honest – ‘writer’ would come some way down the list of things. First and foremost I am a husband, to the beautiful Carole, and father, to my two wonderful boys: Mackenzie and Nathaniel. After that I am a worker, for which I travel about 90 miles a day and put in about 45 hours a week. I teach two martial art classes a week. I’m a regular co-host and contributor on a weekly radio show. I’m part of the Northern Ireland Rare Disease Partnership, where I do social media work and try to raise awareness of issues facing people with rare diseases. Oh yes, and I write.
I occasionally like to sleep as well.
There are the lucky few who are able to put the ‘writer’ tag at the top of the parts that make their sum, so to speak. The ones who have worked hard, and caught a break or two, and now write full-time, for a living. Then there are the others – the ones like me – who are writers after everything else has been taken care off. The ones who grab whatever time they can to sit down in front of the keyboard and knock out the words that have been swimming in their heads whilst everything else is going on.
You see I might put everything else that I do, that I am, before the ‘writer’ part but I can honestly say that I go to sleep thinking about words, plots and characters; I wake up thinking about protagonists, antagonists and even tritagonists … though, admittedly, when it gets that far I have to do something as my mind gets far too crowded! I have notepads in my workbag, in my martial arts bag, in my jacket pockets even. I have electronic notes on my phone, on my email, on my laptop and on my PC. I have notes that never make it out of my head to anywhere else.
Because, even when I don’t have time to write – when I am busy being a husband, a father, an employee, a teacher, an advocate or any of the other things that fill my life – I am thinking about the words that are yet to come.
I used to think that the adage of a writer having to write each and every day, to set a word count and hit it no matter what, was the right thing to do; that without doing so you weren’t a writer. I used to feel frustrated if I couldn’t meet the word counts I had set myself, or wasn’t able to sit down for a solid couple of hours each and every day, and write. I used to feel guilty when I did take those hours, each and every day, because I could hear my children playing outside, or missed a social engagement with my friends. It got to the point where I was making excuses about what I was doing:
“Do you want to come to the cinema tonight, Jay?”
“No thanks, I’ve got a meeting in the morning to prepare for.”
“Did you get a chance to read that report last night, Jay?”
“No, actually, I went to the cinema with some friends.”
I’d actually done some research into men who go to any lengths when having an affair. They lie to everyone around them in order to fill whatever part of them it was that wanted to be with someone else. Eventually they even began to lie to themselves about what was going on, perhaps believing their own untruths.
And, just like a mistress, writing became my own guilty secret. Rendezvous with the laptop at 1am in the morning when everyone else was asleep; the notepad taken out, discreetly, and words fumbled between the tedium of project updates; a text message, or email, sent to myself in the middle of the night, hoping that my wife wouldn’t wake up with the glare of the phone as I sent my other love another furtive ‘quickie’.
To meet the spurious targets I had set myself, in order to satisfy myself that I was still a writer; I entered into an illicit affair with my Muse.
And then I caught myself on. I realised that it wasn’t something real, something tangible, I had with my Muse anymore but, instead, furtive moments in the dead of the night where neither of us were ever truly satisfied. I wasn’t living up to Her expectations at all: I wasn’t going the distance for her, in terms of time or words.
… yeah, I know, it happens to everyone and She was quite understanding about it really but one’s masculine ego does take a bashing the first time, in the middle of the night with the sheets wrapped around you, you can’t finish what you started.*
Something had to give and, finally, it did.
I realised that I don’t have to write one thousand words a day, each and every day. I realised that I don’t have to try to ‘fit in’ my writing amongst everything else and try to keep up the pretence that I am a writer above everything else. As long as I write, to the best of my ability, each and every time that I can, then that is all that truly matters because, after all, a satisfying fifteen minutes is better than a wasted hour.
So, at the end of the day I am a husband, a father, a worker, a teacher and many other things too. Amongst them all – the parts of my sum – I am a writer. My family accepts that, and supports it, as do I.
My Muse is still happy to tease me, to call me at all hours of the night and day but, ultimately, knows that I will always be Hers, no matter how much time I get to spend with Her; She no longer watches the clock.
As long as I continue to write for Her, of course.
And I will.
*I was talking about a short story, you filthy minded people! 😉
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