Writing nothing for a month in my writing blog might seem a tad worrying. But like most things in life, having a writing career is all about finding the balance. The balance, that is, between work and passion, even if work is the thing we are passionate about.
For years I dreamed of being a writer without really knowing what it meant. I had images of swinging on a hammock drinking Mojitos in the romantic light of an early evening sun, typing late into the night very Hemmingway-esque, having spent the day talking to terribly interesting people.
Sadly this is not the reality, for me anyway. I have three small children and a dog and I write at the kitchen table. The reality for most writers – as shown very recently by Donal Ryan going public with the fact he has to go back to work full-time in the civil service to make ends meet, despite being a best-selling, award-winning author – is that we multi-task multi-jobs to hold down the roof of the house.
Finding the balance is hard – money versus creative freedom. Jobs versus passion. For me anyway, it has taken a long time to allow myself to write my novel without feeling guilty. It is not commissioned like my previous book and might end up in someone’s slush pile but still I must write it. But I don’t have the luxury of writing it methodically. All my paid writing work has to be done before I can write the might-never-make-any-money stuff. It gets done squeezed in between deadlines and invoicing, and between children’s homework and dirty dishes.
That’s not to say that my ‘day job’ isn’t great. I get to write for a living, even if it’s not paying for hammock swinging in Havana. (It is paying for tango dancing in Buenos Aeries next month though, so I can’t really complain, can I? More on this to come.)
I have a day job as a fundraising copywriter, working with a number of charities on their donor communications. This can involve touring cancer research labs to interviewing people with motor neurone disease, from writing about child abuse to irrigation systems in Africa. In that sense, I talk to incredibly interesting people every day and I love it.
I also work as a freelance journalist and for my sins seem to have two completely different specialist topics – sex and death. The sex is mostly about middle age, and I somehow have ended up as a Dating Doctor (yes, you read that right) for a weekly column on middle age dating for the Daily Mail. I absolutely love it. I love meeting all these people in their 40’s to their 80’s still willing to give love a go. I also write about feminism and women and all things related and hope soon to start writing another book on this generation of women redefining middle age.
As for death, well my own experiences caring for my mum after her stroke which led to my first book means I write regularly about parent-care, and the right to die and the many issues relating to death and dying. This month alone I have appeared on several radio shows talking about the issues, and written several articles.
So, I have a rather schizophrenic writing life – today alone I wrote about middle age sex, child grooming on the internet, cancer research, and I set up two blind dates for people in their 60’s and wrote an advice column on not setting an age cap on love.
I took the weekend off which means this week I have to work my ass off. Instead I spent the weekend writing my passion – 5000 words of a novel that no-one has commissioned but which I have to write.
My writing life is full of words (thankfully), interesting people and even, in fairness a hammock. I hung one up in my garden last summer and while I rarely swing and sip Mojitos in the early evening sun Hemmingway-esque, I do occasionally lie lazily dreaming about the writers life and being rather glad I have one.