Confessions of a Writer and / or Parent

You think that you are ‘there’ with your novel. You have worked on it tirelessly, stretching out plot, characterisation, setting etc for everything it’s worth. You send it to your editor, crack open a drink and breathe out a huge, deep sigh of relief.

But then…what’s this? After a week of being lulled into a false sense of security; that it will only be a case of a little polishing here and there, your manuscript is returned to you followed with three filled pages outlining changes still to be made. Too much internal narration, more emphasis on the growing relationship between the protagonists, part two must be re-written. This needs to all be dealt with and back within three weeks.

Three weeks? Ah. Trouble is, you are about to move house. Your children have a month of holiday. Your husband is away with work. So, you see, it’s not really possible. But… what’s that you say? If you still want a summer publication, it needs to be back in three weeks. Your panic tips you over into a bout of insomnia which leaves you groggy eyed, constant headaches knocking at your temples and snappy retorts at the tip of your tongue. You already had one extension first time around so it’s tricky to request another.

Only one thing for it then: rise to the challenge. Pull out all the stops and get editing.

Here’s what can happen en-route to achieving the seemingly impossible:

You drink way too much coffee during the daytime.

You drink way too much alcohol during the evenings.

You move into the new house but it remains in cluttered chaos and you constantly trip over boxes, cursing at them and uttering all kinds of words you’re trying to prevent (in vain) your children from repeating.

You only have so many friends you can ask for your children to go to during the day, and in desperation to get some peace to work, bribery becomes more and more commonplace: day-time movies, multiple biscuits, computer games galore. The bribery you are least proud of is this:  ‘If you let me work, the better my book will be. Which means the more money I will get from it. Which means the more ice-cream I can buy for you.’ Five year-old does not look convinced.

Speaking of your five-year old, these admonishments often ring around your house from him: Why won’t you play with me? I’m hungry! I have nothing to do. And, the little tike’s piece de resistance: It’s always all about you, isn’t it? You consider placing an apron over said 5 year old’s head and inviting him to cook all the family meals, but fear the irony may be lost on him.

What else happens on this fraught journey? You have been asking the children to put themselves to bed more and more often, with varying degrees of success. You are uncertain when they last had a decent wash (you live in Kenya where a great deal of time is spent outside, barefoot, and feet are of the muddy variety) and the curls of your girls’ have morphed slowly into dreadlocks.

You wake in the dead of a Nairobi night to the frenzied sound of your dog barking, sniffing an intruder (or possibly just a male dog next door), but by then you’re too wired to drop off again.

You tell yourself one thousand times a day that it is never going to be perfect or completely polished, just as you blogged about not so long ago. Yet despite that you oscillate between pure terror, projecting yourself several months into the future when a reviewer picks you up on a poorly expressed sentence or – worse – theme, and weary acceptance: that it IS on track, that everything WILL be alright.

When it’s all over, you look at your grubby cheeked, black-footed, matted-haired children, hug them tight to you, apologise for your recent sub-parenting skills and take them out for ice cream. And then you buy a bloody whopping one for yourself and gollop it down before your kids have barely taken their first lick.



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