Am I starting to repeat myself?
In last season’s Mad Men, when Peggy told her mother that she was moving in with her boyfriend, her mother’s reply was “You know what your aunt used to say, if you’re lonely, get a cat. They live 13 years, then you get another one, and another one after that. Then you’re done.”
Best quote ever.
I reckon I’ve got two cats left, maybe three if I eat right.
I love the idea of living small. My life seems to involve gathering large amounts of clutter and storing it. I long for a clutter-free existence and the simplicity of living somewhere like this appeals. In reality, I think that this space would send me mad. Too claustrophobic. Far better a hut in the woods.
I’m going to start a whole thread for book chairs. They delight me.
This book chair was designed by He Mu and Zhang Qian’s and called the Sunflower Chair. It was part of the “Design for Sitting” Grand Prix competition and exhibition held in Guangzhou, China earlier this year.
Last month I was offered a writing job. This was wonderful. For years I’ve been begging for scraps, now editors come to me. In fact they’re coming to me so much at the moment, I had to turn the job down.
But what if it was the ONE? The job that would bring me fame, fortune and a 32 year old husband called Brad?
Writing is a gamble; you can spend months on a project that pays the cat food bill, or months on a job that will provide a pension. But I can’t yet tell which is which. So I take all the work I can get because it feels good to be working.
And that’s the joy of it: I love working. I love each project with the same passion and enthusiasm. I give each project my all. And it doesn’t feel like working. It exhausts me, don’t get me wrong, but even if I wasn’t getting published, I’d be writing. Because it’s what I want to do. It’s what I need to do and love to do and I’m privileged to do it for a living.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle. Steve Jobs
It occured to me that many of the rules apply to writing.
So I’m sharing them.
- Beautiful is better than ugly.
- Explicit is better than implicit.
- Simple is better than complex.
- Complex is better than complicated.
- Sparse is better than dense.
- Readability counts.
- Special cases aren’t special enough to break the rules.
- Although practicality beats purity.
- Errors should never pass silently.
- Unless explicitly silenced.
- In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.
- There should be one– and preferably only one –obvious way to do it.
- Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you’re Dutch.
- Now is better than never.
- Although never is often better than right now.
- If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea.
- If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.
Yesterday I delivered a manuscript a day early. I could have delivered it a week early but I didn’t, which set me wondering. Why didn’t I just buckle down and get the work done in the three days it could have taken and wowed my editor? She’s a new editor, so wowing her at this point could have made a great early impression, and give me wriggle-room later down the line (I am sneaky).
But I didn’t.
I played Sims. I did housework. I drank coffee with friends. I sold my house. I did everything I could NOT to work.
1) There was bigger, harder work stacked up behind this work that I didn’t want to get to.
2) It was sunny. I needed to make the most of the sunshine.
3) It rained. It’s hard to get motivated when it’s cold and wet out.
4) There was plenty of time before the deadline, why not take my time and do the work really well?
I could go on.
Then I heard Doris Lessing talking about winning the Booker Prize and how it’s totally taken over her life. She has so many other things to do now like signings and conferences and photo shoots and interviews that she couldn’t imagine finding the time and space to sit down and write a whole book.
I haven’t won a Booker Prize but I am a single mother, which is the equivalent. Not so many interviews and photo shoots, but every day is split up into tiny chunks involving school runs and supermarket visits and cooking and homework and DIY and answering questions about the location of socks that if I find a gap in my schedule it’s REALLY hard to say, “gosh, I have a space, I must fill it with work.”
And, because writing requires my brain to travel to an alternative reality and become part of that reality for long enough to integrate, I need large uninterrupted chunks of time in which to write. It’s like fishing for pearls. You have to dive deep to reach the good ones, and if you have to keep coming up to the surface to hang out the washing or explain what’s for tea, it takes a LOT longer to find any pearls.
Of course the true test of my theory will come when my son has grown and left home. If I start turning out manuscripts at a faster rate and meeting deadlines with pinpoint accuracy, then I shall feel vindicated. If not, then I’ll have to face the truth: given a choice between pearl-diving and not-pearl-diving, I prefer not-pearl-diving.
Doris did mention that sales of her books have soared since she won the BP and so much money’s rolling in she’s having to give it away. Perhaps pearl-divers find more pearls when their family is waiting on shore with empty bellies. My new terrifyingly large mortgage might give me all the motivation I need. Which is perhaps why I sold my house instead of working.