Friday 13 April 2012

Please prove you are not a robot...

If you post a comment on a blog you are often asked to prove you are not a robot by copying some letters. I have to confess I sometimes have to do this several times over as my eyesight just doesn't seem to comprehend the strange mix of letters so maybe I am a robot. I certainly feel a bit like one at the moment. I made the mistake of working out how many words I will have marked by the 14th May and since the middle of March - over half a million. Every single one of these words belongs to a student who (in the main) have tried their hardest to write the best assignment possible. I will often have seen several drafts of these pieces so have seen them develop and be honed. Because of that I owe these students my time and my attention when I mark but that can often be at the cost of my own writing. Concentrating on their work seems to obliterate any words I may have floating around. This can be so frustrating because at the end of the day I am a writer as well as an academic and I love to write. It makes me feel whole. I know I am not the only academic writer who faces this issue, in fact, talk to any writer and they will tell you how life has just got in the way. It seems to me that you have to be disciplined to stay on top of it whether this is your first, second or fiftieth novel.

Is there a perfect answer though? I don't think there is really. All you can do is create coping strategies and the way I have been doing that is to allocate a certain amount of hours to marking a day and then take two hours where I don't look at emails and I don't mark or think about it. I just focus on what I am meant to be rewriting - the PhD novel. My precious notebook goes everywhere with me, including next to the marking mountain, just in case an idea comes so that I can grab it and not let it slip out of my fingers. I made ( a possibly rash) promise this week to have the rewrites to the editor by the 1st June but I felt I needed a deadline, it would be too easy to drift along. I will keep you posted on that one. I just have to keep straight 'down the line.'

What are your coping strategies that ensure you can write when life keeps getting in the way?

Bonnie Raitt 'Right Down the Line' - the first single from her new album Slipstream, which I am hoping to buy soon :-)


  1. I have been working on decluttering, so that I can start allowing myself that precious time to convert my PhD to a book ... whilst Keep Calm and Carry On is still of interest! This inspires me - thanks Vanessa!

  2. Right now I have no coping strategies at all - I just squeeze everything in as and when I can. It's not remotely ideal and I really feel I need more discipline. In part, I honestly think I should have committed to taking a year off writing so I could finish building the house, and then regroup and refocus once that's done. In normal times, I just disconnect from the world when the words are upon me. Yes, I know, I should stop lecturing you about balance when I clearly have none! :-) xx

  3. I also have the robot worry, but no matter how many times I hug a powerful electromagnet, I never seem to short-circuit. I'm going to take that as a good sign.

    I have naturally fallen into a routine with my writing; professional writing in the day and creative writing in the evenings. As you say, writing makes writers whole, so I don't think it's weird that after a day's writing I relax and take a break by writing. Plus I have projects that have deadlines. I could always use a bit more discipline, but at the moment I seem to be fitting everything in. Hopefully it'll stay that way :)

  4. I think you're right Vanessa, there is no perfect answer. And I think one of the most important things about coping stratergies when life gets in the way is taking a step back and checking if a new coping strategy could replace an old one. Life changes and our strategies need to change with them too.

  5. Evolve and update continuously - there is no 'right way' I suspect.

  6. Bex - am delighted to be an inspiration
    Nicky - wouldn't dream of saying anything about balance, definitely a case of pot and kettle. Maybe taking a whole year out would have been the sensible idea but I doubt your muse would have let you.
    Rewan - am so pleased you are doing so much writing. What a star!
    Bekki and Philippa - those seem like some really good plans.
    Thank you all for your posts

  7. Life has been very definitely getting in the way of writing for me these last few weeks (or is it months?) My mantra always seems to be, 'I'll start again on Monday' by which time of course I will have cleared all the detritus from my creative space ... Well, it works sometimes.

  8. I had set a day aside for writing which was working well but then work started to encroach on that day too. Wendy, I am going to try your 'I'll start again on Monday' on Monday. Another one of my strategies is to get a new notebook because that will help me....I bought a new one again today. I am sure it works particularly if it is a moleskine one ;-)