Monday, 31 August 2009

What I did on my holidays...

Hello, yes - I'm still alive, and so is the blog. I've had this place redecorated ("don't like it!") and changed my profile pic now that my hair's grown out a but and I'm more comfortable with my short-haired 'do'.

So, what have I been up to these last two months? Here's what: no writing. None. No scripts, no treatments, no outlines, no blog entries, barely any tweets, nary even a note for the milkman. It will probably shock a few people that I'm able to admit this. Thou shalt write every day is the first commandment of writers, after all. Oh well. After a sustained period of about five years solidly working on projects both paid for and speculative, I needed a break. Not a lot was happening on collaborations, or with my optioned stuff, and I had some 'real life' stuff to attend to (more on that later).

Does this mean I'm not a professional? Well, I've talked on the blog before about how my 9-5 day job is both a curse and a blessing, as it allows me wriggle-room when choosing what I work on, as my family won't be starving if I choose not to do particular jobs. Of course, this brings with it the risk that a golden opportunity or valuable learning experience might be passed up. Oh well, again. From talking to other professional writers, it seems that the credit crunch is biting, and opportunities are thin on the ground at the moment anyway.

And I wouldn't have had much attention to give them even if they had arisen. In summary: over the last eight weeks, I have escaped a heavy bout of redundancies at the day job, but will be waving good bye to a few old mates soon, as they weren't so lucky. Then, I had the responsibility of giving my sister - who lives about two and a half hours away from me - away at her wedding, and I was expecting the birth of my second son. Both these things are joyful occasions. But some of the joy rubs off when they are both due to happen on the same day.

Yes, as well as all the work preparing the home and family for the onslaught of a newborn, and working double hard at the day job to prepare for paternity leave, a lot of the weeks and days approaching the 15th August were very stressful, as this was not only the date of the wedding, but also the best guess due date of the baby too.

I only have one sibling, and my Dad is sadly no longer with us. I am the only close male relative of my sister - I have to be up at her place, get her to the church, walk her up the aisle, and later do a speech. Have to. I also have to be close to my wife, as I will be needed as her birth partner, to help her give birth to my child, then look after her once he's born. Have to do that too. So, it was up to luck and mother nature as to whether I'd get to do both these things. It was looking very dicey at some points. But it all worked out, my very tired wife, my son and I attended the wedding, came home the following day (without having a baby on the M25) and the day after that my wife went into labour. It's all about timing.

So personal circumstances have got in the way of my writing, but I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. Personal circumstances are what feed into our writing, and make it better. Thou shalt live every day should be the first commandment of writers... and then write it all down, of course. Besides - as any of the Doctor Who fans reading this will know - there is a celebrated anecdote from the late Seventies of a normally dependable writer finding himself unable to complete a script because of personal circumstances. A crew was assigned and shooting was getting very close, so the producer and script editor had to step in, rework the scripts such as they were over the course of a weekend (hosed down with whisky and black coffee, so the legend goes). That story - a combination of the work of all three men - turned out to be City of Death, a fan favourite and still the highest-rated episode in the show's history. Score one for personal circumstances.

And I was lying anyway about doing absolutely no writing. Of course, I had to write a speech for the wedding. I mention this, because I was dreading it. I put it off for ages. Maybe this was writer's block, but I don't really believe in writer's block. I did the usual thing of staring at a piece of blank paper almost until my forehead started bleeding. But I couldn't think of anything. Do you know what I did in the end? I wrote it. Just put finger to keypad and got it out of my system; it took less than an hour. And on the day, it went down a storm and people were congratulating me for the rest of the evening. I felt like a writer again.

So, I feel good for my break, as if I'm getting some perspective. I stood atop the tower and looked down, I walked along the rim of the volcano and did my dance. Now, I return home with the elixir, etc, etc. Time to do some writing again. It seems apposite to be publishing this on the 31st August; September traditionally marks the start of a new school term. I'm on the cusp of phase 2 of my (so-called) career. It's going to be fun...