Juggling, Plans, and a Christmas Adventure

I can’t juggle…..I really can’t. But my kids love it when I try. One ball…..fine. Two balls…..precarious. Three balls……disaster. And that’s the part they like, when all the balls crash down on daddy’s head, all at once. All of this seems like the perfect metaphor for the last few weeks of my life. Replace balls with December commitments, and the whole thing seems to fit seamlessly. Our December (for my family and I) has been mapped out for about two months now, pretty much down to the day. There have been my wife’s job commitments, my children’s school commitments (school play, disco, choir, church service, Christmas dinner, Christmas party, etc), my children’s social commitments (swimming lesssons, hockey training, choir, birthday parties, etc), and my starting a new job at a new school, with two weeks left of the school term. All sounds a bit hectic you might think, but nothing more than most families have planned. I agree.

However, what couldn’t be taken into consideration was the delightful visit of a whole host of……….germs! In particular, it would seem…..the Noro virus! Not wanting to go into too much detail, but the last 12 days or so have been a nightmare. Both children have been sick (the eldest, twice), I’ve had it, but luckily, well so far anyway, my wife has remained fit and healthy. The kids have missed the majority of their Christmas events, I’ve had to cry off work to look after them, as well as be ill, and things such as shopping and delivering Christmas presents that we’d got planned have been postponed until after Christmas.

“What’s your point?” I hear you ask. My point is…………..best laid plans and all that. For over two months, the whole month of December had been laid out with almost military precision, and then BOOM!……..none of it goes to plan. Sounds very much like the way I try to find time to write. I try and plan out an hour here, an hour there and keep that time free to just………WRITE! I make sure my household jobs are done (it just drives me to distraction if the house is untidy or there are jobs such as the washing up waiting to be done, so much so, that I’m unable to concentrate on writing), and find some time when the kids are either at school, doing homework upstairs or in bed asleep. However hard I try and plan this out, much like our December so far, it more often than not falls down. It could be almost anything, but the time I plan to do some writing is always the one part of my life that suffers, mainly due to all the others.

It has always been this way, and continues to be so. I’m over 160, 000 words in to my second book (it’s already slightly longer than the first), but I get so frustrated at the volume of work I could have completed if everything had gone to plan. Is this the same with all writers? ANSWERS ON A POSTCARD or alternatively feel free to post a comment here.

My favourite Christmas decoration.

Now on the subject of writing, and plans/planning/organising, something kind of odd happened about four weeks ago (the last time I got down to a serious amount of writing). Up until this point, and I might have mentioned this before, I’ve only ever been able to write my stories in the order that they unfold. And by that, I mean although I’ve always known the ending of both the current stories in graphic detail, and would have been able to commit it to paper (or on to a computer……you know what I mean) at any time, I’ve always waited, fought through it, even when I’ve got stuck, lost for words, writers’ block, until I could continue on. It hasn’t happened too often, perhaps three or four times over the course of what I’ve written so far…..about one and three quarter books, roughly 320,000 words, which I’m guessing isn’t too bad at all. But instead of just ‘cracking on’ with the last chapter, or some other part of the book that I know I could write straight away, it has somehow been part of my writing style, not to skip around in the storyline.

Anyway, back to four or so weeks ago. It was one of the moments when I was stuck. I kind of knew what I wanted to write. I didn’t know the details, but I knew the settings, I knew what characters were involved, and I kind of knew what needed to happen, in a ‘big picture’ kind of way. But still, I mulled it over for probably a week……and still I was stuck…..or you could say, I just couldn’t get started. Anyhow, one cold morning, while sitting in the car with my kids, waiting to drop them off at school…………it came to me! Not how to get over my ‘stuckiness’ (made up word…I know), but a whole new part of the story that I hadn’t considered before, but needed to be in there, added to the intensity and suspense and just……..WORKED! As I sat listening to the car radio, with my kids doing their usual ‘singing along’, the chapter flashed before my eyes in great detail. It was then that I realised, the next chance I had to actually write, I would commit this particular part of the story down while I remembered it, despite the fact that it would not actually fit in the part of the book I was currently writing. As if all of that weren’t enough, that night I fell asleep, and dreamt about another small, detailed chapter, again nothing to do with the part of the book I was currently writing. Two new and integral parts of the story, arriving in my tiny little brain within 24 hours of each other. What are the chances? So for the first time in my writing struggle, I actually wrote them both… out of order. And as I did so, it did seem kind of momentous. For me, up until that point, I’ve always HAD to write the story in the order that it was meant to be told, and to suddenly find myself doing something other than that felt ‘odd’ to say the least. As far as I’m concerned, both chapters came out great, add some much needed details to an area of the story that I think needed it……….the long and short of it is that I’m very pleased.

But all of this got me thinking. Is it just me that works like this? How do other writers lay out their books/stories? Do they work like I did: plan out the big picture, write in order, filling in the details as they go along? Or is there some other great secret that I seem to be missing? I’m fascinated to know. With my wonderful wife writing her book as well, we often talk over things like this. I know that she does things differently from me, but her book is very different from mine……so, is there a best way, a most popular way, an unconventional way? Perhaps all you wonderful writers out there could let me know….I do spend a lot of time thinking about these things.

Our Christmas tree, lovingly decorated by my children.

 

Last but by no means least………..I’d like to take this chance to wish you all a very merry Christmas. I’ve enjoyed writing my blog this year, especially with all the different things going on. Highlights for me include watching both my children trying lacrosse at the same time and playing in a match alongside adults; one of my best friends asking me to go to the Olympic hockey bronze medal match (he’d got tickets) in the first week of the Olympics, when I couldn’t possibly have believed I’d get the chance to go, and of course going to the Olympics, watching that match and just taking in the stunning atmosphere, meeting the great gamesmakers and just being there. How lucky was I?

I’ve added a couple of Christmas pictures to the text, the first of our Christmas tree…lovingly decorated by my wonderful children. The other of my favourite Christmas decoration we have in our house………Santa parachuting!

Enjoy, and have a great Christmas and a happy New Year!

Your thoughts are much appreciated..........Thanks!