When I’m in the middle of a new novel, my sleep pattern is appalling. I can’t seem to switch off my brain, so at 4am I’ll be lying awake working out a plot strand or writing the next scene in my head. Nevertheless, I drag myself out of bed between 8 and 9, because at 9.30 every morning I ring a friend who is ill and spends most of her time in hospital. We chat for 30 to 40 minutes, firstly about treatment options and any decisions she has to make, then we gossip about our partners, compare notes on books we’re reading, and generally sort out the universe. She’s incredibly inspiring and full of wisdom so it’s a great start to the day.
After our call, I do a bit of pootling on social media then ease myself into writing by editing whatever I wrote the day before. I work in a very laborious way, with a ridiculously detailed outline, so I always know where I’m going plotwise. The trick is to bring each scene to life and try to find the emotional honesty. This involves lots of stopping to make cups of tea and snacking on oatcakes and fruit while mulling over the next sentence.
Every day I swim in an outdoor pond on Hampstead Heath. In winter I’ll haul myself up there at lunchtime while in summer it’s at the end of the day, when the early evening light is golden and dimpled. In some ways I prefer the winter swims, when there’s just a bunch of us hard-core nutters and we emerge from the icy water with lobster-red skin, grinning from the endorphin rush. There’s a great community spirit in the changing room although sometimes my jaw freezes making it hard to talk.
I’ll stop work between 5.30 and 6.30, making notes on where I want to pick up next morning. There might be emails to catch up on, or blogs to write, and I’ll usually dip back into social media before cooking dinner. My partner and I go out several nights a week to art openings, book launches, theatre, birthday bashes, or just to grab a curry with friends. There’s no point paying a premium to live in London if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities here. Before I settled into blissful cohabitation, I used to turn up to the opening of the proverbial envelope but I’m a bit more choosy now because it’s lovely to sit with Himself on the sofa hoovering up a box set.
I love entertaining and indulging my secret hobby of matchmaking. Whenever I throw a party you can be sure I’ll have a devious scheme up my sleeve. Most don’t work – people are so fussy! – but I’ll never stop trying. In my dotage, I expect I’ll be trying to pair off the other old folk in the nursing home.
Gill Paul’s novel Another Woman’s Husband is published by Headline