My day starts at 7am when the alarm drags me from the depths and it’s time to get the family up and get my two children out to school. Whilst I really admire writers who boast about the beauty of the dawn and their creativity in those still, quiet, early hours, I’m afraid I’ll never be one of them. I have always been foul-tempered and useless until at least half past eight and I don’t think that’s going to change now.
My husband works part-time and we share school runs, so my moment of calm comes either at twenty to nine, when they head out the door, or at five past, when I get back from drop-off if it’s my turn. Either way it’s time for a cup of tea (builders, white no sugar, thanks) which I’ll take up to my desk.
In my day job I’m an employment law barrister, but I work from home, which means that I use the same desk and office for my writing and my legal work. I’m not tidy so it’s covered in legal papers and personal admin alongside notes on my writing and press cuttings or scraps I’ve gathered for research. It makes for some odd juxtapositions. Although the desk needs reacquainting with a duster and my pot plant has died, the office is always a great space to be in because of its fabulous view. We live on the outskirts of Bath, midway up one of its famous hills, with views across the city and the rolling countryside of the Cotswold Way.
I find it counter-productive to try to concentrate on writing for a long period of time. If I give myself four hours then I’ll get less done than if I only have one. So I’ll normally try to fit one or two blocks of writing or editing time into my day alongside my legal work and any marketing or admin tasks I’ve got on. It changes towards the end of a first draft when it feels like I know exactly where I’m going and don’t need the ‘mulling’ time in between. Then I can write for hours and begrudge anything else that gets in the way.
My best ideas often come to me when I’m away from my desk, so I do try to get out for a walk or a run every day. Sometimes that turns into a mooch around Bath’s shops, including our wonderful book shops.
I really value being able to eat together as a family in the evenings, we’re lucky that we can fit it around our jobs. I’m the cook and I love trying new recipes and making slightly more involved dishes. Sadly that doesn’t always fit in with our hectic lives and I have a bad habit of underestimating the time it will take. Although the children enjoy most of what I make, they don’t necessary like waiting until 7.30pm to be fed, and nobody likes doing the dishes. So I try to curb my wilder culinary excesses!
Later in the evening I’ll often do another stint of writing, especially if I’ve been busy with legal work during the day. My husband is one of these people (mainly men, I suspect) who can watch anything on TV as long as it’s sport. I’ll bring my laptop downstairs and enjoy tapping away with a companionable glass of wine and the sound of commentators in the background. I like to complain about the endless sport, but when he was away for a few days early in the summer I did actually put the Tour de France highlights on for myself. Just for the fantastic aerial shots of the French mountains, honest. I’ll also check Twitter and Facebook. I love how friendly the writing community is on social media, I could easily spend all day chatting but that would not be good for the next book!
I’ll read for a bit in bed, I have so little time for reading these days and I’d love to do more. Hopefully when the kids are a bit older I’ll manage but until then my to-be-read pile is growing by the day. Then it’s Radio 4 for about a minute and a half before I’m gone completely. Roll on the alarm…
Joanne Sefton's debut novel If They Knew is out now.
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