The Real World Keeps Getting in the Way

It has been a month of getting very little done. After a very productive April, I have had a really annoying May. The real world keeps intruding into the world of writing which is just rude, if you ask me.

First of all, I was in Newcastle, helping my mam after a knee operation. This meant ten days without the Internet and without really getting any writing done. This last was due to the fact that I like to write on my own and I never really was. So I maybe achieved an hour at night when I was tired, most of which was rubbish which I immediately changed. Although I did manage to finish reading The Female Malady by Elaine Showalter which is part of my research for Choose Yr Future so that was productive. (It isn’t all just about words on the page, I have to remind myself.)

Then, back at school, we got the call from Ofsted which meant that all spare time was spent preparing for that. An Ofsted inspection is incredibly stressful even if you aren’t seen – which I wasn’t this time – and I spent the weekend after in a haze of tiredness and so again got very little done.

Last week was half term, a time when I usually catch up a little and rest a little. Foolishly, I agreed to do some one to one tutoring over the holidays as extra cash is always welcome.  However, it soon became clear that I would get nothing else but lesson planning done and I regretted my decision. I’ll just have to hope that all the notes I’ve made when I have an idea will still make sense when I eventually get around to writing them in full.

Unfortunately, it will probably be the summer before that happens. From next weekend I will be marking exam papers for the next three weeks and that is incredibly time consuming. Its hard balancing the need to make money with having the time to write and sometimes it feels like the scales are tipped the wrong way constantly. At least I can see a time on the horizon when I can write and when I can catch up with myself a little.

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Constant Contact

It’s been a weird couple of months. For various real life reasons – my own illness and my mother being in and out of hospital – I haven’t been able to have much of an online presence. As a result, I have been running up and down the road between my home in Sheffield and hers in Newcastle. Book promotion and blogging have been the furthest things from my mind. And even if I had been able to think about such things, she has no internet so it would have been impossible anyway.

It is astonishing how out of touch I felt. And how deprived I felt when I was there. It has quickly become second nature to be constantly connected. I don’t just mean in terms of social networking either. The idea that the knowledge of the world is at your fingertips is an easy one to get used to. Why bother racking your brains trying to remember something when you could just look it up? Especially when to takes such a long time to get my brain into gear some days.

It wasn’t that long ago, when the Internet was a mere babe, that we had to put up with a dial up connection. (OK, so it was about ten to fifteen years ago but that isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things.) It was a chore to use the Internet then; the tying up of the phone line, the constant loss of signal, the slowness of pages loading, the fact that downloading was nigh on impossible. All these things seem chronically old fashioned now. Now that we are used to being able to hop onto the web wherever and whenever we are.

It was interesting to note that when my mother came home from hospital, her main mode of conversation was the phone – the land-line not her mobile. She talks to people all the time and wouldn’t think of anything else. She does have a mobile from which she sends rambling texts which are signed off love mam. But she only does that as a last resort, when, for whatever reason, I am not able to speak to her.

By contrast, I can’t think of the last time I picked up my land-line and phoned some one from it. In fact, I could probably get rid of it if not for the insistence of my mother and my in-laws that this is the way we should communicate. If I want to speak to friends I use Facebook, I text. If I have to actually speak to them, I phone using my mobile. (It should be obvious to you that I absolutely hate it when people say I’ll message you or Facebook me even when that person is me. But then I was suitably pedantic when people first started to use text as a verb.)

It is quick and convenient to text or use Facebook. The recipient can choose when to reply and you don’t have to worry that they will be bathing the kids or sitting down to dinner or whatever. It is also incredibly lazy. Why waste the energy that having a real conversation would take when you can send a one sentence text? Convenience and quickness have become the baseline of our communication.

The other thing I have noticed lately – and I am guilty of it myself – is that no one is ever bored any more  Everyone feels the need to be constantly entertained. Just look at the commuters on the average train and you will see them staring at screens of various sizes, doing things that seem crucially important but probably aren’t. All are lost in their own little worlds. Even in the pub you often see groups of people or couples who are not talking but messing with their phones. Virtual communication 1, Real communication 0.

Obviously, this could have a huge effect on everyone’s social skills. Especially now that younger and younger kids seem to have phones. Furthermore, what would happen if no one daydreamed any more  If every second was taken up with some form of electronic attention. Would all the great – and currently hypothetical – novels of the future remain unwritten? No more great discoveries would be made. (If Newton had been sitting under the tree playing on his IPhone when the apple landed on his head, would he have been able to draw himself away from Angry birds for long enough to hypothesise about gravity?) No more exciting leaps into the future. Sometimes you have to just be sitting staring out of the window, watching the world turn, to see the one thing that would make the world just a little bit better. Or sitting under a tree.

Another week goes by…

It has been a strange week. I have now read Shattered Reflections three times. Just when I thought it was almost time to move to the next step, approve the proofs and then it would be the excitement of sales and marketing. Then, some inconsistencies were pointed out to me and I realised I needed to check through it all again. Square one, hello, here I am again. Starting to wonder how I ever thought this manuscript was ready for public consumption. Hello, also, nerves.

So, I have neglected everything else. No twitter. No facebook. Barely read my e-mails. No writing on exciting new project. No working on website.  No point in having a snazzy website if I have no book to sell. That makes sense, right. But I worry that having taken the first tentative steps towards marketing myself that I am now instantly disappearing. Its taking too long. Furthermore, Shattered Reflections is starting to feel like a piece of coursework that I have marked too many times. I’m thoroughly sick of it. I want to work on something new.

Still I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This next week should see the proofs ready. The website should be up. Facebook page should be ready. Hears hoping, anyway.

A strange exercise in self promotion.

So it is a week since I started this strange exercise in self promotion and I have to say the net result is I am a bit rubbish at it. Others seem to excel at it. Easily sharing opinions, keeping the public aware of them. By contrast, I worry about every tweet, every word and letter until I lose momentum.

I posted my blog and people liked it. If I sound surprised then this is because I am. Perhaps you wonder why I wrote it if I didn’t expect this to be the outcome. Well, of course, I hoped. But in reality, the pessimist in me expected it to languish lonely in cyberspace. It’s strange to me that people I don’t know might randomly come across my blog and read it. Of course, this is the very definition of reading a book but walking into a book shop and plucking something off the shelf seems natural to me. It has taken me a while to realise that I could treat the Internet in the same way, that people treated it in this way. It makes me feel old to think that reading a book you have physically in your hand is becoming increasingly old-fashioned. Old, and a little depressed.

It has taken me a while to realise how the Internet works – I don’t mean the nuts and bolts of it, I don’t think I’ll ever understand that – but the way people treat it, think of it, work with it. I always vowed that I wouldn’t use Twitter or be the sort to post every thought on Facebook. And even now when I realise the usefulness of it, I still find myself hesitating. At heart I am a quiet person. (Okay, all those of you reading this who actually know me, you can stop laughing now.) What I mean is, I have never really put myself forward. It feels a little like volunteering information that no one asked for. So even as I am typing this it still feels strange.

As for the rest of my week, it has been spent in anticipation. The proofs of Shattered Reflections are ready and I am just waiting for them to arrive so I can start the project of editing them. Excitement bubbles under until they arrive.