Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Eat, Pray, Write by Deborah Jenkins

Did you know that there are at lease 59 languages spoken in the Caribbean? Or that the Taino (early indigenous group) introduced the hammock, tobacco and syphilis to the world? Or that rum, aubergines and nutmeg are among the Caribbean's major exports to Europe? Neither did I until I started writing textbooks for children in the Caribbean. It's an interesting job, quite remunerative and I'm learning so much. (Obviously, I didn't mention the syphilis.)

The work involves a lot of googling, paraphrasing and chopping. Can you imagine explaining major changes in the landscape, population and economic activities in the Caribbean since early settlement, in around 700 words? To 10 years olds? Neither can I. But once I get started, I'm thinking "Oh I could put a table in here, or a cartoon in there and I could get them to interview a grand-parent for homework..." And I get kind of excited. But first you have to research. And that can take a long time.

The other day I saw someone had put up a sample writing diary, documenting how many hours they'd done each day. This, I have never done. But I could tell you fairly easily now, if you like. It might make you feel a whole lot better about your own writing day.

7.30 Hubby brings tea in bed
7.45 Get up. Do Rosemary Conley Workout DVD (short version)
8.15 Breakfast
8.30 Put washing on. Make bed, Shower.
8.50 Make strong coffee
9.00 Start textbook work
9.30 Hang washing out. Make second cup of coffee.
9.50 Textbook work
11.00 Walk to Waitrose to buy_____(insert forgotten item) for evening meal. Get a free latte (Main purpose of visit)
11.20 Reheat latte in microwave as it cooled on way home. Butter and jam up left over scone from Sunday tea
11.30 Consume latte and scone while working on textbooks
11.40 Wipe keyboard with baby-wipe to remove jam. Wash hands.
11.45 Work on textbooks
2.00 Realise it's past lunchtime. Prepare lunch - healthy roll, fruit, orange juice. Add leftover scone and jam and cuppa to take upstairs to begin work with,
2.30 Clean keyboard. Textbook work
3.15 Distracted by primary children walking home with parents, and the sky is so blue... Decide to go for walk (don't have primary school children any more, but, you know, I could have...)
3. 45 Take cuppa and half of third scone and jam upstairs to carry on with.
3.50 Clean keyboard. Textbook work
4.10 Go down to get other half of scone. As above
6.00 Stop writing. Close tabs and save work in 3 different places (takes around 10 minutes)

This is fairly typical. Sometimes I panic about deadlines. I have to write 2 students books and 2 teachers books by the end of December, and I have 2 days a week to do it in, apart from the school holidays. Every time I feel panicky, I get out my diary and count up the number of Mondays and Tuesdays between now and December, and I divide them by the total number of units and bite my nails and look at the sky and breathe in and out very fast like someone on speed. The other day (I'm almost ashamed to say it), I prayed. You might think that as a Christian writer, who loves God and knows her writing opportunities come from him, I would pray about my writing every day. Er... Anyway, I told God I was really struggling with the research (and eating too many scones) and could he please help?

There's this phrase which always makes me smile - If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. He reminded me of this, on a latte run, when I was worrying about deadlines. I had no idea that he was going to bring the textbooks along. They literally came out of nowhere, via a writing friend and are a huge blessing writing-wise and finance-wise. Just keep at it, stop counting days, and do it with all your heart. I think that's what he said, anyway.

This time, I prayed before I started. I found the websites I needed quickly. I was pleased with my ideas for activities. I didn't eat scones.

But that could be because I finished them yesterday.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your minds in Christ Jesus" Phil. 4: 6 - 7

Click on the link to see the book on Amazon
Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on writing school textbooks for Macmillan. She is also writing a full length novel in the odd spare moment. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver. 


  1. Wow, Deborah (and God!) - this is so for me!I have written down in my notebook the 'Just keep at it' bit and the Philippians text. Thank you, Thank You!My deadline for the new novel is end-May... whoops.. the sentence said 'stop counting days'. Right, back to work! Many blessings on your writing, Deborah

    1. What an encouraging comment Dorothy! Thank you so much :) Many blessings on yours too x

  2. Such a great post. Funny and real and of enormous comfort! Your 'diary of the day' really made me laugh, especially the real purpose of the visit to Waitrose and the jammy keyboard. I'd forgotten you had a Waitrose near you now. So tempting!

    1. Very much so! I miss those lattes on teaching days. Thanks for you comment - so glad to be comforting as well as bonkers ;)

  3. A delight, and very comforting! I especially loved your last line, which gave me a chuckle.

    1. Thanks Aggie! Part of my mission in life is to make people smiled. For today then, mission accomplished :)

  4. I loved this post. It certainly seemed to follow my agenda somewhat, writing punctuated by washing and other domestic tasks. Yesterday, I was trying to finish an article to deadline, do some more towards publishing my first book all inbetween a visit from the plumber and two JW's!!

    1. I feel your pain journo. But you can do this, because God is at your side :) All the very best with your writing.

  5. I really enjoyed this post Deborah, found myself mulling over it for a while afterwards as I paid the windowcleaner, washed up, and generally phaffed about under the heading 'work'! x

  6. Haha! Glad it's not just me. Thanks Mandy :)

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  8. Deborah, you and your words are a delight. A breath of fresh air allowing us to exhale gratefully and sigh with relief. My days may look very different from yours, but oh how I identify with procrastination and anxiety over deadlines - even self-imposed ones!
    You have a real gift for making people laugh (or at least smile with recognition) and think, all at the same time. Now I'll sit and nurse my chamomile tea and muse on how to write even half as well as you can... Xx :)

  9. Such a lovely comment! Thank you so much Joy :) x