The Utter Joy Of One's Craft



The fire crackles contentedly in the grate. The sound of one child practising the lute for his school concert drifts across from the music room, while the happy laughter of the other two tells me that they have finished their homework without being asked and are now having a jolly good game of outdoor chess.

How blessed I am to be a full-time writer! The writing studio in which I sit nestles elegantly in our immaculate garden. As I gaze out over the weed-free expanse to our beautiful Georgian house, my eye lights upon the bookshelves filled with the fruits of my labours. My agent has been trying to get hold of me, no doubt to fine-tune the details of my next European tour, but I’m so intent on honing and polishing my latest novel that I am ignoring her increasingly peevish answerphone messages.

Good heavens, I am most terribly sorry. I appear to have written two paragraphs of complete guff. I think I’ve been drinking too much coffee.

If you’re still with me and haven’t disappeared to take out the bins, I hope you’ll forgive me for indulging myself with a bit of fantasy. Sometimes I amuse myself by drafting imaginary bios. My favourite phrase is: “She divides her time …..” as in: “She divides her time between her cottage in Cornwall and her estate in Puglia.” In fact, it would be closer to the truth to say: “She divides her time between the kitchen and the A12” since I seem to spend half my life washing up and the other half driving children to and from school and college up and down the said highway.

I wrote this blog weeks ago, long before we even knew about the dreaded virus. The underlying reason for its creation was to poke gentle fun at those, "Look at me, my life is perfect" posts on Facebook and Instagram, which, at best annoy we authentically messy types, and at worst can plunge us into a slough of doubt and shame. My life now, in self-isolation, is no more perfect than ever it was. Yes, we made some scones yesterday. No, I haven't drawn up a daily timetable for the children's education. Yes, I put all the socks away, cleaned and tidied my bedroom and mowed the lawn. No, I haven't instigated a daily exercise routine. Today, more than ever, it's vitally important for writers like us to tell the truth as we see it, to encourage, to uplift, to comfort with our words.

I'm a serious person, but I do love to laugh and to amuse others. I'm re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time and like Elizabeth Bennet, "I dearly love a laugh." Humour has kept me going for the last few weeks - laughing with my friends on FaceTime, checking in with the hilarious Celeste Barber every day (#celestechallengeaccepted) and choosing only uplifting literature to read. Leigh Towers is a dystopian-free zone at present.

Back to my “sorted” writer. (Isabella M Smugge is her name). She sounds pretty annoying, doesn't she? If I met her at a writers’ day, I’d steer clear as soon as she started rabbiting on about the utter joy of being a full-time writer in her gracious Georgian home. 

Being a writer is hard. It can be lonely. That’s the truth. Dark thoughts go through your mind. What if you never shake off that writer’s block? What if everyone hates your writing once you do? What if you’ve been kidding yourself all along and can’t write for toffee?

The writing which affects and encourages me the most is that produced by people who don’t pretend. They’re honest about their struggles. They don’t draw a veil over their pitfalls and stumbling blocks, but point them out, so that their readers won’t stumble when they pass that way. They take the leap of faith, drop the pretence and share their worries, their limitations, their darkness.

I must have read this verse a hundred times, and yet today, writing this blog, it leapt out and smacked me between the eyes. “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30). Counter-cultural, philosophical, thought-provoking. The complete opposite of Isabella M Smugge tinkering away in her blasted studio.

May God bless you in your writing today and every day.

Ruth is a freelance writer. She is married with three delightful children, runs her own catering company and has 13 chickens and 6 quail. She has her first novel in the editing stage, writes poetry as the mood takes her, writes for a number of Christian charities and has just started writing blogs for small Suffolk businesses. She is a recovering over-achiever, keeps meaning to slow down and is now able to do the school/college run in her onesie most days. She blogs at Big Words And Made Up Stories, covering topics as diverse as King Zog of Albania, a Christingle production plagued by punch-ups and tummy upsets and the inevitable decline of elderly parents. She has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life.

Image by Pixabay

Comments

  1. Lovely post. I am glad you didn't say living between as so many bios do. I envisage someone hovering at an undisclosed location!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much, Susan! I've always liked that phrase "dividing her time". It sounds rather elegant.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ha, yes, completely concur. I do believe 'She divides her time between Kent and France...' appeared as the bio on one of my books but that was the publisher, not me. The reality was more like 'She rushes from pillar to post and achieves little but exhaustion.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've appeared! Hooray. Yes indeed, the pillar to post journey was the most common one in pre-virus life

      Delete
  4. Was the Isabella deliberately so that she becomes I M Smugge? Great little touch!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mais oui! She had to have that name - I had lots of fun chewing my pen and gazing out of the window to work out an "I Am" name.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ha, yes, that 'dividing her time' thing was used on one of my tomes (not by me, by the publisher.) I felt it would have been more realistic if it had said 'dividing her time racing from port to port in utter exhaustion.' Loved your post.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love this post. The first couple of paragraphs may not be entirely true but they are beautifully written.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! The first two paragraphs contain one nugget of truth and that is the home-made game of outdoor chess crafted by the husband last year for child number two who is a chess fiend. We got weeds. We got hormones. We got squabbling. The house is late Victorian and not gracious. It was fun making stuff up though.

      Delete
  8. Delightful! Really enjoyed this amusing post. I 'currently divide my time' (at present) between my "these days they go for a million" ordinary 1912 semi and the nearby nature reserve - a tiny 3 acre plot between the canal and the railway - stuffed full of singing birds which I occasionally manage to photograph... oh, and the laptop of course - workstation, TV, mailer, source of Zoom-based exercise and worship - and for on-line shopping when available...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Glad you liked it. Don't you think that adding "dividing her time" adds a certain class to any utterance?

      Delete
  9. Just fabulous, Ruth. Funny poignant and true. Thank you. X

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you so much, Deborah! I did have fun making up a smug writer x

    ReplyDelete
  11. As I was reading the first few sentences I was thinking "what the heck is she trying to prove" and then you went on to say you were NOT Isabella M Smugge.!! hahah Thank goodness!
    Enjoy reading your blog and do have a lovely day even with this upside down world we live in
    these days. Take care!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am as far from Isabella M Smugge as Donald Trump is from Barack Obama. Thank you, I have had a really good day and am about to knuckle down to some serious writing.

      Delete
  12. Isabella M Smugge turns up at conferences and also moonlights as what I call 'an internet siren' - someone who is addicted to telling everyone else online how successful they are and how they did it and how if you exactly follow their own prescription of how they achieved it you too can be enormously successful and make millions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An internet siren. That is a very good description. Ms Smugge would probably do just that!

      Delete
  13. Anyone who gives King Zog some publicity is fine by me. Dripping with gentle humour as always, great work Ruth. xx

    ReplyDelete
  14. Attempt no.3... That phrase 'divides her time' appears on one of my tomes, not from me but from the publisher, and made me laugh. It would be more realistic to say'reels from port to port in a state of disorientated exhaustion.' Lovely post, full of truthful humour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing for ages, then three come along at once! Thank you so much for your lovely comments.

      Delete
  15. Both honest and funny. Just what's needed for this time :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a comment