My favourite part of the day – even though I like both my jobs (the one I get paid for and the one that I do for free) this third shift is the one I like the best. Better than dishing books out to criminals (which I like) and better than drawing round a very small hand and helping to colour it in (which I like too).
Bum in black chair, bottle of beer open and beside my elbow, brown cardigan on and zipped right up to the top (if I’m wearing something that means I’d be ashamed to be seen in public, I am much less likely to get distracted and invite friends around). Crack knuckles. Yoga to loosen stiff necks. Flexing fingers, imaginary piano in the air. Ready. And… nothing.
Although not quite nothing, because tonight I have Pete, an audience of one that I’ve borrowed from the other person who lives in this house. And I know what happens next. Not right along the line to the end – I am drafting, which is hand over hand on a rope into the dark. Driving with dipped headlights. Just the next few steps. When I am writing onto the blank page in front of me and not editing material I have already created most of the work gets done when I am hoovering or washing up or driving to work.
There is a lot to be said for the mind-numbing boredom of domesticity and the monotony – the sheer tedium involved in (parts of) most people’s paid work. I wrote very well with a newborn, because dealing with a newborn is so unbearably boring most of the time my brain was forced to daydream otherwise I would have gone bonkers. And did, a bit. When I am putting books away during the day some part of me (scruffy, unbrushed hair, scowling narcissist) is stroking her chin and wondering how near you would have to be to kill someone with a thrown rock.
Much may be and has been said about the virtue and other wise of the Creative Writing MA. One thing it did do for me was garnish this night-time play-time, this skiving, this childishness, with a kind of respectability. I have a secret suspicion that a big part of the reason why I write is so I can have the beer and the brown cardigan and not the other way around. While I could truthfully say, ‘I can’t tonight, I’ve got to do some work for my master’s,’ people would generally nod and leave me alone. I will need to invent a publishing deal soon. A beard, a nice excuse for the cardigan. Pete understands.