Bad

When I am thinking about Being A Writer, often while reading Paris Review interviews, or blogs, or biogs, or whatever, I have a view of it as such a leisurely thing. Coffee and loads of fags. Breaks, and night time working which means lie-ins. Long chats with others who are Being Writers all about Writerly Things. In this place the days pass slowly and the afternoons are long and sunny but not too hot. We’re all wearing quite nice trousers and having good hair days. It is cushty, and not really a Proper Job.

It is not like this: alarm at 6.20 so there are 40 minutes of editing something you are sick of the sight of before school run. A second shift and a third shift. And when that’s over, lying in bed worrying that it isn’t enough, someone’s going to read it and spot something and say something bad, so it is out of bed, and creeping to the computer in case you wake someone up who will want feeding.

I get sad about it. Being A Writer involves feeling bad too much of the time. Insufficient, in-confident, embarrassed. No-one asked me to do it, so I should stop, and shut up. I have these urges to delete now and again, and that always happens when the going is tough. It is kind of shameful to write about it like this here, but I am committed to writing about what writing is like on this blog, and what it is like sometimes is Toil, Drudge and No Fun at All.

I want cocktails and holidays! I want to go to Blackpool and play Bingo! I want to get pissed. Quite a lot, actually. I want to do something other than shuffle words about, read them, and teach other people how to shuffle them, and then come home to smug emails wanting to discuss how word-shuffling can’t really be taught anyway, so that’s six hours out of my week wasted then, is it? Oh and by the way there’s a typo on page 239 of your first novel and I’m looking forward to seeing your next, and here’s a book you Should Have Read and I’m offended you haven’t linked to me and Please Help Me With My (insert literary project of your choice here).

Bingo! Cocktails! Steak! Gin!

So, alarm at 6.40 as well as working from 8pm until midnight. And feeding. I am a vending machine for milk and novels.

(woe! sayeth The Author)

I like Cat’s Eye because Elaine Risley, the artist narrator, has her children young and has to stay up all night to paint, and the sleep deprivation makes her feel sick and her husband tells her to not to stay up late, and she says, ‘well, when else would I do it?’ I can’t tell you (okay, I can) how much it fucks me off when people call writing about domesticity small and dull and female and uninteresting. I wonder how many artists and writers and inventors and computer programmers and doctors have been lost to laundry and hoovering.

Luckily, my Mr is much better than even the most fictional Mr, and brings tea, and leaves the car for me even when it is his turn to have it. 

15 responses to “Bad”

  1. Nik Perring says:

    Well said, Ashworth! I can empathise, albeit in a slightly different way. It is REALLY fucking difficult, the whole thing, isn’t it?

    But go you! Cos you’re doing it. And that’s really cool.

    Nik

  2. “I can’t tell you (okay, I can) how much it fucks me off when people call writing about domesticity small and dull and female and uninteresting.”

    Abso-bleeding-lutely.

  3. Jenn says:

    Thanks Nik 🙂

    It’s not a job you’re really allowed to complain about in public, I have found. I’ve said it (out loud to myself, and in my head to other people) before myself – if you don’t like it, shut up and stop doing it because there are shed loads of other people who’d LOVE to be doing it. But now I think all that does is contribute to this mythical idea that writing is easy and fun all the time, and like most jobs, it is tiring and boring sometimes too. And still worth doing.

    No more whining on this blog, honest.

  4. and thanks Jenny.

    Reading what I’ve wrote back again, I think I’ve jammed two different thoughts together though. There are books about family and domesticity and then there is the problem of combining writing (or any other kind of work) with family and domesticity. I’m not sure which bit I’m fucked off about. When I’ve had some sleep, I’ll let you know.

  5. sara says:

    “I can’t tell you (okay, I can) how much it fucks me off when people call writing about domesticity small and dull and female and uninteresting.”

    Yes!
    Makes me so so so so super fucking angry.

    But yes, you are making two points. One is that there is the whole pram in the hall difficulty (which doesn’t apply only to writers but to all women who work/create and mother – and also to dad’s who do same.)

    And then there is the representation of domestic in fiction which is belittled in women writers and celebrated in men (Erm, hello, Carver!)

    Both piss me off, but then I have an increasing tendency to be pissed off about a lot of things.

  6. Sara

    I’m angry all the time too. I think it’s the lack of sleep. I said the f word to an old lady last week (she did deserve it) AND told a stranger to shut up this morning on the school run.

    It’s because I’m not drinking enough booze, I think. All this clean living is really bad for my personality.

    I’m going to refrain from making any pronouncements about anything until I have some sleep and finish these copy edits. My opinions are not to be trusted until then.

    Max Dunbar commented on this via facebook – writing dull stuff is not a gender problem, and he’s completely right. Shit, boring writing is dull because it’s dull, not because it’s about tea-cups and marriage. And the pram in the hall way is a difficulty for parents who work, no matter what the work is and what sex the parents are. Luckily at Ashworth Towers, we’re an equal opportunities household which means we’re BOTH half dead from over work and lack of sleep.

    Happy Days!

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jenn Ashworth, Valerie O'Riordan and Kate Brown, Sara Crowley. Sara Crowley said: Good blog piece on realities of writing/mothering/domesticity by @jennashworth http://bit.ly/dxsAGS […]

  8. kim mcgowan says:

    As Nik said, ‘Go you!’ because it’s down to your prodigious discipline and hard work (and colossal talent)that you are actually doing it.

    And. You are not only earning your living as a writer and providing enjoyment to thousands of readers. You are also helping other would-be writers to develop too.

    I don’t know anyone else who is as committed to both of those roles as you are – you actually help people (sounds pompous, this) realise their potential – imagine that!

    (You’re entitled to a little Bad-moan).

    kim x

  9. Morag Gornall says:

    Yes, it’s about two different things. Being a mother is a full-time job, something that’s not recognised or acknowledged even by women. Doing another job as well, in your case writing and teaching, is impossibly demanding. So be kind to yourself. It gets better(eventually).
    I can’t comment on the other aspect because I love domestic writing (and humour) and am not particularly aware of negativity around it .
    Take care,
    Morag

  10. Emma says:

    “lying in bed worrying that it isn’t enough, someone’s going to read it and spot something and say something bad, so it is out of bed, and creeping to the computer in case you wake someone up who will want feeding.”

    This makes me giggle and cringe at the same time.

    You are an inspiration!

    I have found it so difficult to juggle new motherhood with my freelance work, while at the same time trying to squeeze in some time and energy to give to writing. And all of this through a sleep-deprived haze.

    I remain in awe of what you are able to accomplish.

    Emma

    And by the way, I’m very glad to hear that you’ve got such a nice Mr. 🙂

  11. Tom says:

    I like this bit:

    ‘Oh and by the way there’s a typo on page 239 of your first novel and I’m looking forward to seeing your next, and here’s a book you Should Have Read and I’m offended you haven’t linked to me and Please Help Me With My (insert literary project of your choice here).’

    Brilliant post, Jenn.

  12. Thank you everyone. I feel deeply embarrassed for being such a whinging little turd now. But sometimes Being A Writer is a bit dull and hard and tiring. No point denying it.

    Tom, sometimes I think I get more emails than God / Santa and I shoot myself in the foot because I hardly ever delete without replying, (I have a very sensitive guilt-gland.)

  13. Paul says:

    I certainly think you’re entitled to complain and observe all you want. What you say is so true for all of us that there’s no point in trying to keep it in. I’m glad you have a forum for saying it.

    Having said that . . . I’m of the opinion that creative writing cannot be taught, but it can be learned. Writing teachers should create the atmosphere, opportunity, and requirement for aspirants to write and practice and rewrite. A few tips along the way won’t hurt, but it is mostly the aspirant’s job to acquire the talent, not the teacher’s to give it.

  14. A writer, make a mistake?! Oh, the horror!

    I actually kind of like when I see a typo in a book, because it makes me feel like I don’t have to be perfect to get my book published. Writers are human, too, and just like other people, their lives aren’t always easy and fun, and they don’t spend their days pouring out perfect prose.

  15. Pete says:

    Hi Jenn

    I share the care of two smalls with my partner about half and half. Sometimes it’s one day on/one day off (off=working/job), other times it can be three or four days on, sometimes a week or more. Every man should have a go at running a house and looking after two or more smalls for at least a one week stretch all by himself. It has been a gob-smacking revelation. The work days really ARE days off. And I don’t even have breasts in service, or even breasts at all actually.

    Good post.

    Pete

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