10th Oct '12


ByCathryn Constable

My Writing Day

I have three children and, during term time, I get up at 6.57am. I have a weird thing with always setting the alarm on an ‘odd’ minute and never on the hour.

The big ones will get themselves sorted but my youngest needs a bit more of a heave and a ho and my husband probably needs the biggest heave-ho of them all. At the moment, they are out of the house just before 8am.

What I like to do then is make a cup of Earl Grey, get dressed and put some lippy on, even though I’m hopeful I won’t leave the house. I’ll then get a large cup of instant coffee (Blend 37) and get to my desk.

I love my desk. I love being in my study. I love my pinboard. I love being in this room.

I don’t need any warm up rituals or to think myself into anything. I just open the file of whatever it is I’m working on and read it over from the beginning of that chapter and just ‘go’. I will have got a pretty clear idea in my head of what I’m wanting to write that day and where I need to get to. I know some writers say they don’t know what’s going to happen from one page to the next and I can see that it might help to feel a little loose and to be aware that you can be surprised. But if I didn’t have some idea of where I was going with a story it would be a disaster. I just find it hard to understand how you can know where to put the emphasis in your writing if you’re not pretty clear of the overall narrative arc.  However, there is always going to be a tension between what you know and what you don’t yet know and it is wonderful when a story surprises you. I feel as if I learned so much from writing The Wolf Princess, not the least, what works for me and what I’m really interested in. I try to keep myself intrigued and excited... I have a quote on my pinboard (argh! No idea where I found it... but it’s wonderful...) ‘Admire the world for never ending on you as you would admire an opponent, without taking your eyes off him, or walking away.’  So I try to write with that level of attention.

During term time, with the exception of all the usual domestic faff, I keep at my desk. The time goes very quickly. Of course, there are days when I have to go out, but I do feel increasingly agitated if I spend time away from my desk. I think is because I feel as if I have very little time to write: I’ve never been particularly good at working when the children are around (i.e. during the holidays, of which there seem to be so many).  I was trying to explain this the other night to someone and they thought I was being extremely pretentious. ‘Oh we’d all love perfect work conditions, yadda yadda’. He completely missed the point. I can write pretty much anywhere and ideas come all the time (in truth, you don’t really ever switch off). But... I just think that you want to be able to start writing without fear of interruption... It’s not that I can’t write when there are other people in the house, but I write with a different sort of attention when I’m on my own.

Around 3pm I will scoot downstairs and see what I need for supper... if I need something,  I’ll dive out and get something... if all is well, I’ll go back upstairs and keep going until the first key in the door at around 4.30pm.

Then, I really do try and give my time to the children. We’ll have supper, I’ll watch something with them, they’ll start their homework. My husband Charles gets back around 8pm. We do love the telly in our house and the loveliest evenings are when we light a fire and watch some sort of drama. I’m trying to get to bed at a reasonable time so I can read.  It doesn’t always work...

The Wolf Princess is out now in paperback, eBook and as a special limited edition hardback.


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