As you get older, I believe it’s important to admit to your shortcomings and failings and learn to live with them. So here’s my Monday morning confession. I’m really crap at housework. Whenever I visit other people’s houses, I marvel at how they’re dust-free, they don’t seem to collect drifts of paper and mountains of books, and their kitchen floors don’t crunch suspiciously underfoot.
Sorry, that makes my house sound disgusting, and it isn’t really… it just doesn’t seem to… gleam like other people’s do. To be fair, I do share my house with the mess triumvirate: a husband, a teenager and a toddler, all male. My husband is amazing and does his share, but he works long hours and the other two… well. The cats are more help. I also work, so when I’m not chasing a toddler around, I’m trying to meet a corporate writing deadline or work on my book. But the real reason is – and I hesitate to admit this – I think housework is arse-achingly boring.
You see, there are just so many things I’d rather do. Go to the park with Ted. Read a book. Catch up on the news online. Spend a profitable five minutes making sarky comments on statuses on facebook. I could have the cleanest cooker in the west if I reinvested that time.
The truth is that we all get the same number of minutes in a day. It’s what we spend them on that makes us different. My amazing sister Linda is a mother of three and runs her own graphic design company, but still finds time to create things like this stunning quilt, inspired by an ee cummings poem.
Matt, my teenage son, found time to write all the songs for his album while he was doing his A-levels – and still got enviably good results. He finished his exams and then worked 35 hours a week in a pub so he could pay for the recording of the album. He finds time for networking, promoting, booking shows and creating merchandise. Oh, and the album is amazing and you can buy it here.
Once they’ve completed the things they’re obligated to do, everyone has the time for the things that make them happy. Sometimes they’re “worthy” things, and sometimes they’re just fun. Whether it’s a creative endeavour, reading books, watching movies, going to gym, learning a new skill or getting your kitchen floor to shine, you’ll build the time into your day if it’s really, really what you want to do.
Whenever I tell people I write books, they inevitably say, “How do you find the time?” I’ve written four, all when I was working full time. I was a single mother for the first two, and a mother of two while I was writing the last one. I found the time because it was enormously important to me. The time I found was inevitably after work, after commuting, after children had been fed and put to bed, and was at the expense of housework, watching TV, talking to my husband, reading, a social life, exercise and sleep.
But whenever I sat down to write and I didn't feel like it, or I was tired, or I’d rather be watching TV, I’d ask myself, “Who will care if you don’t write tonight?” And the answer was always, “Nobody… but me.” It was something I chose to do, and the only person I was letting down if I didn't do it was myself. Sometimes I would wake up with a jerk because I’d fallen asleep with my forehead resting on my hands on the keyboard (really), but I wanted to be a writer so much, I kept going. For eight years and 450,000 words, which is how long it took me to get an agent and a UK publishing deal.
Do I wish I had had more sleep? Definitely. Do I wish I was thinner and fitter, could dance, or had learned Italian like I always said I would? Hell yes! Do I wish I had a sparkling bathroom and an empty laundry basket? More than you know. But the fact remains I counted my minutes, made my investment and gambled that it would pay off. Was it worth it? Who knows? How do you measure that kind of worth? In financial terms, probably not. Unless, by some miracle Babies in Waiting makes me a best-selling author, my current hourly novel writing rate is about 24p (I’m that sad I worked it out). In terms of personal satisfaction, definitely worth every weary hour. On the balance sheet… well, you’d have to ask my family, who definitely paid a price, and my unhoovered carpets, who can’t speak.
One monkey, one typewriter, seldom Hamlet.