Recently, while clearing out a press, I found an old diary of mine. You can picture how far my jaw dropped when I was reminded that my New Year’s Resolutions for 1995 were almost the same as those I made for 1996, 1997, 1998… (And no, they are not for sharing, they are classified under Too Much Information. Then again, I might come back to them later.)
By now, weeks into the New Year, most of our brave resolutions have come to a stuttering halt. No surprises there. After all, it’s only the very formidable among us who can motivate themselves enough to lever layer-swaddled bodies out of cushiony folds of an armchair in centrally heated homes in order to follow a sergeant major’s drill around a cold, dark sports field, or shiver and shake in the local swimming club, or sacrifice a relaxing wine o’clock timeline by an hour or two. There is nothing inspiring about the cold, dark, hibernating months of January and February to help encourage any kind of abstinence or self-denial. All we want to do is burrow into our warm, dry, comfort zones, munching on calorific comfort food. So to my mind, it’s far better to wait until the cheerful light of spring begins to lift our spirits before we embark on a tough regime involving large amounts of self-discipline.
Except there is one New Year’s Resolution that lends itself perfectly to those dull, dark, post- Christmas months – hands up those of you who resolved that this was the year you were going to Write The Book??
The dark, cosy gloom of January/February is perfect for incubating those early ideas or teasing out your plot lines. With the window blinds closed on the dark night, and the rest of the world shut out, there are no distractions and it’s the best time to get up and running.
Believe me, it’s far tougher to glue your bum to the seat and your fingers to the keyboard when the sun starts to shine and the days begin to lengthen. For starters, the lure of fresh air and bright skies will tempt you away from your burgeoning novel, but worse again, spring sunshine will zoom in on all the neglected cobwebs and dusty corners that lurked invisibly during the winter. It can be far easier to extricate your duster from its hidey hole under the sink and give a few desultory swipes around instead of making a start on chapter two, but before you know it, a couple of writing hours could be gone.
But take heart if you haven’t yet begun, because there’s still time to start grappling with your draft novel and make some headway before summer time officially begins and you’re tempted to abandon it to (a) scrub all the skirting boards, (b) vacuum behind the radiators, or (c) bleach the bathroom grouting with an old toothbrush.
And it might help to stick this quote up near your writing area: ‘Women with clean houses do not have finished books’ (Joy Held).