Money, Money, Money

Here I am with my marvellously efficient tax system: Chuck everything into a box and sort it out later.

Well, it’s later.

Actually, I have ages until I have to do my taxes, but my accountant feels it would be best to do it as soon as possible. I’m due a refund this year – I’ll send three projects to my agent this year, but last year was a first-draft year.

That’s the way it is in the author business, feast or famine. Last year I made so much I had to sell my car and get a littler one to pay my taxes. I know I should have immediately put 20% of my authorial earnings in a savings account to allow for tax, but I’m afraid I’m not that grown up yet. I live in hope that someday I will be.

A month or so ago, I got some very healthy royalty cheques, mainly for translations and sales of Drawing Together. I immediately checked the tax date and sighed with relief to note it was past April the fifth. That’s something to worry about later, then, I thought, and put a note in my diary when to start worrying.

I quite like doing my taxes. I get to claim for all the books I’ve bought and all the movies I’ve seen. I get to claim for meals out with contacts and train tickets to London and postage. I get to claim for my writing room (and soon, my shed!). It’s lovely going through all the receipts and remembering going to see people, or remembering al the films and books, or all the groups for whom I’ve run workshops. It’s like keeping a diary.

Thank you for the cinema matinees, your Majesty. Now, if you’d just pay for the nachos and diet coke…

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My Foolproof Patented Imagery Workshop

Here’s a group from the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing and MA in Writing for Young People. We’ve just finished my imagery workshop and we’ve all had a lovely time doing it – you can see by our faces.

 I love teaching writing – to anyone.  But it’s especially fun to teach people who have been writing for a few years. And my favourite workshop of all is the FPIW, as above.

I love it when the participants discover that they can calm their minds. I love it when they are really concentrating on their senses and writing things down. I love it when they are sharing things with each other and working to make them better. And I especially love telling them, over and over, that they don’t have to try to be special when they write, that they already are special.

 If you’d like me to come and run my workshop for your group, please go here and ask.

If you can’t do that, please remember:  No one else has ever experienced the world the way you do – and no one else ever will. Get that in your writing and you’ll never look back.

I Write On Trains

Most writers do a fair amount of travelling.

 We travel to do research (I can’t write about a character until I know the place they grew up), we travel to lead workshops, we travel to see agents and publishers and we travel to promote books. Plus, we have families and friends and go on holiday like everybody else, so we travel those places, too. Which often end up being research or book promotion by accident – but that’s a whole ‘nother blog.

 When writers travel, writers write.

 Some writers get so good at writing on trains that they find it hard to write anywhere else. Trains are wonderful, anonymous places, where time is ring-fenced and phone reception limited. If you’re a writer who likes to stare at the wall while you think – you’ve got the seat back in front of you. If you’re the kind who likes to look at a view, you’ve got the window. If you like to people watch, you’ve got that, too. Can’t really go wrong with a train.

 Cars are more tricky. I feel sick if I read too much when I’m being driven, so writing is out of the question. And although I plead guilty to sometimes making notes on a pad propped against the steering wheel, writing when driving is out of the question. But in the car, I often work out plots or think about characters.

 In the car, especially during a long and well-known journey, I can tease out bits of dreams and ponder them. I can notice something I’m driving by and imagine how it got there. I can see a house and wonder what it would be like to live there.  I’m American, so I feel most like me when I’m behind the wheel of a car. I take chances with my imagination when I feel that strong.

 At the end of the train journey pictured above, I was driven to the environmental centre where I would give my workshop the next day. And I saw a bright orange, big-eared fox, trotting carelessly in the headlights. It felt important, and the journey down the valley to the centre is always momentous, always carries a sense of coming back in time to a place of sustenance and nurture.

 There’s something in that. I think I’ll go for a long walk and think about it…

Tiles, Rings, Sheds and Other Distractions

You may notice, from this week’s photo, that I am back at my other work; teaching at university. All this signs are there; hair is styled (this is as good as it gets), I’m dressed properly, and makeup has been applied. No dark circles under the eyes yet, but wait until Christmas – I’ll look like I’ve been sparring with Wladimir Klitschko.

And because my life gets complicated and stupidly busy as the academic year rolls out, I am trying to tie up loose ends.

I got the chimney swept but the tape that the sweep used pulled up some broken tiles. I’m tracking down some 1930s replacements. My shed is too small and leaks  –  we’ve got tarp-covered stuff all over the garden and the bad weather is coming. The ring that I bought to replace my engagement ring (stolen in France) got caught in a child’s pullover this summer and I lost the stone. The insurance company have just sent a cheque, saying it’s a write-off. I feel weird without a ring on that finger…

And so my writing time shrinks. It seems more important to do all the other things. I’m sitting here, looking at the broken fireplace tiles as I type and…it bothers me. Typing without a ring…bothers me. Hearing the rain start on my torn shed roofing…bothers me.

And when I’m sufficiently bothered about things, I find it hard to concentrate on my writing.

My husband understands. He’s promised to lay a new shed base. I am using my insurance payout for a modest ring and a new shed, and although he thinks its odd that I’d rather have a shed than diamonds, he wants to help get it sorted as soon as possible.

We talked about it just this morning. And then he looked at the old shed. He said, ‘If we move it, can I have it, for my winemaking?’

‘No.’ I had surprised both of us. ‘No,’ I heard myself say again, decisively. ‘I’m going to put it at the bottom of the garden, for my writing.’

I’ll paint it white with green trim. I’ll insulate it and put in a tiny woodstove, a chair, a desk and some shelves.

And I won’t be distracted anymore, by anything.