All you need in life…

…is to have enough cash that money isn’t a constant worry, and to have done things so that they are not a constant pressure on you.

You will want other things and maybe strictly speaking you do need them, but get those two right and you’re flying. Everything is suddenly possible. Everything is pretty good.

Yes. I’ve just finished my taxes. Not sure about the bit of having enough cash but tax preparation has been weighing on me for six months and I’m lighter now it’s done.

And naturally, inevitably, it took far less time than I spent putting it off.

There’s a lesson there, though I can’t imagine what it is.

Essential morning preparation

I’m back on the getting up to work at 5am lark after about a month away doing various jobs and then one of those there holidays. This morning I woke up, looked at the clock, saw it was 04:53 and said aloud: “Well, this is fun, isn’t it?”

Getting up at 5am for day 256 was as hard as some of the first few days but it was helped by one thing, gigantically hindered by one thing and conned by a third.

The Helpful Thing
I had a plan. I knew exactly what I was going to be working on the moment I had showered, made a mug of tea and sat down at the keys. No hesitation, no choosing, just straight to it: I was going to work on a particular book project. There’s a lot to do today but for the first hour, I’d do this and then it would be done plus I’d be on my way.

Until today I would’ve said that this is easily the biggest thing in working at stupid o’clock: if you go straight to the keys with a purpose and work for an hour, then at stupid o’clock plus one you feel you’ve really achieved something. Half of you now wants to go back to bed but half of you is bursting to continue and that To Do list looks pretty doable.

The Con
It’s 06:46 as I write this to you and I haven’t done a word of that book. Because right after I said “Well, this is run, isn’t it?” I rolled back away from the clock, looked at the ceiling and while waiting for the alarm thought: “Act 1: Lights up on Mabel. Very plainly dressed: specifically, no jewellery, no bag.”

Without planning to, I’d got the start of a script I’d been working up. Most of it was done, I was just struggling with certain elements like the start and there it was.

So that’s what I did instead of the book project. And now I should really go do the book project, except that I am still suffering from The Gigantic Hindrance.

The Gigantic Hindrance
The milk has gone off. Did you hear me at 05:10? Tilting back my freshly-showered head, my hair still damp, and my face raised to the heavens as I howled?

There are worse things in this world but a mug of tea with bits in is up there.

It’s not enough to have all your work with you

It has to really be with you and you need to know what it all is.

Follow. Earlier this week, I did a trio of writing workshops at a university and I think it went great: I had a tremendous time. (Quick aside? It was all for school kids who were being shown the university and I learnt afterwards that as well as the main schools I’d been told were coming, there was a small contingent from my own old one. I found out far too late to ask who was from there so it is a little bit freaky. I have this week taught Year 10 kids from my own school and I don’t know who they were.)

After all that was done, though, there was a presentation and if there had been enough time, each of us writers working there that day could’ve performed a piece of their work. I usually write books and scripts, things far too long to rattle off in a couple of minutes. But while Cat Weatherill told a story and Alan Kurly McGeachie recited a poem with verve and gusto, I searched my iPad.

I’d been asked during the presentation if I had something I could read and I did say yes.


There was no internet reception in that hall.

So even though I could see some items in Evernote, I couldn’t open them. (You can choose to make a notebook and all its contents be permanently available on your device, but you have to be connected to the internet to say you want to do that.) Pages and iCloud did better but I couldn’t easily see what I’d got because documents are shown as big icons which is great because you see the shape of page 1 and can readily know what each one is. But it’s rubbish when you’re scrolling through, searching for something short.

I found the start of a novel in Pages. It’s a bit violent but I reckoned it worked. I found a short story called Elite Death Squirrels which fit a lot of the things I’d been talking about with the kids all day.

But both were pretty long, even the excerpt from the novel was just too long. So with time pressing, I didn’t get to perform.

I would’ve liked to. But what narks me is that I wasn’t able to provide what was asked of me. It wasn’t a big deal from their point of view and it came up unexpectedly, yet that is a big deal from my point of view and I imagine I’m always ready. When you’ve done a few workshops you end up having this little mental toolbox of things you can reach for. Mine wasn’t full enough.

What narks me even more, though, is that I did have something the perfect length and which would also have spoken to the points I was making during the day. It’s a two-hander script I wrote during a young writers’ session and I rather like it.

I know I wrote it, I remember the lines, I’m wondering if I even kept it. Because it wasn’t on my iPad and even now, sitting here with full internet, I can’t track it down. That is unusual and disturbing.

But the take away from all this is that you need to keep your work with you and make sure you can actually get to t. Plus, know what you’ve got before you just say ‘yes’ to anyone who asks.