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Monday, 13 July 2015

For writers moving house - advice from Erin McKechnie

Distractions From Writing (But no hints on how to avoid them.)

If your core objective is to write as much as possible to complete the book you have now been working on for so long you can’t remember why you ever thought it was a good idea, do not put your house on the market. (Well, that’s one hint.) It is a huge distraction.  All of a sudden, instead of sailing out the kitchen door safe in the knowledge that all your mess will lie about comfortably on the bench in the sun for the day, you will feel compelled to tidy absolutely everything away. The same applies to the rest of the house, especially the bedroom. The linen must be colour co-ordinated and fresh every time someone walks into the room, and it simply is not acceptable to sling you pj’s over the hook on the back of the door. The bathroom is the worst; despite more water being sloshed around in this room than in the rest of the house combined, no drip must darken any surface. The towels must all be white, fluffy and never used, and the shower base must sparkle like jewels in the royal crown. In fact, the agent assures me, it is the crowning jewel in the house; sales proceed or fall on the appearance of the bathroom.

This slavish attention to detail means you don’t get near your computer until the middle of the morning at the very earliest, and then you have to knock off again in the early afternoon to cook, because, despite all the hype about playing soothing music and having the aroma of fresh cooking wafting from the oven, getting caught snivelling over the chopped onions as you prepare the family’s favourite lambs fry and bacon doesn’t cut it. It is astounding how many prospective buyers can only view properties at dinner time.

After weeks of agonising in limbo land someone finally makes an offer, less than you wanted, but enough – and at last you are able to put all your energy into packing. If you are unlucky as I was, the house you are purchasing doesn’t settle for three weeks after you have to move out. Slinging things into the back of the car to get them across town must be easier than packing to go into storage. And I am sure, the keyboard for your computer won’t get lost if you are able to only transfer your most treasured possession once.

It’s wonderful to have family come to stay from the other end of the country; however, regardless of how much you love your grandchildren, they do not help you to unpack. They want to play at the beach and ride the bike which is kept at your house just for them, and you will want to go and do things with them. But gumboots, sand digging tools and favourite bed time books do not rise to the top of the pile of their own volition and neither do keyboards.

Think seriously before you get rid of your old desk, even though you know it won’t go through the door of the new house without being dismantled.  Buying a new desk is fraught. Such as, the box won’t go into your car and so the excitement of setting up your new work corner is delayed until somebody with a bigger vehicle can collect it for you from the store. However, I thought this desk, once in the house, was a breeze. I scrambled around on my hands and knees happily screwing parts together as instructed and within no time had an upside down desk in my den. I could not lift it. My partner couldn’t help, he’d put his back out shoving his own desk around. There it stayed for a week, upside down in the middle of the room waiting for someone to help me turn it upright. But - as we pushed it into place the legs I had so blithely screwed into place a week earlier snapped off.

Another hint – do not schedule elective surgery into the same time frame as moving house. The only thing worse than a mountain of packed boxes is not being able to do anything about them. Especially because you know – the elusive key board is in there somewhere.

Erin McKechnie.

1 comment:

  1. I know the feeling, Erin. As you know, we moved early September last year and getting back into the writing mode has been fraught. Nearly a year later and I'm still battling to get a routine going! I've resorted to Julia Cameron's "Morning Pages" so that at least I'm writing something every morning, if only for 10 minutes. Of course, if the stuff you're working on is light-hearted or fun, it may be easier. But when the stuff you're writing (like I am) frightens you then the jigsaw puzzle set out on the dining room table, or that book you've been reading in bed, takes priority. You don't need a keyboard to start writing again (although by now I'm sure you've found it). Think good old-fashioned pen and notebook that you can take down to the beach and watch the dear little ones frolic as you write immortal prose.