Tick, tick, tick…

It’s been a very odd sort of week. The sort of week which – thankfully – doesn’t come around too often. The sort of week which really makes you stop and reconsider and try to make sense of your life.

For a long time now I’ve been feeling out of control, which is unnerving for a control freak like me. For many months I’ve felt as if everything was slipping away from me. You know that feeling you get when it’s almost as if you’re having to run just to stand still, like being on a treadmill, pounding away but not actually getting anywhere?  Well, that.

The biggest problem I have is time management. I once did a module on that very subject at college and I got very good marks for it. Trouble is, the schedule I was being marked on was one that I would have liked to follow, not one that I actually did. I doubt I’d have done so well had it been a true account of how I frittered away my day. I know everyone gets twenty four hours in a day and I’m constantly amazed at how much some people get done and how little I seem to achieve in the same time. Why? Why?

So this week, I actually sat down and thought about what I do in a day. It was pretty scary, I can tell you. Without exception, every time I turned on the laptop to write I would think “I’ll just pop online for ten minutes first, see what’s going on in the world.”  I would click the chrome button and then hit the Gmail link and check my emails. Then, after browsing on there for a while (and toddling along to Amazon having being sent a Kindle Daily Deal link that I simply had to check out), I made the fatal mistake of clicking on Facebook.

Cue at least an hour of scrolling through everyone’s posts, liking and sharing, following links to articles and video clips, and generally being extremely nosy. Eventually, I realised that I had frittered away most of the morning and I really had to get on with some writing because it was nearly time to go to work.

Shutting down Facebook I then clicked on the bookmark for the Google Doctor Who game which I absolutely have to play at least once before I can come off the internet. I’m not joking. It’s become an obsession. I gave up Candy Crush and Farm Town and all those other games that took up so much time on Facebook, but I have become quite addicted to this one and in spite of the fact that it’s very basic animation and my five year old grandson could probably do it without even thinking about it,  I have set myself a challenge to get my Doctor through the five levels without having him exterminated by Daleks or deleted by Cybermen, and with all the pressure my palms start to sweat and my heart starts pounding and I actually feel sick if I use up one of his lives and he has to regenerate. I kid you not.

By this time, of course, it’s almost time to leave for work. Sometimes I managed to get an hour of writing in. Sometimes I opened up Scrivener and just read what I’d written previously and decided what needed changing and that was it – time up. Sometimes I decided there just wasn’t time to even open up the writing at all and shut my laptop to get ready for work.

After work I came home feeling pretty exhausted, arriving home at about six-thirty. If, as happens occasionally, DH couldn’t pick me up I had to get two buses home in which case it was around seven-thirty before I staggered through the front door. Then I had something to eat, flopped in front of the television and watched rubbish till I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even be bothered to drag myself up to bed. This happened every single working day!

On weekends I have always been full of good intentions. I will spend the entire weekend writing, I decide. On Mondays, usually, when I’m full of guilt and remorse for the wasted two days I’ve just spent faffing around and getting nowhere fast.

Usually, my daughter and her family visit on Saturday afternoon, and my son and his family visit on Sunday afternoon, so I have to allow for that, but other than that…

I usually clean the house on Saturday mornings and then the plan is to spend Saturday afternoon writing. Except, of course, Facebook is calling and then there’s Doctor Who to play, so it’s quite late before I start writing and before I know it my daughter has arrived and it would be rude to write when I only see her once a week, and besides who could concentrate when there is a five year old boy running around demanding attention?

When they leave  it’s time to cook and then DH and I watch television together because he has been in bed most of the day as he works nights and then he gets ready for work and I get ready for bed. And, if I’m honest, Sunday is just a repeat of Saturday except it’s my son who turns up not my daughter.

So, you see, I start Monday morning with a  feeling of increasing panic and not a little disgust at how much time I’ve wasted and invariably promise myself I will do better next week. Except I never do. Then something happened which made me think about how much time I fritter away and resolve to do something positive about it.

A little girl in our family lost her long battle against cancer this week. She was just nine years old and last February had been given just two months to live. Instead, she fought on and managed to survive ten months, months that were packed with as many new experiences as she could manage. She didn’t just give up. Almost to the end she was still attending school as often as she could and she never complained. She put me to shame. In those ten months she achieved so much and I thought about how long it has taken me to write this book, how much time I have wasted, how much time I continue to waste, and I knew something had to change.

I have written before about time-wasting and procrastination. Without doubt, it is something that I have recognised and resolved to change many times in the past. This time, I knew that I had to do something definite about it. The question is, what? How do you change the habits of a lifetime, because I look back and see that, even before I had this novel to think about, I have wasted time all my life. How many first chapters did I start and never progress beyond? I have been doing that since I was about thirteen years old! How much time spent watching television programmes that I wasn’t even interested in, when I could have been writing or even reading something that mattered to me?

I know that I respond well to deadlines and lists. The trouble was, I didn’t have any deadlines. So I set myself some, and have drawn up a list of targets and goals which I can tick off one by one. (There is nothing more satisfying than ticking things-to-do off a list!)

The first task was to clear out the little spare bedroom which has been full of junk since we moved in in November. I am pleased to say that I have finally tackled that job! My desk is set up with my laptop in place. My bookcases are sorted. My whiteboard and corkboard are on the walls, along with inspirational postcards and pictures. My notebooks sit on the window sill in front of my desk. My desk drawers are full of stationery. On the door I have hung a plaque that states, “Writer At Work”. I have my own study and there is no excuse any more to slump in front of the television claiming that I am being distracted!

So, the first item on my list has been ticked off. I have drawn up a schedule of things I want to happen and the timescale I want them to happen in, and I have been as realistic as possible without giving myself too much time to waste or expecting miracles.   I am being quite ruthless with myself. I never realised until this week how many television programmes I watch that I have no actual interest in! What a waste!! I have some programmes that I will continue to watch, obviously, but if I’m not desperate to see something I will find something more productive to do with my time. Hopefully, I will see both my writing and reading output increase dramatically.

I never made any real New Year’s resolutions because I invariably break them, but one brave little girl has made me really take stock of what I want to do with my life, however long it may be, and resolve to make full use of every precious day.

God bless, little one x

Whatever you decide to do with your week, have a great one xx

My 2014 Reading List

According to Goodreads I only read seventeen books last year. This is truly appalling, so I hope to increase my reading this year. Since I don’t want to compromise on writing time, this means watching less television and doing less on social media. A fair swap, I think! 🙂

Here are the 14 books that I want to read in 2014, not necessarily in this order:

1. Bridget Jones, Mad About the Boy – Helen Fielding. A Christmas present and already started it, so should be easy!

2. Romancing The Soul – Sarah Tranter. Read Sarah’s last novel No Such Thing As Immortality and loved it. Looking forward to this one!

3. Rumour Has It –  Jill Mansell. Because I have this on my Kindle and have never read one of this popular author’s books! She is so popular that I definitely think it’s time I changed that.

4. The Scapegoat/Rule Britannia – Daphne Du Maurier. Started reading the latter of these years ago and never got past chapter three. Determined to finish it this year. The Scapegoat is new to me but I have watched the television adaptation four times now – mostly due to Matthew Rhys! I believe the book is quite different so would love to read it and compare.

5. The Heresy of Dr Dee/Midwinter of the Spirit – Phil Rickman. I love Phil’s books. So creepy! I read The Bones of  Avalon, his first Dr Dee book and it was brilliant, so I want to read the follow up, and I have all of the Merrily Watkins series but have only read the first one so far. Midwinter of the Spirit is book two so I want to read it and continue to finish the entire series.

6. United States of Love – Sue Fortin. Sue has been very kind and a great supporter of this blog. When she released this book it was so well-received and was taken up by HarperImpulse. Sue’s next book will be out soon so I’d better get cracking on this one!

7. Wish Upon A Star – Trisha Ashley. I love Trisha’s books, and I can’t wait to read this one.

8. Murder Is Easy – Agatha Christie. I have loads of her books but have only read the Miss Marple ones. I am intrigued to see how her novels which have been adapted for the Marple series on tv read, considering they don’t actually feature Miss Marple originally. Think I may start with this one, although I might try The Sittaford Mystery or Endless Night.

9. His Brother’s Wife – Valerie Wood. I buy her latest novel every year for my mother but have only read the first few myself. As she is a local author and also very good I am going to treat myself and start working my way through the rest of them.

10. The Solomon Key by Dan Brown. I know this isn’t his latest, but I haven’t read it yet and actually got it for Christmas when it came out so I think it’s overdue. He may have his critics but I actually loved his previous novels!

11. Hubble Bubble – Jane Lovering. Jane’s books are fabulous! I love Please Don’t Stop The Music and Vampire State of Mind. I have high hopes that this will be just as good. 

12. The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling. I adore this woman and I am really looking forward to something she has written that is so different from the Harry Potter books.

13. Oh Dear Silvia – Dawn French. I really like the premise of this book and I’m intrigued to see how she tackles this. I liked A Tiny Bit Marvellous although I didn’t love it. I think this one  sounds more interesting.

14. Truth or Dare – Laura James. Because Laura is quite inspirational – a former NWS member who has become a published author with Choc Lit Lite and a new full member of the RNA. I am so pleased for her and can’t wait to read her debut novel!

I’m not going to list any more because I need to leave room for new releases, new recommendations and different moods making me pick something completely unexpected from the book shelf! These are the books that I have set as my goal reads for this year – so far. I know there will be more. I’d like to read Richard and Judy’s own books, the latest releases from Veronica Henry, Fiona Walker and Jo Carnegie, and many more. Who knows, I may add two certain novels called Searching For Steven and Beltane to my list! Fingers crossed Julie and Alex!

What about you? Have you any books on your wishlist for 2014? Would love to hear from you.

Battling the January Blues

Well, that’s that then. The Christmas tree has been taken down, the baubles and lights packed away, the crackers pulled, the chocolates eaten and (most) of the alcohol consumed. The room looks bare and uninteresting and there is a vague feeling of “now what?” Because, with so much attention focused on the imminent arrival of Christmas, it’s a bitter anticlimax when it’s all over, and we wake up one morning to the horrible realisation that – it’s January!

January. I really do struggle with this month. It’s so long. All right, I know it’s thirty one days, the same as December, but December seems to zip by, aided by the frantic preparations for the festive season, whereas January has nothing to help it on its way. There’s simply nothing to look forward to. It’s in the gloom of winter – and let’s face it, the weather at the moment is so atrocious that for the poor souls dealing with floods and ruined homes and no power January must seem interminable.

Everyone is broke after Christmas. Although, judging by the heaving crowds rushing out to the sales, maybe that’s just me. I sat down and dealt with my finances the other day. It was dreadful. I wished I’d left my head firmly wedged in the sand where I’d buried it some time in September.  For weeks I was quite happy to believe that everything was absolutely fine. It isn’t. Moving house in November combined with the expense of present buying and new furniture has just about wiped us out. The car needed taxing. My renewal fees for the RNA NWS are due. The utility bills are starting to come in. It’s all quite scary and too depressing for words.

So, since January is such a bleak month, the only solution is to focus on better times to come. 2014 is here, and I am determined it’s going to be a good year. I have two new grandchildren arriving this year – one due in April, the other in June. That’s exciting stuff (if expensive!)

I have just booked my five holiday weeks at work, although only two have been confirmed at present. We are not going far away this year. Last year we went to Cornwall, but this year we are staying close by and heading up to the North Yorkshire coast as there will be a two month old baby with us as well as a two-year-old and a six-year-old, and we don’t really fancy a long drive with such young children. Anyway, my novel is set in a village that was inspired by the beautiful Robin Hood’s Bay, so I am resolved to pay a visit and spend the day there. For research purposes, obviously.

The novel is going well. I am just working on the changes that the reader from the NWS brought to my attention last summer. Her/his suggestions made such a  lot of sense  and I am psyching myself up for the fact that, once this has been written, it will be time to start submitting. This is a scary thought, but really, I’ve had enough now. There are only so many excuses I can make to hold onto it. Time to let it go, whatever the outcome. At least I’ll know. Besides, I have already started book two and I want to be able to wrap up book one so that I can concentrate on that. Hopefully it won’t take me as long to finish the second one!

I am hoping to resume driving lessons and retake my test in the coming months. It’s only my dire financial state that has prevented me from doing this already. Fingers crossed, this will be the last year I have to think about driving lessons!

I haven’t made any firm New Year’s resolutions. Mainly because I never, ever keep them. I do have a list of things that I would like to see happen this year, but I haven’t set them in stone. I don’t seem to react well to orders – even orders I’ve given myself.

I would like to eat more healthily, walk a bit more (that wouldn’t be difficult!), write more, watch less TV/go on Facebook less/Google fewer pointless facts /limit my browsing time on Pinterest, read more books, buy fewer books, worry less, be more careful with my money, be kinder to myself.

With all that in mind, maybe I will make it through January with a smile on my face after all. Before we know it, the daffodils will be blooming, the skies will be blue, the fields will be full of newborn lambs and everything will be bright and fresh and wonderful again. In the meantime, I’d like to wish you all a happy New Year and to thank you all for reading this blog. The Moongazing Hare has attracted more followers and been read more widely than I ever expected. I thought it would just be me, talking to myself, but I’ve been thrilled to discover that people have actually taken the time to read my ramblings and even comment on my posts, as well as sharing them on Twitter so that other people could find them. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate every single one of you!

Have a great week xx