Anne Cleary

Not About Time

When I look back to the period of time during which I wrote my two novels, I often wonder how I managed it. I was busy – far busier than I am now – home-schooling my two children. Yet it seems the less time I had, the more I accomplished.
Mind you, I was driven. ‘Passionate’ doesn’t begin to describe how obsessed I was about these stories and their characters who, might I add, would follow me relentlessly, filling my head with their scenarios and snippets of dialogue. Driving along, a song would come on the car radio and I’d think, “Jack would like this band,” or I’d pass a cluster of children and wonder if any looked like Zeke. I’d conjure up what type of school bag he’d carry (a straw-coloured satchel from the Army Surplus Store.)
The times I’d set aside for writing were in the evenings, when I would nod off over a few hazy sentences, determined to squeeze out a tiny bit more, and also on the afternoons we had no extra-curricular activities. The kids had ‘computer time’ (they were as passionate about this as I was about writing.) Half an hour each meant I had one hour to fling myself into my room, get in the zone and write!
Once that hour was up, they’d come running in to ask, “Can we have extra time?” I’d sigh as if doing them a huge favour and say, “Oh … all right.” Then back into it I’d go.
I took writing to activities the kids were involved in and, when I could get away with it, sit in my car and launch into it (“Now, where was I? Ah, that’s right. Jason and Armpit have just showed up at Maxine’s workplace…)
One time, holed up in my car with the children safely off doing a drama class, I was writing up a storm when into my peripheral vision came a movement. A fellow home-schooling mum was approaching my car. I felt such resentment toward this poor woman who clearly wanted nothing more than a friendly chat. I wound the window down to a reluctant half-mast.
“I’m just doing some writing,” I told her. Surely she’d see how important this was to me, how much I wanted to get on with business. She didn’t.
All this is to say that it isn’t about having the time to write. These days, since my children left, and only working part-time, you’d think I’d be drowning in a stream of uninterrupted narrative, letting my imaginary world flow out and around me in a torrent of enthusiasm.
No. My beloved characters have grown up, too. Moved on. I don’t quite know where they’ve got to – and don’t think I haven’t looked. These days a great crowd of newcomers jostle about with endless problems and tensions, all waiting for me to choose one or two and begin. Just get on with it, Anne!
I’ve also realised it’s no use waiting for the mood to strike or my muse to show her face. She packed and went on holiday and, no matter how long I await her return, I know she won’t grace me with her presence until I make a start and do something.
As Picasso said, “Inspiration only finds you when you’re working.”
The ‘Writers write!’ mantra means through good and bad, when inspired and on those days you’re wading through treacle. The important thing is to show up.
That’s when the magic happens.