Monday 13 February 2017

Diary of a Slushpiler: Project 200 Words

By Jo Wyton

On Thursday evening, I go to bed (at eight thirty, half an hour after I started to fail on the whole consciousness front) having written some words. They are not good words. They are, in fact, great words. Because they exist on a screen, which is an enormous step in the direction of Existing On The Page Of A Book. There are 221 of them. (I deleted four for not meeting my high standard of 'making any sense to anybody at all even after two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc'.)

I celebrated. Internally, of course, because quite frankly I had just put Baby in bed at the time, and fat bloody chance I was going to risk ten rounds of 'Hush, Little Baby' because of 221 words. 

As I wrote those 221 words, I had a glimpse of a reflection of myself, a vague recollection of someone I had intended to become, and viewed as it had been through sleepy eyes and what is, by now, a fairly feisty temperament brought on by a cabin fever-inducing routine, it was lovely. 

The next morning, in the shower, I ponder Project 200 Words. After all, I need something to replace the gaping chasm left in my life by the quiet exit of Project Goat (funnily enough, not the title of The Novel, though probably should be), and this seems to fit the bill. Every evening, once Baby is in bed and a sufficient volume of alcohol has been consumed, I will refrain from turning on the tv to watch reruns of Gilmore Girls (peace out, sisters) and will instead write 200 words of The Novel, and will celebrate finishing them by raising my laptop over my head and running in slow motion around the living room to the Chariots of Fire theme tune. I come downstairs to find the world's creepiest doll in the living room and my imagined celebrations are replaced with thoughts of being murdered in my sleep by this thing coming to life.

Friday comes and goes.

Then Saturday. Sunday happens in there somewhere, too, though it seems blissfully devoid of things that require a place in my permanent memory.

Of course instead of writing, other delights fill my time happens. I find myself cleaning all manner of bodily fluids from the depths of the carpet, scrubbing Weetabix from the radiator and wiping snot from the tv (always amazing how high up the screen it can get). None of which is entirely conducive to the imaginings of a Proper Writer. And the time that doesn't involve pretending I'm not high from the smell of carpet cleaner is so filled with all the best things in life, that I forget that there is a part of me not quite being embraced. 

'Just keep swimming' is the advice offered to me on Facebook, which would be great advice if I could only find my snorkel and flippers. Most likely they're languishing in the bottom of the wardrobe having been chewed on by the cat. 

Still, there is a deadline. A writing retreat in May. Surely it would be deemed improper to spend the first day and a half trying to remember where I saved the manuscript and where the charger cable plugs in to the laptop. It has occurred to me many time since I started with this writing malarky that one requires honest and somewhat ridiculous friends in life, and I am fortunate to have many who fit into both categories quite happily. One of them booked me onto this retreat as a surprise. Am sure I have fallen into an unspoken contract to provide alcohol and cake, but am embracing the imposition of a date in my diary as a signal to retrain my fingers in how to type. 

Of course, just as I finish typing this, Significant Other walks into the living room and says 'Are we going to put carpet cleaner on this sick or just leave it?'


  1. I salute you and your 221 words! I decided I was serious about writing 3 months after my youngest was born (because obviously having a new baby and a 21 month old left me with too much time on my hands) and for years I wrote ms in tiny bite-sized chunks.I also developed an ability for not noticing when things need cleaning which is a very useful talent.

  2. Even without sick to clean from the carpet to distract (sub in spilled tea) I often find the hardest part of writing is getting started. And I don't mean working out the start of the story, I mean that every day battle to sit still and open the document and focus and hope that there are words, somewhere, that will appear as if by magic, if I put my fingers on the keys... and usually there are

  3. Totally in the "thank god it's not just me" camp! I have no excuses, just a champion procrastinator when it comes to my writing!

  4. Kathryn's right. It really does! Make it a hundred a day? You could still end up with the same number by the end of the week.


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