Last night I ran a workshop on productivity for creative writers and one woman in the session spoke of how she used to do a Have Done kind of list because a To Do one was too daunting. So she'd do her tasks and then write them down when they were completed: it didn't help her manage the work but that's not why she did it. She did it because at the end of the day or the week or whatever, she had this list of what she'd done.
You know how good that kind of list would make you feel. And I also think that we let things go too easily, especially when we have a lot on. We don't stop to make a note and instead we reach the end of the month or the year and aren't entirely sure where it all went and what in the world we did.
So I like her idea a lot. I'm having that.
Which means... listen, this is going to be a three-biscuit kind of chat.
Two weeks ago now, I wrote a blog about the 1970s/80s TV show Lou Grant and specifically how it is because of the writers and producers of this – and I named them – that I became a writer. Since then, two of the people I named have got in touch. April Smith and Seth Freeman. Names I know so well that I can picture the font used for them on the show back then, they are now names in my email inbox.
I told one of them: if I'd known back then that you would ever email me, I'd have written the blog sooner.
You write something here, just a small something, and it reaches out across the world. I know that's obvious, I know you know that, but it makes me blink. I like that you and I get to talk, I don't usually pay a lot of mind or attention to how many others are earwigging our chat. (Except when they drink all the tea.) But I admit I did look at the statistics over the Lou Grant post and they were more, there were considerably more people reading us for that one than usual.
For the whole week until the next Self Distract, the numbers kept going on up and I love that maybe, just possibly maybe, people who had not heard of Lou Grant might now find it.
But that was me writing about someone else's show and the following week, last Friday now, I instead wrote about me and my book that had just come out: The Blank Screen – Productivity for Creative Writers. More people read that blog in the first day than Lou Grant got in the week.
You wrecked my productivity, mind. I'd intended to spend the whole day on a particular project and instead I nattered and blathered and yapped over Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and old-fashioned email. Got into such gorgeous chats, I didn't want to go back to work. People saying hang on a sec, popping off to buy the book, and then coming back to continue the chat. (Which reminds me, I said somewhere that the iBooks version would be out soon and it is now: buy The Blank Screen on iBooks.)
For completeness, the Kindle one is here in the UK and there on Kindle in America while the gorgeous paperback is on these Amazon UK shelves and those Amazon American ones.
What I was supposed to be doing instead of nattering, by the way, was prepping for a Writing Squad that ran last Saturday. Do you know any kids aged 8 to 12-or-so who live in Burton on Trent? Nine are on this monthly Writing Squad now but there is room for maybe two or three more. If you know or indeed have school-age children anywhere in the West Midlands, there are Writing Squads all over the place. Have a look here at Writing West Midlands' page about it all.
I had a blast that day. We all did, I think: myself, the kids and my assistant writer Justina Hart. I put a bag in the middle of the table and we discussed what might be in it. We wrote stories about what might be in it. And then the bag spoke. I'd hidden a bluetooth loudspeaker in it and cued a recording of me pleading to be let out. One kind child pointed out that there couldn't be any air in the bag so I unzipped a corner – and yelped as this thing bit me.
"It's a pixie!" Apparently pixies bite where fairies don't. I did not know this. I love knowing this now. I love that these kids have this imagination and that they get to express it in writing. I wish there had been anything like the Writing Squads when I was a child.
If there had been, I'd have been writing professionally much earlier. Not that I do so much writing at the moment: once I left that Writing Squad on Saturday, I had to prepare for a spot talking at the Best of Tell Me on a Sunday.
Storyteller Cat Weatherill runs a regular series of events called Tell Me on a Sunday in which half a dozen or so speakers recount a tale. Usually there's a theme, always the stories have to be true. I'd say that one of the best things that's happened to me this year is to be invited to speak at one of these, then another of the best things is to be invited back, another is for that invitation to be to a Best of Tell Me on a Sunday event – and another best is that this time I got to speak first. So I could relax then and fully enjoy the rest of the storytellers. Very proud to have been on the same bill as them.
Tell Me on a Sunday returns for another run in January: keep an eye on Cat's website, on the venue Ikon Gallery's one or have a gander at the Facebook page for this month's special.
Something else that was special about this one is that it was run specifically as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival. Me in a Birmingham Literature Festival.
Do you know the only thing better than being in the Birmingham Literature Festival?
It's being in it twice.
You'll never guess what night Tell Me on a Sunday was but then last night, Thursday 10 October, I did this workshop version of The Blank Screen. You'd have to ask the sell-out capacity crowd – oh, I so liked saying that to you, do you mind if I say it again? You'd have to ask the sell-out capacity crowd what they thought of it but they were great and I came away hoarse, croaking and happy after three hours or so of chatting.
I'm whacked today, though. And all of this stuff skips that I was filmed for a project on Tuesday – can't tell you what, sorry – and that Angela and I were at a particularly good theatre discussion on Wednesday. That I finally got to have the most glorious hot chocolate at the pink-and-white-spotted Ruby Ru choccie shop in Moseley. That there's more theatre tonight. And that The Blank Screen nattering has continued akimbo.
All of this has been in the works for a long time. Even the spontaneous hot chocolate drinking. So I've been looking forward to the week for months, I've been a bit scared of the week for months – much as I now relish presenting and speaking on stage I still get sick with nerves right up until the moment it starts – and it's all been a candy mountain ahead of me.
I've a tickle of a memory in my head about an Alan Plater drama. I think it was one of his. I remember it having a notion – whatever the drama was, I remember it including the story of how someone like aborigine travellers would sometimes just stop. They'd sit down during some incredible migratory journey. And when asked why, they'd apparently explain that they'd walked so far, they needed time for their souls to catch up.
I like that. I'm going to give my soul another few minutes and an extra mug of tea.
Not sure what to do next.
But I am glad for this idea of taking a moment to write it down instead of just rushing on into the next crisis.
And you've listened very patiently, thank you. Here: I also bought some dark chocolate mints from Ruby Ru, you've earned one.