At home, I write in bed. Propped up by a thousand pillows, I feel as if I’m floating on a dream. I’m often in my dressing gown; my hair a mess. I write in a small orange child’s notebook, or it might be yellow, or blue, with a sticker on the back that says, £1.25. I often run out of ink mid-flow and can’t find another pen that works within leaning distance of my bed, nor in the bowls that sit on my mantelpiece filled with hairclips and hairbands, random pieces of makeup and jewellery, nor downstairs in my study, or in any of my bags. I find a blunt pencil and a couple of brightly coloured felt-tips.
Once finished, I get up, put on a bra and maybe a T-shirt, a pair of jeans and definitely some socks, and transplant my bottom from the soft mattress onto my desk chair that cost me lots of cash, but needs to be adjusted to the right height and recline in order to protect my back, but currently feels wrong because it gets fiddled with every time my son goes into my study. I work here for another couple of hours, transcribing and editing, thinking about the whole.
This week I have barely written a word. My mind has been a whirr of thoughts and worries. My kids had their last week at the school we’ve been associated with since they were tiny babies; the other parents are my heartfelt friends; the teachers are like family. We had a farewell Easter feast yesterday and I panicked, trying to find a way that my son could stay on for another year. I blubbered. My mascara smudged black beneath my eyes.
Now I’m sitting at my mum’s kitchen table, far away from my kids and my husband, because I’m looking after her dogs and cats while she has a weekend in Rome. There is a dog at my feet, panting and whining because she wants me to play ball.
Last Tuesday, I had a ‘spring social’ with my writer’s group and was in one of those moods that mixes badly with drink. I bemoaned my loneliness as a writer. One of the members looked at me quizzically, and asked how writing can possibly make me lonely when I get to spend my days with so many interesting characters? I couldn’t answer her, but was tempted to say: ‘They’re not real.’ But, here at my mum’s kitchen table, ignoring the bloody dog, I know what she means. The characters come to life again when we give ourselves space and can immerse ourselves, when our time is our own, when our mind is clear. I’m back with my characters and right now they feel like friends.