An author’s life can be a lonely life. Don’t get me wrong – after years of intense child rearing, the solitary nature of the lifestyle works for me during the working day, but I feel it is important – nay ESSENTIAL – to connect with real people regularly, be they writers, friends or family. Because without a healthy social life, I fear most writers would be in danger of spending their days in a faded towelling dressing gown with a half-drunk cold cup of coffee for company.
Oh – and cats. Most authors seem to be surrounded by cats and I’m no exception.
I consider the following types of socialising vital for my sanity; catching up with family, hanging out with friends, and writer-related networking. (There is one person in my life who manages to fall into all three categories, many who fall into two, and I am blessed with each and every one.) But I don’t want you thinking a social life is a luxury – that drinking, laughing, dressing-up, and going to exciting and interesting places is purely for fun. For a writer, every historic monument visited, drunken antic participated in, bus conversation overheard and long-forgotten tale from the depths of family history is potential material for the next book. It all counts as work – right?
So having established the necessity of it all, what socialising have I been up to? Well, 2017 started off with a great New Year’s Eve that involved three of my favourite things; friends, wine and games. You can’t beat a good old-fashioned board game for bringing people together and having a laugh – often at my expense. (Yes, I did once fall asleep wrapped up in a Twister mat, and more recently during a games evening, popped to the loo, totally forgot I had guests downstairs and took myself off to bed. It was VERY late and I might have had a shandy or two.)
So back to New Year’s Eve, we were introduced to the Charades app on my friend’s iPhone, and played it for two days solid. The film category was popular in our household; you guess the movie by describing the plot of the film – preferably without mentioning character names – a great game for a writer. In fact, our New Year celebrations were so much fun that our friends stayed an extra night – even though they only lived ten minutes up the road. Ah, good times.
In January, my friend Clare Marchant and I attended a fantastic writing course in central London – Real People Write Books run by Sue Merritt and Liam Livings. The purpose was to learn (and I did) but again the social element was important; I was with friends and making new ones. Fantastic events, such as this one, remind you that you are not alone. It is a chance to share writing tips and see how other authors tackle the problems all writers face. And, of course, learn from the masters.
Those who know me, know that I enjoy my dancing. Not just the merry swaying about in a dimly lit room clutching a bottle of Old Speckled Hen, but also the very grown up dance class that I attend every week. It brings a whole new group of friends, as well as the opportunity to take exams, earn medals, and perform in front of live audiences. Our group was recently the Grand Finale at a local event – outside the comfort zone for many in the group but we did it, AND we had to wear leggings… (ladies of a certain age will understand how our hearts sank. At least it wasn’t Lycra leotards).
And then to celebrate our fabulousness, we hired a hall and had a party – having failed to find a venue where we could have a drink and a boogie. (Nightclubs were out – we are the wrong demographic, but I’m still secretly hoping to open my own over thirties club one day that serves pots of tea at two a.m.) The party coincided with our dance teacher’s birthday (shout out to Kelly Clarke). She taught some impromptu routines to the husbands – who now appreciate our moves are not as easy as they look. (“Slut drops” are particularly tough on the leg muscles.)
All this socialising and we’re only just into February, but there are more events coming up. (Oh yes – my inner butterfly barely has a chance to spread her wings on the path and soak up the sun before she’s flitting off again.) There are RNA parties and Chapter Meetings that are always a joy to attend. In July I’m going to the RNA conference. Last year was so worthwhile – again from a learning point of view, and a networking one.
But my latest cause for celebration was booking flights for an Italian holiday in June – WITHOUT THE CHILDREN. (I know!) I’m so excited because our holidays usually involve gigantic canvas tents, piles of soggy towels that won’t dry and lots of sandwiches. To go abroad is a treat for us; to go without the children is nothing short of a miracle. We will be staying in a beautiful Trullo in Puglia (https://trullo-tranquillo.com) that is owned by a very dear friend. I feel some Italian storylines coming on…
So with all this essential socialising, I expect you’re wondering about the writing? Well, it fills all the in-betweeny bits that fall outside my heady social life, my job and being a parent. Two weeks ago I finally stepped away from the manuscript of Lucy’s Locket after some lovely beta reader feedback, and let my baby fly. It has undergone a rewrite, been edited within an inch of its life and sent to a few carefully selected agents and an ePrint publisher.
I have also been tweaking the website/blog. Oh WordPress, how I love thee and hate thee by turns. (Why can’t I get the posh swishy layout you tempted me in with? And where do my menus keep disappearing to?) And when that’s finished, I will be back to Cupboard Love – which I am now happily a third of the way through. It’s getting to the good bit…
So embrace your inner social butterfly my friends – be you writers or otherwise. It is good for the soul and, in my humble opinion, absolutely essential to the writing life.