500 words a day keeps the block at bay

One of the things that we shall teach on our retreats, and which I am only now promising myself, is the discipline of writing every day. Splurging your dream-state onto a messy bedside diary is the best of course, a kind of Dumbledore’s ‘Pensieve’ in which he stores all his extraneous thoughts. But only for one short period in my life was I able to set the alarm early enough, ignore the dog’s, the cats’ and the husband’s morning cuddle needs and write for 10 minutes. Ok, 5. Within a week, the guilt and time stress of a mother on a school day morning trying to do something for herself (godammit) had snatched away any possible pleasure, and my creative discipline had to find a new whip.

Right now, it’s 10.16am and although the kids are at school, husband at work, dogs walked, horses in paddock, cats cuddled, hamster cage back in one piece, rabbit cage moved to new grass, I’m stricken with guilt as I try to put my daily words down. The toll of the email reminds me every few seconds that there’s work to be done before I go into town to help reshape my eldest daughter’s school food policy (you never know where these voluntary opportunities will lead; go out, meet interesting people, pursue your interests and then write about it all says the writers’ bible forming on my Writers’ Retreat business plan…)

Of course I could turn the volume on my PC down, refuse to help with the school, put off my work and simply write all day. 500 words? Do they even have to be 500 good words? Not according to the experts. It’s the habit of putting one foot in front of the other that most writers need to learn if we’re to avoid the block which stops most of us doing what we want to do for a living. 500 ok words today means 500 better words tomorrow. By Christmas, so the theory goes, my words will be zinging off the page.

Back to work, says my muse at 10.30am. You’ve got a mortgage to pay. So what’s wrong with 368 words? Who’s writing this bloody writer’s bible anway?


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