Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A Cleaner!

I had a big surprise yesterday - Paul emailed me (from work, in his lunch hour) with a link to a BBC article and suggested that we get a cleaner.  Here's the link to the article he sent me: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-26712734my

Basically, the businesswoman featured in the article says that her top tip is to hire a cleaner, thus freeing up time to be used more effectively.  I thought he was having a laugh at first.  I mean, I am a housewife.  I am supposed to be cleaning.  It's kind of my job.

But he wasn't joking.  My dear husband really believes that my time spent writing is worth more than what we would pay someone to do the cleaning around the house.  'How about just have someone for two half days a week?' he suggested. 

Two half days a week?  Well, I'm not silly.  I jumped at the offer.  But later in the evening I asked him if he seriously thought that this was a viable economic proposition.  We're not exactly rolling in money.  I thought he would admit that it was not, and I wouldn't have minded in the least.  It still would have been a nice thought.  But no.  According to my beloved, anybody can clean, but I can write, and that, therefore, is how I should be spending my time.

The thing is, I have been writing anyway.  I have been writing an awful lot in fact.  As I type this now, Paul is putting the finishing touches to the cover art of three new chick-lit novellas, ready to publish them on Kindle tonight.  (I have written them under a new pen name, and won't link to them here, because they are so far removed from mental health writing that it would just be embarrassing to promote them to the readers of this blog).  I have also almost finished a children's book, and my long-vaunted 'recovery book' is not far from completion.  And there is even a romantic novel in the offing!  (I have enjoyed writing this greatly, in a slightly shame-faced sort of way.  I will definitely be using a pen name for this one).  I don't imagine that any of these books are going to make my fortune, but I am pleased that I have written them, and if I persevere I am sure that over time I will gain a decent readership.

I wrote a lot of words in a short period, since the New Year in fact, and now I am just pulling the strings together, with Paul's help, to publish all these books at once.  Why so prolific all of a sudden?  Well, I was inspired by various stuff I read about self-publishing and entrepreneurship, and consequently I went on a writing jag.  Incredibly, at that time, I was also managing to keep the house in order and the dogs walked.  For a few weeks - maybe eight in total - I was superwoman.  I was writing six books more or less at the same time.  It was mad (I am allowed to say that). 

And then I crashed.  What happened was that, a couple of weeks ago, the sister of my good friend died, and my friend's world was rocked.  It has been very upsetting to see a family suffering in that way.  A lot of local people are devastated - this was one young and popular lady, who passed away very suddenly.  It's not my tragedy of course - it's my friend's - and I know that the impact on me is negligible in comparison.  I am almost ashamed to admit to being affected by it.  But the truth is, it made me realise that I need to get my priorities straight.  We really should not all be pushing ourselves too hard in this life.  So many of us are.

Life sometimes seems like a race, or a competition, to see who is the busiest or most successful.  I have been lucky not to be a part of this most of the time - I have never had a career to be competitive about.  I suppose my pride was in being a mother, although that is a nebulous job title, and one in which success is impossible to measure.

Anyway, in the few years since I started writing, I have not been able to avoid hoping to achieve some level of success.  My priorities have changed.  I kept feeling that I should be doing more, to the point that in the last few months I made myself so busy that it was getting ridiculous.  Although it seemed at times as though I was moving mountains, in fact I was starting to chase my own tail, becoming progressively busier, trying to fit in more, attempting to do everything at once.

It was getting silly.  It could not have lasted, and it didn't.  Prompted to reassess my life, I decided to concentrate on the relationships that matter to me, and step back from everything else.  I didn't write a word for a week, and for the next week I wrote only journal entries.  Meanwhile, I looked after the kids and the house, did some gardening, took my Mum to the shops... 

It should have been wonderful, and in some ways it was.  But I missed my writing, and after a couple of weeks away from it I knew that I was getting close to picking up the reins again.  I just knew that I would have to find a way to be gentler on myself when I did so.  Then yesterday Paul sent me his wonderful email, and everything seemed to fall into place.

I still can't quite take it in, and I still struggle to believe that this new modus operandi will be justified, but I am going to try it.  I have written several thousand words again today, motivated by the fact that my husband believes in my ability and my worth.  I could have done this anyway, because I did a lot of cleaning and washing yesterday, thus freeing up my time today.  But it is great to know that from now on, however busy my week gets, I will be able to write for at least four hours (I am going to have someone help me with the housework for two hours on two days a week, and during that time I am, without fail, going to go out to my summerhouse and get on with it).  I expect I will do a lot more than four hours a week - but this way, I know that I will have at least that time available, as a minimum.

Funnily enough, a short while ago, I was cleaning the conservatory when a thought came to me unbidden, 'Enough of this!'  I know it sounds unnecessarily dramatic, but it felt as though my unconscious was rebelling.  I have spent a good portion of my life cleaning, not least during the years I spent working in hotels as a chambermaid.  At that time I found the work therapeutic - it kept me active and useful while having the least possible adverse impact on my nerves, or so I reasoned then.  Now, though, it is time to move on - I would never have said as much to Paul, but I am very grateful that he has said it to me.

So.  The pressure is on - but not in a bad way.  As I say, I have been writing pretty much every spare minute for months anyway, except for the last couple of weeks when I was kind of burned out.  It will be an added motivation to think that I am now writing as a professional.  And since I had done so much preparatory work recently, the books I am publishing tonight, and those I am almost ready to publish, plus others that I am planning, should start to set me up financially for the months ahead.  I will have to keep the pace up if I am going to earn a decent living from it, but I feel confident that there is at least a possibility of that happening.  And I am looking forward to the challenge.

It's exciting!  I have found someone who's happy to do the cleaning work, and she's going to start at the end of the Easter holidays.  She's just going to be helping out in term time, as I won't be able to write in the holidays anyway since I will be with the children.  She is the perfect person for the job - I just hope she doesn't change her mind meanwhile.

I have never been an employer before.  Well, I did have some help with the kids when they were young - the teenager from across the road used to come in and play with them for a couple of hours three days a week, while I made the dinner and did some other chores.  But I have never paid anyone to do cleaning or other similar tasks before.  Part of me feels a bit guilty, and part of me thinks it is just my turn now to start aiming a bit higher.  I'm not young any more, and I'm well qualified academically - maybe Paul is right and I should be using my time to better effect.  I'm so touched that he wants to do this, and I am determined not to let him down. 

I have been thinking of other ways that I can ring fence my time to write.  Get someone to walk the dogs? No, I need the exercise.  Have the shopping delivered?  I might do, but I'll wait and see how the writing, and the earnings, go first.  Childcare?  Absolutely not.  I like working, but my kids are all at school now, and I want to be able to see them after school and in the holidays.   It's not realistic to spend every spare minute writing anyway - I'll just end up becoming one-dimensional, which is something that no writer needs. 

It's just a trial.  Maybe it won't work out.  But I have high hopes that it will.  It's certainly worth a try.  I know a few people who won't approve, but that just adds to the pleasure of it. 

Apologies for any repetitiveness in this post.  I could have written it in one sentence.  'I'm going to get a cleaner'.  But where would the fun have been in that?

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