I don't generally do New Year resolutions. Declarations of intent made at the darkest, coldest time of the year seem likely to be coloured by all kinds of emotional issues, and the arbitrary choice of 1st or 2nd January as the day when Everything Will Be Done Brilliantly From Now On is at the very least ambitious and at the worst the kind of thing that comes back to wave its finger in your face by the end the first week. Fate has a way of divining when you're occupied in a creative pursuit and coming along to scupper you, to test your faith and self belief and patience. Fate is a little bastard. (Do you really believe in Fate? Ed.)
However, I have made a start on re-engaging with my WIP despite the irritations and miseries of January and broken drains and a heap of other things too annoying to list. Over the weekend I set up the laptop (one I was given in September and on which I worked so fruitfully during my retreat), tinkered with the widgets that allowed me to connect it to the internet (purely so that I could download a second licensed version of Scrivener ) and spent yesterday making 1000 words of notes as to what was still to do in this not-quite-finished-really-rough-and-patchy-first-draft. It felt good. I was happy. Hollow laugh.
Fate (or whatever it is) must have known that and decided to offer me a test. (Yes, but what do you mean by Fate, exactly? Ed.)
This morning I discovered (you can probably work out how) that the cistern in my loo was broken. It's an old device, 1940s-ish, and the action of the handle operates a plunger type thing (rather technical language, don't you think? Ed.) which is supposed to be held in place by a metal pin which was not there when I moved in (aeons ago) and which has to be replaced every so often with a bent paperclip, until that rusts and the whole process starts again. (What, replace the cistern? Yes, yes, all in good time, when the next ship comes in with plenty of bullion...). So I found a paperclip, mended that, then made a cup of tea and as I drank it I peered out of the bedroom window at the weather, opened it wide to let in some cool fresh air, and glanced down...to where a drain that was flooding the front garden of the tenement building - and which was meant to have been cleared before Christmas (I never saw the workmen, was told by the Council they'd been and 'sorted' it. Ha.) - was doing so again.
Once you've seen a thing it's almost impossible to un-see it. Discuss.
So I growled a bit, fired up my desktop computer, opened the mail app, referred to previous correspondence on this matter, sent another message to the Bloke At The Council Property Department who'd been dealing with it (or said he had) and then naturally found myself answering other incoming emails, and notifications, and then - before I knew it - straying onto Ye Twitter.
Free Will? How d'you spell that? A-d-d-i-c-t-i-o-n? (Of course, this is why you were setting up the laptop, so you'd distance yourself from the lure of the internet, isn't it? Ed.)
Fatal mistake, you're muttering to yourself, fatal, never, ever, open email in the morning if you plan to write in the mornings. And you're right. I HAD marked out mornings in my diary as writing time. I HAD planned (not quite a resolution, but nearly) to spend each morning writing from now until 'The End'. I had every intention of doing that and relishing it.
Best laid plans of mice and women, blah blah.
All this put me in mind of a comment by a brilliant Catalan writer I met some years back, Jordi Punti. He described email as being like playing multiple games of chess. Each time someone moves a pawn and signals that to you, you go to the board and look at the pieces and move a piece of your own, and feel good that you're now setting the pace of the game; however, other players are also signalling moves and you have to go to other boards and examine those games and move pieces on those other boards, and by the time you've done that the earlier players will have responded to your move and moved another piece... and so it goes on. One damn thing after another.
Real Life is one damn thing after another. (So is a lot of fiction, I would tentatively suggest. Ed.) If I did New Year Resolutions, I would resolve - no, less dramatically but with genuine commitment, I would make an effort - to push Reality aside for at least an hour in every day, so that Writing Would Come First. Before broken drains, cranky cisterns, emails about tax-returns, or - bloody hell - Twitter.
I'll tweet the link to this, in a moment. Then, when it's off my mind and out in the world, I'll turn off the desktop and attempt to return to work on the laptop. Don't think the irony is lost on me.
ps. Fuck you, Fate.