The Quiet Life

Not long after I arrived in the UK, with the fatigue of travel weighing heavily on me I started plotting to find myself a house sitting gig. House sitting was attractive for a few reasons:
  • it was a cheap accommodation option,
  • it would mean I could stay put in one place after months of frenetic travel,
  • I could cook for myself and do laundry!
  • it meant the opportunity to have a place all to myself (which anyone who has been sharing dorms for months knows is a pretty attractive notion).
Most of all though it was a chance to get some of writing done.
I have loved snatching time to write my blog as I’ve travelled around, but have found it difficult to focus on bigger projects- such as my fiction. I have scratched out few ideas as I have travelled along but haven’t found time to make real progress. I started a story when I was at a home stay in Jordan (maybe July) and then did not get a chance to work on it until my farm stay in Umbria (August) and I have not returned to it until now.

Whenever I get upset at my lack of time to write I immediately remember that ( for possibly the first time in my life) I am the only one who is in charge of how I spend my time, so if I am too busy (with travel) to write it is nobodies fault but my own. Which leads me to another little self lecture -if I have this freedom to choose exactly how I spend my time and I don’t prioritise writing, then perhaps I need to question whether it is something that I am really passionate about doing, and if writing is not the thing that I am passionate about doing then what exactly am I passionate about?
At this point in the lecture to myself  I usually re-commit to the writer ambition and vow to get words on paper no matter what- at least until the next distraction.
All of which meant that I was very excited when the universe provided and a lady in Derbyshire contacted me to see if I would come and look after her home and cats for three weeks.

My house sitting home is in the county where Mr Darcy himself had his residence, and my village consists of one lane, a scattering of houses and farms, a church and a bright red postbox. There are no shops and it is 25min walk to the bus stop and the pub.

So I stocked myself up with food, determined on no distractions other than walks and runs in the surrounding countryside and hunkered down to write.

After a few days of pottering about, chatting on Skype, doing laundry and letting my favourite vices get the better of me (watching way too much TV and eating too much) I actually started some writing. I worked on my short story, I wrote a blog and then I worked on my story again; but I also read, walked, cooked, did my embroidery, watched more TV, checked Facebook (a lot) and went slightly stir-crazy.   

I soon began to realise that as much as I enjoyed the treat of having a place all to myself I was missing having company. Decent internet meant that I could start my day having a breakfast Skype chat with family and friends in Australia- a total treat.  In my isolation from the rest of the world (and in an attempt not to become the lady who just talks to her cats) I used my distant loved ones as my company. Which was fantastic, but not really the same as having actual people to hang out with.

The view from Great Orme, Wales
Returning to my solo little cottage life refreshed after the weekend away I am pleased to say that I regained my writing hat relatively quickly and have actually managed to finish some semblance of a first draft of my story (and this blog).

In my first week of house sitting I was reading a biography of Jane Austen; she saw the women around her forced to marry without affection in order to gain financial security and be rewarded by being turned into baby machines, bearing a child a year until their bodies and minds gave out. In her struggles to write, and to live her life true to herself she chose a different path- which left her unmarried, childless, financially unstable, but able to write.

She would perhaps have envied the dilemma’s I face when trying to be a writer today.
Finding the right balance to keep me writing, and keep me sane is, I suspect a lifelong quest, but it is a quest that I am pleased to have the chance to be on.  

5 thoughts on “The Quiet Life”

  1. I can definitely relate to the self-lectures on what one is doing with one's life… ie. where one's passions lie. But maybe that is the whole point? To question, to aspire, to try? Wow… Existentialism over breakfast on a Saturday! One of Grant's favourite quotes (as a pedantic planner): life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. Maybe life is what happens while we are distracted, too? I think it is fantastic that you are enjoying spending some time writing. And i hope you keep writing, because you are a fantastic writer. But roll with the distractions. Don't beat yourself up over them. And enjoy your quest! xx


  2. Ah, Sandy. I have travel journals full of the same self-talk. I have a head full of the same lectures. I've spent 25 years wanting to be a writer, yet writing most days. Why am I not content to just be writing? Why is it never the right writing, or the right medium, or the right publication, or lectures when it should be fiction, or Gus's journal when it should be a book review, or… I wonder what it would take for me to be content that I was 'writing' as opposed to writing. Maybe I'll never be content. And maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it's the discontent that keeps me wanting to write more or better or different or whatever it is that i'm self-flagellating about that day. I've done a dozen different things in my career, I've bought and sold a cafe, had a son, built a house… do those things mean that I'm not serious enough about my writing? Or just that I've lived? It's a dichotomy, because the answer differs as my attitude to myself and my life and my work shifts. And sometimes those shifts can happen within the course of a single day. I don't think I've published anything since I bought the cafe – almost 7 years ago. I haven't had time to be frustrated or disappointed in myself about that – until now. But the intervening time hasn't been a waste, it's just been. Life. And so, with that now-dawning disappointment comes a new resolution to write, to 'write', to be writing. And maybe one day to be a writer. x


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