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.
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.