Underpants and tea don’t rule

Its a balancing act, not a sign of things to come. Click image for source.

It's a balancing act, not a sign of things to come. Click image for source.

It’s been a while since I last posted. This is because I’m in the happy position of having lots of work to get on with, and today, the even happier position of it being less sunny outside and therefore less temptation to roll around in my new garden like an excited child.

It’s been an even longer while since I sat down to intense, long periods of bringing together a lot of disparate information, structuring it according to a brief and then giving it that ‘draw’ of the story. Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end and if you can tell that story well, people will read it.

So it’s been interesting to see whether my new freelance modus operandi is different from how I worked in-house.

And it isn’t.

For me, writing encompasses two very different ways of thinking. One is the focused, zoned-in mode, in which you suddenly realise you’ve been at it for hours at a stretch, the sun is over the yard-arm, and you’ve missed Britain’s Got Talent yet again. This is when writers are in ‘impressive’ mode, where you just see them working, working, working and know that your money’s been well spent.

I once got so into something that I worked till 10pm then actually moved – and set off the burglar alarm. It had been activated about three hours previously because people thought the office was empty, but given that all I’d moved was my fingers for the next three hours, the highly calibrated alarm sensors hadn’t picked me up.

But there is another mode, equally as necessary, and for me that’s where I walk away and think about anything other than work. While working in-house that would often involve wandering around and causing mischief. Alternatively I would just disappear. I once played bass guitar for a company band, and I would go to the rehearsal room and work on that tricky bassline (for the record, “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five is fairly tough as is, surprisingly enough, Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer”).

When I came back I would be completely reset and raring to go. Whereas before I could be getting lost in objectives, strategies and tactics, when I came back it would suddenly be crystal clear. Cue impressive mode.

You can’t have one without the other. I think that’s where the top-down approach – that is, the brief you’re working towards – meets the bottom-up, where you introduce new angles and fashion the story.

So now that I’m working from home, albeit in a completely separate annex, it surprises me that I do the same. There’s always the danger that, working on one’s own, you end up wandering around in your underpants making endless cups of tea. Or, alternatively, that you forget to eat and wind up covered in spider webs and snail tracks.

Fortunately it seems I’m maintaining that balance. I am neither in my underpants, nor taking root. I work, then pop out to the garden and read the paper, or stroke the cats, or stare at a bush. Then I go back, and become impressive. And the best thing is, I don’t have to commute. That’s smug mode, by the way.

Balance in all things. If I believed in such twaddle I’d say I’m a typical Libran.