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As Brighton comes alive with its annual Arts Festival, I feel pleasantly isolated from all the activity up at the top of Muesli Mountain – the affectionate name for Hanover, the hilly area with its many coloured houses where I live. I’m enjoying a hiatus from mothering for 4 days, and though missing my son already it is so delicious to be able to follow my own curves of movement through space and time. To sit typing all day under a duvet, have only three dishes to wash up instead of about twenty, and to go dancing and see friends whenever I like. When I have childfree time my tendency can be to swallow all my creative time in social interaction, to make up for the snatched and interrupted conversations that are a feature of life with a small child. But I have managed this time to carve out some proper writing time, and plan to stick to it!

My ally in this is a simple new lists/time management method I’ve come up with. Nothing revolutionary, but I’ll share it anyway in case it helps. I’ve discovered that I need my goals for the week to be incredibly specific, or only vagueness and procrastination tend to result. For example, I used to have a goal of, say, five hours of writing a week. When regularly nothing more than one or two hours of writing occurred, I tried being more specific: ‘Working on short stories, poems and non fiction project for 5 total hours’. Nah. No difference. So now, I’ve literally broken it down to this degree: 1/2 an hour editing a poem for a booklet competition. 2 hours re-reading my novel with a view to finishing it. 45 minutes on a pitch to a magazine (oops, yet to get to that one!).

And so far, it’s working. I’m doing it for all areas of my life, too. In neat columns on a piece of paper on my wall, where I can cross things off. Instead of ‘clean flat’, it’s the nitty gritty of ‘hoover hallways’, etc. What this new list system has illuminated is the sheer amount of life admin and Breastfeeding Counsellor related admin tasks I have to do each week. And how these tasks tend to dominate and take over, leaving little breathing room for my writing. So again, I’m becoming strict about my time by designating particular days to each task – I will not book anything on a Monday unless absolutely unavoidable, as that will be my writing day. I will leave Thursdays mostly free too, with space for an artist’s date (which will be going to the Royal Pavilion Museum & Gallery today). Three weeks of this system and I am feeling pleased with the result. I’ve submitted flash fiction pieces to two websites, come up with a few new freelance article ideas and summaries, written up some interview questions for a non-fiction project, and done a lot of de-cluttering and filing which frees up space in my head and my physical surroundings. I’ve also got a new weekly yoga client starting next week. Most satisfying!

I’m also trying out a variation on a method a friend told me about, to deal with procrastination. I note down every action I take within a block of time that I’ve designated to work of some kind. That way I can see how many times I’ve gone onto Facebook and done other non-work-related tasks, and having to write it down makes me more accountable and more likely to skip it. I also like this quote from The Organic Sister, an inspirational and empowering life coach, as a way of dealing with avoidance tactics: ‘Is this feeding my soul? Feeding my greater vision and purpose in this world? Is this feeding the souls of others?’

Last time I told you about applying for a place on the Creative Writing MA at Westdean College. Well, I am pleased to tell you (although if you are one of my loyal readers you probably already know!) that I have been given a place on the course, and am to start, part time, in October. I am so excited about having 17 hours a week to devote to my creative writing. I know that the structure and input from talented writers will do so much for my knowledge about this craft, and I will finally be giving the necessary space for what I believe is one of my main purposes in life. In the meantime, my research for grants to fund my studies continues!

Here is a poem I wrote a while ago, which emerged from a writing exercise with my good friend and writing buddy Lou Ice. We like to meet at Marwood”s in the Laines, a great atmospheric coffee shop with comfy couches and interesting roof views at the top, and write for two hours. Lately I’ve been writing poems on the theme of Brighton, my home for 8 years, and in this one I gave some attention to a species of Brightonian that is often despised but which fascinates me – Seagulls.

Seagulls

above the city,

the steeples pitching light

against the cerulean sky,

the sky that makes me feel

like a balloon ready to burst,

that gathers

our summer memories and

lets them loose,

above the city,

the seagulls preen and call,

their steely eyes

capturing it all as they sit

on the roof of the flats above

Hardy’s Original Sweet Shop

in the Laines –

I see one seagull spread his wings, then

re-settle back on the roof,

thinking better of it.

His mate is nestled nearby,

head tucked under a wing,

possibly asleep.

Their secret life is conducted above us all.

The sky is their habitat,

while ours is the grey street,

looking down at our feet.

They see the piping

reaching from top to bottom of the

building with its curlicue brickwork

like the gingerbread house

in Hansel and Gretel,

the makeshift curtain

only half covering the window.

The gull’s mate

is asleep now,

the other still turns his head

like a weather vane,

perhapsĀ observing the mildewed wall face

and the un-used red chimney tops,

the shops that used to be fishermen’s cottages,

and they don’t mind the grey,

because they have the blue,

the white passing clouds

and the sun so close they could dare it.