This is not an admission of defeat. This is me confessing that, despite what I previously believed, I am not actually bionic.
The Jan who rarely drops the ball, who cruises on 6 hours of sleep, who acts on every idea, (no matter how idiotic), and reads entire novels before breakfast is going into hibernation for a while. For the next few months I may not be myself. I’ve decided to be ok with this in the hope that you good folks who know me best and muddle through life with me on a daily basis will also be ok with a less than herself sort of Jan. I’m not sad. I’m not falling apart. I am, in fact, happier, more excited, more expectant and inspired than I think I’ve ever been. But I am however, human and have recently come to the crunching realisation that I can’t do everything for everybody all the time and still have time to write stories worth reading.
If I’m truly honest I am beyond tired and tottering on the edge of exhaustion. I am daunted on a daily basis by all the very many exciting things which are happening to me very quickly and without warning. I am more than a little anxious about being stretched well beyond my comfort zone and the much-loathed eyelid twitch which normally plagues me during periods of weariness has ventured South, pitching camp on the end of my nose so I find myself constantly tensing and un-tensing my nostrils like a snuffling guinea pig. I think it’s fair to say I am now aware of my own limitations.
I have been privileged enough to watch a lot of artists journey through this period in their career and I’m ashamed to say I’ve been guilty of saying things like, “they’ve really changed” and “they don’t have time for people any more” and other such clichéd asides. Now, as I approach the next three months and all the challenges and possibilities they might contain I feel terrible for having even thought some of these negative, judgmental things. I have changed. I’m on the brink of having a stab at achieving the one thing I’ve most wanted my whole life and for the next few months I’m going to chose to prioritise this. I feel like I’d be selling myself and the opportunities I’ve been given short if I didn’t throw myself 100% behind this book. I also don’t really have that much time for people at the minute. It’s not that I don’t want to see you, it’s just that I’m still working a job that consumes about 50 hours of my week, I’m still writing 5,000 words a week to make the deadline for my next novel, I’m reading and speaking at 15 different venues in the next 3 months, I’m trying to keep up with research reading and writing articles to promote the new novel and I’m organising a twelve city book tour in the states over the summer. I’m also trying, (and occasionally failing), to be a friend, a sister, a daughter, a person whose house does not descend under several feet of dust and also the most kick-ass Aunt in Belfast. I feel like one of those plate spinning ladies from the circus.
So I’m asking for a little grace, a lot of patience and some help over the next wee while because I want to emerge from this period of craziness wiser and humbler, a better friend and artist, than I currently am and I think for me that looks like learning to be dependant on some of you. I know I’m not going to make the summer sane without relying on the people who know me best. If you do want to help here’s some really practical things you can sign up for.
- Allow me to drop the ball. Accept that if I forget something or look like I’m about to fall asleep during conversation or say no to something you ask for, there’s no malicious intent, it’s mostly just sleep deprivation
- Don’t ask for anything, even little things. On an average day I get 25-30 emails/texts/messages from people outside of work mostly asking little things like “what is the name of that author” and “do you have so and so’s phone number” and “can you find me 40 medieval shields” and “do you know anyone I could stay with in Barcelona?” Normally, I don’t mind answering these questions at all. I love connecting people but for a few months i’m probably going to ignore these queries just because I don’t have time. Once again not an attempt to offend anyone and perhaps a chance for you to become more familiar with the mystical powers of Google.
- Please come see me. There is nothing more depressing that reading to 50 empty chairs and three crazy people in a library. Familiar, smiling faces have always had a powerful restorative effect on the knee trembles I get when I have to stand up and read. Just by turning up you could be the difference between a car crash and the Gettysburg Address.
- Pray for physical energy and a quick mind and that I might, by some holy osmosis, inherit the administrative powers of my younger brother before all these spread sheets and emails squeeze the last ounce of creative energy out of me.
- Don’t say “you look tired” (I know I look like an over-washed sock). Don’t say “you need to rest more” (at this stage this is akin to telling a woman in the throes of labour to stop pushing). Don’t say “you look tired, you need to rest more. let me take you out for a coffee” (because either I will feel like I need to find time to do this and feel even more harried or I will say “I do not have the time to do this” and feel extremely guilty).
- Keep saying “July is coming, July is coming,” like some kind of apocalyptic mantra. Perhaps find a jaunty tune with which to soundtrack this phrase.
- Ignore me when I say, as I find myself saying approximately 2,000 times per day, “just let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you, anything at all.” It is a lie. What I really meant to say was, “right now I can barely fix my own breakfast cereal so you’d probably be better finding someone else to help with your issue in the meantime.” If you believe me and ask for help I will probably organise your tea dance/drive you to Larne/attempt to teach your children how to box, because I cannot help myself. But secretly, in my heart, I will be cursing you.
- Hook me up. I need readings, radio shows, magazine and newspaper articles, blogs, photo opportunities, whatever you can think of. I put a whole lot of everything I feel most passionate about into Malcolm and I’d like to give the boy a fair shot at making his own way in the world. If it helps to enthuse you, you may wish to visualise Malcolm Orange as a real boy, perhaps the pallid, ghost-seeing child in M. Night Shyamalan’s hit movie, The Sixth Sense, would be appropriate.
Know that you are appreciated. Know that you are absolutely essential to my well-being in the next few months. Know that normal service will eventually resume and thereafter I will spend the rest of the year buying you all beer/coffee/chocolate/paperback novels in grateful displays of thanksgiving.