As the excellent and often underrated British author Penelope Fitzgerald once observed ‘women are all kitchen table scribblers...’ She meant that we write when and where we can find a moment, in between the demands of work, kids, spouse and household chores. I myself have been known to run away from the stove where things were threatening to bubble over to jot down a quick note or a line of dialogue before it disappeared again.
In all honesty, and to head off any cries of sexism, this can apply to male authors too.
It seems these days many of us start our literary careers at work. In my case, and I seem to be in good company there, it started while working an endless string of dull temp jobs. I can remember a few where I was able to fill at least half a notebook.
One temp job in particular stands out in my memory. Not because it was a fun one or particularly easy to get to, I had to sit in traffic for almost an hour each way, but because there was truly, absolutely, nothing to do. To alleviate the boredom that mushroomed in between two or three phone calls I had to answer and the odd person coming to the counter, I decided to put the old computer at my workstation to good use and write a book.
It wasn’t a very well thought out book, but I was working my imagination and keeping busy between 8 am and 5 pm. The mandated lunch break was just a chance to stretch my legs, find a decent cup of coffee and have a sandwich before returning to ‘my book’.
The office was staffed by total of 3 people, women with conflicting ambitions, and there didn’t appear much communication between any of them as they all huddled in their individual offices, ignoring me. As long as they signed my work card I was happy to be left alone.
Once I’d finished ‘my book’ I realized I needed a way to get it off that computer and home with me. I’d already printed out each days‘ progress as I went along; just a few pages a day so as not arouse suspicion if the printer went on too long. I carefully selected the woman to ask for a diskette (yes, it was that long ago), assuming she was the least likely to give me away as she was quite junior there, and there were whispers she would be transferred to another office soon.
I picked wrong.
I got my diskette and blissfully went home with 'my book' on it ... but the next morning I got a phone call from the temp agency saying my contract had been cut short due to budgeting issues, or some such vague reason. I shrugged it off and moved on.
Two days later I had another temp job. This time I was told I could read if things were slow, as long as I would hide the book if a client showed up at the counter. It turned out to be a great opportunity to catch up on some of the classics in literature.
All time well-spent in honing the craft of a writer.
PS: No interview this month. It wasn’t possible to organize one with the end of summer vacation looming and back-to-school details to attend to.