I’m writing this with sore wrists and aching hands. Today has been a marathon day of writing, a rare day when all the factors needed to make me write well and effectively slotted into place. I woke early, after a late night watching Hitchcock and drinking red wine. The electrician was coming at 8 to do some long-awaited repairs, so whilst my other half was dealing with him, I just went straight to the study, to my desk, no tv, no cup of tea, just me and the laptop. I got stuck into the creative non-fiction book I am writing, which is essentially a midwifery memoir, based on my time as a student midwife. I had hit the amazing milestone of 50,000 words on Thursday, which felt like a huge achievement, and I managed a few more thousand on Friday. But everything felt right today. My mind was clear. I could see the whole shape of the book, and knew what I needed to do to complete the first draft of the narrative. I knew also that this first, rough draft was only a stepping stone, but I wanted to reach that point, where I could start to work on the book as a book, as a whole, shaping it, fleshing it out, add depth to the characters and the plot, such as it is.
So I sat at the desk, on my cold, plastic chair, and wrote. A cup of tea appeared shortly after I sat down, which I drank lukewarm, distracted as I was by my imagination. My fingers flew, faster and faster, as fast as I could think, fighting to keep up with the flow in my mind. Memories turned into narrative, images into words, knowledge translated into the shaping of things. Recreating a world that might have been, and approximation of how it was, tempered by time and the gentle taming of my inner censor. Some things are too much for the average reader, especially when it comes to the nitty gritty of midwifery. Reality is always better leavened by afterthought.
And so I wrote, page after page, line after line, the word count piling up. I was moving towards my goal, the end point, the culmination of that section of my life narrative. I have rehearsed and reviewed the key points and events many, many times. I’ve told the micro-narratives, the little stories, many times, especially to student midwives, helping them to learn from my mistakes, as it were. As I wrote, the people also flashed before my eyes, friends long gone to other lives, tutors and midwives and clients, some clear, some barely remembered. I tried to give shape to the threads of my life, the themes that coalesced and recurred as I made my way towards my goal, negotiating the boulder-strewn path of my own limitations.
Time passed. More tea arrived. The electrician appeared, asking for instructions on where to place a light under the kitchen cupboards – as I do most of the cooking, it was my preference that counted. More tea. At around 9,000 words, I stopped to reheat last night’s takeaway for brunch. Then back to it, the story urgent, a demanding child, tugging at the sleeve of my imagination. It was not an easy process, I must say, because I was not just dealing with abstract facts, but with feelings, my feelings, a massively mixed-up jumble of regret, love, happiness, fear, despair, anger, loss and longing. But it felt good, at last, to reach the end point, the stage that I knew to be the close of the story.
And there it was. Twelve thousand words, in a little over five hours. Blessed with a lightning speed as a typist, still, I think this is the most I have achieved in the shortest time. It’s rough still, this story, it needs shaping to make it pleasing to the outside eye. It needs more structure to make it understandable, to capture the reader’s imagination properly, effectively. But its a draft. It may be finished, as a first draft, but it really is only the beginning. The first marathon of many.