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ACW

Saturday, 23 January 2016

They're not coming, you know - by Helen Murray

Today I feel as if I'm thinking through a fog. You know when you dream that you're being chased, and yet your legs won't move fast enough to run away? Like that, only in my head. I'm thinking through treacle. Trying to have an original thought is difficult, let alone writing it down.

A word of explanation: I'm just getting over a chest and sinus infection that's knocked me for six over the past couple of weeks, and I only have a short time to myself before I need to be somewhere to do something and so I have one eye on the clock. I need to make a phone call that I'm putting off and I've half an idea that my younger daughter wasn't really well enough for school today so the secretary might call me to come and pick her up.

My thoughts don't respond well to being chivvied and marshalled at the best of times, so to try to corral them into a blog post through the vapour of Vicks is compounding the impossible.

And yet, I write. I'm writing because it's nearly the 23rd of the month, which is my day on the blog, and also because CS Lewis had a quick word with me earlier on.

This is what he said:
'If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come.'*
Did you hear that? Favourable conditions never come. 

This is not good news, because I have been on the lookout for favourable conditions for quite some time, you see. The wheels came off my writing ambitions in late Spring last year when a confluence of life events saw me drop pretty much everything to cope with one day at a time, and if I'm honest, I've been waiting ever since for a period of calm, peaceful stability to try and get the show back on the road.

New year, new start?
Waiting, waiting... it's the middle of January and, despite the motivation of a brand new year -- fresh start and all that -- I have a multitude of excuses. I've been ill. The weekly routine is exhausting. My husband is working from home  so it's difficult to find quiet and headspace, as well as a physical location to write. Our business is taking off and more time needs to be spent on that.

Mr Lewis shakes his head with a gentle smile and tells me that favourable conditions never come.

Sometimes I feel the absence of my writing so keenly that I long to get back to it. I can't say that I'm inundated with ideas at the moment but I remember the times when I was with a nostalgia that's almost painful. If only I could get that back -- those were the days when I was confident and enthusiastic, convinced that I was going somewhere. Instead, it feels impossible.

I realise that my definition of  'favourable conditions' is getting more and more specific. Here's what I need, please:

I require days at a time, long days, alone in the house (which will be clean and tidy); I will be well rested, healthy and relaxed in body and spirit, and my head will not be full of things. The children will be getting on together, happy, doing well at school and secure in their friendships. There will be no doctors appointments on the calendar. My computer will be functioning efficiently and my mailbox up to date.  The doorbell will not ring (though it will be working), the phone will be silent and I will be up to date and missing nothing on all social media. The sun will be shining (but not so much that the garden needs attention) and the sky will be blue. A variety of wildlife will occasionally scurry into view around the apple trees and bird feeders (which will be full) long enough to inspire me but not distract me. I will be warm enough but not drowsy. Cool enough but not chilly. The coffee machine will be full of coffee and my chair will be comfy and the desk the right height. The label in my jumper will not itch.

Yes, that's about it.

So, favourable conditions never come. They're not coming. I should finish this post with determined resolve to write and keep writing despite the aches, pains, coughs, worries, noise, interruptions, temperature, dust and distractions. That's what I should do.

I should, perhaps, lower my expectations. Grab a little bit of time here and there and make a start. Just get some words down, even if they're not arranged as nicely as I'd like them to be. In fact, I should stuff perfectionism in a stout box, tape it up securely and then push it right to the back of the loft, out of reach.

While I'm up there, balanced on the ladder, I should blow the dust off my writing projects, from the abandoned blog that used to be my lifeline, to the huge and ambitious novel-dream, and break them up into the smallest of pieces, and tackle them one by one, small step by small step, as opportunity allows. I need to stop opening the door to opportunities and telling them that they're not opportunities, and instead invite them in and make them at home.

I should stop waiting for favourable conditions that never come.

That's what I should do.





*CS Lewis, The Weight Of Glory, 2001, Zondervan  
CS Lewis was talking about learning (during wartime, to be specific), but he was convinced that it applied to my situation too. He made a compelling argument. 




Helen Murray lives in Derbyshire with her husband, two daughters and her mum.

Having spent time as a researcher, church worker and Hand Therapist, Helen is now a full time mum and writer, currently supposed to be working on her first novel. 

As well as writing and reading, she drinks coffee, takes photographs, swims and has ninety three Aloe Vera plants at the last count. It's getting ridiculous.

Helen has two blogs: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she writes about life and faith, and Badger on the Roof where readers are treated to a blow by blow account of her novel-writing progress, or lack thereof. It's been a while since there was anything to report. 

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray

Twitter: @helenmurray01

29 comments:

  1. Well done, Helen. I sometimes cut labels out of clothes. I don't know why they make them so irritating! Sue

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    1. Yes, I should definitely get busy snipping! Thanks for reading, Sue.

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  2. This is a great post Helen - even in a mind fog you write so well and that is why, yes you should go ahead and do :)

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    1. Tania, thank you. I should, I should... and yet...
      Thank you so much for the encouragement. Means a lot. x

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  3. Brilliant post. So true it's almost Biblic ... Nope, better not say that. I loved your Utopia paragraph - there's a programme on tonight on Radio 4 at 8pm about different Utopian dreams. This should be on it. I am definitely going to remember this, because that's what I'm always waiting for, too - favourable conditions. And, you know what? Not one has turned up!!!

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    1. Funny, that, Fran. The stars have never aligned for me, either. And don't get me started on Utopian dreams, or I'll wax lyrical about a remote cottage with a sea-view, WiFi and an endless supply custard creams...

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  4. That's a very good post. Thank you.

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  5. Thanks, Helen - a timely reminder!

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  6. This really spoke to me - a great post.

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  7. All true, true, true! It's like waiting till you have enough money and the perfect house before you have a baby or waiting for the perfect space In your life before you get a dog. Like Nike says: Just Do It. Somehow life fits In and around the baby/dog. So just go into a wee corner, shut the door on all the housework etc and WRITE for 2 or 3 hours. Then somehow your life will fit in and around those writing hours. And the other people in your life will come to accept that's how it is. Mmm . . . Think I'll try it myself!

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    1. I've come to the same conclusion, Fran. All I have to do now is get started....

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  8. Ready girls? Panto style. 'Oh yes they do.' (Oh, not they don't) 'Oh, yes they do.' (Oh, not they don't). 'They're behind you.' (Turns) 'No. They're behind you.' (Turns) 'They're there. Grab them. Quick! Quick! Before they go.'
    :D
    Great post Helen!

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    1. They're...just....out...of reach...
      Thanks, Mel. :-)

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  9. I thoroughly enjoyed getting back to reading your blogs Helen. When I read your work I hear myself saying "she's such a great writer" keep going with your gift.

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    1. Ah, Rowena, thank you! I'm hoping to get back to writing them, too!

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  10. So that's where I've been going wrong! Great post, Helen. xx

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    1. Me too, Fiona. Well, not only that...
      Thanks for being lovely, as always. x

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  11. Thanks for this Helen - so true. Especially in January when we expect a new year to bring a totally new life.

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    1. ...and then it turns out that January is just the same as December but without the fairy lights. I need to find a way to kick-start myself, I think.
      Thanks, Veronica. x

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  12. So much resonates with me here, Helen. Oh how I long for those favourable conditions that never come! Maybe I'll join you in a 'feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway' kind of way. Because life happens. And we can make our writing dreams and goals happen one tiny step at a time. Yes, please do dust off your manuscript, re-birth the blog and share what you can when you can. I agree with others here. You definitely have a gift and a team of cheerleaders in us. Go for it, girl! :) Xx

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    1. Thank you, Joy. I know you are all too familiar with the 'life gets in the way' scenario. Cheering you right back my friend. x

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  13. You've articulated this so well, thank you Helen. I hope the tension transfers into creative productivity soon. Funny how we long for ease yet so often the best work comes out of difficulties - be encouraged, the passion has not left you and I'm sure a way forward will open up for you somehow. Thank you for this post.

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    2. Peppy, you have no idea how much you have encouraged me. The words, '...the passion has not left you,' mean an awful lot to me, as there have been lots of times over the last few months where I've been wondering if it has. Thank you so much.

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  14. I liked the blog but really you had me at: "has ninety three Aloe Vera plants at the last count. It's getting ridiculous." :)

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I'm afraid it's true. I'm terrified of repotting them all because then the 93 will start to have babies....

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