The title of this play from Ellie Stewart intrigues me, and so the first thing I ask her is where it came from:
"It comes from the local gossip based on the folklore of the island. Women were banished there because they were 'too much mischief' to have around the Monastery on Iona."
The island Ellie is referring to is Eilean nam Ban (Island of Women), and I discover that St. Columba claimed, "where there is a cow there is a woman, and where there is a woman there is mischief". The wives and daughters of the abbey builders were exiled to live on the island with the cows.
One of the biggest challenges I face as a writer is finding the time to write. Somehow this seems to be a different problem from finding the time to do housework, school prep' or helping my own kids with their studying.
Today I'm asking three of my fellow writers from Crooked Cat Publishing how they manage to balance writing with work and family.
Jeff Gardiner is an acclaimed author whose short work and long fiction spans and explores genre boundaries. I was surprised to discover how close Jeff's story is to my own...
"I’ve had different phases in my writing career.
Firstly, I wrote whilst holding down a full-time job as a teacher. This proved difficult as teaching is a mentally and physically draining occupation with lots of marking and preparation. I attempted to use weekends, and holidays to best effect, but it certainly limited the word-count and the scope of what I could write. I admire anyone who manages to juggle a full-time job and writing, as writing is one of those things that requires space and time. It’s very difficult to just grab ten minutes or half an hour and expect to write something of any quality – particularly if writing a novel which needs lots of headspace and room for development.
Then I went part-time with my teaching. This sounds great but it also coincided with having children. Looking after babies and trying to write didn’t really work for me. It wasn’t until they went to school that I really began to find the space and time to write properly. Writing short stories during this time worked out quite well, but longer projects just seemed out of reach.
Once they started school (my kids are now 9 and 11) I then had from 9am until 2.30pm to call my own – at first for two days a week, now for three or four days a week, depending on other work commitments. The problems with working at home are the distractions and chores I have to factor in: going to the shops; phoning insurers, mechanics, plumbers et al; clearing out the guinea pig hutch; washing up… When you work at home it’s assumed you’re free to do other tasks, or are free for a chat and a coffee. I now find that I get less work done at the weekends and during school holidays, as I want to spend quality time with my children. It’s a personal choice.
It’s difficult to set sensible targets for writing and being creative. ‘Finish novel’ is something I write on my Things To Do list. Simple, eh? Writing demands thinking time, planning, editing, rewriting, plus time to recover from feelings of failure after many rejections. And I haven’t even begun to consider marketing and publicity yet…
If you love writing you’ll find time. But it isn’t easy – whatever people might think from the outside. You also need family and friends who understand what you’re doing and who offer support and positive comments."
My three children have all gone back to school and it's the start of a new year which to many of us means the possibility of new beginnings. My latest novel, Beat the Drum, is tucked away in a bottom drawer before its final edit and so it's time to start a new writing project. And so this is why I find myself sitting in front of a cosy fire (it's freezing outside!) with a new notebook on my knee in the hope that a new idea will pop into my head out of the ether. Wish me luck...
Emma Mooney is a writer of Scottish contemporary fiction and is the author of A Beautiful Game. and Wings to Fly.