Previously, on The Pram in the Hallway...
It’s been almost nine months since the last installment of ‘The Pram in the Hallway’ – sorry to keep you hanging like that. You could have gestated a baby in that time, whilst simultaneously completing the first draft of your second novel and winning the Baileys Prize for Fiction with your first. If so, you should click away now. This blog is for considerably less successful author-parents than you – smartypants!
But back to me. Last summer I left you on a crumbling coastline of suspense - would anyone in their right mind ever give me a job? How many more excuses could I find for not finishing my novel? Just how damaged would Dexter grow up to be thanks to me blogging about his rubber band fixation and his winky? And would I ever stop writing sentences that went on and on, and disappeared down country lanes of tangents – the kind with grass-growing in the middle of them and no passing places…?
Well folks, the wait is over, so clear the schedules and prepare to hunker down with a brand new season of 'The Pram in the Hallway' – because the kind people at Writers’ Hub have let me back in, (We did? – Ed) that is if I promise not to write any more stuff about big jobs, lying to children and behaving badly in public libraries (see earlier blogs for full disclosure on these topics).
So where was I? Oh yes – the noble search for work. Well an amazing thing happened – I got a job being PAID to write. Yes, finally, after five years of being a stuck-at-home mum with literary pretentions I was finally living the dream and getting cold hard cash for my red hot words. No, I wasn’t writing porn, I was selling experiences.
All I had to do in exchange for a desk of my own (oh luxury!), central heating, free tea and coffee, and an actual salary, was to turn up to the office five days a week between the hours of 8.30 am and 5 pm, and spin language into money like an internet Rumplestiltskin. Okay, so I wasn’t writing the Great English Novel, but I was getting paid the going rate – a lot more than an average first-time novelist’s advance – for composing compelling descriptions of Afternoon Teas (All hail ‘The Cake Stand of Joy’), hot air balloon flights (if the wind’s in the right direction) and Supercar Blasts on a Real Race Track™. Furthermore, for the first time in my writing life I had a huge audience of readers! And I was changing their lives! With my honeyed words promising luxury, excitement and the chance to boast to their friends that they’d been up The Shard and had a two-course meal at a Marco Pierre White chop house, I was taking my readers on a journey where they would become the hero and heroine of their own two-for-one, all-in Experience Day – subject to availability and with full terms and conditions applying. I was selling dreams, Baby!
Except on those days when I had to stay at home because Dexter had yet another cold or tummy bug, or when I had to leave the office halfway through the day because his school had a power cut, the child-minder was thwarted by a family emergency, or it was the school art exhibition and Dexter really wanted me to be there. Or on those days when I was late in because I just had to talk to his teacher, or when I was fielding calls from our lovely babysitter about just how long Dexter was allowed to have on the iPad and whether or not he was really allowed to eat four chocolate mini-rolls in one sitting (he was not). Yup, a pattern was forming - one that all working parents will be familiar with.
I had done everything I could to put reliable ‘wraparound’ childcare in place – but I had not allowed for the fact that leaving a five-year-old with a variety of different child-minders, babysitters, After School Club settings and even friends (Thank you friends! You were life-savers) automatically increases your already medium-to-high risk of harboring a walking talking germ factory in the family. What a dunderhead I was.
“Couldn’t you work from home sometimes?” Dexter’s dad inquired one night, as we were going through Dexter’s book-bag, sorting through the neglected sheets of homework, out-of-date party invitations, snotty tissues and moldy bits of sandwich that we both thought the other had dealt with. “Or ask if you could reduce your hours to fours days a week. It’s not as if you have meetings or talk to people or get to express opinions that anyone listens to.”
It was a sad but accurate description of my average working day, during which I sat at my desk and waited for my workload to ping into my inbox, then researched it online, wrote it, edited it and emailed it back. I was surrounded by the hubbub of work colleagues – sometimes to the point of distraction (there are only so many diet-related conversations a person should have to overhear on any given day) but as the sole copywriter in the company my workload rarely intercepted with anyone else’s. This meant that whole days could pass when I didn’t speak to anyone, just wrote and wrote. When they canceled the one weekly meeting I got invited to, I was bereft for days.
Dexter’s dad was right, I could have easily done the work from home – I could have done it from a ‘shoffice’ in the garden, a balcony in Biarritz, or from the moon if someone could sort out the WiFi connection. And wasn’t remote working the modern way of doing things now – the work/life balance we’d all been promised? Apparently not. And so after six months my job and I parted company. Which was sad, because I really loved a lot of things about it –especially the getting paid part.
Still, the good news is that having given up writing for a living I now have more time to write about how having kids gives you no time to make a living from writing…and to celebrate the re-launch of my Writers’ Hub blog I’m giving it a rebrand that more accurately sums up what you can expect from me over the next few weeks and months. After all, Dexter’s way too big for a pram now and if my time as a copywriter taught me anything it’s the value of a pithy title that doesn’t waste words. So, ladies and gentlemen, bid a fond farewell to ‘The Pram in the Hallway’ and give a big Writers' Hub welcome to ‘The Vauxhall Corsa with Booster Seat on the Driveway!’ Well, I’m still tweaking the title a bit, so bear with me.