At work this morning they asked me, ‘What did you do on the weekend?’ and, after the moment it took me to remember back to the time before I turned into the street and then the gate and parked downstairs, I said, ‘I wrote ten thousand words.’
It’s a small exaggeration. I didn’t write ten, I wrote eight and a half, and that half of them this morning and that is why I was almost late, but for all in tents and porpoises, I wrote ten.
‘You see, it’s like this,’ I said to the mister yesterday at about two and I was facing a pretty heavy afternoon because the hours had diminished faster than the word count had grown. ‘I really want to push the story along, so I told myself that I should get from twenty thousand to thirty, and I’m at that point. Either I start doing the things I’ve told myself I’m going to do, or…’
‘Or you’ve made a decision that you don’t.’
I can’t remember another time that he has ever finished my sentence for me. He had, by then, hung out the washing and bludgeoned the lads into vacuuming and dropped one off at a friend’s and now he was off to the gym and then the supermarket. While I kept chipping away at my words.
There was nothing different in what I had done. Set a target, a deadline to reach it by and told everyone I intended to sit at my desk and work. But this time, I saw it differently. I felt it differently. This time, there was no reason it couldn’t be done. I have found a plot that keeps me enthralled, characters who fascinate and characters who terrify. I have found a voice that speaks in just the right tone. And there is nothing else that needs to be done.
But there was something even more, even deeper than all those things.
I was not scared of unearthing my words.
I was not frightened of what they would say to me, what they might say about me. And I was not scared that I would look at them today and think, ‘stupid, unbending, inflexible words’, because I knew, as I let them fly from my fingers, that one day I will look at these words, reshaped and repositioned but from this beginning, and I will think, ‘That’s what I wanted to say, and it’s how I wanted to say it.’
I knew that these were more than words, banged out, thrown down, to try and convince myself I could write.
Eldest came and stood by my side last night before he went to bed. ‘How’s it going Mum? Are you finished? Did you get all your words done?’ He looked down at my sticky note, the gatepost tally of my twenty minute blocks and the columns of figures, thousands, five hundreds, two fifties.
He put his arm around my shoulders. ‘It’s okay. You type really fast.’
‘The problem is I can’t think as fast as I can type.’
‘Oh, but you’ve done your first draft, right?’
‘No. This is my first draft.’
‘Oh.’ He wrote a persuasive essay earlier this week, outline, first draft, final copy. He does not need to know about the many years, the several false starts that have passed before I could even get to this first draft. It is good to believe that life is as simple as outline, first draft, final copy, mark. His hand patted my shoulder. ‘Still. I think twenty eight thousand is a lot. It’s more than twenty, isn’t it?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It definitely is.’
While I was tapping away, the mister went to the supermarket balding and came back bald. He went to Spinney’s to shop, and there’s a hairdresser upstairs. They charged him eighty dirhams. Eighty dirhams to come home bald. Youngest has taken it in his stride, but eldest lad was still horrified this morning.
‘What will they say when they see their boss is bald?’
‘I did it once,’ I told him. ‘I shaved my head. It was fun. Maybe I’ll do it again.’
‘No,’ he said and shook his head. ‘We need at least one adult with hair.’