A writer’s life is never dull

September 20, 2011, No comments

‘How does it feel to be a full-time writer?’ That’s what I get asked these days. Or ‘When is the German edition coming?’Oh, and not forgetting the perennial ‘Which is the best Swiss chocolate?’. The last two are easy – March 2012 and all of it – but that first question always flummoxes me a little. My short answer is ‘wonderful’, which is the one I usually give. Not because I haven’t got anything to say on the subject but because I don’t want to make people jealous. And I often wonder if it’s a question like ‘How are you?’, where the last answer they want is a detailed list of ailments and traumas; a ‘Fine thanks’ is all that’s expected. But now I think it’s time to go beyond the wonderful and give you a little glimpse into what it is really like to be a full-time writer.

Let’s start with the good news. It’s fun being creative and having the time to do it. Reading through the German manuscript of Swiss Watching, researching quirky facts for the next book, thinking of ideas for the cover, planning the next fact-finding trip. And of course writing every day – without feeling rushed or stressed or tired. My To Do list is longer than ever, so I have no idea how I managed to write a book last time while working as well. Maybe it is true that we do just find work to fill our time. Luckily for me it’s all work that I can’t wait to do. How fab to be able to say that and mean it.

Now the bad news. The hardest thing can be having no set schedule, unless I create one for myself: no shop opening hours, no urgent meetings, no difference between weekdays and weekends. Sometimes that’s liberating, having a feeling of working when it suits me and fitting the rest of my life around that. Sometimes it’s disastrous – like when you’d even rather clean the oven than sit down and write; at least I now have a very clean kitchen. And then there’s the lack of human contact. My last five years were spent working on the shop floor, surrounded by people every day. It’s quite a change to be just me and my computer, though it’s certainly easier to please than some customers.

Just as well I still have a reason to get out of the house: events. The biggest surprise for me about having a successful book is how much I have to do other than write. Interviews to give, articles to write, emails to answer, and of course this blog – all that I half-expected. But speaking in public wasn’t ever on my agenda, mainly because I never enjoyed it. Until now. Whether it’s a book reading, a cross-cultural workshop, or speaking to various groups, I love that opportunity for interaction. Make them laugh, make them think, answer their questions and sign their books. Even that last part is now just a happy by-product; what started as a way of promoting an unknown book has become a way of meeting all sorts of people, most of whom I would never otherwise get a chance to speak to. So many readers have ‘met’ me through the book and this blog that it’s rather lovely to meet some of them in person.

So on Sunday I’m off to Lugano, down in deepest Ticino. A chance for some late summer sun, some great ice cream and to support everyone at the Book Nook. I’m speaking at their Revue, a benefit evening to help this great book service prosper. The Book Nook offers over 4000 English books and DVDs to rent, and is staffed by volunteers. What a great thing for the people of Lugano, and not just the expats, to have on their doorstep! If you want to come along on Sunday, then all the details are here.

After that I’ll be speaking at the Swiss-British Society in Bern on 18 October, holding a workshop at ETAS in Baden on 29 October, doing something special at the Léman Expat Fair in Lausanne on 6 November, and speaking at Brits in Business in Geneva on 6 December. Never a dull month to be had! As always, all the details and links are on the Events page of this blog. And the added extra is that I’ll be on DRS4 Radio next Friday, 30 September, as part of the Treffpunkt Bundesplatz series of live programmes.

And in between all those events, the writing continues. That feels almost normal now.

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