Sometimes it feels as though my job is answering emails, but that’s to undersell the time I spend writing them. My job at the moment is as much producer as artist, so at least half my time is spent trying to build projects. It’s going well and there’ll be some announcements in the coming weeks, but I never thought it would happen. And I never thought I’d enjoy it.
For the week ahead I’m actually excited that every day is a desk day. No workshops, no teaching, no rehearsals. Bar one skype, no meetings even. Despite appearances, it’s an exciting week because that much time affords sufficient reduction in pressure on everything else to be able to allocate a decent chunk of time to writing. Signing off press releases, negotiating with venues, applying for licenses; everything else always appears so much more urgent than writing. In theory I always give the first half of every day to the important, rather than the merely urgent. But for the past few weeks there’s been too much urgency and too little desk time.
So of course I’ve engaged in a surfeit of magical thinking about what can be achieved in four half-days. The target is finished drafts of two separate things. Neither is yet half-done. The drafts don’t have to be good; they just have to be drafts.
I have all this time at my desk partly because a couple of months ago my summer summarily emptied itself out. Four separate projects, for entirely unrelated reasons, were moved out of this summer and into next year, leaving a vast desert of unemployment. I’m going to talk much more about this next week, in particular how it’s being navigated practically and financially. But for now, I’m in the unprecedented and joyous position where writing and producing my own work is, unequivocally, my actual job. This hasn’t really happened before, not in this way. I’m thirty-nine next month and I still can’t quite get over the fact that I’m actually doing this, this is my job, it’s allowed. So it’s a good job I’m finding a way to enjoy it.
Read of the week: despite never having read any of her actual memoirs, last week I read The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. Don’t let a lack of any interest in that form put you off. It’s a terrific, pungent, uncompromising, practical guide to writing for any art form. Particularly bracing is her insistence on refusing to let yourself off the hook by writing about anything short of the core of whatever is really bothering you. The real challenge – she gets into this, too – is discovering what that core is. It’s not usually the thing you thought it was when you started.
I’m juggling writing three different things at the moment, and I found the book differently helpful for all of them. One of them is a new show I’m making for the Edinburgh Fringe (which will be formally announced in a couple of weeks). I’ve got loads of material I quite like, but none of it was really catching fire. A few years ago I might have settled for this and trusted that the jokes would be good enough, or the core question interesting enough, to either compensate for or disguise the absence of real heat. But you do more work, you get better at sniffing out your own bullshit. Mary Karr has given me a few more tools for getting deeper.
Watch of the week: It’s increasingly apparent that Line of Duty andGame of Thronesare designed to be compulsive rather than coherent. In the early series of each I used to forgive the stupidity on account of the compulsiveness, but as the same flaws repeat again and again, their compulsiveness becomes itself a stupidity.
Until the last five minutes, I actually thought this series of Line of Duty was the best one for ages. Then I threw up my hands in exasperation. Stupid stupid stupid. I’ve been under no such illusions about this series of Game of Thrones, although I liked the episode where nothing happened. I tell myself that I’m allowed to watch this shit, rather than doing something productive or good for that couple of hours a week, because I’ve got two kids and popcorn time is sorely limited. But there are far better stupid ways to spend my time.
Run of the week: I haven’t run for five weeks now and although this injury is on the mend, I’m not quite there yet. Every time I’ve been to the gym I’ve posted on strava that I think I’m a week away from running. I now think it’s less than a week, but I’ve been saying that for about three weeks.
Yesterday, though, I did run about a bit in the park with my daughter and a friends’ two kids. We played chase. The kids had big silly grins on their faces the whole time and so did I, reminding me that however obsessed I get with breaking three hours for the marathon, running is for pleasure. Also reminding me of what I’m missing.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will