Friday, August 21, 2020

The New (Ab)normal


From Abir

Who, or what, is keeping you relatively sane these days? Are you able to stay motivated? How?

So 2020’s not exactly turning out as expected. 


And it all started off so promisingly. You may remember one of my new year’s resolutions was to lose weight and get fit. I’d developed what we in the trade call ‘crime writer’s backside’ which is a real medical condition stemming from too much sitting down and typing while eating a ridiculous number of biscuits. 

This was affecting my self-esteem, as well as the stitching on the seat of my pants, and so, after watching an advert on a TVs hopping channel, I bought myself a FITT Cube – basically a whole home gym which is reduced to the size of a small box. 

2020 was going to be the year that I gave up being a lazy sod and got my act together. It started well too. Jan and Feb were  good months. I  got into a routine: 


6.00am – Get up

6.15am – Make coffee for wife and me. (She prepares pretty much every other drink or meal during the day, but I like to make this first one. It keeps me in credit, so to speak.)

6.20am – Take coffee upstairs to wife – leave it on her bedside table and let it go cold, cos she won’t get up before 7am. 

6.23am – Drink my own coffee and bask in the glow of my moral superiority at being able to wake up before my wife.

6.30am – Start exercise routine on the FITT cube with gusto.

6.33am – Experience a feeling not dissimilar to the onset of a heart attack. Decide to tone it down a notch.

6.55am – Finish exercise routine and stagger upstairs for a shower.

7.15am – Warm up wife’s coffee in microwave.

7.18am – Get the kids out of bed and ready for school.

8.20am – Kiss wife goodbye as she goes off to work. Her coffee remains undrunk on the bedside table. It has an odd film over the top of it.

8.40am – Mad panic, looking for kids’ shoes, hats, assorted missing text books, homework etc.

8.45am – Give up search and just hustle the kids out of the house barefoot and semi-clad and off to school.

8.55am – Deposit kids at school. Breathe sigh of relief.

9.00am – Head to supermarket to pick up healthy lunch (sushi, cashew nuts (for when I’m peckish) and Kefir (yoghurt drink which is supposedly good for you but tastes like camel sweat.)

9.20am – Home and a cup of green tea. 

9.30am – Settle down to writing.

12 noon – Lunch (see above)

1.00pm – Writing session 2

3.30pm – Cashew nuts (see above)

4.00pm – Kids come home. All hell breaks loose. I hide in my room dealing with e mails  while the nanny looks after them.

6.00pm – Wife comes home and I rush down the stairs to greet her like a lonely puppy.

Working Day is now over.


It was going well too. I was writing two books – the first draft of book 5 in the Sam Wyndham series, and a completely new idea for a stand-alone thriller, and I was making decent progress on both. More importantly, I was shifting the pounds. My crime writer’s backside was returning to the size and shape of a normal person’s rear and, with a bit of breathing in, I even managed to reach the third notch on my belt – a feat last achieved in mid 2017. Things were looking good for old Mukherjee.


Then came March and lockdown and everything went out of the window. 


I barely wrote a word the whole month. I blame the kids, the general worry around COVID, and the fact that my wife decided that if I so much as looked out of the window I’d probably catch the disease.


My timetable for completing the new Wyndham book suffered. April arrived and I still had about thirty thousand words to write. I had hoped to finish it by the end of the month, but that wasn’t going to happen. I worried about how I was going to break the news to my editor. Fortunately, she called me first to say they were pushing back all my launch dates by a few months, and suddenly I had a reprieve.


That helped me get back on the wagon. I worked out a new routine which involved starting to write earlier in the morning and finishing at lunch time, helping with the kids' homeschooling in the afternoon, and then having another writing session late in the evening. With this new routine in place, I found April and May to be amongst the most productive writing months I’ve ever had. By mid-June, I’d finished the first draft of the Wyndham book and the first fifteen thousand words of the stand alone thriller. I sent the former to my editor and the latter to my agent.


The rest of the month passed in a sun-lit haze with very little writing but a lot of Zoom calls and online crime festivals.


July was pretty similar. I spent the first week waiting for feedback on both projects. My agent came back to say he was happy with the beginning of the thriller and would discuss it with a few people. I took this as a sign to do very little for the rest of the month. 


August – my editor came back with her comments on the Wyndham book. There’s work to be done, but I figure I can manage it by mid Sept. I decide to take the final two weeks in August off. As there’s no point in an overseas holiday this year, we have been spending this week doing day trips to places around the South of England. Next week will be more of the same. Then, at the start of September, the kids will go back to school. My wife and I will rejoice and I will get back to writing and using the FITT cube cos the backside is growing again. A few weeks to do the edits on the Wyndham book and then it’s full steam ahead with the stand alone thriller.


All things considered, 2020 has been relatively okay so far. I’m acutely aware of how lucky both I and my wife have been to keep our jobs in such a difficult time. We’ve spent more time together as a family and it’s been generally wonderful. My writing has been a bit stop-start, but I’ve met my obligations and hopefully laid the groundwork for the next few books.


If there’s one thing I’ve missed, it’s been seeing friends and family and the festivals and events that are the highlight of my writing year. Hopefully we’ll all be through this soon, and thing will be back to normal next year, by which time I’ll have used the FITT cube so much that you won’t even recognise me.


Have a good weekend, and stay safe.





Brenda Chapman said...

Your posts always make me laugh, Abir. Kudos on the exercise and getting-healthy goals, not to mention working on two manuscripts during the Covid months.

Abir said...

Cheers Brenda!