The conversation about privilege in the creative industries rumbles on. Like many writers, I work. Full time. I also have a small child. So I thought what I might do is make a diary of the time I get to spend writing this week, to see where, if I was from a more privileged background, things could be different.
I normally don’t work Mondays and spend the day with my daughter E but this week I’m on a training course so my husband S has taken the day off so I can attend day one. I put the washing on, get E some breakfast and am out of the door as a man comes to give us a quote on a new kitchen floor. I read on the bus into town, grab a coffee and get to the course just on time. At lunchtime, I sit with my notebooks and a few notes and try to work out the next stage in my novel. It’s sketched out but I feel I need more flesh on the bones of it before I write it properly. After the course ends, I pop into a shop to buy tights for E before going into the office and do a few bits and pieces of work. At home, after E is in bed, I do ironing, tidying and write a couple of blog posts before sitting down to the novel at 10.20pm. I go to bed at 11.30, with only 345 more words written.
E to nursery and then back home for breakfast before heading to town for the course. At lunchtime I write in my notebook again and make good progress on the scene I’m working on. If I hadn’t had to go back to the course I could easily have done a lot more. We finish early at 3pm, and the tutor says we’ve learned enough new things for the day. He looks horrified that I have to go to the office but I have a newsletter to send out, emails to answer and some catching up to do. At home, after E is in bed, I do the supermarket order, catch up on personal emails and have a chat with my mum. I can’t face typing some novel so decide to attempt the notebook from earlier. Don’t get too far.
While reading on the bus I overheard two people having a priceless conversation and decided to copy as much down as possible for a potential short story. It covered: death, nursing homes, prison, probation, One Born Every Minute, inheritance and car washes.
Fleshed it out a bit at lunch – so probably around 600 words or so. I’d need to sit and think what to do with it next but the main germ of the idea is there.
This evening I went out and met up with some friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. What was going to be a couple of drinks turned into a get home at midnight and feel ill kind of scenario.
I spend the day awaiting the hangover which never comes. We have an early lunch on the course and I can’t face eating so I walk, therefore no writing. In the evening I do some admin-y stuff at home, tidying and emailing and such like. And have an early night – bed at 10.
A normal working day today but I decide to take on the good example of the last couple of days and go to a coffee shop after my dentist’s appointment in the afternoon to catch up on work emails and then scrawl out some more of the current scene I’m working on. Feeling happier with it. An evening at home with my man awaits.
We have a lie in. E is 2 1/2 years old and as such, weekends are focussed on family time. We visit the library, the park and do a lot of reading together, the three of us. After dinner I scrawl down a couple of ideas for a competition that I might like to enter – I’m quite pleased with this and then watch TV because, dammit, I’m not a machine, I need to relax and Spiral is on.
A similar day to yesterday. We go to a different park, read books, tidy up a bit and then I talk to my best friend on Skype in the evening. After that I type up the bus conversation and leave it for a bit to see where it needs improvement and to decide what to do with it and turn to the competition ideas I had yesterday. They are terrible. Delete.
So that’s my working week! It doesn’t look much like that, but it was exhausting enough, even leaving aside the very rare occasion where I actually went out in the evening! (Haven’t socialised in evening with others since… NYE (babysitter – my mum) and before that, I’m honestly not too sure.) This week will be slightly different as I have a couple of days travelling to Birmingham and a good opportunity to write on the train, as well as a day off on Friday in lieu of working Monday this week. It’s all snatched moments and nothing sustained. And that’s normal. I could, if I really tried, take some time at the weekend to write – but that would involve leaving the house (I don’t have any room here as an office) and I am reluctant to either go into town on a Saturday or leave my daughter for too long when I shunt her off to nursery for long days during the week anyway.
I am aware that I have privileges. I enjoy my job, I have a house, I have a lovely family and I choose to write. I also come from a generation and part of the country that had a good state education and no tuition fees. I don’t have student loans to pay off (my expenses were covered by grants, odd jobs and a chunk of life insurance from my dad – so if you can call a parent dead at 55 an example of privilege, there you go). And I like having to carve this time out to write. I like having to fight for it. Do I get some written in coffee shops each day? Yes. Do I get more done when I have a day alone at home? Yes. And it will get written, I am determined. But once in a while it is just too exhausting. You just want it to be a little easier. Some days I see people who have relatives nearby as being privileged.
I think we all seem to work much harder than anyone ever admits publicly. Why we’re committed to such labour is beyond me. But privilege isn’t about not having to work. It’s about not having the fear about what happens if you don’t. It’s about being able to avoid the demands of a full time job in order to pay the bills, so that you can come to creative work fresh and not exhausted. It’s about being able to buy time, childcare, extra tuition, whatever support you need, so that you have help in reaching your goal. And for many, it’s a privilege too far.