Confessions of a Word-aholic: Kathleen Jones

A few weeks after I had my second child, short on sleep and high on anxiety, I woke up one morning and when I opened my mouth to speak, found that only gibberish came out.  The link, between what I was saying in my brain and what came out of my mouth, was broken.  I was utterly terrified.  Exhaustion - the doctor said - what you need is sleep.  So, a couple of pills were swallowed, baby, feeding bottles, and toddler were handed over to a panicky 'What do I do now?' father, and then I slept for 14 hours straight, woke for a drink and then slept again.  The following morning, my voice was back in its normal place, the tongue articulating what the brain dictated.  But I've never forgotten what it was like not to be able to communicate.

Since then, I've been a compulsive communicator.  And compulsive is the word.  In fact, there's a label for it and I think it ends in 'aholic', and has nothing to do with the amount of wine I drink (though, on the other hand . . . .)
Kathleen, swanning around in the Piazza

When I tell people I'm a writer and I live in Italy, they always say 'Lucky you! How wonderful!'  and think it's all coffee breaks and wine on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean and swanning around in the Piazza. But it's not.  The 'living in Italy' bit probably would be, if the writing part of it didn't get in the way.  As Cally Phillips mentioned in her blog yesterday, the downside of being an Indie author is that it's all down to you.  You have to turn yourself into a multiple personality.  If you're not careful the business side of it can be all-consuming, leaving little time for actual creative writing.

Cover of new biography Photo Ray Troll
The last couple of weeks have been particularly gruelling. Today, I’m sitting here on the bed, (because it’s the only comfortable place to work in this funny little Italian house) surrounded by books and papers and staring at about 6 different deadlines.  Somewhere in the distant past (about 2 years ago) I agreed to write the biography of a poet, Norman Nicholson, and have it in the bookshops by the end of 2013, just in time for his centenary, which seemed fun and absolutely do-able at the time.  But somehow the amount of research has crept up and up, and the deadline has got ever closer and I’m now several weeks behind schedule. My publisher (who, Alas! is also my partner and lives under the same roof) is beginning to get quite unreasonable.

Then there’s the courses I agreed to run this summer - sometime in December or January when it all seemed a long way away and of course I’d have the book finished by then?  There are two of them;  an online course in life-writing for Cally's Edinburgh E-Book Festival (Free to all participants) and a residential course here in Tuscany.  They both need notes and handouts and a course programme, and Yes, Cally!  I will definitely have it done by Saturday!!
Writing at Peralta, Tuscany.
 And then there’s all the business side of being a self-published author, together with all the business of being a traditionally published author - talks and fliers and mobi-files on the one hand - Twitter and Blogger and Facebook and Pinterest on the other. One of my biographies is being published in Japan this year, so I’ve promised the publisher I'd do some publicity for it.  And I rashly promised to contribute to an academic journal on the wisdom or otherwise of writing biographies. Add to that the fact that I’m an active member of three self-publishing groups, (Authors Electric, Awesome Indies and the Alliance of Independent Authors) a member of the Tuesday Poets, review books for an online site, and I’ve now also become a member of a group of women Eco-writers trying to Re-Wild the World and you'll realise why I'm tearing my hair out!  

When, oh when, am I going to be able to say No to anything?  I need my brain scanned to find out if there’s a fragment of commonsense to be found anywhere inside my skull!  There’s a novel sitting on the end of the desk that needs to be edited and a couple of poems I’ve been asked to write and a story that’s burning its way across my brain - and I’m pinning pictures to Pinterest?  Anyone know a good therapist?

Meanwhile, my house is beginning to resemble Miss Haversham's drawing room and I'm about a millimeter away from disproving Quentin Crisp's theories on the accumulation of dust. 

Time ......   That’s what I need.... time to sit on the terrace and drink the wine and the coffee and just enjoy being alive.  There are times when you forget that you need to live a little.  The hamster has to get off the wheel and look at the sunset. There’s that tempting little bistro in the next village that does really good tordelli.  And then you remember the tax return. ........  B@&%*£#!!!!

Find out more about Kathleen's books at
Kathleen blogs at A Writer's Life
and you can find her Amazon page here....


Sue Purkiss said…
Well, you've got too much to do, but it all sounds interesting and delightful, and I suspect you wouldn't have it any other way! I shall learn from this post - I tend to be too cautious and agonise about what I need to do instead of just cracking on and doing it - it sounds much more fun to just embrace the chaos!
Bill Kirton said…
So, so true, Kathleen, and so familiar. I'm always advising people to say no yet it's advice I ignore myself. But your opening paragraph was very scary - being unable to access words? Unimaginably horrible. I'll keep churning them out but thanks for reminding me to get off the wheel and look at the sunset.
This is all so very true! And now you've reminded me of the tax return - but at least the accountant, having sent me the annual vaguely threatening letter some weeks ago, has now gone on holiday till the 21st, so I have breathing space. I do sometimes manage to say 'no' to things these days, (I'm all too uncomfortably aware of time passing by and my need to focus on fewer things) but not half often enough. And that elusive thinking time. It never quite seems to happen at home. I'm just back from the Isle of Gigha and whenever I go there, even for a little while, I realize how necessary it is to be able to sit on a rock and look at the sea for a while. I took myself off on a small hike last Sunday morning and did just that. But I know I need a lot more of it.
Dennis Hamley said…
Yes, I find it hard to say no. Another request yesterday from an established poet and tutor asking me to mentor another new writer's first novel. And of course I shall because I think it's important And at least I know what I'm going to put in my online ghost story course for the ebookfest - but no Cally, you won't have it all done by Saturday. Very soon after, though, I promise. But I've still got two books to prepare so they can be launched at the fest and these both involve significant rewriting. (But I'm glad to have the opportunity.) And all this gadding about and facebooking and tweeting which I uneasily suspect I should be doing - no I just can't face it. And I've still got three unfinished books to finish. I sympathise with your dreadful day of non-communication, Kathleen. I've never had that - but years ago I slipped a disc and had to stay in bedwithout moving while wife and daughter went off to son's graduation and the feeling of being trapped inside myself was so acute that I can feel it as I write. I used to scoff at all these time-management courses but am at last beginning to think I could do with going on one.
Chris Longmuir said…
Miss Haversham's drawing room has nothing on my house. And I do believe firmly that after a certain amount of time the dust stops accumulating. But I don't look at it for any length of time to find out. Great post and it illustrates perfectly how we all feel, although up to now I haven't lost my words. That must have been terrifying.
CallyPhillips said…
Kathy, having just finished a 5 hour marathon scheduling your life writing course (though I still have to go back and check all links and pdf downloads etc closely - I discovered a short cut AFTER I had done it the long way - as ever) but thanks for getting it in.
I'm about 60 slots into the 164 that have to be scheduled. 40 still to be written by me. My work always comes last of course. And Dennis will keep me guessing till the last minute I'm sure! So yes, on the 'too much to do' front I guess we're all members of that group right now (and always) Anyway, Kathy thanks for getting it done AND see, I used my coffee break to read your blogpost!!! Back to work now. So much choice of what to do... so little time to do any of it. No time for distractions though. Or thoughts of Italy.
Kathleen Jones said…
Thanks for your comments everyone - yes, working for yourself is far more demanding than any employer! And I think, like Cally that too many of us exceed the health and safety guidelines for computer use.
I envy you the Isle of Gigha, Catherine - could do with a spot of solitude. The trouble with living in a really beautiful place,is that there's no motivation to go anywhere else.
I'm not sure about Dennis's time management course! Suspect the person running it might just tell us that we're trying to push a quart into a pint pot, or its metric equivalent.
But yes, the hamster needs to get off the wheel and look at the sunset. And I'm finally off to do just that - it's Friday night and the Piazza waits!!!!
Pauline Fisk said…
An interesting experience, Kathleen. When I was expecting my fourth something similar happened, only in my case I could actually see all the words whirling around my head in a sort of whirlwind, but couldn't reach out and grasp any of them.

Equally strangely a friend came and sat with me and read me psalms. I didn't ask her to do it. It was her idea and I have to say the combination of her quiet voice and the power of words that weren't my own did the trick. It took a few days for me to be able to speak again, but the whirlwind was gone and the fear had disappeared.

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