#fridayflash Finding the bog body

This is a short incident from my novel in revision The Book of Remembered Possibilities. A driver finds what turns out to be a bog body. This piece is one of three juxtaposed ‘moments’.

The bulldozer judders, throwing sound across the bog’s wide valley back to the jagged hills.

In the broad sweep of a valley, the heron’s wings beat determined across the fretful sky, the crickets sing. Over the ground moves the breath of dragonflies and moths, ticks and red ants. Small birds scratch among the lichen, tracking beetles.  A hawk hangs in the ether.

The driver takes slices off the skin of the bog.  He peels back the carpet of woven sedge, heather, moss, the wings of insects, feathers of bog cotton, leaves of clover. The blade of the bucket cuts into it, making a scar through the tapestry of green. It opens up the seeping interior, accesses the bog’s bitter ale…

The driver sees something in the ground. He throws the machine into neutral. He powers down the roar.  He jumps out of the cab onto the springy turf, the mud going into the grooves in his soles. The spring adds a lightness to his mood. This is a man who gets up before his wife and teenage children, puts his sensible sandwich and a flask of tea in the car and drives to the site as the light fills in around the edges of the landscape’s developing photograph. He plays Springsteen and Cohen and the Blades and Thin Lizzy. He has a good voice. It attracted his wife’s attention before she was his wife when he was just one more rugby head watching the match with his lager aloft. Later someone gave him a guitar and he sang Sarah and it happened to be her name. He thinks of his wife, leaning against the breakfast bar that sly wry smile on her face. He bloody fancies her still, the curve of her in those black jeans, she keeps herself well, no messing.

It’s a bitch of a day, devious. It started out calm and then those monsoon showers hit. The lads legged it back to the vans for a bit of a warm sup. He was going to follow them. The rain machine-gunned the window. He bent his head against it before he figured he was in the cab. He said he might as well continue while it poured. Then he spotted whatever it was. He goes to investigate. The sun comes out to make a fool of him and the drips are speed-bombing off the door as he reaches the ground. The rain slides into the run of his wrist, his hair is splattered.

The bog still stretches for miles, blends into the hills, runs up the face of it until the crags split it, solid heather hewn hunks hurtling off the rock face, clinging to the crag underside.

He almost trips on it, this coagulation of leaves, this what, this shrivelled thing, rag and bones. Above his head a hawk cries, dips his wing. The roar of lorries on the arterial is silenced. The hawk halts at this present moment. Waits for what has been found.

How to write a novel when you don’t have the time

You may have your hands full but you can still find time to write.

Most people’s lives are busy. For me it’s juggling the demands of four children under the age of twelve, and it’s true to say that there’s little time for quiet contemplation or courting the writing muse. But all would be writers are juggling,  whether it’s college, full time work, caring for children, sick or the elderly there are very few that can dedicate full days to the endeavor of writing, especially when starting out.

So how is it possible to fit in writing around our lives? I started writing again when my youngest child was a newborn, I wrote around his naps. Then followed a period when all the children were tiny so I wrote when friends and family offered a babysitting hour. In the last few years in particular though, I’ve been more methodical in how I create writing time and since 2009 I’ve managed to complete a shot story collection, and 2.5 novels as well as many standalone flash fiction pieces.
These are some of the ways you can create opportunities for writing.
1)      Create a quiet, dedicated writing space/time:. Whether it’s in a spare room or shed, the library or a coffee shop, it helps to move away from your normal space and its distractions. In my case I also need to find a time when it’s quiet and I don’t have interruptions from family. I’m an early bird so I choose to get up at 5am and write for 1 or 2 hours then, others prefer to write into the night.
2)      Take part in writing challenges: The bulk of Housewife with a Half-Life was written during Nanowrimo, the 50,000 words in a month writing challenge. It a) allowed me to state my aim to my friends and family and b) claim writing time for this special challenge. They were happy to rally round to help me achieve the word count. I also discovered that by making myself write 1667 words per day no matter what, some of the material (if not all!) was very useable and even on a very busy day I could squeeze in writing time, either with early starts, while waiting for the kids at an activity for example, or even in ten minute bursts through the day.
3)      Join an online or real world writing group. I joined a weekly peer review flash fiction writing hashtag on Twitter called #fridayflash. This is a group who post regular flash fiction and link to it on Fridays. While there’s no obligation to post every week, being part of a community makes me want to participate and keep involved and I’ve produced many pieces that would never otherwise exist, some of which can be developed further. I even won a short story competition by joining up some of the pieces I wrote for this meme. I’m also a member of a Dublin writing group, the feedback on pieces I write is invaluable.
4)      Integrate musing time into your regular schedule. Walking is wonderful. John Boyne discovered the plot to The Absolutionist during a 1 hour walk. Bestselling author Murakami runs every day. Each time I go for a walk I find phrases and ideas arrive naturally without having to search for them. Spending time on other activities  such as reading (of course), movies, art galleries and so on is feeding the imagination & helping make interesting associations that you can use in your writing. The late Ray Bradbury suggested that reading a short story every night and reading an interesting article was a great way of feeding passion and imagination necessary for writing well about the thing you love.
5)      Get away from it all. After I had built up some short story publications and successes I applied to a writing retreat centre and was successful. I had my first uninterrupted week of writing ever in July. The arts council in Ireland and local authorities provide grants for people to go to retreat centres such as the Tyrone Gutherie Centre and Anam Cara once you can show evidence of your writing development.
Finding the time to write is not about finding great swathes of time (although it’s great when it happens). It’s about creating opportunities for inspiration and building up your wordcount consistently and incrementally. A daily wordcount challenge of even 500 words can help you accomplish that. The kind of writing that will come from these endeavours will be more considered and of higher quality.
Related to this article and talking about whether it’s the quantity of time or how you use it that’s important is this one on writing retreats.
Note: my article here originally appeared on Paul Carroll’s blog