Friday, 11 January 2008


A photo of visitor kittens - Loki & Jellybean - getting their claws into my Christmas.

A new year, a new start - so on with the new book.

After the indulgences of the festive season, it's hard to strap on the hairshirt of self-discipline once more, but it's astonishing how a deadline does focus the mind. My English publisher, LittleBrown/Sphere, asked me to write a piece for their monthly Newsletter and it set me thinking about New Year Resolutions.

To resolve or not to resolve?

Are they a waste of time? Who sticks to them?

Yet New Year Resolutions are part of the extraordinary optimism that is hard-wired into the human psyche, the triumph of hope over experience. And I love that. We can – and we will – improve ourselves, even if we need the January 1st deadline to make it happen. It’s the deadline factor that makes all the difference. A bit like writing really.

Writers will wait until a deadline is about to loom on the horizon and then start to panic. Don’t get me wrong. Having a deadline is a wonderful thing. It means that a publisher is ready and eager to read your latest work. The problem comes from the fact that, to start with anyway, deadlines are a long way off, then one day you wake to find you still have 20,000 words to write and only a morning to write them in.

So this coming year I have resolved to stick to my writing target each week , so that I’ll complete my manuscript early. Time to sit and enjoy the garden. To visit friends and family. To relax. Only that’s not going to happen, is it? Like everybody else, I 'll fall off that moral high ground. As nights grow shorter and days grow warmer, other activities will tempt me away from my desk. For even writers are human.

Over the years I’ve made lots of resolutions – to give up my sudoku addiction or to trim my cat’s claws more often (you should see my sofa!). At the time they all seem achievable. But now I think we should try making resolutions at a different time of year. After all, it’s very easy to think about giving up cakes or chocolate or alcohol when you’ve spent the last ten days doing nothing but eat and drink and be merry.

So that’s my resolution for 2008 – I’m not going to make any until the end of June. But by then of course, when the lazy days of summer arrive, I will decide to leave it all until next Christmas - like everybody else!