My relationship with writing – Charlotte Butterfield

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By Charlotte Butterfield

I am ridiculously envious of writers who claim to have a consistent writing schedule: 7.05am: Walk the dog; 7.45: Eat a healthy, slow-energy releasing breakfast of homemade granola and a very strong coffee; 8.00: Enter inspirational writing cave for seven hours of uninterrupted typing halted twice for caffeine and once for a sandwich. In an ideal world my clutter-free desk would be positioned under a south-facing window overlooking a soothing pastoral scene and 4000 words would flow like water from my fast-moving fingers.

A celebratory glass of wine would round off the day, no doubt accompanied by a self-five at a good day’s work. I do usually end my day with a glass of wine too, but that’s where the similarities between my idyll and my reality end. My tipple is less to do with a job well done, and more to do with self-preservation.

I wrote my first novel, Me, You and Tiramisu, on a desk in the corner of my bedroom whilst on maternity leave from my job as a magazine editor with my third child, which meant that I had to learn the art of typing quietly while he gurgled from the ‘magic’ vibrating chair. I was interrupted about once every thirty-seven seconds with a flying toy directed at my head, some horrific smell, or ear-splitting demands for more food.

My second novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, was written during the summer holidays when my tribe of three were off school and demanding snacks, entertainment, witnesses to bodily harm and judges for dance-offs. I tried to set myself a target of 3000 words a day, and soon realised that the best chance of hitting this was to either get up before everyone else or stay up after everyone else. It usually ended up being both.

I’ve just finished Book 3 and although I now have a Room of My Own to write in, and a view to boot, it too was written in peace at dawn and nightfall, or in snatched bursts during the day on the rare occasion that all three mini-dictators could agree on a movie to watch. But I find that even when I’m spreading jam over the kids’ toast (right to the corners, thinly distributed) or adjudicating a handstand competition my made-up characters are never far away from my thoughts. It’s as though I have two lives running parallel to each other, one with my real family and one with my created one, but I need to press pause on the fictional one while I attend to the needs of the factual one, and then vice versa.

For me though, writing is my time, it’s my sanctuary, my respite and what keeps me sane. I was a journalist for fifteen years before becoming an author, and so I can’t recall many days in my life where I haven’t written something, and lately I have come to realise that it’s more than a job for me, it’s a necessity.

The all-important ‘me-time’ that psychologists say is so important for health and wellbeing comes in many forms. Some depend on daily workouts at the gym, others have to start the day with a powerwalk or run, some turn to pampering, shopping, volunteering, music, whatever it is that makes you step out of your life for an hour, refreshes you and allows you to step back in to reality is a good thing. And I now know that my own batteries only get a swift recharge when I’m sat in front of a screen with a number following the word Chapter at the top of it. I just wish that didn’t only happen when it is dark outside!


Charlotte Butterfield is a journalist and copywriter. After being one of the winners of the Montegrappa First Fiction Award at the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai in 2016, she was signed by Harper Impulse, and her first novel, Me You and Tiramisu, was launched in March 2017. Her second novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, is out now. She lived in Dubai for over a decade, but now she and her family live in Rome, eating Tiramisu with every meal…

charlottebutterfield.com

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