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  • Writer's pictureMike Gould

Not quite an old school report

Decluttering? Don't talk to me about decluttering. Even such simple things as sorting pencils into containers seems to lead nowadays to an existential crisis.

Although my wife has enthusiastically adopted Marie Kondo's advice for decluttering and sorting, even down to rearranging my sock drawer, bigger items have also been moved on to charity shops in recent days. Most notable is the impending removal of a huge four drawer metal filing cabinet which has dominated the small study like a dead robot for the last 2-3 decades. In emptying the cabinet of redundant worksheets, bills with energy companies that no longer exist, and primary school reports for our adult children, I came across my own leaving card from 1997, recalling the time I opened the escape hatch of the school in which I taught and cut off the cord linking me to the mothership.

Like any such recollection, the ultimate outcome (after the bemused scratching of the head as you fail to put faces to names in the squiggled signatures) is to make you wonder how you managed to fill the twenty odd years since you spiralled into the black hole of commercial publishing, and were then thrown onto that weird planet called 'freelance work'? Where did all those months go? What was I doing? How come I never had 'time' to write the Great Novel?

It was probably just as well I didn't come across my own school report with the inevitable 'Could do better' scrawled across those envelope shaped booklets. So, in the spirit of decluttering my own future, here is a frank and concise audit of Where I Am.

Item: my fantasy novel, working title 'Procter's Choice'. (fantasy, in more ways than one, I hear you say)

Situation? I have almost finished the second redraft. More queries to agents will follow. Need to do a sort of cast list and perhaps scribble a map. Need to add more sex, violence and focus less on a grumpy old man.

Item: writers' groups and programmes:

Situation? I have attended first session of Hastings Writers' Group in 2019 but missed AGM . Could do better, Gould. Am considering applying for advanced workshop programme with New Writing South to encourage me to start new YA novel. But if not that, then need to think about further stimulation to the writing nerve-ends. Or rather a strategy to make me finish stuff.

Item: screenplays

Situation? Lots of half-baked ideas but need to school myself in proper screenplay layout. Note to self - read that useful book on how to do it that's been on the shelf for the last two years (It's called 'Your Screenplay Sucks!' if you really want to know, which may turn out to be prophetic, even if I do follow the advice behind the frankly aggressive title).

Well, that's only three subjects, so to speak, and I'm already feeling that the next term may be tricky. The parent might get a call. We're concerned about your son. Did he show you his report? No? That's not surprising. He's in his fifties and all he's got to show for it is a lot of educational coursebooks and a fantasy novel that, let's face it, is no Game of Thrones. We need to talk.

So, while it all seems very neat and do-able on the surface, behind the brief synopses lies a complexity of short, medium and long-term goals that hover in the ether like the dust that billowed out of those files as we pulled them from the cabinet. The audit and the plan needs developing, but at least I have made a start. I haven't quite shoved the metaphorical, over-loaded cabinet out of my brain, but it's been dragged to the doorway.

Will do better!

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