I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm a binge-writer. Days and weeks go by and I hardly write anything except emails, comments on students' essays, references and recommendations for past and present students, and pages of bibliographical notes in one of my several black notebooks, listing books I never seem to have time to get to the University Library to read. Then for a few days, I binge. I sit at my desk for several days at a time, writing. Almost always because I've run right up against a deadline and if I don't do it now I'll be a failure / ashamed of myself / a laughing stock / have to return the advance, or never go out of the house again. This, as several people have been pointing out to me, is not the way to run a life or, more importantly, a blog. It's meant to have new stuff on it from time to time.
Still, things may be looking up. Despite the fact that my two terms of sabbatical leave are over (and, no, there wasn't a great deal of binge writing to show for it), and I'm back in the deep waters and swift currents of university term, I'm determined to reform myself. Everything (more on what that is later) will be written with time to spare, I've decided. It's time to grow up and be a proper writer. And while I'm about it, the garden needs quite a lot of attention. And I need to lose two stone in weight. As a first step, I've decided always to walk to work. No more dicing with death on the bike, or dodging the rain in the car, it's shanks' pony from now on. I've been helped in this resolve by the Novelist, who gave me a recording of Jim Norton reading Ulysses for my birthday. I've transferred all 25 hours of it to my iPod: by my calculations that should last me for most of the term, allowing for days when I meet someone I know and have real conversation instead. (And if I run out, I've got plenty of Beckett, too. Music is just so, you know, predictable.)
This will make me fitter, more energetic, and better able to overcome my bad writing habits, that's the plan. One of the things about being on leave is that you begin to imagine life will always be like that, so you blithely and enthusiastically say yes to all sorts of requests to write things. I've now got half a dozen chapters to write on a load of different subjects, all fascinating, all absorbing, and all due by this time next year or sooner. And some conference papers to research and write and deliver. But it's term time again, with wall-to-wall teaching and meetings and seminars and all the associated bits of writing that keep me away from what remains of my intellect. So it's a really good thing it's all going to be different from now on. Periods of painful silence will no longer alternate with orgies of productve writing. Poems will appear at regular intervals, books pile neatly up in manuscript, editors raise eyebrows at early delivery of articles. And just to prove I can do it, I'm going to stop writing right now.