Posted by: Yawn the Post | August 3, 2011

On Duty

I’d made myself a cup of tea, and was sitting idly in the sun. The morning is perfect, and with weeks to go until anyone expects anything of me, life is as close to perfect as it can get.

I’m in Devon, staying in a seventeenth century cottage hidden above the boating town of Salcombe. I’m a world away from my real life, my appalling habits, my petty worries. I’d been reading ‘To the Lighthouse’ and was about to return to Woolf’s fluid and haunting prose, but decided to check my phone for any texts or emails before I completely relaxed into the morning.

And there, staring up at me accusingly, was an email asking if I had forgotten about my Dragontongue post.

Which of course, I had.

I’m a fairly reliable person, or so I like to think. I take pride in being prepared, in never being caught with my trousers around my ankles. But this time, I was guilty as charged.

At first I felt embarrassed, and then cross with myself. I could not let Dragontongue down. This is an enterprise steered by busy, selfless people. I was a ninny. I would have to write something. Immediately.

I left poor Virginia sobbing in the sunshine, scampered into the cottage and cranked up an old laptop I’d brought with me for emergencies.

I would begin writing, and see what happened. Strangely, the combination of an immediate sense of duty, and of an imminent deadline dropping down from above like a breeze block tossed from an aeroplane propelled a surge of happy chemicals through my blood. This is a weird pleasure, I thought, but pleasure it is.

I like to think I have a good understanding of how people work. I watch you all very closely. Yesterday, when walking through upmarket boaty Salcombe, I listened in to conversations, noted relationships between people, nodded knowingly at children who wouldn’t do as they were told, or adults who had come here in search of something and were desperately still looking. Yes, here I was, the amateur psychologist, believing I understood how others work, but still blissfully unaware of what makes me tick.

Because despite my horror of hard work, here I am, forsaking the sun and Virginia Woolf (poor thing, she’s still sobbing) and trying to write a Dragontongue blog within the hour.

And what enormous fun it is. Watching the words tumble out, seeing that they make some sort of sense, finding my way to the end of each sentence, divining the threads of meaning in what I am trying to say, pulling the whole thing into shape. It’s what I live for.

Writing can be a chore, it can weigh us down with its demands. But nevertheless, when something has to be done, and there’s no escape, the surprise of pleasure, and the pleasure of surprise, it is quite striking.

So, there we are. A blog on getting around to writing a blog. This took me just under an hour. Someone has just made a pot of coffee. I’ll take a cup out to Virginia. Poor thing, I think she needs it more than me.



  1. I would say sorry, but it seems you had a great time!
    One of the things I like about writing courses is the writing exercises they make you do. Sitting quietly and letting the words flow. I’m usually working on a novel, so there always feels like there’s so much still to do. It’s easy to forget the pleasure of writing short pieces.

    Enjoy your holiday!

  2. Have just returned from that part of the world myself! Enjoyed it, despite being neither upmarket nor boaty! Back now in the morass of work – suddenly there’s too many deadlines and not enough sunshine and sea.

  3. Right now it appears like WordPress is the top blogging platform out there right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on
    your blog?

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