Rose or Rat?

I recently got into a conversation about my name – which is a pen name. (You know who you are – Caron Eastgate Dann, I’m looking at you!) So here’s the true story of Caron Allan.

Firstly, to explain the title. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says that famous line, ‘A Rose by any other name, would still smell as sweet,’ (my paraphrase). So whatever I’m called, I’m still me, right? Erm… well, let’s leave that on one side for now. The Rat bit is a sideways smirk at Umberto Eco who wrote a brilliant book about the perils and pitfalls of translation. It’s called Mouse Or Rat, because, he says, in a lot of languages it’s the same word, though in English it’s obviously not. Plus in English, along with the different word, you have a completely different connotation: mice can be cute and teeny with droopy little whiskers and dainty little paws whereas rats are gigantic, plague-ridden rodent-devils.

And so my problem.

Six years ago, when I decided to opt for self-publishing, or being an Indie author, as we now, more politely call it, I wondered what to call myself. I didn’t want to use my real name for a couple of reasons. One, people might find out where I lived and come round and throw my books through my window whilst screaming and waving pitchforks. Two, people might attack me at work – I had a real job back then. Three, I’ve always hated my real first name – Carolyn – (there, I’ve said it, massive sigh of relief as onerous burden of guilt at my deception is lifted), so I welcomed any chance to ditch it. And four, I felt that my first name was old-fashioned, and conjured up all too clearly the image of a fat old woman (which I am), which would be incongruous (or so I thought) with the readership I wanted to reach.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I now know that: most of my readers are probably my age or older, and that there’s no such thing as a secret identity. Especially if you can’t keep your own mouth shut. To start with I often post something on my author FB page then respond to comments from other people on my personal page – thus letting the cat out of the bag. In addition to my first name, my surname is also a horrid one. We just don’t think ahead, do we, and realise when we begin walking out with a handsome young gentleman, that his surname will someday become ours, and lead to a lifetime of explanations and misery and ridicule. So that had to go too.

So what to call myself? I’ve agonised for years over the possibilities of what to call myself if I changed my name. And I’d never really narrowed it down to one final choice. I thought about taking my children’s middle names and creating a name out of that. To be on the safe side, I searched on Amazon to see if there were already authors with that name. There were! Eek! Good thing I checked, though.

So bearing in mind the adjunct to authors to avoid using adverbs, I took the LY out of the middle of my name, and closed up the gap. Ta-da! Caron. Then I took my hubby’s first name, gave it an extra L. And Behold – Caron Allan appeared! (Cue applause!)

Thank you very much. I love you all. I’d like to thank my agent – Oh wait, no, they all turned me down! 🙂

By the way, completely off topic, I had my third post-cancer check-up at the hospital this week, and I’ve been discharged with a clean bill of health. Wow!!!! Eighteen months ago, I thought I was going to die. Now I know I will get to live first. One day I might write about that, but not just yet. Real people, behind the pen-names on your book covers.


Journals: and where to find them

DSCF0369Writing tutors always advocate keeping a journal or writing diary. I keep one sporadically, writing an entry a couple of times a week, then maybe not for a month, then four times in one day. It depends entirely on what is going on in my life.

Why is it useful?

Well, to begin with it’s therapeutic. You can use it to de-stress your life, like a best friend, it won’t tattle on you. You can pour out your heart and soul and love and bile into a journal, and no one will slap your face or lecture you. If you keep it private, you can say and do whatever you please, and know that your dodgy experiments and weak efforts, your anxieties and temper tantrums will never see the light of day, and your loved ones will be unscathed by the trauma that exists inside the average writer. So it’s a safe place to try new stuff or give a voice to things that are bothering you, or to learn how to do new stuff by practising and honing your skills.

It is a great way to keep track of what happens when in your life – all too often, especially once you reach ‘a certain age’, you can forget what happens in your life and how it affects you. Later you can look back and think, Oh I was writing such-and-such when Great Aunt Jemima had her hip replacement. It’s useful more often than you’d think.

I also use mine as a way of noting down odd things I see. I often write a blog post based on a journal entry about people watching. Title or character ideas can also be quickly noted down, or I might write something along the lines of ‘a funny thing happened on the way to the supermarket’. I also make notes of ideas – either for a story that is already part of my life, or a new idea that has just come to me or that I’m playing around with to see if it has enough oomph in it to create a whole novel from.

I write to-do lists along the lines of ‘Tues: finish chapter three, do blog post, tweet, Facebook, and emails to X, Y and Z. Wed: chapter four and think about a flash fiction or poem. Thurs: more social media; create graphic for marketing.’

I make notes about the technical side of writing and self-publishing – keywords to try, niches and genres, blurbs, other books to read, ‘how-to’ tips and ideas.


AND the main thing I use it for – to write rough drafts of chapters for ongoing work. On top of all these, if I have an epiphany on the bus into town, I can haul out my notebook and scribble away. I often add sticky notes to the page edges so I can find something important later.

I don’t use fancy-schmancy notebooks, I just use an ordinary lines A5 notebook. Okay so big confession: I am a bit of a sucker for a pretty cover. And I like thickish paper, otherwise ink just blobs through flimsy pages and ruins the next page or two. But I still don’t spend a fortune on them. Not individually at least, though I do buy them often and in quantity, but that’s our little secret. I’ve got stacks of them in drawers and on shelves and in boxes. I love to go through them sometimes, perhaps even many years later, and often get a fresh insight into an old problem, or find a forgotten piece that I can use in my writing or on my blog. Sometimes it’s just nice to look back and see a mention of a hope or cherished dream and think, ‘well I’ve done that now’.

Journals can be a gold mine, as a writer you really can’t be without one.


Nomads Like Us – part 2


I quite often write a blog about people watching and things I have observed. Usually these are humorous, or quirky. Not today.

Yesterday in town, I had a short conversation with a young woman who was selling the Big Issue. I was one of only two people who had bought a Big Issue from this pleasant, polite and half-frozen young woman yesterday. I paid for two copies, that’s £5. Which, quite frankly, means little to me. I spend as much on a coffee and a muffin, which lasts me maybe half an hour. She tried to give it back to me, to talk me out of it. The first thing she did when I left, was to go and buy some food. I watched her as she sat on a bench and ate. People walk past without even a glance, she is more or less invisible, even with her red tabard on. I feel quite angry. Why is this girl on the street all day like this? If one of my children got into difficulties in a foreign country, I’d like to think someone would have compassion. We are all human, all parents or children, and we all find ourselves in difficulties sometimes, and need help.

Now before you roll your eyes and go, ‘OMG not another illegal immigrant trying to sponge off our great nation,’ let me tell you a few things. These are actual human beings we’re talking about. People. Not things. Not disposable objects. But people, living, breathing human beings. With dreams. With grandmas. With kids to worry about. Who came to this country (often undergoing unspeakable danger and difficulty) in search of a better life. And not illegally – this woman is not one of those fly-by-night chancers who drive in from overseas, nick all our copper cables and sell them for a fortune, then drive back again. She—and most of the others—are here with permission. And, to be extra clear, not everyone who sells the Big Issue is here from overseas, plenty of them are home-grown and finding life just as tough.

You can probably tell, issues around immigration, homelessness and poverty are hugely important to me.

You know what? You do not own this land. We all pretend we do, so that estate agents and lawyers and government departments and even home owners can make money from house sales and land purchases. But actually, we all arrived in this country, on this continent as migrants. Scientists have proved that we all came from somewhere else. Yes, I know it all happened millennia ago. But actually the first person who claimed a nice little patch of land in the UK had no real right to do so, they just got there first. We were all migrants. So it’s ludicrous to say, ‘This is mine, you can’t come in.’ Especially when we have not had the same attitude to our own invasion of the lands of others.

Back in the mists of time, before cities were built, before the towns and the offices and the shopping centres, before ports were built to allow boats to dock, before anyone thought of issuing a passport or a visa, there were humans. People. Just people. They spoke all sorts of languages and didn’t always understand one another. Disputes were settled in a variety of ways. I might give you a goat or sheep from my flocks in reparation for any damage you received at my hands. Or I might whack you with a big rock, and possibly face the dire consequences if my actions were discovered and your people didn’t like it. Or I might marry one of your relatives and we would just get over it.

That is what people do. Have always done. Once upon a time, we didn’t understand about borders and governments and territorial rights. We followed the herds. The herds migrated, to find pasture that didn’t die back in winter or get covered by twenty feet of snow, or they migrated to reproduce in more favourable climates, or, who knows, maybe they just got bored.

But wherever the herds went, we went after them. The herds, of any kind of deer or any kind of cattle, or I don’t know, maybe gigantic sweeping herds of emu or ostrich, or chickens the size of buffalo, they were everything to us. They were our food, our tools, our clothing, our lighting, even, later, our status. So we always had to be near the herds, and when they migrated, so did we.

But migrating for both herds and humans took its toll. There was always the potential for disaster, for predators to take advantage of the migrants, for climactic events to cause disruption and problems. For humans, it meant people with children travelling huge distances and arriving in a maybe less fabulous place than expected. sometime there was a terrible storm or hurricane, or there might have been a wildfire, or flooding. The elderly sickened and died, babies were born on the trail, and babies and mothers alike struggled to deal with the demands of the journey.

So one day, a character who was probably a national hero, gifted with foresight, radical and willing to take a huge risk, embracing blue-sky, out-of-the-box thinking, looked at all his or her community members as they packed the moose ready for the journey, and he or she thought to themselves, ‘Stuff that, I’m not going through all that again. Remember last time, when Granny got sick and she almost died? And she was barely 35!’

Or maybe they thought, last year’s place was too far from fresh water, and although the herds were strong, they were hard to catch on that uneven land. This place is nice. The water’s right there a stone’s throw from the tent, I can see for miles over these lovely rolling hills, the hills protect the land, so that summer leaves late and spring arrives early. I’m staying right here.

So they used some of their animal sinews and their flax or plant stem ropes, and they whittled a bunch of stakes, and they roped in some of those herds, and there they stayed. And when everyone came back next spring, lo and behold, there they were still, fat and sleek and healthy, and not totally exhausted from the long journey. So the following year, a few more crazy people decided to follow suit. Their wives and children and old people flourished, their flocks and herds produced young, and numbers multiplied.

I’m not a historian – as you can no doubt tell – and yes, this is probably hopelessly idealised and unrealistic. But my point is this: territorial borders are man-made and arbitrary. We do not – contrary to what many believe – own the land on which we were born or where we live. We are just there. I don’t normally post a political message. And I don’t want to debate endlessly. I just want to point out that in my own view, we are all migrants. We are all nomads. So, please, let’s have some compassion.

A Big Issue costs around £2.50. Seriously, folks, my cappuccino costs more than that. And I probably buy four or five a week. Can we all not make an effort to buy a Big Issue and enable a homeless person in desperate need buy food and shelter for a night? There but for the grace of God…


My Life in the Criminal Underworld, or, What I saw from the bus…

It’s no secret that I live in a slightly dodgy part of town. In fact there are dodgier areas, but there are also–rumour has it–nice areas where there is little crime and people don’t let their dogs cack on your driveway.

I don’t drive. I passed my test back in the day, when Methuselah was a lad, but that marked both the beginning and the end of my driving career. I’m just doing my bit to keep road fatalities to a minimum. However, this means I use the bus a lot.

This week I was trundling into town, Riverside blaring through my earphones, blissfully drifting away on a happy cloud of bellowed F-words in Artificial Smile, and the bus made a stop in Allenton. For those of you who live outside of the city of Derby, it’s a busy ”low-income” suburb on the route to the city centre. Now I know that 95% of the residents of Allenton are pleasant hard-working people just trying to get by. But some of them are not.

Other writers may witness drug deals ‘going down’, as we hardcore crims say, on a daily basis. I’ve only seen a handful over the years, living in my book- and music-induced sheltered little world. So I was quite surprised that I saw a drug deal take place right before my eyes. I suppose it’s just about possible the guy bought a teeny tiny packet of popping candy or artificial sweetener, or indeed a single teabag. Those are so hard to get if you only want one; you don’t always want a box of 80, do you?

The bus stop at the stop (it’s what they do). No one got on. No one got off. But we were running five minutes ahead of schedule, so the driver had to make up time. So we sat there. Like a bunch of tourists on a not-very-exciting tour.

A scruffy weaselly little bloke was mooching around the stop, but not making for the bus. Then further away, an over-grown kid was doing wheelies on a bike and generally twatting about getting in everyone’s way, for all the world as if he was still a teenager.

Artificial Smile ended, Volte Face started, (I’ve got a number of tracks from different albums on my phone). I was still daydreaming. But the guy on the bike caught my eye, doing his stunts a wee bit too close to the rest of humanity. He’s going to hit someone if he’s not careful, I thought. Suddenly he made a dive for the weaselly guy, they shook hands in a weird way and one of them not-very-secretly gave the other a folded banknote and the other gave him a teeny tiny packet of drugs or a teabag. Maybe it was dried catnip, that’s supposed to help you relax. Not sure if you can smoke it, though. I think it was hash or maybe worse. Then, Weasel dived on the bus just as it was finally about to pull away.

He sat at the back. Right across the aisle from me. Great. I reflected it was a good thing I was listening to music on my phone rather than using it to film the ‘transaction’. A scenario ran through my head where said weasel followed me and mugged me for my phone, or whipped out a knife. The only weapon I’ve got is a one inch blunt penknife on my key-ring, given to me by my 82-year old Dad. I doubt it would cut through butter let alone a vicious drug-thug. Or a pen. Matt Damon and Daniel Craig know how to use a pen as a weapon, I however, only write with mine. It’s not mightier than the sword when someone else has an actual sword.

He reeked of marijuana–it’s a horrid smell, especially when stale. And to keep up his hard-man image, he put on some ‘music’, sans headphones,which consisted of someone screeching profanities, making Artificial Smile sound like a lullaby. His knee bounced uncontrollably. He couldn’t sit still. He really needed that fix.

A lady sitting further down the bus with her small daughter, asked him to turn it down a bit. But all she got was a stream of obscenities in return. So she started to scream obscenities at him in her frustration. An elderly man with a hearing aid waded in, whilst Weasel began to defend his human rights to listen to vile, hate-filled stuff really loudly in public.  Ah the benefits of public transport. The council will never get people to give up using their cars until they get people to be pleasant and considerate towards others. I don’t see it happening, do you? Needless to say, the rest of the journey was a filth-addled nightmare.

This is why I like writing stories about a world when a gentleman would doff his cap and say, ‘Excuse me madam, please forgive the intrusion, but could you possibly turn down your Polish Alternative Rock for a moment or two, I’m trying to catch the jolly old cricket score on the transistor radio. I’d be most awfully grateful.’ Upon which I would say, ‘Gosh, yes, I’m so sorry, I had no idea it was so shockingly loud. How silly of me. I do beg your pardon.’ And we’d all get along swimmingly. That’s not much to ask, is it?


10 out of 10 and you can have the rest of the year off…

I just want to end this year by saying a huge THANK YOU to all the lovely people who have read my blog, supported my writing, and of course, bought my books ( or given them a plug, which is definitely as good!) Your kind words and frequent shares and likes have kept me going, thank you.

Wishing everyone health, happiness, peace and prosperity, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones around you, God Jul, Joyeux Noel, Frohe Weihnachten, E keresimesi Oma,  Gëzuar Krishtlindjen, Boldog karácsonyt, Śubh krisamas, and Wesołych Świąt! Let’s all get together in a week or so and takk about the old days of 2017, if that’s not too soon for such a painful year.


The woman in the mirror

So I finally finished my novel The Mantle of God: a Dottie Manderson mystery, and it’s due out tomorrow (shameless plug), I’ve done most of the Christmas shopping, and so it’s the time of year when I sit back and think. Usually I think a wee bit too much, I’m very much an introverted overanalyser, like a lot of writers. I’m taking some time to read quite a bit now. One of my perennial favourites is Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer, first published 1934 (when my book is set, coincidentally, another shameless plug haha) but still a great read, and encouraging. In common with many others, she advocates writing exercises, such as morning pages. But the first exercise in the book is to observe yourself in a mirror and write what you see. On the surface, it’s an exercise in observation; for me in reality it is an exercise in confronting the self in honesty and acceptance. I began to reread Brande’s book this week.

And also this week, I found myself sitting in a cafe in town, actually not all that unusual, it’s practically a hobby for me. Opposite me in the cafe was a huge mirror, a bit like those places where it’s all positivity and mirrors, to reflect the light, make the place seem bigger, fuller, or more successful, a kind of feng sui for business. So I was sitting there stuffing my face and chewing my pen, wondering what to write and myopically became aware that a woman sitting opposite me was doing almost the same.

I’m confronted with myself, I eventually realise. It’s not a comfortable experience for me. I could do with being several stone lighter and twenty years younger, maybe three or four inches taller… It’s an odd sensation. The woman in the mirror looks very like me, except that she has her hair parted on the other side. She sits there and stares back at me almost in a challenging way, daring me to deny her right to be real. I look away. From a young age, it was ingrained in me that looking in the mirror would make me vain (which I am) and I should not do it. But there’s not a lot else to look at here, and also I’m intrigued. So I look back, and sure enough she’s looking at me again. She appears to be left-handed as she writes in her notebook, but of course, it’s me, and I’m not. This reminds me of another thing I once read about the left brain, right brain thing, and I remember how for a while to help the creative process, I used to write with my left hand. It was easier that way to pretend someone else was writing, and I felt freer, and wrote wiht a different ‘voice’. At the moment I’m looking for a way to revitalise and freshen my writing for the coming year, so I like to try new things. Maybe I’ll do a spot of left-handed writing and see where that takes me.

The woman in the mirror is like me, but different. Does she care what people think? Does she let her anxiety and fear kill her imagination or hold her back from striving to achieve more? She is like me but different. As I turn away from the window and the street beyond, she turns towards them. Then she drinks her coffee, I drink mine. I look at her one last time. I pick up my pen and begin to write. I do my writing, and she gets on with hers.



Kiss my Baby!

This is an old blog post from Summer 2013. I’ve reused it partly because at the moment I’m working hard to get my latest novel to a decent standard ahead of a publication deadline, (self-imposed, always the worst) so it’s encouraging me, and partly because I’ve got a filthy cold/cough and I can’t ‘brain’ today. This harks back to those heady days when I thought a ‘real’ publisher might take me on, and I waited for the rejected manuscript to be returned. Oh my aching sides!

Quote of the week: ‘A book is so much a part of one’s life that in delivering it to the public one feels as if one were pushing one’s own child out into the traffic.’ Quentin Bell, nephew of Virginia Woolf and author of a number of biographies including the fabulous ‘Charleston’.

Yes, Quentin, that is exactly how one feels about one’s book!

You see, it’s kind of a weird thing, but as you write, the book/fag packet/old envelope becomes a living thing. And like a child, (one’s own child!) it seems so fragile, so vulnerable, so at the mercy of strong winds and icy chills. And once you’ve bundled up said child book to send it off into the world all alone, there is a certain amount of anxiety that attends its imminent return, and you hang around the front door, or the post box, wringing your hands, hoping for a glimpse, a clue, anything to tell you (or to tell one, I should say) how your baby is faring. And of course, until the parcel is dumped in your greenhouse with a note through the door saying the postman has left you a package, you have no idea what is happening.

Sometimes I look at my piles of paper, and think, ‘There you are, all snug and safe. No scary people are going to hurt you if you stay here with Mummy.’

Of course, if I’m really honest with myself (usually about two o’clock in the morning), it’s me that is afraid of being hurt. And it’s me who is afraid of being unappreciated, or proved to be talentless or who will remain unsuccessful. So really, this manuscript is an extension of myself, my hopes, my dreams. But I’ve discovered that the only way to achieve is to do. If you wait until you are ‘ready’, you won’t achieve anything. If I do want something to happen in my life, if I do want something to change, to have any chance of increasing and developing my writing skills, of being successful, I have got to make myself do it. It’s time to take a risk. I’ve got to step out into the traffic.




You can be a pantser and set goals. I’m not talking here about plotting or planning a novel. I’m talking about thinking where you want to be in your life in one year, three years, five years, ten. As a pantser, (someone who essentially works on the fly, making it up as they go along, just like me) you can still set goals. In fact I’d say you still need signposts in your life, for these reasons:

Setting goals will encourage you when you’re feeling down, unsure of your ability, insecure, full of doubt, if you’ve had a bad review or zero royalties. You will have somewhere to aim for, like an arrow to a target. You will not feel directionless or lost.

Commitment to your art, in this case writing, can help you to feel good about yourself and your chosen field. You will have taken a stand, mentally if not physically, and you will know you are no longer an ‘aspiring’ writer, or a ‘wannabe’, but you are actually on your writing journey.

Goal setting gives you a way to measure your progress. You can see how much of your goal/goals you have attained–without getting depressed or feeling guilty about what has not been attained–you can celebrate what has been successfully reached, and you will feel spurred on to achieve more than you may have previously thought possible.

Got a big goal? Break it down into smaller, more easily managed steps. This is the key to all project management, take baby steps. Soon a lot of small steps will have become one big one. If you want to increase book sales, start with learning more about marketing. or learn about how readers choose books so you can reach people with the right kind of cover or blurb.

Re-evaluate your goals regularly. We change. All the time. What seems like an amazing goal now might have lost its allure in six months’ time. Or you might realise that actually you need to achieve other things first, so again, take a look at your goals and see if they are still powerful enough to spur you on. Don’t set something too easily attained, but at the same time, don’t give yourself an impossible dream to aim for. It’s a goal, not a wish-list.

Write your goals down. Start with something like, ‘In three years’ time, I want to…’ and make a little list of what you want to have accomplished or where you want to be in whatever future point you feel is suitable for you. You can do this for more than just writing, obviously you might include weight loss, fitness levels, relationships, education, home and environment, holidays…

Keep it somewhere safe, take a look at it every six months or so. Pat yourself on the back, thank your God, divine power, supreme being, cat, husband, wife, or writing pal. Or…pull yourself up by your bootstraps, remind yourself that it’s never too late to try again, and get on with it.

Good luck!


Downhill to the end of the year

I can’t believe it’s actually November (soon to be called NaNovember?) already. I seem to say this kind of thing a lot. Why is time going so fast? Where does it need to be? It could be an age thing. Maybe time isn’t really going faster. It just feels that way. Most of the people I know who say ‘Can you believe it’s November already?’ are geriatrics like me. I’ve even started saying to people, and by ‘people’ I mean total strangers, ‘I’m 57, you know!’ (Having first checked that’s right, because for a while I was saying I was 58, and that was when I was ‘only’ 56). Once upon a time I used to say ‘I’d kill to be 30 again.’ Then it went up to 35, 40 and now I’m saying ‘I’d kill to be 50 again.’ NO ONE says that!! Who would want to be 50 again? Someone who’s older than 50, obviously. Way older…

Our aspirations expand and change to fit our present and our lifestyle. This time last year I was about to have a life-saving cancer operation. Here I am a year later, and feeling fab, if a bit forgetful about my age. At the time, (I didn’t tell anyone this btw, it felt a bit negative, though I didn’t mean it that way), I thought, if I could just have two more years of life that would be wonderful. But a year of that has gone by already, and I’m now hoping to live to my 90s. Or longer, I don’t mind. Because there are so many stories I want to write, and if I just stay on target with my current plan, I’m not going to look up from my keyboard until 2021. And that’s without any new inspirations I don’t yet know about…

Life goes by, is the moral of today’s meandering story. So don’t waste time thinking, ‘One day I will write that book’, or ‘One day I will…(insert lifelong ambition/meaningful pursuit here)’. It is never the right time, you will never have enough confidence to know you’re finally ready, because confidence only comes from facing a challenge and winning, or at least knowing you gave it your all. So stop waiting to feel complete before you step out into the unknown. Just do it, as those sports equipment people say.



Not an Island, but a Peninsula…

We writers cannot live in isolation. We often think we can, we convince ourselves we do. Like many of my writer friends and colleagues, I spend hours each day in my own little world, deep in thought, planning story-lines, creating and manipulating characters. It’s all too easy to believe that I am divorced from reality as I build worlds and imagine conversations.

But I’m not. We’re not. We are in fact very closely linked with the world around us, necessarily so, since even our fictions must be built on some kind of reality. We people-watch, we observe, then we go back to our desks and computers screens, or our comfy sofas and our notebooks, and we report what we have seen and heard. Sometimes we change the outcome, or the setting, or the players in our dramas, to create a more useful impact in our work.

Years ago, on a holiday to Scotland, tour guides would always say, ‘And over there you can see the Black Isle. It’s not an isle but a peninsula.’

That’s what I am. Connected to the mainland of the world around me by a narrow but crucial and strong strip of reality, not an island, not remote, separate, autonomous or isolated. But an integral part, connected, associated, a partner in the journey. I depend on this connection for my work, and without it I wouldn’t be able to shut myself away and write.