Busy or Fruitful: 2013 365 Challenge #165

Son's first strawberry

Son’s first strawberry

Kirsten Lamb wrote a post today called, “Are you Being Busy or Fruitful?” It was timely, as I spent four hours working on something I didn’t think was due until next month, until the person emailed me and asked for it last night. What I should have been doing was writing Claire posts, because I’ve promised hubbie a weekend off to work on his new car.

Having the kids solo for the extra two days is likely to leave me exhausted and uncreative (there have been too many uncreative Claire posts recently… Re-reading the earlier volumes to brush up on Maggie, I realise I need to step it up.)

The gist of Kirsten’s post was identifying the difference between being fruitful and doing too much all at once. She explains that multi-tasking needs to be “one ‘thinking activity’ and one ‘mindless’.” Such as making the beds while phoning someone, or folding laundry while watching a movie. I write blog posts while walking the dog (not this one, it’s hammering with rain outside!), but that’s about the only one.

My biggest mistake is working on several things at once to ‘save time’ because my internet connection is so slow. I often sit with my iPad and my laptop, so I can check emails while a document is saving or loading. Unfortunately that just means I get distracted and wander off to read an interesting blog post or answer a message.

Daughter's first fruit

Daughter’s first fruit

I also have the same lack of focus with my writing. The task I did today (the one which meant I didn’t eat lunch until 3pm) was an author interview for the blog Susana’s Morning Room. I realised, when discussing my writing, that I have too many projects on the go. I’m trying to edit Baby Blues, write Two-Hundred Steps Home and promote Dragon Wraiths and the blog.

I tend to concentrate on the things I want to do, rather than have a structured plan. At the moment that means giving too much time to Baby Blues, because I want to get it fixed. I received a lovely five-star review for it today, so I’m even more motivated to set it free.

Unfortunately I also got my second set of Beta Reader feedback, and there is a lot to fix. More than I will manage to get done in a few hours twice a week, which is all I have right now. I’ve set myself a silly deadline, too, because I’m offering a free copy to commenters on my guest blogs, which go live on 5th and 12th July. A little over a month to change POV issues, a soggy middle and more grammar bugs than I care to think about!

Kirsten recommends lists to help us focus. I think I need more than lists: I need a personality transplant!


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


“What brings you to the National Forest, Maggie? I thought your heart belonged to Cumbria.”

Claire looked across at the woman over the top of her tea. She caught a flicker of consternation, before Maggie’s customary smile shone out.

“A group of garrulous girls!”

Claire raised an eyebrow, and Maggie laughed. “I’m here with some school children. They’ve come on a two-day visit.”

“Oh God, are they staying here?” The words were out before Claire could stop and think. She exhaled in relief when Maggie’s smile didn’t waver.

“They are, but don’t be concerned, I make sure they don’t cause any disturbance after hours. It isn’t the quietest hostel, I’m afraid. These new-builds don’t have the sturdy thick walls of a Victorian structure. You hear a lot of doors clattering; it seems to echo through the woodwork.”

Claire took a mental note to ensure her headphones were close at hand at bed time although she was so exhausted, sleep was unlikely to be a problem with even a hundred girls tramping along the corridors.

“Where are you taking them? I would have thought you’d be out and about by now?”

“The girls are. We arrived yesterday and I was on duty for the journey and settling in. Thankfully they’ve given me the morning off to recuperate. I’m only a volunteer. The teachers aren’t so lucky, poor things.”

“What marvellous activity are you missing out on?” Claire’s eyes twinkled in mischief.

“A visit to Conkers.” In answer to Claire’s questioning glance, Maggie added, “It’s the adventure play centre next door. They’ll be quite happily driving their teachers crazy, getting lost and falling off the climbing frames.”

“What exciting activity do you get to do then?”

Maggie sank her chin onto her hands. “Llama trekking,” she said, her voice low. Claire laughed.

“The manager tried to get me to do that today!”

Her friend’s head raised and she met Claire’s eyes. “Why not join with us tomorrow? The more the merrier, as long as you don’t mind doing the odd headcount and taking them to the toilet?”

Immediate words of denial formed on Claire’s lips. She swallowed them. I have to do something crazy soon, otherwise I’ll have Julia on my case again.

“Okay, why not?”

Maggie grinned. “What about you? What have you been up to? The last time I saw you, you were taking that charming Australian man to the airport. And how is your sister?”

Claire was impressed at Maggie’s memory. “Josh is happily back in Australia with his wife and children. Ruth is okay, we hope. The cancer had spread further than we thought, but she’s responding well to treatment.” I must call her, Claire added privately, realising she hadn’t called home in a few days.

“And what about you, Claire? Are you happier in your skin?” Maggie’s words wormed into the ebbing hangover-fog in Claire’s mind.

“That’s a strange thing to say.”

“Please don’t be offended: I’m not prying. I merely had the impression you were unhappy, particularly when that lovely young man came to meet you.” There was a pause, as if Maggie was considering her words. “Was he… Did you know he was married?” She looked around the hostel lounge, not meeting Claire’s eye.

Claire’ first reaction was to put the interfering woman in her place. But it was hard to see Maggie as anything other than sincere.

“No, I didn’t know he was married. But, in answer to your other question, no we weren’t lovers. He tried to kiss me once, but I pushed him away, and he never tried again.”

“You sound disappointed.”

Damn. Claire laughed reluctantly. “I guess. He is charming. But I look like his wife, that’s all.”

Something in her tone put an end to Maggie’s questioning. It hurt to talk about Josh, more than she would have expected. The realisation crept in slowly through the haze.

I miss him. Damn him.


2 thoughts on “Busy or Fruitful: 2013 365 Challenge #165

  1. Oh dear. Setting deadlines is both motivating, and terrifying. You’ll notice I’m not setting any for Reckless Rebellion? Too scared too!

    Good luck with the editing. I think the book is going to be fabulous once it’s done. And having two books to promote is supposed to be better than one!

    • My concern is I don’t have the patience to edit any manuscript to the point of fabulousness. I get bored. My sights are mostly ‘not crap’!

      Yes, looking forward to promoting a book more people I know might actually read (though my Mum prefers Dragon Wraiths)

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