I’m something of a split personality: Janet Bingham, author, of picture books; and Janet Bingham, editor, of a more prosaic and grown-up abstracting service.
Editor-me has been working for 28 years on basically the same product, always in a spacious office surrounded by friendly workmates. Author-me is a more novice, solitary creature, and messy. She wanders around the house muttering to herself, trailing books and scribbled scraps of paper, occasionally settling in the study and clearing the keyboard of piles of magazine cuttings in order to tap in a few words.
The territories of author-me and editor-me were safely separated, until now, by a four-mile road trip. But suddenly (admittedly with lots of warning) my day job has become home-based. I am officially a home-worker.
The household study, previously all mine apart from occasional incursions by other family members, is now home to two jostling computers wearing different hats. My own computer is no longer king of its domain, but dominated by the infiltrator on which the daily bread is earned. My swivel chair swivels between them with a confused look on its face.
Working from home has its pros (the quiet, the vicinity of the fridge), and its cons (ditto). But the loss of the car trip is definitely the biggest pro-con.
The slow, petrol-guzzling drive to work in the rush-hour, and back again, was my essential thinking time. Aside from the middle of the night, it was my main chance to work out potential story lines. It was a good time for rolling sentences around in my head. I could even recite the words out loud while risking nothing more than a few odd looks from passers-by.
The passers-by themselves could be inspiring and so could the weather and the passing seasons: the wide East Anglian skies gave me the basic idea for Daddy's Little Star, and it was watching small children walking to school under leaf-shedding trees that gave me the character who became Little Fox in the story.
So the daily drive gave me food for creative thought. And the outward journey had the added advantage of telling me to get ready to sit down to the serious stuff of the working day ahead. The drive home did the opposite – it was time to switch off and look forward to an evening with my husband, and any grown up children who happened to be home.
So it’s the morning drive that I miss when I settle down to work in my slippers, with shiny new gizmos connecting me to the outside world, and a weekly team-meeting in the pub to look forward to. In other respects working from the comfort of home is suiting me quite nicely. But I’m struggling to do without the car-shaped pivot in my work-life balance. Even the car looks melancholy and forsaken.
I’m almost tempted to drive anywhere and back again in the rush hour every morning after breakfast. How else can I replace that special quality creative-thinking, countdown-to-work time?
Any suggestions gratefully received!
Photography by Kim Ayres (kimayres.co.uk) as part of a series
of images for Wigtown Book Festival 2012
Other recent moments of identity-confusion include a brief appearance as Billie Jean Fleetwood-Mack, from Roddy Doyle’s The Giggler Treatment, seen here earnestly mountaineering on the stairs!