Judith Cutler

Working Week

I used, cheerfully and accurately, to describe my writing week as nine till five-thirty, Monday to Friday, with extra bits at weekends. Now I still work the same hours, but not in the same regular pattern. Life's more complicated, especially when your other half is a writer too, with different deadlines from mine.

Working Week article reproduced from Crime Writers' Association Red Herrings magazine

I'll freely admit that Keith (Miles, aka Edward Marston, etc) spends much longer in his study than I do in mine, and writes far more books. But, to misquote Napoleon, every successful novelist writes on his stomach. There has to be an efficient commissariat, and that's my role. I'm i/c lunch and dinner. In the Miles household this involves not only preparing the meals but growing them too.

I'm a keen producer of organic vegetables, which tend to be promiscuous: they will share their beds with unpleasant interlopers, such as dandelions and bindweed. Once their homes are clean and tidy, they need feeding, though possibly I draw the line at talking to them. OK, I'll admit it: I do discuss plot lines with the garlic. And mowing the lawn, simple and repetitive, is a wonderful way of emptying the brain and solving denouement problems. So a wobble in the regular timetable there: if it's bright early and rain is forecast for later, my computer hours get shifted back. And obviously I work at my desk longer hours in winter than in summer.

As we get older, Keith and I take our exercise more seriously, so we spend at least two sessions a week on the tennis court with what the club calls the Roll-Up Group and what I more accurately refer to as the Golden Oldies – those of us in our sixties are regarded as babies by the others. And – though this isn't part of the working week, just an exhausting evening – we go to ballroom dance classes, having read somewhere that dancing delays Alzeimer's.

Doing crosswords and other puzzles is supposed to help with that too, so Keith and I start our day with the Times crossword (the easy one). At intervals I'll do the Polygon word search, the code word and the easy arithmetic test.

Any more distractions? I've managed to give up my role as PCC secretary, but I'm still part of the Open the Book team from our local church that takes bowdlerised Bible stories to the village school. Each week some 80 kids sit open-mouthed, possibly at our weird mixture of costumes, as we enact that day's story. It will give you some idea of the age of our group if I tell you that I got to play the Boy David, complete with Attitude and Sling because I was the youngest.

Come on, I hear you groaning, doesn't this woman do any work? What about the grind we all endure – the research (in my case I'm absolutely forced to go to antique fairs and cricket matches, of course, and I got a whole novel out of preparing for our church fete), the planning, the first draft, the editing, making the changes the copy-editor needs, checking proofs? Well, you all know about that, so why tell you?