Stephanie Butland

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One thing at a time. That’s what I like. That’s what works for me.

One day at a time is the mantra for hard times.

When I was struggling with cancer treatment, some days that went down to an hour at a time. On the worst days (and there weren’t many), one minute at a time was enough: watching the clock change and thinking, ‘there’s a minute I never have to have again’.

The only way you can hope to knit anything is a stitch at a time.


(And no, I don’t knit because I’m patient. I’m patient because I knit…)

And books. Yes, I need ideas, and a plot (or at least something happening next, which I hope will turn into a plot at some point), and research, and grinding on when it feels like pushing gin up a hill as well as loving the bits when everything flows – but, when it comes to it, one word in front of the other is how you get a book.

I’ve been doing some Secret Things in connection with LOST FOR WORDS (out April 20, did I mention?!). 100 different versions of one Ahing, 50 different versions of another Thing. I want them all to be equally special, equally beautiful. When making one takes at least 20 minutes, thinking of the other 99/49 waiting does no good whatsoever.

Life at the moment, though, isn’t making it easy to stick to my mantra. I’m revising one novel while talking publicity for another. That in itself is enough to make my brain weep. I sat in a meeting a couple of weeks ago thinking ‘well I really must mention that we aren’t doing anything in Edinburgh for this book, that seems ridiculous’ before remembering that the book I was supposed to be thinking about is set in a second-hand bookshop in York. More scarily, I was cheerfully going through the printout of my ms-in-progress thinking ‘I must mention X character, haven’t heard from her in a while’ before recalling that – well, you can guess the rest…..

Plus, revising is not writing – it’s an exercise in holding an awful lot in my head at one go. Plot, character, when-did-we-last-mention-this and I-think-I-changed-that-name-from-Caitlin-to-Roz and hold-on-when-is-Easter-2018.

There are consequences, my friends.

I went to withdraw some cash yesterday only to find that my PIN had gone – fallen through a hole in my memory. I had a couple of goes but with very little conviction, and didn’t dare risk the third attempt. I had more chance of getting it right if I had asked a passing toddler to press the buttons for me.

I am having a lot of conversations in which I hear myself say, ‘oh, is that this week?’ and ‘I just need to see where I put it, hold on’.

My tool in keeping on top of everything is my beloved bullet journal, which kept me so sorted and organised – write it down, don’t hold it in your head – until I lost it.

Having spent all of yesterday in what’s colloquially known as a ‘tat’ (not really a temper, more of a spiky bad mood) I’m really aware of how much this multi-foci period is impacting on me and the unfortunate souls in my vicinity.

And here’s my plan: to realise that, at the time when One Thing At A Time feels most impossible is the time when I need it more than usual.

When I’m revising, I’m revising, and LOST FOR WORDS can wait. When I’m making a Secret Thing I need to give it my attention and my whole heart. When I’m curled up with a book then everything-and-all I’m doing is reading it. Phone calls are phone calls, not look-at-emails-while-talking exercises.

Also, I REALLY need to find my bullet journal.

(I hear the rolling of eyes from those of you who are finding PE kits while making lunches and spooning porridge into a baby before you go and squash ten hours of work into eight hours in the office. And maybe finding half an hour to write a little bit of your novel before bed, if you can stay awake that long. I never forget how lucky I am.)


  1. Carol says:

    Haven’t read your blog for a while, Stephanie, so funny so self deprecating! I am too, self deprecating that is, but I’m sure you were a multi tasker once. With love xx

  2. Stephanie says:

    Thank you, Carol! Lovely to hear from you x