Welcome to the second installment of the 2018 series of ‘A Day in the Life of a Writer’. If you missed last month, make sure you head back and take a look at a day in the life of Sarah Bailey, who juggles work, motherhood, writing, and a mind that keeps ticking over into all hours of the night.
This month we welcome a relatively new name to the Australian writing scene, Michael Trant. Described as ‘an utterly authentic new voice in rural fiction’ Michael debuted his first novel in 2017 – Ridgeview Station (you can read my review here).
What I love about Michael, is that he reminds us that writers come from all walks of life and it’s the journey, experiences and often settings that inspire us to bring stories to life. Michael’s day is so fitting to the authentic voice that comes through in his writing. So without further ado, welcome Michael Trant.
A Day in the Life of Michael Trant
My days vary so much it was hard to pick just one, but given I’ve spent the last four weeks sitting in a tractor I figured that would be as good a day as any.
5.00 A Good Morning text from Kylie wakes me up, just as the alarm starts to sound. What, already? But I only just closed my eyes. I promise myself tonight I’m not browsing Facebook, Twitter or Youtube; I’m going to bed and straight to sleep. But I can’t really complain, she’s been awake anytime since 1.30 or 3.30, depending what job they’ve given her up at camp. Suppose I better get up. But it’s dark and cold and …. Oh, looks like everyone on Twitter is at the #5amwritersclub. I’ll get back into that once I’m home and writing drafts again.
5.15 I pack lunch for the day, resisting the temptation to fill the tucker box with as much food as possible, knowing full well regardless of how much I put in there the thing will be empty by about 10 am.
5.30 The dogs get a light breakfast. They’re a bit neglected when I’m busy. I’d take them with me, but the days are too long, the tractor cab is too high and they’re too heavy for me to lift in. And they also fart like nobody’s business.
5.45 Walk out the door with two bits of toast and a coffee, leaving Dad still asleep. Given that my bedroom door bangs, the toilet has a loud flush, the racket I made prepping smoko and the dogs barking when they realised I’m up, I again think that being partially deaf may have some good points.
5.50 Head out of Three Springs towards work. Today we’re seeding the lease farm, about 45 kms west of town, which means some very cautious driving down roo infested gravel roads.
6.30 Three near misses later I arrive at the paddock. Good to know the brakes still work. If I get through this seeding without hitting Skippy I’ll be very surprised. I fire up the truck, check over the tractor and start that up too. While the GPS unit is acquiring satellites I top up the seed and fertilizer and check over the bar.
7.00 And we’re off. Tynes are in the ground. It’s a lovely still morning and the dust is hanging low in the air. Combined with the rising sun it’s quite beautiful. Personally I prefer sunsets though, you can watch those with a beer in the hand.
7.15 The alarm beeps, telling me the fence line is approaching. Handy things, those alarms. Auto steer units are all very well, but it’s easy to get distracted, and nobody likes a seeding run through fences, creeks or roads, no matter how straight they are. My job is to turn the machine around, which involves lifting the tynes out the ground, doing a 180, lining it back up, engage the GPS unit and lower the tynes. Lift, turn, lower. Lift, turn, lower. And steer around the occasional power pole, tree or rock pile, but for the most part it’s just watching, making sure nothing is blocking up and checking that things are working as they should be.
And so goes the next four hours. Phone service is lousy here so Facebook and Twitter don’t get much of a look in (lift, turn, lower,) but I’ve got a heap of audiobooks to get through, and I printed out the latest draft of my WIP; Flyout Day. I’ve been reading through it again, tightening things up after some straight shooting feedback from an agent, so what better way to pass the time (lift, turn, lower,) than doing just that. The only drawback is this paddock is a bit rough so my pencilled notes may prove to be harder reading than normal.
I can see Ash arriving in his sprayer. I’ve done a bit in that thing, and I tell you what, kids these days don’t know how good they’ve got it (lift, turn, lower), with their auto steer, auto rate, auto shut off, auto height. Back in my day… oh God now I sound like Dad.
The hectares tick over as the hours pass. Sometimes I have a book playing; I’m currently listening to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, a series I’ve tried to read a few times but kept getting distracted. What an epic that is, imagine (lift, turn, lower) writing something like that? After while I turn it off and just let my mind wander. Is Flyout Day going to come to anything? How am I going to my other WIP up to scratch? Is it any good? These are all questions that (lift, turn, lower) any writer asks themselves, even the big names, which is comforting; at least we’ve got that in common.
After 60 hectares the seed bin is nearly empty so I make my way back to the truck. Spanner, Ash’s dad, meets me there to fuel the tractor and give a hand to fill up. He’s made the mistake of looking at a rain forecast, and there’s nothing on the horizon. I miss many things about being a farmer, but praying for rain is not one of them.
12.30 Eat my sandwich and refrain from starting on the container of cold curry I’ve brought for dinner. This takes no small amount of willpower.
2.30 Willpower has been depleted and I eat the damn curry.
3.00 Listening to all these books feeds my imagination and I start jotting down notes and ideas for a story. It may come to something, it may not (lift, turn, lower) but if I don’t record them I’ll forget it when I’m in front of a computer again. There’s also every chance when I open the notepad the scribbles will be indecipherable.
3.30 Seeding on top of a big hill so I make a video call to Kylie before she falls asleep. Shift work really messes with the body clock. I get through, but the (lift, turn, lower) reception is so crap we give up. Probably best anyway, it’s pretty bumpy and me bouncing up and down on the screen is liable to make her carsick.
4.20 The sea breeze is in and it’s right up my bum, meaning I can’t see a bloody thing for dust. Hurry up and rain, would you? I remember seeding time being cold, wet and miserable, with Mum bringing out hot pasties for lunch and collecting mushrooms on the way home.
5.20 Seeder is empty again so back to the truck to refill. This should keep me going until I’ve had enough. Spanner and Ash arrive to sort out next day’s plans, which should involve shifting to a new paddock, so long as Murphy plays along. We tend not to plan too far ahead, as everything time we do Murphy laughs and says ‘No.’
7.18 Bloody dust. Combined with the headlights glare it makes seeing ahead almost impossible.
8.40 Reception has picked up and with it so too the laughs on Twitter. There’s a lot of funny farmers on there nowadays, which is good. I remember the droughts in ’06 and ’07, and (lift, turn, lower) things might’ve been just that little bit easier with an online presence.
9.00 Kicking myself for eating dinner at smoko.
9.20 There’s about ten runs left to do, plus the outside laps. Bugger it, I’ll push through and get this paddock done tonight (lower, turn, lift), it’ll be good to finish. Spanner reckoned I wouldn’t, but that’s just a challenge really, and… why is that alarm going off? Oh. I lifted when I should have lowered. Hmm, maybe I will knock off. There’s still forty kilometres of kangaroos to drive through yet.
10.15 Arrive back at Dad’s with no dents or fur covered dings, but a couple roos did try hard. I feed the dogs; the old one was none too impressed at being woken up for his dinner. Dad has left my own dinner in the fridge, so I wolf that down, have a quick shower and hop into bed, promptly forgetting this morning’s promise not to stare at my phone for too long.
11pm Realise it’s late and finally close eyes, ready to do it all again tomorrow.
I’m pleased to say this is being written as the rain falls in Perth, and even more pleased to say that they got a good drop at Three Springs. I’ll be there again soon enough, going up and back, up and back, hoping I don’t get my lifts and lowers mixed up.