It’s time to write something new. The thought has been lurking for a while now, on the edge of daily life. It refuses to reveal itself fully, but will not go away, its patience boundless.
Having the creative impulse is like being stalked, except the secret gifts it leaves aren’t unwanted: little bursts of excitement as a new idea presents itself; plot twists that unfurl to reveal myriad possibilities; and, most importantly, characters waiting to breathe, to speak. The desire to give form to these swirling thoughts quickly becomes overwhelming, until the day arrives when the laptop finally gets switched on with a measure of serious intent, and there it is: the tyranny of the blank page.
Sometimes it feels as if this writing thing is a hex cast at birth. A shrouded figure pointing a bony finger at new-borns, quotas to fill, columns that must balance. ‘This one will be a doctor; this one will travel; this one… let me see… ah yes, this little wretch will write. For all eternity.’
Okay, it’s not that bad. But a book takes time to create. A long time. It’s part of the challenge that we both relish and dread. Sometimes it’s fun; mostly it’s arduous. There is little instant gratification to be had: crafting a good sentence might be satisfying, but thousands more need to be hot on its tail. We’re talking months, at the very least, of hard graft. Chuck in the rigours of a day job, and before you know it the calendar will be down to its last couple of pages before the start of Act Two is even a dot on the horizon. All those ideas, once so exciting, now won’t even sit still for a headcount. A cull is needed, but deciding where the axe must fall also takes time. And still the clock keeps ticking.
I spent yesterday mulling over what activities I could cut back on in order to free up some time. The activity bore little fruit. There are books and blogs to read; places to go; a life to enjoy. I want to look out of the window and not feel like a prisoner. And yet the hesitant voice at the back of my consciousness, saying ‘You don’t have to do it’, is still nothing more than a whisper. My stalker knows better.
Finally, I came up with the solution: sleep. My current manuscript was written mostly between the hours of midnight and two am, and considering my alarm usually goes off at six, things are going to get unpleasant. Again. In fact, should any money come my way from this great publishing endeavour, I will be sorely tempted to hand it over to a cosmetic surgeon with a request to restore the two wrinkled flaps on the front of my face to their former sparkly glory. On a bad day it’s like looking out of a gun turret.
But hey, so what. There might be no choice but to follow the twists and turns of the creative path, but at least I’m not digging out lumps of coal two miles below the surface of the earth, or walking into a burning building wondering whether I’ll see daylight again. Perspective is needed.
So if anyone out there has any thoughts on how to organise this writing life, I’d love to hear about it. Perhaps you beaver away during your lunch break, or rise before the sun. Maybe you get as far away from the internet as possible, or settle into a corner table at your local café, a steady stream of espressos fueling your fire.
Me, I’ll just wait until the house has gone quiet.