That leaves November/December to complete my Mark Barrett Christmas story, Spenderella.
I was dreaming I was on my bike riding along a rugged path when all of a sudden I went down a couple of old stone steps and fell over the edge of a cliff, with a drop of about 200 feet and nothing to grab onto.
As I fell I remember thinking, ‘There’s no way back from this, there’s no escape clause, I’m going to die.’
Nothing flashed in front of my eyes, but I was very interested in what was happening at that moment.
It felt quite liberating.
Then I woke, of course, and afterwards, I realised exactly what it meant. Which was quite liberating.
This blog has over 1300 posts. I once deleted 300 in a fit of the vapours, and I have no way of getting them back, so 1300+ will have to do. I think the posts go back to about 2009, maybe earlier, will have to check. I was coming out of a really unsuccessful relationship with an agent and publisher who wanted me to go down a road that I didn’t want to go, writing books abut teaching, which was my job at the time.
The books were fine, I still like them, but they weren’t where my heart lay. Fiction is the thing for me. Making up stories. Discovering new worlds.
I was telling Lishman last week that on those regular occasions when I want to give it all up, when I want to shed the burden of writing, I know I never will, because I owe those characters who are in my head the chance to speak, the chance to live and breathe. I owe them a debt. They presented themselves to me and I can’t let them down.
I write for one hour every day, and I think I might have to up that to two. Doesn’t sound like a huge change, but it would be a massive step. That current one hour includes editing and admin, so it’s not like I’m putting down 500 or a 1,000 words every day, but I’m more productive now than I used to be, and I would like to become even more so.
Those characters, see.
It’s not often I wake feeling hungover. I don’t like it and I avoid making it happen. Bukowski reckoned it wasn’t easy to become an alcoholic, a real alcoholic, someone who woke, hungover, three hundred days a year. He said it took determination.
I can’t be doing that.
But, yeah, this morning, I’m hungover from multiple Gin & Tonics. I want through a phase in the mid-late 90s where I was hungover every day for two years, bar five days when I had the flu. I was doing my masters in American literature and working full-time in an office, and it was a bit stressful. I took up kick-boxing too, and the combination of battering/getting battered, followed by a litre of cheap cider mixed with white wine generally got me to sleep after a day of work and studying. But I gave up the drink immediately I handed in my dissertation, and the kick-boxing not long after that. Since then I’ve tried to stay away from getting drunk.
But this morning I’m feeling like the very definition of stupid.
Got the galley copies of Border Bob back, three typos, and a change of the back cover and blurb, and done.
Hopefully that’ll be it, though you never can tell until you hold it in your hands.
I subscribe to the Ruskin/punk rock idea of not attempting to polish the head of a pin. It’s not that I don’t think things should be done well, I do, and if I enjoy any particular skill, it’s the ability to edit and re-edit multiple times over many hours. But there’s a level of effort required for an independent writer like myself, working without artists or copy-editors, or any support staff at all, to create a ‘perfection’ that would, if I let it, occupy all of my creative time.
I’d end up with a perfectly-polished nothing.
But the thing I’m working on right now, Border Bob, a child’s story about a border terrier, requires more effort. I want it to look good. I want it to read well. There’s a flavour it must have.
So I’m sending out copies to friends to get their comments. Not comments like ‘yeah, it’s good,’ but asking them specific questions about the language, the structure, the layout and so on, that they can answer honestly.
The thing is, I’m still not looking for perfection, I’m looking for ‘rightness’. Border Bob is actually out in print now and if you’re tempted to buy it, email me your thoughts and comments.
Imagine you’re walking down a staircase in an apartment building and you get a glimpse through a door which is ajar, and the fleeting image of the people inside tells you they’re cool and you wish you could get to know them, maybe there’s music playing, they seem to have a purpose, they’re talking, drinking wine, then the door shuts, and you never really find out because it’s not your apartment block and you never return.
It’s that sort of novel.
Writing a story should be like a child bringing a gift a stranger.
I used to think that the business of writing was scraping your ego off the page. I was wrong: you have to drown your ego in deep water.