Writers are fancy gamblers, addicts suffering from collections of random personality disorders. At least I am.
Every novel I write, and I’ve written eight (six in the world and two on the way), I tell myself I won’t make myself ill this time. But each time I do.
In the final weeks of completing the first readable draft, I don’t sleep. I slip into a kind of inescapable mania which, near its end, leaves me physically wrecked and emotionally raw. Skinless. Sore. Exhausted. That’s where I am right now.
The day after Christmas, I finally completed a novel that’s taken me more than two years to write; earlier in the year, I completed another that had been kicking around in my consciousness for three years. There is never a time when I’m not somehow immersed in story, and while huge and happy amounts of research go into those stories, their narrative threads come from me: pulled, coaxed, wrenched directly from my heart. It’s a process of personal interrogation that hurls me towards understanding and empathy as nothing else can. But it’s also often painful.
There are times when I disconnect from my family, friends, colleagues; times when terrifying doubt causes me to disconnect from everything but the tiny light-tunnel of story.
I take every one of these trips not knowing if my story will be published; and knowing that if it is published, it’s unlikely to sell in any quantity that might justify such enormous effort – because that’s life for the vast majority of authors.
All this, but I can’t stop.
I have a co-conspirator, though. My muse de bloke, my lover – Deano. As much as he struggles with my struggles, he’s besotted with my addiction, too. He loves watching those lights switch on in me, how alive my mind becomes.
Three hours after I finished my latest manuscript, we lay in bed, washed up on the shore, and I told him I’m not writing anything for at least two weeks.
He asked me: ‘What do you think you’ll write next?’ Knowing that there are two ideas I have burbling away in the back-brain.
We spent the rest of the day discussing that next book. I’m already itching to dive in.
I wouldn’t change a thing.