If there was one thing I could change about the world, it’s this. (And it comes with World Peace as a BOGOF, you’ll be happy to know.)
I would alter the fabric of time and space so that novels could be written outside of the writer’s regular life, in another dimension, connected by only the merest of threads to this thing we call reality. I’ll call this dimension the Novelling Pocket. The entrance – I’d guess – is a little like Alice’s descent to Wonderland and, once safely inside, two things happen at once:
(a) Time comes to a halt – or, perhaps, more exactly: there is no time.
(b) Your emotional baggage is checked at the door.
If you haven’t immediately appreciated the joys of the Novelling Pocket then you, Sir and/or Madam, are (a) not presently writing a novel, (b) have never attempted to write a novel, and (c) are blessed with the sort of straightforward mindset that (if mindsets were bridges) would vaguely resemble Exhibit A:
Whereas I, Sir and/or Madam have found myself dogged, for the last thirty years of my life, with Exhibit B.
I think you see the difficulty.
This week (in jolly old reality) things went tits up for me. And so… after two weeks of frantic activity (see last month’s post on blurting) all work on the novel has come to a stop. (And the fact that I almost said ‘come to an end’ shows the ricketiness of my bridge at the moment.) I’m basically fastened together with red wine and string. When I open my mouth (aka pick up my pen) I am utterly mute. I have nothing. I’m empty. I want to dive into the novel and blot out the world, but instead I’m stuck, shivering, by myself, on the top board with a swimming pool of people underneath me, pointing and staring. (Actually, all right, I’m on the sofa eating crisps, but…) Last week I was Tom Daley. This week I’m an effing beach ball.
(N.B. The bridge, thing: that’s so last paragraph. Do try to keep up.)
So you know what I said (roughly 42 hours ago) about two things that happened at once in the Novelling Pocket: the (a) and the (b), and the (a) was time stopping? It used to be reason (a) that I needed it for (most of all), but now, hello, what’s this? It turns out I have shed-loads of time, now I’ve ceased any writing. The hours have magically trebled, quadrupled, quintupled (is that a real thing?), and each individual hour – each minute – seems infinitesimal in its length as I sit here unable to dive.
The profession of writer does tend to be linked with depression (Woolf, Hemingway, Plath) as this article reminds us. And yet – in spite of this blog post’s title – it’s one of the things that’s hardest to do when depressed: if you do write, the odds are you’ll write something twisted and crabbed and polluted – and, while poetry is known for its therapeutic effects, I am wholehearted in the opinion that novel writing is not. And, besides, I’m not Woolf. I’m not Plath. I’m very much more ordinary than that. To quote Plath’s Tulips, ‘I have nothing to do with explosions.’ I want nothing to do with explosions. All I want is to write again.
4 thoughts on “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps.”
In these instances I tend to eat a lot of buttered bread products. I’m not making light of it – this is actually what happens. I sympathise *utterly*. If the bread product thing worked, I’d offer you a muffin, but sadly, I’ve yet to find the instant cure…
This seems like very sensible advice, and one should never underestimate the restorative wonders of a buttered bread product. I am going to buy myself a packet of muffins, toast and butter them, then write a single sentence. Then watch The Bridge. Tomorrow I may write two sentences…
I’m in fits of empathic laughter here. (But only because luckily today has been a Good Writing Day). On Bad Writing Days I use a timer – 45 mins on, 15 mins off. So I know that the infinity of hell that I occupy, suspended between diving board and water like your beachball on a bridge, for those 45 minutes WILL END. And then I can go and get a cup of tea and a buttered bread product. Of course it’s perfectly valid to spend the 15 minutes on writing a sentence and the 45 on buttering and consuming muffins. Delighted to have found your blog!
Thanks so much, Colin. Delighted to have been found! 45 minutes buttering and consuming muffins sounds like 45 minutes well spent… Think I might take your advice there!