Monday, August 19, 2013

The Empty Page

Reading all the posts this past week from people who are away on holiday has been hard, since my own holiday in the south of France is well behind me. We did, however, return to the best summer Scotland has had for some time which has helped a bit.

Now, though, while the sun is still shining and the temperature is pleasant, there is an slight autumnal feel – a cool little breeze, darker evenings. The old crab apple tree, which is host to clematis in May, yellow roses in June and pink roses in July, now has little apples starting to ripen – time to look out the jam jars to make jelly.

This year, when I finished my new book Bad Blood, ready to go into the system for publication in October, my editor wanted me to start on the next one. I've been producing more or less a book a year for some time and I felt exhausted at the thought. Arguing with an editor who is keen on having your next book has never seemed a smart idea to me, but when I murmured delicately that  I wanted a three-month break she was very understanding.

I told my husband I was on holiday but as he said to me recently, 'What's the difference?' I mooched around for a few days, feeling totally at a loose end, then found myself back at my desk, just doing bits and pieces – writing a short story, planning, trying out a few new ideas... I suppose I've spent much the same time at my desk as I do when I'm 'working'.

With September on the horizon, my 'holiday' is almost over, but it feels to me the natural time for a fresh start. Perhaps it's the result of a lifetime spent in and around schools that September has always seemed more like the beginning of the year than January does.

I can clearly remember the excitement of the new exercise book – all those crisp, smooth, empty pages to be filled, of course, with faultless work. To this day l have what amounts to an addiction for stationery, the smell and the feel of it, and have to be escorted past the most elegant and expensive shops like Smythson's in London, where PM David Cameron's wife Samantha works..

A new book is rather different. The blank page is the author's enemy and can produce a sort of paralysis of terror. When I do a workshop, I always say that you should never sit down to start writing  a book until you have it absolutely clear in your mind what you are actually going to write on that first page.

But there's a real sense of excitement about it too, and after my summer 'holiday' I'm brimming with the  thoughts and ideas that will get me started. And I  still have that old feeling of optimism that this is the  time I really will get everything right.. As that shrewd commentator Alexander Pope said, 'Hope springs eternal in the human breast.'


Charlotte Hinger said...

I sent out my corrected ARC last week and was determined to get to work on my academic project today and instead wasted all my time on getting some piddling app to work. It had to be Freudian. I am in laziness denial. There's got to be an AA like group for sloth

Aline Templeton said...

When you found it, Charlotte, Please can I join? We could have a meeting....sometime.