Monday, September 30, 2019

Literary Existentialism

Is it something to do with autumn - or as you guys like to call it, fall?  The note of literary existentialism struck by Sybil and Thomas has certainly resonated with me.

I have just sent my new ms off to my agent and I'm now in that itchy, unsatisfactory period while I'm trying to tell myself I'm on holiday but not really enjoying it.  (Fortunately we go off on proper holiday in ten days' time which will take my mind off it - apologies in advance if the next post is a bit sketchy!)

I want to start thinking about the next book.  I'm a slow writer and I like to have my ducks more or less in a row before I confront the terror of a blank screen.  Indeed, I always have the first few pages written in longhand to have something to get me going.

The ideas are there - the ones that float up and drift around for a bit while I do the stress-testing bit, and often at that point they disappear without a trace.  Gradually one will, I hope, consolidate so that it won't break when I start playing with it.

But I haven't found that one yet and as Sybil says, it's  very uncomfortable and unsettling, right up until the time it all starts to flow.  If it does.  This is the stage where I'm wondering pessimistically if next time it will.

Which brings me on to Thomas's point, why do we write?  As we all agree, we don't to it for the money.  I would sleep a lot better if I didn't write - none of those three in the morning awakenings when I'm convinced I've wasted six months on a story that's going nowhere fast.

I could take up time-consuming hobbies -golf, for instance, if it weren't for the fact that I have no natural aptitude.  Or bridge, perhaps, if I could convince myself to care who won. (I think I take after my very deaf but still sparky great aunt who was a keen bridge-player.  As she left a bridge party after losing to her hosts, she remarked to her daughter in what was meant to be a whisper but sadly wasn't, 'I'm so glad they won, dear, because they would have been so unpleasant if they hadn't.')

The trouble is, the urge to tell stories is so much bone-deep that it really is an existential question for me: I write, therefore I am.  I can't imagine what I would think about, if I didn't have the potential for a story somewhere in my head.

And the other thing is, when you have one of those rare spells when you feel the book is writing itself and you can't write it down fast enough to keep up, it's a thrilling high. So perhaps that's the explanation: I'm an addict.  Perhaps someone should give me the address of Writers Anonymous - though of course I don't really need it. I could give up any time I want.  I just don't want to.


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