I was working it out this morning. I may only have forty years left to write. Or, if I turn into a crabby old person with no ideas, maybe twenty. Or, if I get run over by a bus or something, maybe five, or one. Help! I have to spend every available second getting stuff down on paper (screen, actually), or I’ll only have one little book to show for my name and It’s Not Enough. It might be, if I was a Bronte or something, but I’m not a Bronte or something. Not even a Bronte with jokes. I need to go for quantity here if booksellers and librarians are going to have the faintest idea who I am. Or, more to the point, if children are going to read my pages and enter my world for a while.
So although everything is going pretty well at the moment, any lull in proceedings is a bad thing. I don’t mind lulls in the publishing process. I’m ready for those. Simply having a publishing process for there to be lulls in is fantastic enough. I mean lulls in the creative process. Which is what I’m suddenly in the middle of this week.
I was quite looking forward to it. Take time off from the books for a week or two, prepare material for the website (what I should be doing now, but I’m too disheartened right this second), spend more time with the kids in the holidays (what I will be doing in a couple of hours), choose wallpaper (done that, ordered it – everything to do with wallpaper is ticked and double ticked on my list, can’t think of any other wallpaper-related activities to create for myself). It sounded great. Book in the bag, second book largely up and running, third book quietly writing itself in my head, fourth book straining to get out and being kept back with difficulty, no immediate deadlines – quiet summer. Lovely.
Except it’s not lovely, it’s rubbish. The part of my brain that’s constantly checking off whether I’ve done a couple of good scenes recently, or developed a character, or entertained myself with some unexpected interactions, is stuck in neutral and the engine is complaining. (That’s a manual car reference for everyone in an automatic. I come from the olden days when we could choose our revs. Imagine you’re trying to get up a hill and you’ve still got the handbrake on. That’s how my brain feels right now.)
My poor editor has had one of those summer bugs (Get Well Soon, Imogen), and I can’t really touch book 2 again until I’ve got her advice. And I’d sort of told myself not to get going on book 3 until book 2 was more sorted, so my brain refuses to take a leap and go there anyway. And writing stuff for the website is wonderful, but it’s a bit like taking the car out for several trips to the end of the road, when you know it really wants to go touring Europe, or trying a couple of laps at Silverstone (olden days, romantic Silverstone, not current rubbish Silverstone). And I feel a bit guilty leaving my darling husband with the boys to spend time putting captions on photos, when I really should be Writing Children’s Fiction.
This isn’t exactly a new feeling. I’ve spent a large portion of the last twenty years feeling like this, one way or another. But for about nine of the last twelve months I’ve been revelling in that sense of satisfaction you get when a piece of work is growing, when you’re constantly facing obstacles to your plot or characters and gradually solving them. It’s addictive. I miss it.
And it gets worse. Only slightly worse, but exciting things may happen to book 1 if An Important Person gets involved, and we’re all waiting to see if the Important Person is interested or not, so that’s a nice new area of limbo to add to the situation.
I could be researching book 3. As it stands, the plot chronology is a logistical nightmare and there are various experts I need to talk to to find out how to make a two-year process last about six months, or my characters will all be middle-aged by the time the series is over. But I can’t really focus on it until I know what needs to be done to book 2 and that actually requires this period of limbo – it’s not just the editor’s bug – so I can get some distance and see where the fault lines are.
My brain’s response to all of this, apart from mild depression and frenetic wallpaper-choosing, is window shopping. I have window shopped for shoes, for party dresses, for antique furniture, books, cardigans, summery linen tops and skinny jeans. Local shopkeepers see me coming and run for the hills. They know their changing rooms will be awash with sale items that I love but can’t justify buying and their afternoons will be spent readjusting things I didn’t put back on their hangers quite right. So far, I’ve avoided getting my credit card out, but I fear it may only be a matter of time (and yes, the advance got spent a long, long time ago; we’re deep into savings territory here). However, I have got some nice photos out of it – for the website. Here, for your delectation and delight (and mine) are some Christian Louboutin platforms. Sigh sigh sigh.
A word of advice to anyone thinking about setting up their lot with a writer, aspiring or otherwise: don’t. They’re either mentally exhausted from doing what they love, or exhausted from not doing it. And if it they’re not doing it, hide their wallet: that creative spirit has to express itself somehow, and the little voice saying ‘Your life will be more complete if you accessorise your handbag with these fabulous patent wedges’ becomes harder to ignore as time goes by.
Is it still the most fabulous job in the world? Er, yes, I think so. Even more fabulous if you could ease the occasional pain with Louboutins, though.