I know I’m a writer, because precisely at the moment I decide to take a break, that me and Writing need a little time apart, that I’m feeling a little too much pressure to commit, get the dog, the white picket fence and all that jazz, at THAT EXACT MOMENT…I want to write.
If Writing were a man, I would be in big trouble. I would send him away only to grab him desperately by the hand and drag him back again.
If Writing were a car, I would have sold it, before changing my mind as the new owners drive off, and I chase them down the street with tears in my eyes, shouting like a crazy woman.
I have always been a firm believer in the fact that writing is work. When people ask if I’m ‘waiting for my big break’ or comment on how ‘lucky’ I am, I get a little pissed. Because yes, I have been lucky, and maybe, if you’ll forgive me, there’s a little talent in there too. But I am 100% working my arse off for this.
When I was a writing student, it was a different case altogether. I thought it was about creating routine to commune with the muse, putting on my beret, smoking a roll up cigarette and tapping my beret three times before I could write something genius with my lucky pen.
That’s not writing. Or at least, that’s not writing as a professional. That’s writing for fun. And that’s great too. If you can afford to be precious with when you create magic, then that’s great. I can’t – I have and need deadlines to function. They’re stressful and horrid, but they are what you come up against in the working world, and this, for me, is work. It’s work I enjoy about 85% of the time, but it’s still hard work.
So it’s important to check in with your relationship with writing, just as you do with your human relationships. Are you both putting in as much effort, are you making time for Writing? Are you feeling disenchanted, falling out of love a little? Are you wondering where this is all going, and whether you’re wasting your time?
I think we all do. I think you could have sold a million copies of something you’ve written, and you’ll still wonder, ‘Is this a fruitful relationship? Is this making me happy?’
I wanted to break from my old pal Writing for a while. We’ve been together for ages now, producing 8 novels in 5 years. And I wondered if maybe I wanted to write something else, shake it up, experiment and explore and…well, play the field. But just like most long term relationships, writing has become a part of me, and I can’t seem to shake him.
So the minute I insisted I needed some space, I put down the pen and stuck the four or five new ideas in the desk drawer…I wanted to write again. I needed to. I missed it.
At this point in my life, it seems everyone my age is buying houses, having kids and getting married. And I’m spending time with the fictional people in my head. But I mention this because a dear friend said of having children: ‘You should only have them when you really can’t bear to not have them. When not having them is painful, that’s when you should have them.’
And that’s how I feel about writing. When it’s painful not to write, when the idea of a day going by when you’re not wondering about your characters, or plotting something, scribbling even a single word on the back of a train ticket simply hurts…well, dear hearts, I think it means he’s a keeper.
Here’s to my love, Writing, and here’s to that first flush of love and excitement all over again.