Writing occurs at my desk, most mornings that I can manage it. Slowly, the word count climbs at the bottom of the document. I have reached the point where I can more or less stop worrying about whether I will write enough words in time, instead, I can start worrying about whether I will write too many of them. I can also continue to worry about whether any of them are any good.
So much worry! Why do writers worry so much? Because we’re good at it, would be one answer, though not a very amusing, nor helpful one. Maybe a little more helpful to see that the reason that we worry is because we think and feel in ways that are different from those people who are not compelled to try to create marketable stories from the emanations of the fantasy spaces of their minds. And so, if we write, it’s at least partly because these things have to be done. For us, at least. For us at least, they can be meaningful, and even helpful, but I am witnessing some dreadful bouts of insomnia at the moment, and I think the fact that I am finally putting pen to paper is not unconnected. Even if not on a spiritual level, on a practical one, I am spending a lot of time awake at night trying to figure out how to best approach the scene I want to write when I wake up and stumble blearily to my desk. If I drift off to sleep and the issue is not solved, my subconscious wakes me back up again and I try again to use these night moments to fix my problems. I mean writing problems of course. Absolutely no inference that we might be writing to fix other problems. More deep-seated ones. No.
I am currently very anti-social. I write. That’s more or less it. I shop, I watch football, I eat. I write. I don’t sleep much. I do not go out, except for the shopping trips, where I appear to be almost the only human left on earth still wearing a mask. Paranoia? Maybe. I like hiding behind it anyway, I was one of those only too glad to adopt mask-wearing – I did it for the practical reasons of course, but very happily hid my face. I still do. And maybe the risks are still there and maybe they’re not, but I’m not going to take any avoidable ones, for now. If I get sick in the next two months, I won’t finish this book. I won’t get paid. I like wearing a mask, and I am neither going to offer or accept any dinner invitations. The only people I speak to face to face are the two women who operate the cash-out at the supermarket. I now know what their faces look like, I still keep mine hidden, like the book I am writing. Hidden on a hard drive and in a cloud somewhere.
It is tiring, the writing. Physically, I mean. That sounds so pathetic. I do not go down coal mines, or clean school canteens. All I do is sit at a desk, but I can no longer write for the hours I used to. For one thing, I am older than when I started. A quarter of a century older. For another thing, I spent the best part of the last 9 years ill; I am still recovering. Another reason I continue to wear my mask; my illness was precipitated by an unknown virus; I cannot afford to go through over 8 years like that again. I remember a neighbour, two years ago or so, spouting that terribly macho ‘I’m not scared of the virus; either I’ll die or get over it’ line. I didn’t even bother telling him there’s a worse outcome, which we didn’t have a name for then, but we do now, and to which my own condition of ME appears closely related. Not recovery. Not death. A sort of living death, bed-bound or even ‘just’ house-bound, not for a few weeks of a lockdown, but for years.
So, I work through my fears of my book, and with my book, and from my book. It’s tiring but generating; loving and terrifying. It will end. I will have finished a draft; I have no idea if it is what anyone wants. But I will do it anyway.
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Author Marcus Sedgwick is 2022 Novel Writer-in-Residence for the Hub, WriteMentor’s community learning platform that connects like-minded storytellers and provides all the tools they need for writing success.
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