Last night I spent an hour or two writing something for this blog. This morning I decided not to post it. Was I wasting my time? The piece was about my novel. Should I have been writing the novel instead? Or hoovering the house?
Well, I was thinking about the novel at least. I was also thinking about the hoovering.
I don’t think it’s the blog’s fault if I spent time writing about writing instead of writing the novel.
I’ve always enjoyed talking about the process of writing and creating, how to develop ideas, where ideas come from, narrative technique. There’s a lot to learn when you begin writing novels. It’s not just about putting one sentence after another until you reach the end. You open yourself up in unpredictable ways and the world becomes a different place. You need some way of assimilating what you are learning and for me that involves talking or writing about it.
The problem I’ve always had is finding someone to listen.
A few years ago I was drinking some beers with a friend and telling him about another novel I was writing. He was a very good friend, a voracious reader, very intelligent and sensitive. I told him I was looking back over some things I’d written and discovered a common theme. I hadn’t deliberately introduced this theme. It had emerged unconsciously. In many of my stories and novels there was a character who was metaphorically encased in ice. He was frozen out from the world, unable to communicate. The stories showed this character sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing to break out of this icy isolation. Sometimes when he broke out, he could talk but there was still ice around his heart. He was aware of it and he desperately wanted it to melt. But it was painful and slow.
I realised of course that this character was me.
My friend looked a bit embarrassed while I was telling him this. His cheeks were flushed. He took several rapid sips of his beer and reached for another cigarette. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said seriously.