A good thing happened to me today.
The foundation stone for my next novel fell into place. It missed hitting my toes and everything.
And the world looked different to me.
I hadn’t realised it until about 2.30 this afternoon, but not having a novel-in-progress has been having quite an impact on the rest of my work. I mean I know that I’ve been feeling blah about my work, but I didn’t understand what I was feeling blah about. And in fact, the feeling of the blah was making me feel even more blah because I thought I should be feeling wonderful. I had assumed that getting my current novel back to the editor with its final-before-copy-edits edits would invigorate me. It would free me to get stuck into the other projects I’ve got on the go. A couple of things I’ve got are reasonably solid and should be easy to work on.
But no. Instead of sitting down and working with focus (which I’m actually not too bad at doing despite appearances) I’ve been bumbling around, picking one thing up and then another and not really sure what to work on next.
I sat down with my journal this morning and instead of trying to write an essay or a short story or get started on my novel, I decided to write about how I was feeling and what I was thinking about my writing work. I know. It sounds uber-naff, but I did it anyway. And after writing and writing and writing, I discovered that there was a deep, tight knot of frustration somewhere in my brain. This in itself isn’t unusual, but this particular knot seemed to have some kind of quality that other knots have not had. So I kept writing and writing, until…I don’t suppose you can call it an epiphany exactly after three hours and several pages of writing, but it was a revealing (I think revelation is probably a bit too biblical too).
For the past fifteen years I have lived with the foundation stone of a novel in my consciousness. I have not always been writing a novel, and I have not always known the details of that novel, but the foundation stone has been there and the rest of my life has been about building the novel up from there. By that, I mean that I’ve always had an understanding of what it is I’m trying to write about. Even if I’ve had to knock walls down and rebuild them a million times since, the foundation has been strangely rock solid right from the beginning. I’ve just always known.
Perhaps this seems an odd thing for a person who has only managed to produce two novels in fifteen years to say – that a novel is an anchor in her life – but as far as my work goes it’s been the only constant and I hadn’t properly understood until today the function that it has provided in giving me something to organise the rest of my life around. (An ungenerous interpretation would be that my powers of procrastination are so phenomenally powerful that I can’t function without something to avoid.)
So after I’d worked that out I turned the page on my journal and wrote down every single idea related to my novel that’s in my head. Of course its foundation had been there all along, and once I started writing with a bit of focus it came to quite quickly. So there you go, and that’s that then. I know exactly what it is I’ll be avoiding working on for the next three years.