There were a few funny pictures circulating around Facebook recently, about what people think writers do. Bathing in money, sitting on the couch eating cheese balls, and banging one’s head on the computer were all included. Today, I am writing the final few scenes of the novella “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, which I have been working on (among other things) for about 4 weeks. I like novellas: for 10% of the word count , they give you about 40% of the joy of writing a novel. I’m frazzled and obsessed and unable to leave it alone in its finishing stages.
In fact, as I was trying to nut out the closing scenes, I had to get out of my apartment, where I have been holed up all day. It’s a rainy day here in York: English rain, which means it’s just a kind of persistent dampness that can’t be arsed to form proper droplets. I wanted to sit with my notebook and conceptualise my ending in my fancy notebook with my fancy coloured pens, so I decided to head up to the pub I’ve loved the most since arriving here, The Hole in the Wall on High Petergate (pictured) and order a bag of chips (crisps) and a glass of wine.
Rain outside. A crackling fire inside. A historic pub in a medieval town, writing up research done on a remote misty island off the tip of Scotland. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, right? At least the kind of dreams I have, and so I thought, “I’ll blog this” because people do seem to like it when I blog this kind of stuff, this aspirational ideal of what being a writer is. Of what writers do.
But while it’s certainly a highlight of the job, it isn’t the whole picture. The other part I’m not telling you is this. I’ve been writing since nine o’clock this morning. I can’t stay off Facebook because I’m procrastinating. I feel a bit sick from the wine and all the tea I’ve drunk, and my arse is sore from sitting all day. I will not watch any television or do any relaxing tonight, because the story is coming and I have to get it down. I will both love myself and hate myself through this process, and then when I’m done I’ll be too wired to sleep and my wrists will feel like jelly. Tomorrow I will wake up feeling as though my body doesn’t fit me properly, and I’ll read it back and decide it’s utter shit.
So yes: today I lived the writing dream. But I also lived the writing life, in the writer’s body. I still love it–love it with the big fat saddlebags of my soul–but it’s not all wine and fireplaces. It’s hard, hard work.