At the moment I’m rewriting ‘Surrounded By Water’, my first novel, and it’s going well. I’m about 45,000 words in, which I think is about half way, and I’m loving the process. This new version of the novel has a stripped-down plot and the narrative point of view has changed; and because I already know what’s going to happen, because I know my characters well, I’m writing fast and going for, if not quite total immersion, certainly up-to-my-neck-in-it writing. This feels like a good thing to do: I get to put my heart right in to the heart of Throckton (the place where my novel is set) and that helps me to write authentically. (I hope.)
There’s a drawback to this, though. I spend most of a day in my studio, silent and still, but my mind is working overtime as I speak and think and feel on behalf of a whole bunch of people, all of whom I understand, some of whom I don’t much like, but that’s by the by. So when I’m called upon to head back in to the real world, it feels a bit odd. Depending on where I have got to in the novel, back in my life I can feel sad, upset, anxious, ecstatic, afraid, excited – for no reason that relates to anything to do with my real existence. It’s very odd.
Then there are conversations like this one, with my agent:
Oli: Morning! How are you?
Me: I’m fine – how are you?
Oli: Good, thanks.
Me: Good. How are you?
I’ve been like this with several people: I don’t realise that I’ve lost the plot of the conversation until I see them looking at me in a slightly perplexed way. I forget words, forget what I’m doing, forget where I’m going. Last week, I wrote a blog post that was almost word-for-word the same as one I’d written the week before, because I had remembered the idea but forgotten that I’d actually written the post.
To sum up, then: generally, I’m behaving like a half-wit, and it’s because I’m only half in the world.
I didn’t feel like this so much when I was writing Bah! and Thrive, or even with the earlier version of this novel, because my first drafts tend to be at a 1000-words-a-day rate, the equivalent of being up to your knees rather than your neck. And writing the cancer books was about digging around in a different part of my brain.
I’m blessed in my family and friends who are wonderfully tolerant of my current incoherence and/or my unwillingness to stray far from the studio. I am doing my level best not to behave like A Capital-W Writer, and flick my silk scarves about and expect everyone to treat me as though I’m Barbara Streisand. (Surely, if we’re going to do that to anyone, it should be the police officers and midwives, the train drivers and even – yes, I’m going to say it – oncologists of the world?) But I probably am having my moments.
I might have my moments on here, too. So, if you show up one day to find that I’ve written a post that you’re sure you’ve seen before, you’re probably right. If there are references to someone I’ve never previously mentioned, they’re probably from Throckton.