Sometimes, it’s a good thing to plug out the plug, disconnect from the universal grid, and do something entirely different from your daily routine. Sometimes, that can teach you a lot about yourself, your priorities (or the lack thereof) and where you energy should go.
For the past five weeks, I have been on vacation. I haven’t been anywhere exciting, or done too much that would be considered “interesting”. So far as anyone could tell, I have very much been right where I’ve always been.
So far as anyone could tell, I could just as easily have fallen off the face of the planet altogether, and in a manner of speaking, I have.
For the first time in a long, long, time, I have allowed myself to fall into:
a) the time warp of my book, and the rest of the world be damned.
b) books. Lots. Of. Books. History books and short story anthologies and source books and biographies and historical potboiler books. I used to pride myself on being a three-a-week person. Since the arrival of Damien, that went downhill fast. In a day and age where everything happens instantaneously, where we’re looking for fast – food, fixes, thrills, I had forgotten the indecent pleasures of staying up until 2 AM – reading.
c) the fine art of what the Italians call “dolce far niente”, or – “how sweet to do – nothing.” Contemplating the vagaries of existence, fine-tuning the art of making the perfect cake, or simply staring out into space and thinking – nothing at all, which has a lot to recommend it.
Most of all, and most important of all, I have been – writing the Effing Book. 10 – 15 pages a day, going back and ditching most of them, fine-tuning until it reads like poetry and flows like mead – sweet, smooth and golden.
All the while being only too aware of Colette. Once upon a time, Colette was approached by an ardent fan, a very young man. He had finally summoned up the courage to see La Grande Dame with his manuscript. She asked him to return in a few weeks. He did. Breathlessly, he asked: “So, Madame. What did you think about my book?”
Madame looked him up and down, marvelling at the impatience of youth. “It is a fine book, a magnificent book. Now, chéri, go take out all the poetry!”
I am preparing myself for the day when an editor slashes all those poetic passages I loved so much to write.
And meanwhile, I’m trying not to second-guess myself. Figuring out what happens next and in what order, figuring out points of view, untangling conflict and motive, realizing how little I know about what it means to be young and male in the testosterone-soaked society of Iron Age Ireland, realizing just how much the story has changed from first to third draft. What was once a Harlequin bodice-ripper of a sort became an action adventure story and then became – something else entirely. The characters took over and demanded to be heard. They still do, yelling in ancient Irish in my dreams, the dreams that do not include unlikely situations with metal gods who aren’t getting any younger, either.
When I get really stuck, I send a fervent thank-you to the inventors of Google Earth, who take me where I need to go when I need to kick-start my imagination.
So if I have been missed, if you have been wondering, that’s where I’ve been. I will be back. Eventually.
Now, excuse me please. I have to scare the bejeesus out of a Roman with pneumonia!
So long as I don’t take out the poetry!
Image: Cow Parade, “Meditating cow”