Run along and play, darling. Mummy’s finishing her book.
Finishing a novel is a wonderful feeling. It is the final accomplishment of a creative urge that has driven you along for several months, or even years.
But after the initial sense of elation that flows through your entire being at the blissful realisation the thing is finally done and dusted, some uncomfortable thoughts begin to edge their way into your consciousness. Did the kids do their homework this week? Or the week before, for that matter? When was I last in touch with my wonderful and witty girlfriend who I like to meet at least once a fortnight for a coffee and a catch-up?
Or, worse than this. You may find yourself trying to recall your last walk in the park. Or suddenly observing the untidiness and grubbiness of your surroundings and wondering why the scene you are currently surveying seems so oddly unfamiliar to you.
I am beginning to believe that writing is a kind of compulsion. For me anyway. I complete my books relatively quickly but they are not particularly short and they take up huge numbers of man-hours in their careful construction. But once I have started I find I really really need to finish. It isn’t as if I haven’t got anything else to do, oh no.
I have two young children and up until a couple of months ago a teaching career too. But that is just the way I write. The story feels as if it is forcing its way out of my brain and the characters are like petulant actors continually nagging me until they are given yet another scene to play out. I’m even starting to wonder if this whole book writing business is actually any good for me at all.
But then time will pass and I will lay my eyes upon that beautiful glossy paperback and marvel at people’s admiration and (hopefully) their praise. And, like a new mother with that gorgeous little bundle placed into their waiting arms, I will immediately decide that of course another must follow. The pain was all worth it in the end.
Perhaps next time I could give myself a little longer, though. I’m already telling myself the next one doesn’t have to come out for at least six months. But how I will feel when I actually get started is quite another matter and the compulsion might inevitably kick in.
There have been a number of great writers who could turn out books in super quick time. Agatha Christie and Josephine Tey, for example. For others it is a monumental task requiring immense preparation and years of writing and re-writing before the novel finally sees the light of day. The latter, I am starting to think, may be a healthier approach.
I left my career and took up book writing full-time; firstly because it was what I always dreamed of doing and secondly so that I would have greater flexibility to combine work and home-life. On the whole, the second objective I have achieved. However, once every few months my little darlings are going to have to accept that Mummy is not quite as switched on to the daily routine as she might normally be, and hey, after a while they’ll probably just get used to it, won’t they? Because my little ones also love to lay their hands on the pristine final product and to see their names set out in print within the first few pages. So, for as long as we all think it’s worthwhile, long may the compulsion continue.