'A certain skinlessness goes with the ability to observe and describe feelings. This does not make for blithe unconsciousness. Writers are doubters, compulsives, self-flagellants. The torture only stops for brief moments.' ~ Erica Jong, Fear of Fifty
This is how I write: I shower, dry my hair and get dressed. I make breakfast and drink a mug of tea while reading emails and blogs. I have a cigarette. I go and buy the paper. I come home and realise I haven't washed up from the night before, so I do that. I then, mysteriously, feel an urgent need to vacuum the entire flat, and dust all surfaces. I have another cigarette. It's now lunchtime so I make food, eat it, and have another mug of tea. I stare into space for a while. I have another cigarette. I sit on the sofa and flick through a magazine. I dip into the Jeanette Winterson book that I always have close to hand. I think about what I have to write. I feel guilty that I'm not writing, so I have another cigarette... finally, at around 3 o'clock, I sit back at the computer and open the word document. I stare into space for a while...
Sometimes I like to mix it up a bit. I'll blitz the bathroom. I'll meet a friend for coffee and gossip. I'll take a walk to the sea (I call this 'research'). Occasionally I'll write an article, but that doesn't count as real writing - real writing hurts. When it flows out my fingertips then i'm in love with what I do - what I'm trying to do - and the staring into space, the feverish thinking, the mental gymnastics is all part of the courtship. But i have the procrastination gene. I'm a single woman with no children who lives on her own - I have acres of time to write, but still I am like a dog who has to turn around hundreds of times, shuffle and fidget, until she finds the most comfortable position to lie down in.
'A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.' ~ Thomas Mann
I love that quote, and I know that these thoughts are coming from the knot of anxiety and excitement I have in my stomach. On Wednesday I go to London to meet my agent. I want this project to advance to the next stage but I'm terrified of this too. I worry that I'm not up to it, that I'm no good, that no one would want to read my words, that I've run out of steam. But most of all, I fear going back into the swamp of emotions I've been working so hard to clear. And I know this is the final part of the healing, whether TB is published or not, but still... I'm feeling intimidated.
I found myself in a bookshop today, and I mean this quite literally. Browsing through the poetry aisle, looking for poetry written by women (why are there so few? I don't want to read Beowulf or Hughes or, heaven forfend, Andrew Motion! I bought Sharon Olds instead - her words make me roar) I found a book with my face on it. When the film Il Postino was released in 1994, a slim volume of Pablo Neruda's love poems was published too. The cover features Massimo Troisi as Neruda, on his bicycle, and above him is me. My ex took the photograph - I think it was one of the first photographs he sold - so I bought the book and brought it home. I'm hoping that this strange little coincidence, this fortuitous finding, is a sign of good things to come.