So it’s been over a month since I finally finished the first draft of my still untitled third novel. I’ve found having an extended break before the re-write is essential, not only to recharge the batteries but to allow the story to become unfamiliar, almost as if it was written by somebody else. This allows me to approach the manuscript with a critical eye and be ruthless in my cutting, paring back scenes and chopping all that boring exposition that I’m sure litters the pages. I’m at that point now, having let the novel stew for long enough, written something else in the interim, and had a few weeks of writing nothing at all.
But there is a reluctance to go back to it. Why? Partly because it’s going to be a herculean task. Editing 220,000 words is more than laborious, it’s never-ending. And there’s always the ever-present fear that it will read terribly, and it will be a year and a half’s work for not much result. Same old, same old. But it’s silly. In contrast to these fears lies the much greater one that inflicts us all to varying degrees. That I’m running out of time. I’m 40 years old in 18 months. Plenty of writers had had a 20 year career by that stage. I’m still wading around in the shallow end. I’ve spent too many years worrying that I’m not good enough rather than getting down to knocking the words out. Time isn’t going to wait for me, like it won’t for anyone else. Sure, I have a hectic full-time job which leaves my writing window to a couple of hours a night. But only the very good have the luxury of a full-time writing career. The rest of us are down in the saltmines getting by.
I’m content when working on something, too. In this period of not working my sleep has suffered. I’m restless in thought and deed. Writing helps keep me calm, more focused. I’ve struggled with my mental health for a long time so I wouldn’t go as far as to say writing makes me happy, but I feel closer to the person I truly am in those moments when it all feels like it comes from somewhere deep inside. From my core being, if you will. And that is what really matters. I will probably not make a living from this. I won’t see my books on the shelves. I should be satisfied with what I have. And I am, mostly. I guess that tiny kernel of me that craves recognition tends to shout the loudest, that’s all. But it will pass, this contradiction of inertia. When the increasing fear of time slipping away draws me back in.