Writing fiction makes no sense at all.
As an occupation that delivers scant financial reward, it is something only a fool would do.
Logically, it is absurd to pursue it. After all, what does writing fiction contribute to an author’s well-being? Their sense of worth, stability, equilibrium and peace of mind?
Instead, it detracts.
Constantly and perpetually, a writer is confronted with an inner voice – a laughing monster mocking efforts, seeking to humiliate attempts to justify the activity. Forever this voice says: Who do you think you are, making up silly stories about fictional people that no-one cares about and that will mostly go unread by the vast populations of the world? You’re not clever enough, original enough, – you are wasting your time.
And there are days and weeks when that mocking, cruel voice is overwhelming. When it speaks far louder in the writer’s ear than the quiet whisper of inspiration and creativity. Give up, it says, go and do something worthwhile instead. Clean the house. Paint the walls. Take on more income producing work. Stop fooling yourself you have anything to offer. You are without talent or ability and live a self-delusional life.
The era of social media, supposed to aid writers, create a forum, a virtual support system, seems to make things harder. Tougher.
It is so full of stories of radiant success. Of vibrant self-belief and assertive confidence that one’s cowering embarrassment at claiming the label of writer (even of a human being, really …) is further punished and self-doubt overwhelms entirley.
No doubt it’s a generation thing. One of my grandmother’s sayings – and she possessed a litany of them – was I’d wait for someone else to say that, if I were you. Blazing one’s brilliance across Twitter would not have sat well with her.
And displaying such insight into the personal and private life in order to gain attention and approval (because that’s basically what it is) whether on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – is something I find perplexing, painful and intrusive.
Yet it is the current law of the land, a kind of variation on Oscar Wilde’s There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about. If only some dislocation could take place so that I don’t have to be present on social media – just my characters and their lives.
So here I am, in a current state of self-doubt, hovering around the computer, knowing that 60,000 words or so of my fourth novel are sitting on it, unable to sit down and carry on.
What’s the point, the monster inner voice says. Who cares? Why don’t you grow up and do something more sensible? The words have been echoing in my head for the past fortnight or so since I last paid the blank screen any attention.
Then last night, I did what I always do at moments like this.
I crept up, stealthily, in the general direction of the computer screen.
I took a quick peek at those fledging pages of novel 4. Not intending to write. Just a fleeting glimpse to see if my characters were still alive and thriving.
And they were. In something of a stasis, it has to be said, but nevertheless there.
Waiting for me.
And I picked up a little handbook of quotes for writers and found a couple of my favourites:
I have a sense of these buried lives striving to come out through me to express themselves.
The world I create in writing compensates for what the real world does not give me.
Far more inspiring than Oscar Wilde.
And hesitantly, cautiously, I sat down in front of the screen and made small, precarious strides, re-engaging with my characters and the story I am telling.
It was not a huge leap for mankind – but it was the smallest step towards something constructive.
Something unhitched, briefly, from the fear and inhibition of the fiction writer.