Saturday, 20 December 2008
Schizophrenia - Sally Nicholls
My book group were reading 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying'.
"I wondered if Gordon was bi-polar," said one member, about Orwell's frustrated bookseller-poet. "Half the time he seems to think he's writing a masterpiece; the rest he seems about to give up writing altogether. That's not normal."
I glanced at the other writer in the group.
"Er ... actually I thought that was one of the most realistic parts of the book."
The other writer nodded. "Yes. That's just what it's like."
Being schizophrenic about your writing isn't something to be worried about. In fact, I doubt I could write a book without it.
Writing a novel is bloody hard. It takes months - it can take years. Months of sitting in front of a computer screen, months of angst and worry and tears and stress and refused invitations and guilt and strain. If you didn't believe you were writing something worthwhile, that you were saying something interesting or original or funny or entertaining, why would you bother?
I'm currently stuck in the middle of a difficult writing period. New words aren't coming and the words that I have seem dull and prosaic. Yet I keep writing. Why? It's not just howl of the rent check, it's because there's a small but insistent part of my brain which insists on answering interview questions ("Where did you come up with such an original idea?") writing my own reviews ("A powerful and important wrk") and planning the acceptance speech for the Noble Prize for Literature which this novel will surely win for me.
I'm exaggerating a little, but you get my point. Yet have I actually written the next Carnegie winner? No, I haven't. And this is where the other part of my brain comes in. Editing is just as long and difficult a process as writing, and if I lived in smug writer land all the time, I simply wouldn't bother. It's only because half of my brain hates everything I've written, thinks that it's dull, flat, boring, repetative, is sure that my editor will reject it and my readers hate it, can't understand why I even thought I could do this writing lark in the first place, only because this dismal and depressive side of my psyche exists that I can put in the hours of editing I need to turn my pile of words into something publishable.
Bi-polarism? Schizophrenia? Nonsense. It's all part of being a writer.