In October, I am going to write fiction. I am. For a long time now I have had that month set firmly aside, event-free, non-fiction-free. I've put in place all sorts of mechanisms to make this happen. I've told lots of people that I'm doing it. I've told my agent that I'm doing it. I've turned down paid work and told people that they cannot give me a deadline which involves me doing anything for them in October. At all.
And yet (or perhaps therefore) I'm very afraid that my imagination won't wake up, won't do its job, won't show me moonbeams.
Or I was until this morning.
A daughter phoned. My daughters may be in their twenties but a daughter (or son, presumably) is never too old to cause instant fear in a parent's heart when her number comes up on your phone. Especially at one of those times of day when daughters aren't prone to phone for a general chat.
Instantly, even before I heard her voice, my imagination was running riot. In that split second, this imagination had no words - it was all a rush of adrenaline and cortisol and raw, nameless dread. Emotion. Then her voice, "Don't worry, I'm fine." OMG, she's not fine. You don't randomly say you're fine unless you are about to say something not fine. And in the few seconds it took her to explain what the thing was, my imagination had, quite literally, taken me through visions of death, illness, job loss, burglary, injury (including actual details involving a bone), and a complicated combination of emergency services.
And after all this had calmed down (because she was, in actual fact, fine) I realised the key to imagination: emotion.
So, my October - and any time I or you want to write fiction - has to allow and encourage and nurture and conjure emotion. Maybe I'll read a poem each morning before I write; maybe I'll read the news - there's enough emotion in the human stories there; maybe I'll read a chapter of the best fiction I can find. Maybe I'll brainstorm sad words or angry words or whatever words I need to make it happen. Maybe I'll play anthemic, emotional music to waken my heart.
But I'll draw the line at asking a daughter to phone in the morning. Mind you, it's her birthday today, so I may just phone her...
Nicola Morgan writes novels. Oh yes, she does. She also writes non-fiction about the teenage brain and stress. BUT NOT IN OCTOBER. www.nicolamorgan.com