This Mountain of Life
Dear, dear Ren,
When you wrote to me in June, I did actually start writing back. I have the scribbled draft in one of my notebooks (behind me in a messenger bag, not yet fully unpacked from the writing workshop I taught yesterday).
I can’t believe it was February (was it February? I should keep a journal) when we met for dinner. I felt so full of energy after that, and so buoyed that the two of us should still be in touch after such a long time. And then, somehow, I lost the trail through my life. I think it had something to do with working twelve-hour days for my day job, trying to write, juggling the needs and demands that come to me as a to all intents and purposes house-husband. In fact, the first line of my draft response to you said that I felt much diminished since we’d met. And, to an extent, that’s still true. Self-esteem has never been one of my strengths, and when I’m being reactive rather than proactive my view of myself is not very kind.
The thing is, I do need the quiet, and with that I don’t mean silence, but that state when the world stops whirling around me, when I’m not constantly trying to meet deadlines, when my phone isn’t going every five minutes with either messages or calls. Unfortunately, I don’t very often have the option of switching phone and email off, only when I’m on holiday, and that doesn’t happen as frequently as I’d like.
The positives, though:
A wonderful 1-week holiday with M in Corfu in mid-July (just laziness and calm and lots of food and booze, and an amazing heat that made all the pains in my joints and back fade into nothingness). She sunbathed for 10 hours a day while I sat in the warm shade, emerging only at 17:30 every day to go for a swim in the pool. I even said to her I was happy, which is something I say very rarely. I read 6 books in 7 days, and managed to jot down some ideas for the ending of Ice Child (which was a bit against my own rules of trying not to do anything at all whatsoever, including creative stuff).
We’ll go back for 2 weeks next year if we can afford it.
I finally finished Ice Child in the middle of October, 18 months after I’d started it, which for me is a very very long time to take over a novel. I really like it, but my agent has decided not to take it on because Dead Men sold so badly, according to him and the publisher of it. Well, there’s only so much marketing a busy man can do. So I now need to decide what to do with it, whether to try to hawk it to other publishers, or whether to self-publish it. I’ll probably go the latter route, once I’m organised (ha!), and that will include a proper launch event with prosecco.
I’m so happy that you finished your play, and hope that it will be in the public eye before too long. Your words are too precious to be hidden.
The fear-driven momentum you refer to in your last letter (it’s only taken me five months to answer it) is unfortunately real. I find more and more, as I age, that I’m afraid of an increasing number of things (which encompasses just about everything in the world), and I think it’s that fear that makes me ill, that made me have those headaches at the start of the year, that paralyses me just when I really do need to be taking action, that makes me see all the outstanding decisions I need to make as an insuperable mountain of decisions that I have no idea of how to start dealing with. That’s probably also why this letter is so late.
I had set myself the goal, after getting that knock-back from my agent, of taking part in nanowrimo this month, and to write a psychological thriller (plot already formed in my mind), but I’m so busy with other things I’ve only written 638 words (yes, I can be that precise). It will have to wait now because there’s no way I can catch up, not with everything else that’s going on.
I could write more, and tell you things I don’t want in the public eye, so I won’t. Let me just say that it often grieves me that people look at my life from the outside and marvel at how easy and cool my existence is. Nothing could be further from the truth (and I know you know the truth). Every day is a battle, and every day I feel like just throwing in the towel, and relegating my writing and my emotions to the least important things in my life. But then I get a fresh breath, then I have a moment of clarity and know that it would be a betrayal of huge proportions to give up. So I don’t, and try to crawl again from the foot of the mountain to the top of it.
Much love to you and E.