It’s very, very different. In almost all of the important ways, I like the current shape. I left a lot of things behind that it was time to move on from, and replaced them with new things that have a different sort of energy. Change is good.
However there’s one notable thing missing that I need to explore. While I was in India, even when I was doing other things too, I was a writer. Ever since I returned, I haven’t been.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written stuff, especially during the last six months. In a literal sort of way, that answers the question above. I am necessarily a writer, because of that there writing. That’s not quite what I mean though. I’ll always go back to writing stuff. Doing so makes me happy.
What I haven’t done is share anything. I’ve submitted nothing to publishers. I haven’t self-published anything. I just haven’t felt the drive to. I haven’t even pulled the books I’ve already written out of storage, which is a bad sign. Real writers maintain their brag shelves of published work obsessively. Mine’s in a box in a cupboard. That may be telling.
Am I still a writer (in the sense of somebody who writes stories for other people to read), or is that just what I used to be?
Until last week I would have carefully said the latter, if I’d dared admit it out loud at all.
Then I went to Edinburgh. The day before the marathon my wife, daughter and I did some sight-seeing, and a story punched me in the face. Right in the actual face. It’s a novel, this story, a sort of historical thing not unlike The Flesh Market while having no real link to that book at all. The concept is just a shoot at the moment, and needs time to take root in my living brain and grow before it will be robust enough to start monkeying round with.
It’s a start though, and the first time in a year I’ve felt the urge to write something that I might show to other people. With that came a flood of other urges, half-felt but recognisable. It’s time to experiment.
Before I start a brave new novel, I should find out whether I’m still in this for the long term. It’s all right if I’m not. There aren’t that many people clamouring for my next yarn. I shall start putting the urges to the test though, letting myself succumb to each one as they arise, and see what comes of them. Everybody should succumb to their urges, most of the time.
Except for the ones with the sharp edges and the faces and the screaming. Step away from those urges. But give in to the other ones. Don’t do them at police officers, but it’s probably okay to do most of them near police officers.
While you’re doing that, I’ll be launching Phase II of The 52 tomorrow. Come back then, once you’ve done all of your urges all over the place, and I’ll tell you more.