I’m always telling people that there’s nothing magical about writers. We have a skill — if we’re lucky — the way people who can make coins disappear have a skill. And our skill needs as much practice as theirs.
But recently I’ve been experiencing some strange inexplicable occurrences — not ghosts, exactly, but…somethings. Odd somethings (a dog no one else saw, a weird presence rising out of my chest…) My lovely writer friend Pico Iyer was not surprised when I told him this — ‘it’s because you’re developing greater access to your subconscious,’ he said, as if he knew. And I think he was right. Really good writing comes through a conduit in the deepest part of your brain, and you develop greater access to that place by travelling back and forth. Think Dr Who (without the daleks). Think of mystics and dalai lamas. Or whirling dervishes. Or crazy people, who can’t separate the surface of life from the deep places.
Mariella Frostrup talked to Allison Pearson on Open Book this week, and I was really struck by something AP said: “The place the novel comes from is the place the love for the children comes from. It’s almost like hiding away in a room creating a rival sibling for them. And they know. They know.”
It’s a scary thought…and it rings a little bit true. At the moment I’m very lucky, in that my 13-year-old’s idea of heaven is to have me tapping away at my computer at all times of day and night, looking up only to hand over a £20 note and compliment her on some appallingly skimpy dress. Only occasionally does she vent her fury, shouting “you care about your damned book more than you care about me!”
It’s not true, but she gets on quite nicely with the process of growing — without me fussing over her all the time.
Without constant attention, however, the book just lies there like a lox.