How was it for you?
Well... as indicated yesterday, my main job at the moment is a new novel, and something I've gradually learned (The Intruders was my seventh book) is to be open-minded over what counts as a day's work.
There are days when the words tumble out — two, three, even four thousand at a time (higher numbers don't necessarily mean you'll wind up cutting more the next day; often quite the opposite). There are other days when it's more like triage in a long war of attrition, going back through what you've done and re-aligning it: I try not to overly plan ahead while I'm writing, which can be exciting, but a royal pain too. I have days, also, when barely a word gets written, but a thought suddenly occurs to me, one I know will turn out to be significant in the long term. These are the UFO days, when — completely unpredictably — some notion arcs across the inner skies and pulls you onto a path you didn't even realise you'd been looking for. You can't make them happen, only be open to the idea of looking, and try to accept that a single idea like this is worth more than five thousand words on the page. And finally... there are the days when it's an achievement to have got to the end of the afternoon without deciding to give the whole sorry business up and run away to join the circus.
Yesterday, I'm proud to report, I did not run away to join the circus.
Though a slow-starting one, as I slept badly. I slept like an idiot. Like an amateur. I slept like I'd heard the process described on the radio and decided to try it without proper training or supervision. I lay there like a table which had been told to get up and run. Tried lying on my back, both sides and my front, but achieved nothing more than staring into space in different directions. In the end, just when I'd decided to give up on the whole sorry business, I finally fell asleep — to be woken a disappointingly short time later by one of my cats waging his nightly War On Terror on one of the paperbacks near the bed. I have no idea what his problem with this book is, but it's evidently very serious. I'd quite like him to stop doing it, but have never found a way of getting a cat to do anything at all.
More work on the book, naturally. Though I also have to pay some attention to another current project, a feature adaptation of a short story of mine called HELL HATH ENLARGED ITSELF — the latest draft of which landed in my email in-tray half an hour ago. It's a post-apocalyptic horror story. I'm a co-writer (and a co-producer, which means once in a while I get to be the one to ask another writer to go home and rewrite, which I'm liking a lot).
Also rumbling on in the background is a non-writing project which has been gathering force over the last few weeks. My wife is a medical herbalist, and we and a colleague of hers may be setting up a shop and clinic over the next few months. Our current hurdle is determining whether the premises we have in mind — in London's fashionably scuzzy Camden area — can be refitted to meet health and safety regulations.
Now, there are certain combinations of words that just work, conjuring something beautiful and true and pure: like 'peace and harmony', 'second-hand bookstore' and 'all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet'. 'Health and safety', on the other hand, is a phrase that makes me want to bite people. It's always used as if it needs no qualification, but was found carved into a rock discovered well below the carboniferous layer. 'It's health and safety', people intone: not adding 'regulations', or prefixing with 'in the interests of...' — but rather as if they are evoking an irrevocable property of the universe, like thunder or gravity or death. Though 'health and safety' is of course a good thing, it often seems to be used more as a way of stopping people from doing something that might otherwise be convenient or intuitively reasonable. But I suppose that not subjecting potential customers to danger of death is a boon, overall, so that's the current battle in the overall struggle to bring natural health, beauty and contemporary health medicine to a yearning public.
A strange business for a psychological thriller writer to get mixed up in, you might say — and you'd be right. But that's me — always thinking. Always trying new things. Guide cats for the blind, for example. That was me. They were useless. I still haven't found most of my human test subjects. Though one of them did call the toll-free number after a few weeks, to say she didn't want to come back. She wouldn't say where she was.
But she didn't want to come back.
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Books mentioned in this post
Michael Marshall is the author of The Intruders