“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” —Winston Churchill
If the venerable genius Winston Churchill thought this about writing, who the bleep am I to think I can manage it? Being a writer, I cannot resist the adventure, even if it eventually turns to folly. The Novel, once disgarded and disregarded, has emerged from the ashes hotter than ever, lording it over me night and day.
By hot I don’t necessarily mean good – just fiercer, more insistent, more able to keep me up at night. The Novel (which has no fewer than five different titles and incarnations on the hard drive of my computer), interrupts conversations, keeps me idling at stoplights after the light has turned green, and this morning it led me from the shower before I’d rinsed the conditioner out of my hair.
I’m a bit scared, if I’m honest.
In the midst of my obsession there is, as always, nagging doubt acting like a bucket of water on the flames. Doubt is almost as powerful as the obsession to write this thing. I fear at some point I will be consumed by one or the other or caught in the bloody crossfire between these mortal enemies, ambition and doubt. I foresee a horrible end for myself, possibly in a mental institution or sitting on a park bench reading my tale to no one but a flock of pigeons.
Last night, I wrote until my eyes were burning. My contact lenses committed suicide, leaping from my eyes into the sink all dry and crackly like potato chips. I lay awake debating this plot twist or that; I told myself, “Don’t do this – you’ll overcook it.” No use. I can’t stop. Resistance is futile, the obsession says. Doubt stands outside my closed door and pounces on me every time I take a break. Doubt doesn’t quote Churchill; he quotes someone who said a waste basket is a writer’s best friend. Or is it a bottle? When Doubt takes over, both are handy to have.
Once the story is down, for my own safety, I will send it off to someone to read as soon as possible – a trusted someone who will be kind but honest. Perhaps a writer friend who has done battle with both demons that haunt me now. I wonder though, is publication the only cure? I fear so. Until then, I’m in for a long battle in some kind of Purgatory for the Unpublished But Hard-Working.