I am between books. I finished the first draft of my latest novel about a week ago. Now I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m not ready to start a new book yet but I’m used to working all day long at an extended narrative. So I wander about the house like someone suffering from unrequited love.
That’s what it’s like when you stop writing. A desperate kind of loneliness settles upon you, as if everybody else is out at a party, having the time of their lives, meeting new people, making plans, and you’re stuck at home flicking through the channels on the tv.
There is another book coming. I can hear it, like the vibrations along a railway track that tell you the train is half a mile down the line. But it isn’t here yet and so I keep glancing into the distance, willing it to appear. In the meantime, nothing else will content me.
My companion in this state of unfulfillment is a robin. In the afternoons I sit in my garden and he comes to perch on the little wicker table beside me, putting his head on one side and ever so gracefully begging. As gently as possible, I toss a crumb of bread in his direction. He picks it up in his beak and flies away to his nest to eat it in safety.
I am trying to adopt the same strategy with my new story. I open my mind just a little bit at a time to its unfolding narrative, trying to tempt it closer and closer. I never take too much notice lest the story fly away again. Pretend you’re not really bothered – that’s the trick.
But I am bothered. I am a writer and when I’m not writing, I’m not entirely convinced that I exist. In fact I think I'd better stop now. I have to go and check in the mirror. I’ve got a nasty feeling that my reflection is getting fainter.