When I am writing a story I imagine – no, it’s stronger than that – I see, a person in my mind whom I call my Guide, and I hear the story being told to me in the voice of that Guide. I’ve only recently realised that this is weird and that no-one else seems to work in this way.
In fact, I have two Guides. I call them the Solid Guide and the Flickering Guide. I have given them these names because that’s how I see them: the Solid Guide is literally solid, like a real person; the Flickering Guide, however, seems to come and go while I look at him, like a candle flame.
I trust the Solid Guide and I don’t trust the Flickering Guide. As a result, most of the time I listen to the Solid Guide's voice. And for a long time, I assumed that he was the one who knew what he was doing. Recently, however, I’ve begun to notice that it’s the writing that I do when I listen to the Flickering Guide that people seem to be most impressed by. It’s always his passages that people single out when they praise me.
The trouble is, I am by no means certain that the Flickering Guide has my best interests at heart. I don’t mean that he intends to do me harm, just that he is entirely uninterested in my welfare, one way or the other. The Solid Guide, on the other hand, is a friend. He won’t let me down. He won’t disappear half way through a novel and refuse to come back for months, for example. But that’s exactly the kind of trick the Flickering Guide loves to play.
Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that I need to take much more notice of the Flickering Guide. And he knows it. He looks at me sometimes with an expression that says, very plainly: you’ve only got so much time left, Brian. Do you want to keep messing about with that other loser, or do you want to get on with the serious business of writing something worthwhile?