I am about two or three days from the end of the First Draft of my new novel. At such a time I always find it incredibly hard to concentrate on anything else (like Christmas presents for example) because my head is so full of the need to finish.
Writing is a complicated business. I remember complaining about it to a sculptor friend once. ‘But don’t you enjoy writing?’ he asked. I didn’t know what to answer because yes, obviously, I enjoy it – in a way. But not like he revels in the physicality of his work. For me it’s more a battle of the will.
For a start there’s the words. You need so many of them to make a book and they simply will not write themselves. No matter how much you talk about writing to other people, no matter how many courses you attend, no matter how many books about writing you read. In the end you just have to go out to the field and round up every last one of them.
Then there’s the narrative. One of the things I missed terribly when I was away on a week long residential course recently was the day-long, solitary wrestling with the story. It is always trying to get the upper hand, to release itself from your grip and slip away. You have to make it do what you want it to do.
Sometimes you can manage that by being gentle, coaxing, seductive even. But other times you have to be brutal. You have to twist its arm behind its back and say, ‘this is the direction you are going and that’s all there is to it’.
Of course not every writer is like me. But if you are that obsessive person who, when forced to put things on hold near the end of a story experiences so much frustration you could scream and scream and scream, then you will know exactly how I feel.