I am writing this in a study filled almost to capacity with boxes, sweating (literally, it's very humid today) over a novella that may or may not make sense, and dying to start a new novel based on a short story that was just shortlisted in the Aurealis awards* (it's about a boy who works for a vampire, and if I get the novel right, will be a homage to two of my favourite books, Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird). And that's just barest tip of the iceberg, there's always stories tugging at my mind, or images and sentences waiting to be stories, or just the merest suggestion of something that just might be a story in a week or a year or two.
It never stops, and when I'm not writing as much as I should, or I'm busy focusing on one project, it builds and it builds; an aching tension, and a guilt that I'm neglecting these little tales in my skull – and you don't want to neglect them, they're cruel creatures in the main, flaring with a blinding brilliance, then fading away so you're left scrambling towards something that you don't quite remember, dreading that you're going to get it all wrong, that you're going to fail the story in some way, and you usually (maybe always) do.
I've chased some stories for nearly a decade: stumbling after them, losing the trail, and finding it again, and often ending up with a story I didn't expect. Others have burned out of me in a few days or even hours. Sadly, sometimes these stories are better than the ones I've spent years working on.**
I know, I'm sort of mixing metaphors here, but writing stories is peculiar, and rarely the same – except the sitting on the chair scribbling, or typing, typing, typing, that doesn't change. Stories often seem to write you, as much as you write them, sometimes they chase you, sometimes you just carve them out of nothing but sweat, or they spring forth (like sweat, I suppose – I wish this room was air conditioned) fully formed and winking.
You just never know how it's all going to turn out.
And this is just the early drafts. We haven't even discussed the rewriting, the edits, the copy edits and proofs.
Sounds terrible, doesn't it? And it's really much less exciting than this, except when it isn't. But I love it. Maybe you do, too. And even on the days when I don't, when I really, really despise the stuff I am writing, I've not worked out how to stop it – maybe I just don't want to.
Now, I'm off to mow the lawn, and put on a load of washing, and struggle with those little spot fire stories in my head.
*Ok, so award shortlistings don't happen very often, and you only get a limited time to boast about it, before someone else wins, so, please, indulge me.
**Of course, you never really know. I write them, they entertain me, the rest is beyond my control.