I’m feeling naked this morning, as my new novel ‘Some Kind of Freak’ has just gone out into the world without me.
This is my sixth novel, and my eight book, and so it’s a familiar feeling. When I first starting writing, I thought the whole process would get easier as time went on. Once I’d finished my first novel and people had enjoyed reading it, surely I’d feel less insecure as I wrote the second? As I became familiar with the terror of the blank page, surely the words would come more easily?
It hasn’t got any easier at all. It’s got harder.
Writing is a strange thing. I know that writers tend to make a big fuss about the torture of writing. I tell people that writing is the most important thing I do, and the most difficult. This novel took four years (moving into and running a temple got in the way a bit), lots of guilt when I wasn’t writing it, and lots of resistance when I was. It has bits of my heart in it.
I laugh at myself sometimes. I say to myself, ‘You choose to do this thing, you know. No-one is hounding you for your next book. You aren’t dependent on the income it provides. Why do you have to go through this whole emotional rigmarole every single book?’
Some of the trauma is because I want you to like my writing and my characters, i.e I want you to like ME. Over the years, this need has mellowed a little. I know that my books can be reviewed glowingly by one person and scathingly by the next. I don’t have any control over what people will think of Jude and his story, and I don’t have any control over what they think about me.
There’s also an occasional rapacious desire for fame and money. I received a good amount of this with my fourth novel, and, disappointingly, after I’d bought a luxury greenhouse and built an extension on the house, life went on much as it did before! The Buddha is right about these things…
If I put these things aside, what’s left is a kind of raw vulnerability. That naked feeling. Through Jude in this book, and through the other characters in my other books, I’m sharing something about myself with the world (with you) which is as close to the truth as it possibly can be. The messy, embarrassing, glorious, awe-inspiring truth. No wonder I feel a bit wobbly.
So, the book is out. Now I’ve written this blog, I’m going to make some little vegan bakewell tarts for our temple open morning tomorrow morning. This will bring me back to earth – rolling out the pastry, spooning in the jam – the idea of our guests enjoying them.
Books, bakewell tarts – it’s all the same really. I make an offering of them, for the Buddha, and for anyone who might want to eat them or read them.
Namo Amida Bu.