Most writers start secretly. Then it evolves from a habit to a hobby and a few people know, then you take it seriously, learn your trade, learn (usually painfully) something about how the industry works, and more people know, and eventually - maybe, just maybe - the world knows. And one day you wake up and realise that this is what you do, and such is the nature of our society that is has therefore become what you are. My brain's gone a bit demob-happy, what with it being Friday and all, and the end of a funny mixed-bag of a week at that. But I realise that Being a Writer - perhaps even Being an Author, which is a different thing - is now the fabric of things. It's part of the texture of just about everything that happens:
1) Push on with the commentary for my PhD. It's a strange business, recapturing what I was trying to do a couple of years ago with A Secret Alchemy, and retrospectively - as if it were someone else's novel - fitting that together with how other novels do the same things, how literary theory talks about it (or more usually doesn't) and how other writers do (thank God for Margaret Atwood!)
2) An old friend rings - she's round the corner, should she drop in? Of course: since all my local friends, like me, have children to cope with of an evening, I long ago decided that if I didn't accept a certain amount of social life during the day, I'd have no social life at all. She's a TV designer (her last contract was Tess of the D'Urbervilles) and her partner writes and directs for TV. So of course we talk about agents, and cashflow, and agents again. She also sympathises about 3):
3) A rat has decided that under the kitchen floor is just the cosy home he's been looking for, and our fruit bowl and - more amazingly - flower vase contain just the kind of high-grade nutrition a sophisticate urban rodent needs. I've been wimping out for a while, but now the agreeable bloke is laying poison. He jokes about my not being at work by mid-day, about whether my husband could do the carpentry to block all the holes, and about novelists making lots of money. Still, he likes Bernard Cornwell, so I forgive him all three. I wonder if I could put him in a book, but suspect it would be someone else's book.
4) There's still time to get to the London Library and now I'm liberated from the school run it's possible to work there, rather than just get books out and dash home. Sitting in the Reading Room surrounded by other people reading, working, thinking or snoozing, it's blissfully easy to do the same (the leather armchairs are perfect for the last-named). I've never yet failed to discover a book I needed, and others I didn't know I did, and now they have coffee available and somewhere to eat your sandwiches. What I could get done if I... Oh, the liberation from the prison of working at home... Now, think, could I? Do I really need to be tied to my study quite so much? What if I could dream up a day's-worth of work here for every week? I have my new tiny cheapy little netbook, and they have wif-fi, so I could check into email and so on at lunchtime, after all. And come the new nameless novel, that's three months of longhand in a notebook...
4) My new computer is delivered. What you can't tell reading this is that my current one is so steam-powered that on a bad day it may take several minutes for it to upload this post, and I spend the time convinced the whole thing's about to crash. So now I'm falling over the box every time I enter the study, because I've decided to pay someone else to install it, network it, sort out the absolutely infallible backup option, and so on. I could do it - I have in the past and have the scars and the knowledge to prove it. But I'm a professional writer now, my computer's a tool of my trade. It's got to be right, and it's got to work immediately.
5) Various blogs including Mark Sarvas's The Elegant Variation, Beattie's Book Blog, Mary McCallum's O Audacious Book and, originally, Rachael King's The Sound of Butterflies have all mentioned this little Itch of Writing in the last few days: result that I've been mesmerised by the stats, and thrilled by posts from new visitors. I first met Rachael at the Christchurch Literary Festival two years ago, and reading all these posts about it has brought back spring in New Zealand so sharply. It feels a lifetime ago, not least because there's been a whole novel since then. In fact I've learnt so much about my writerly self, and writing, and being a writer, and being an author, that maybe I should think of the difficulties of the last two years as not labour pains, but growing pains.
6) My agent and I are meeting up with Headline's publicity director to talk in detail about The Launch. I can't wait for November 13th, and I'm dreading it. It's hard to see how A Secret Alchemy could take off much better that TMOL did, which leaves an awful lot of kinds of worse it could be instead, not least when it comes to reviews. With TMOL I could at least comfort myself that they won't publish a really bad review of a debut novel by an unknown: what would be the point? Now I have no such comfort. Except that I have now, at least in being reminded that I did, at least once, pull it off. Tales from the Reading Room is one of the few book-review blogs I read. Since I much respect litlove's take on other people's books, I feel able to believe her take on mine. To have her say this of The Mathematics of Love is a very, very nice way to go into the weekend:
What makes this such an impressive debut novel is the quality of the two distinct voices that Emma Darwin manipulates....the artistry of the novel is the place where the past and present truly intermingle. Relationships repeat, emotions echo one another across time and space, the shades of past and present reach out in mutual appeal, suturing the two strands of the story together with large, unformed stitches. Nothing is stated bluntly in this narrative, but the reverberations and repeated patterns suggest a mathematics of love in which strange equations are gradually solved with the passage of time... It was this aspect of the novel, the hardest one to talk about because it is so subtle and yet so bewitchingly present in the gaps and corners of the narrative, that I most appreciated. But overall this is a wonderful read, powerful and vibrant and exquisitely written.