The Banker's Niece

Read exclusive extracts from my new novel The Banker's Niece. Click here for Chapter 1.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Only a fool writes for money

Blogging is the writing process in miniature. You get an idea, you mull over it, you write it when it’s ready to be written, and then you publish it. Writing a novel on the other hand is rather like walking through a maze in the dark with no guarantee that the maze even has a centre. You spend months if not years on your own bumping into walls and coming up against dead ends and then when/if you do ever finish the darned thing it may never get beyond the shelf in your study. That’s why blogging is so addictive and that’s also why, if I want to get on with my novel, I have to stop blogging. It takes up the space in my brain that I need for novel-writing. And, in the long run, like proper food as opposed to chocolate, novel-writing is much more satisfying and nourishing. When it goes well, there is nothing like it.
            And yes, thank you, the novel has been going well over the last fortnight since I stopped blogging regularly. I’ve written two new scenes and have ideas for two or three more. Another thing that’s helped is that, although I’ve told myself that I am going to finish the novel, I’ve also told myself that I have as long as I need to do so. Pressure and rush of any kind are, for me at least, inimical to writing.
Dr Johnson famously said that only a fool doesn’t write for money. Because of all the competing media and because of on-line piracy, I think you have to turn that on its head these days: only a fool does write for money. Most members of the Society of Authors earn less than £5,000 a year. If you set out to write in order to be rich, or even in order to earn a living, or even in order to earn anything, you are putting yourself under impossible pressure. Writing is writing and earning a living is earning a living. If you are lucky enough to combine the two that’s wonderful but the chances are you won’t. Now I accept that, now I’m not in a hurry to finish the novel, get it published and earn some money, I can relax, and I can write. (For the moment anyway.)
As part of the on-line novel-writing course I’m doing ( or ) I have to keep a dream diary. I have actually been keeping one for many years, since my forties when I underwent counselling and hypnotherapy. These days I tend to relate the dream to Frog (poor Frog) instead of writing it down, or as well as writing it down, as that fixes the dream in my memory and because he almost always comes up with a brilliant interpretation. The other night I had a dream I didn’t understand. There were two polar bears in the kitchen and they’d chewed through the safety gates that separate the kitchen from the rest of the house. As soon as I started telling Frog about it I understood it. The polar bears – ‘the most vicious predators on the planet’ as they describe them in wildlife documentaries – were Ellie (who lives in the kitchen unless we are feeling exceptionally well disposed towards her when she is allowed to come into the sitting-room with us and watch television – which she loves).
With the recent hot weather I have been baring my legs to the little beast for the first time since she came to live with us at the end of August last year. It makes me feel very vulnerable. However, apart from a few bruises where her teeth have clunked against my flesh – by accident or by mischief, I’m not sure – my legs are clear of wounds, so far.
Once a week she goes to a dog-minder and spends all day haring around with a gang of other dogs, coming home rather grumpy and completely knackered. Today is that blessed day and I took myself off earlier for an ‘artist’s walk’ – a goal-less amble to some quiet spot where I could pretend to meditate without having to worry about puppy going AWOL. I intended to empty my mind so that ideas for the novel could flood in. Instead, I started planning this blog.
Oh well.

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