Most people are like cats – they live not just one life, but many. Writers are no exception. Here’s the skinny on my sixth writing life.
I’m not exactly sure when I slipped into my sixth writing life. That’s the thing with time. We like to imagine it frozen into neat little chunks, like ice cubes in a tray. But time is really a river, flowing constantly from one changed state to the next. One minute you’re meandering sluggishly between gently wafting reeds, the next you’re hanging on for grim death as you plunge through white water rapids.
Right now, the water’s running clear and fast and the scenery’s gorgeous. Here’s why:
- I’m writing regular blog articles for Cinefex, the magazine of cinema visual effects. I’ve also written an article for the magazine itself about the VFX of Ron Howard’s F1 film Rush.
- I’ve had a new novel published: Talus and the Frozen King.
- Having taken time out from ghostwriting to concentrate on my own projects, I’m back behind the mask again, with a contract to write three fantasy novels for a book packager, working to their outlines and delivering the manuscripts at one-year intervals. The first book is done, and I’ll be starting the second in the autumn.
As a writer, I’ve never been busier. But that’s not what it’s about. Not really. What’s important – what marks this as a true writing life and not just another phase – is the flow not of the river, but of the thoughts in my head.
Next year I turn fifty. As I stare down that particular barrel, I find myself reflecting on my early days as a greenhorn wordsmith. When my first novel was published (dear god, was that really nearly twenty years ago?), a novelist was all I wanted to be. You’ve heard of a burning desire? Mine was third-degree. But, much as the compulsion to write long-form fiction still has me by the throat, these days I’m gripped by other urges that burn just as ferociously.
The first is non-fiction. The writing and reporting I’m doing for Cinefex has unlocked something I never known I had – a desire to tell stories that are true. It’s also shown me that writing can be a shared experience. As a novelist, there’s only ever you and the four walls. Now I’m appreciating the joys of writing as part of a team. As lessons go, it’s hard to beat.
The second is ghostwriting – which is all about teamwork too, now I think about it. There’s something liberating about the process: a workshoppy kind of vibe I find seductive. It isn’t to every writer’s taste, but it suits my palate pretty well.
This isn’t to say I’ve given up on the four walls. Far from it. For me, the creative drive – as I’ve noted on this blog before – is much like a volcano. Regardless of what I plan or do, pressure builds up. If I don’t release it once in a while, there’s going to be one hell of a mess. And, even in the most collaborative of environments, writing is ultimately a lonely affair. When it comes to the crunch, it’s just you and the keyboard, or the yellow legal pad, or whatever tool you choose as a way of channeling the madness out of your head and into the world.
How long will my sixth writing life last? Who knows? All I know is, it’s currently in full flow, and that makes me happy. Somewhere downstream – perhaps around the next bend, perhaps even far ahead where the river widens into the sea – a seventh life may be waiting.
I’ll let you know when I get there.
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