After six weeks of my residency I had an epiphany: I now have time, not just to write, but to not write. By this I don't mean I can skive off and do other things, I just mean that I now have the time to think, to plan, to mull, to percolate (which is the word I have always used instead of procrastinate). When I was only able to work part-time on the novel, I would feel that on the days I got to write I had to make the most of them and get as many words down on paper as I could. Often I would get paralysed by this.
When embarking on a long project, you have to let it take over your life as much as possible. You just have to. It should be the last thing you think about when you go to bed and the first thing you think about when you wake up. It has been difficult with a baby, but I am now finding that I have my late night musings back if not my early mornings. But it doesn't matter because I have all the time in the world, during the day, to let the ideas, the feelings, envelope me.
Last week, when I realised this, I decided to let myself have a day of letting the air in. I jotted down images, subjects, songs that I think have inspired this novel on my whiteboard so I have to look at them every time I walk in the room. I went to the library and looked at pictures of Russian prison tattoos (don't ask). I bought index cards . I walked and I thought. I looked at the internet without guilt, googling random subjects associated with the novel to see if I could find any juicy new snippets that would send my thoughts spinning sideways. I did. It worked. By the end of the day I was inspired and excited and ready to get back into it with a new understanding of where the novel was going.
Writing a novel is about not writing as well. This is why I have ruined myself for life. I want to keep writing novels for ever, but I just can't write fruitfully unless it is full time. That is why I have to make the most of this year and appeciate it, because it's a real gift.
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