Posted by Tania Kindersley.
When I am pottering about in the bathroom in the morning, I listen with half my ears to the Today Programme, while the other half are occupied with listening to internal voices. (I know; the voices, the voices. We all have them, in our family. My sister sometimes stops listening to me half-way through a sentence because her voices are saying something much more fascinating. I used to get rather huffy about it, but now I think it keeps me up to my game. I damn well have to be interesting if I am going to keep her attention.) Currently, two things run in my head each morning: the book and the blog. Just like The Scarlet and the Black, really. What I find curious is how much of what exists in my mind never makes it to the page.
Today, for example, I had at least four ideas for the blog. I was going to do a whole piece on Mr Tony Blair. I even wrote some of it. Like the good liberal I am, I strained to see both sides. But my heart went out of it, and I set it aside. You all know what you think about Mr Tony, and if you do not, every single newspaper, periodical and blogger is rushing into the breach. Then I invented a whole riff on what it was to be a liberal, with specific reference to the mighty John Stewart Mill, who was agitating for the female vote fifty years before it ever happened.
Then I thought I might do a practical piece on beauty products, because I haven't done anything useful for a while. Then I took the dogs for a walk, and thought I might write a little diversion on why you should always get a dog who likes retrieving balls. (I cannot express the pleasure it brings, to both human and canine.) Then, while I was making the breakfast, for no reason I can identify I decided I was going to do something about knowing people before they were famous. Oh, actually, I suddenly do remember why I was going to do that. A rather lovely new song by Seal was playing on the wireless, and I remembered that he used to hang around in a club I went to, a hundred years ago, before anyone knew who he was, and he was an absolute gentleman, very charming and polite, and everybody loved him.
The oddity of it all is that I have ended up writing about none of those things. I think this is what political types would call a process piece. I am quite riveted by the process of things. Even though I have been doing it for twenty years, I am still not quite certain how the creative act works. Just as scientists are still arguing about what happened before the Big Bang, I cannot quite work out where ideas come from. My brain races away, like an engine revving too fast; it shoots off on tangents and then circles back, with a squeal of the tyres. Sometimes the ideas are surprising: I had no notion that I even thought that. Sometimes they are boilerplate: every single person thinks that. Sometimes they seem to shimmer with promise, and gutter out after three paragraphs. Sometimes they seem stodgy and mundane, but catch fire after a bit of nudging.
I was talking to Sarah over the weekend about the price we all pay. Every decision has its cost. My job has many glorious advantages. I get to work at home, in my happy little house, in one of the most beautiful parts of the entire British Isles. I do not have to commute, on crowded public transportation. I do not have to put up with office lighting, office politics, or office coffee. There is no tricky boss, barrelling about, trying to prove things. I can think about all the things that fascinate me the most. I am in a field that I admire. I like being able to reply I am a writer, when people ask what I do. (Although sometimes it does feel a bit swish and la-di-dah, and I feel rather shy about saying it out loud.) The price is: there is no objective standard. There is no moment when I can say: the figures all add up, the audit is correct, E really does equal MC squared. Someone will like it, or they won't. They will pay for it, or they won't. With each new piece of work, I face unemployment. All I can do is give it every last atom of effort and thought, and make sure that all the semi-colons are in the correct place.
Even though this is only a blog, not string theory, I am acutely aware that each time I sit down to write I risk boring or infuriating or disappointing you, dear readers. It is why I tend to gush a little about all the kind comments. The process of writing is so mysterious and uncertain, that each generous validation feels like Christmas to me.
Picture of the day is of my new flowering thyme. I bought it a couple of weeks ago, and it is thriving, in its little pot. I have never seen a herb flower in this way before, with the strange pom-poms running up the stems. Each morning, I gaze at it, in unadulterated joy. Sometimes it really is the little things:
Oh, and all right, because I can hear you asking - the look of sheer happiness on somebody's face after she has spent twenty minutes chasing a ball:
She is eleven years old, and she still gets as excited as a puppy when I pick up a tennis ball. The Duchess, sadly, has grown too grand for chasing inanimate objects, although she can still go from nought to thirty in three seconds should she catch a glimpse of a rabbit, even if she does have a habit of charging off in completely the wrong direction. Dogs, what can I tell you? They just make me laugh with delight.
Have a marvellous Friday, wherever you are.