Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Sometimes I take off my sensible hat, which keeps the rain off and prevents the heat escaping from the top of my head, and put on my crazy hat. Is this a bit of a tortured metaphor? Yes. But I am going with it. Once I have the mad hat on, I am free to think all kinds of unkind thoughts about myself. Actually, maybe it's not a mad hat, but a mean hat. Maybe it's what the shrinks would call an introject hat. Anyway, here is what I say when I am wearing it:
Ten years since your last novel? Ten years? What have you been doing in that time? (At this point, for some reason, Backwards doesn't really count, even though it was a book and it did quite well.) Call yourself a writer, the hat voice goes on. Pah. If you were Joyce Carol Oates, you would have written twelve books in that time. You are just lazy, lazy, lazy. And good for nothing. And useless, pointless, feckless and hopeless.
At which point I tear the hat from my head and run screaming from the room.
I don't know why I think it has anything to do with a metaphorical hat, but there we are.
The point is that with or without the hat, there are days when I run into a failure swarm. I'm not sure where it comes from. Today was actually a good day. I wrote a really vulgar 1672 words, some of which even made sense. I read and did some notes. I took my library books back. (My love for the librarians is now quite out of control; I just stand there in my gumboots beaming at them like a loon.) I sent off my Polish contracts, only nine months after they were due, which is pretty good for me. The blossom is blossoming.
And yet, and yet. The voices in the head were jabbering on, filled with scorn and fury. The voices only see the dark side. I have to be very, very calm, and very, very reasonable to deal with them. I point out that I did write three novels in that time, it was not like I was sitting around eating Turkish delight. Yeah, say the voices, but no one wanted to publish them. This has the horrible merit of being true. Those were my wilderness years, and there is no getting round it.
I tell the voices that a bit of failure is good for the soul. I talk about grit in the oyster. I say that if it had all been rose-strewn paths of glory I might be arrogant and insufferable. I add that I do at least know an awful lot about American politics, which turned out to be my displacement obsession during the fallow time, when no publisher wanted me. At least I have something to talk about at dinner parties, if I ever went to dinner parties, which I don't, much.
At this point, the voices get bored, and go and have their party somewhere else.
I think: bloody hell, that came out of nowhere. I never quite know, for all my study of the human condition, where that not good enough riff comes from. I wonder if everyone has it. I wonder if it's not a bad thing. At least it drives me on. Without it, perhaps I would be smug and stultified. I cannot quite be sure.
I think: I shall go and take some pictures of the blossom now. Just as Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Berman always had Paris, I may always have the blossom.
Here it is:
There are some lovely green hellebores, growing wild on my wall:
The lime leaves are spreading their wings:
The light was dull today, but the trees are green:
I like the little random clumps of daffodils growing in the wild places:
The dogs are in stately mood:
Have been rather at sixes and sevens the last few days, so I have not been replying to comments. Thank you for them all, and forgive me for not responding. They are always so much appreciated and happily read.