At 10.21pm, on the 1st of November, whilst listening to Billy Bragg singing Waiting for the Great Leap Forward, I FINISHED.
Finished. Finished. Finished.
Of course, in real proper professional life, I am not finished at all.
There will be the second and third editing drafts, the ones where the dead darlings litter the floor like sanguine corpses. There will be the black hat draft and the white hat draft. There will be the cliché edit and the semi-colon edit. There will be the obsessive they-can’t-drag-it-out-of-my-cold-dead-hands edit.
But the thing is:
I have a first draft.
I have earth, on which to put my tentative feet.
I have, absurdly, over 122,000 words.
I wrote 5472 words today, which is not to be advised. My proper daily average is between 500 and 1000. After that, the brain ceases to function in any serious way. But I was tumbling downhill towards the finish, and I had to get it done. And I did get the damn thing done.
Now there will be a polishing and tidying weekend, as I brush the thing up, so that the agent shall not run away screaming. But all the same, it is a draft, and it is FINISHED.
A hundred years ago, in another lifetime, which I can hardly remember, in the morning sunshine, when I was doing physical rather than cerebral things, I leapt on my beautiful red mare, and cantered about on the good green grass. Cantered on a loose rein in the wide open spaces, with nothing more than rope halter on my regal thoroughbred, using only my voice and my seat for control.
‘Steady,’ I said, and she dropped her head and steadied.
And we walked home in a slouching cowboy mooch, swinging in time, every atom of our bodies in harmony across the species divide, peace dancing between us like stardust.
There are no words for the love I feel for that red mare, and there is no way to repay the debt I owe her. I have no edit button now, which is why I am writing this. All my neuronal circuits have snapped out, and I am running on adrenaline and instinct and viscera. In this moment, I quite sincerely think that she has kept my scattered marbles together with nothing but her own dear generous heart. I sometimes say, for a joke, that she holds my sanity in her sweet hooves. I’m not sure it is such a joke. I think it may actually be empirical fact.
Someone I know said to me once, a while ago, in a quizzical, sceptical tone: ‘What is it with this horse?’
What I did not reply, but should have, is: everything.
Her dear Self, chilling out, after our morning ride. That mere piece of rope you see on her face is her bridle; the thick ropes are our reins. I’m so used to it now, I sometimes take it for granted. But it’s not supposed to be the way you do things with a thoroughbred who used to race for a living. And it’s not because I am clever or a good rider or have eaten some magic beans. I’m still rusty as hell, and have forgotten more than I ever knew, and my muscles are not nearly as strong as they should be. It’s all the red mare. It’s the sheer goodness and sweetness of her. She is as honest and kind and genuine as the day is long. She makes me feel humble. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such a person.