Here is a very strange thing. It is the good news that undoes me.
There was no blog yesterday since I was rendered incapable of any meaningful activity. I mostly stared out of the window, incapable of coherent thought. It was as if I had run into a brick wall, and been felled.
I think it was a release of tension that I had not even known was there.
I battled so hard to get my book into shape that I had gone snow-blind. I had no idea if it was any good or not. Then, the agent got side-tracked and could not read it when she had hoped, so I had to wait and wait and wait.
She loathes it, I thought; she does not know how to break the news to me.
When the news came, late on Tuesday, it said, quite simply: ‘I love it’. That is when I collapsed in a heap. All the horrid imaginings must have built up and built up, the frets and self-reproaches piling on one another, until my existential cupboard of doom was full. Then the one line arrived, and the door opened and everything tumbled out. And I could only stare vacantly, thinking: that was in there all the time?
There is an awful long way to go yet. There shall be notes, and third drafts, and fourth and fifth and sixth. The state of publishing is parlous. It is a very eccentric book. If you were pitching it, you could not really say: it is like... It is not like. I just saddled up and thought what the hell and galloped off across the plains. It may never see a bookshop.
But this green light is a success of sorts. My agent has no sentiment in her; she has a steely sense of what works and what does not. I live to fight another day.
What it made me ponder is how oddly badly I deal with success. I remember a part of me getting absolutely furious when Backwards was doing well, and all sorts of people wanted to talk to me about it. I had to have meetings and things. I was livid. I thought, cantankerously: can’t they all bugger off and leave me alone? In my wilderness years, however, when I was sacked by everyone and the publishing world had decided I could not write fuck on a dusty blind, I was stalwart and stoical and strangely calm.
I keep thinking of that paradoxical idea of Jung’s. He said that in the shadow lay the gold. His notion was that it is the dark side of the human being that the brilliance lies. You have to walk through the dark wood to find the light.
There has been quite a lot of bad news in the last few months. There have been too many Dear Departeds, human and equine. Out in the world, the news is tragic and shattering. I think that seeps into the psyche. I think the sorrow and the pity wear on the spirit. But it brings out a sort of dogged sense of getting on with it. Life is earnest, life is real, and one must put one’s head down and crack on. I concentrate hard on the small, sweet things. Each morning, the authenticity and dearness and beauty of the red mare anchors me to the earth, and to the true.
When the thing I most hoped for happened, it left me unmoored for 24 hours. I still feel quite peculiar.
Ah well, I think, as I write this, I suppose if things were straightforward, I would expire from the dullness.
They get capital letters because, along with the oystercatchers, they are the gold-plated heralds of spring:
It’s a bit blurry, because he was doing his lurcher velocity, but this Stan the Man action picture had to be included:
More very touching loveliness from the Dear Readers. The thing perhaps I love the most is the thought of people ALL OVER THE WORLD admiring Red the Mare and Stanley the Dog. There have been quite a few comments lately from thousands of miles away, and this makes me smile and smile.
There is a very odd thing about the animals and the internet. A dog show has never crossed my mind, and although I have contemplated competing Red, I know in my heart that we are far too moochy and scruffy for that. But I want them to have their virtual rosettes, their metaphorical silver cups. They are so beautiful and enchanting that I feel this must be marked. And here comes the internet to the rescue – the international panel of judges who are discerning enough to give top marks to the tremendous Stanley ears, and the sweet Red face. It’s unbelievably idiotic of me, but I find that this gives me the keenest pleasure of all.
Stern critical voice is shouting now: stop, stop. You don’t have to tell them everything.
Bizarrely, though, I do.