One of the weirdest aspects of trying to be a writer is the moment when a new acquaintance discovers your hidden, dirty secret. The first thing they usually say is ‘wow, you’ve written a book. What’s it about?’. To which I reply ‘the death of a pet, a conspiracy and a period of social disruption.’. Then there is a pause whilst they try to compute what exactly this means before replying something like ‘so does it have any vampires in it?’.
Perhaps I am mildly exaggerating, nevertheless the point is a valid one. The moment you tell someone you have written something or you want to be a writer creates a moment of awkward reassessment despite the fact that many moons ago artistic aspirations were admired. Nowadays it seems that people believe that if you want to write you are either mad or just bat-shit mental.
It is even worse when the thing you have created is not typical of now. If your novel doesn’t contain wizards with their wands out, or gay vampires or women eating chocolate in their knickers or a lawyer in a race for justice or a policeman in a race for time or some other more acceptable 21st century template for success then you are even harder to understand.
Personally I find these moments extremely embarrassing and stumble through my answers certain of what the people I am speaking to are thinking. The most amusing thing is that they try awfully hard to be pleasant and almost everyone ends up asking the same question. “So are you going to try and publish it?”, to which I usually reply “No, I am going to eat it.”. Bizarrely it never even raises a smile.
The urge to write isn’t dissimiliar to being as mad as a barking cat. It’s a compulsion which sits inside the body and can flare up at any time. It grows and shrinks during your lifetime. I wrote the first draft of my novel, some 75,000 words in less than four months. It is almost an addiction. It is part of a person’s character. If ever you find yourself in this situation, don’t be afraid of this person who is sharing part of their soul with you. After all, most crazy people aren’t violent. It’s only their thoughts which are.