The real world can be sticky

by N.D. Campbell
Written on Tuesday, 1st July, 2018

The thing about not having a job to go to is everyone thinks you're free. All the time. Any time.

Free to pop out for a coffee or have a visitor drop by. Free for endless long chats on the phone or Skype or via Facebook.

If you're a member of a club or group, you'll find long awkward silences directed at you when they ask for volunteers.

The fact that I gave up work to write novels, that you're trying to launch a new career and not drift into the daze of retirement, is lost on most people.

You've got eight hours a day that they don't have, so of course, you've just got time to….

And the worst part is, you actually WANT to catch up, chat and help out.

Every morning when you wake up and switch on the computer, no matter how far through a particular book you are, that cursor still blinks at you offering you the same challenge.

Are you sure you're a writer?

I write commercial women's fiction. It's a lovely genre. Broad and diverse and about 80,000 words minimum per book. Have you ever written 80,000 words on a single topic?

And the writer's mantra is: Don't be boring!

Yes, that's 80,000 interesting, engaging – no, RIVETTING AND SPELLBINDING - words you're striving for and that's before you start editing and rewriting.

And you're struggling to find those words alone. Just you and a computer. For days on end.

So, when the phone rings or the little mail icon pops up at the bottom of your screen, the temptation is strong to stop and just check.

"Just a half-hour," your friend pleads, even though you both know it will probably be two hours and that's before you factor in travelling time.

And while you're out, you should probably just pop into the shop and grab some more milk.

When you do get home, that curser is still blinking, only now your head is full of sunshine and coffee and it's getting late so you should probably start dinner soon.

It's a constant battle, not with the world but within myself. Fighting for the discipline to just sit down and write.

So why do I do it?

Because when it works it is truly sublime.

When I find the flow and the words spill off the ends of my fingers onto the page, the real world falls away and I am free. A new world opens and it's populated by people I've never met doing things I've only dreamed of doing.

In this world I am a god, able to change the tides to suit my whim but also captivated by the same desire I have as a reader, to see the story unfold.

Because I'm what writers call a pantser. I don't plot out a book in advance, I write by the seat of my pants. While I might have some idea of where the narrative will take me, more often than not it twists and turns in ways I didn't see coming and I hope you won't either.

It's an exhilarating ride when a book finds its own stride and suddenly my daily word count goes from 1500 to 5000 and I'm pushing back on invitations and ignoring the phone altogether.

I'll often dream into the book and almost always wake in the middle of the night with words flowing through me like liquid chocolate, describing scenes that are still to come.

That's why I do it.

Because when it works I feel invincible. The characters and storylines that weave their way through my mind and my life every day have found their own home on the page. They no longer nibble at the edge of consciousness, needling me to catch them and make them clear.

And I have a book. Something I can share with others. A thing with a life of its own. Or as many lives as it finds readers.

For it will be slightly different for everyone that picks it up. Some might love it, others may not. Some will find meaning and others just an escape from the stickiness of their reality.

But whatever they find within its pages, a book exists where previously it did not.

And that is my kind of magic.