I’m writing this at a desk that still buried under piles of books, paper, cups of unfinished tea in various stages of bacterial culture (so that’s why there are no mugs left in the kitchen) chocolate wrappers, and post-it notes bearing cryptic messages that must have made sense at one time. I pressed ‘send’ on my latest manuscript less than twenty-four hours ago, and feel like I’m just emerging from months of solitary confinement into the real world again.
This is the day I’ve been looking forward to for weeks: the morning when I’d wake up naturally rather than being catapulted violently out of sleep at about 5am by my brain shrieking ‘deadline’; when I’d actually have the time and the inclination to put on make-up and proper clothes (rather the grim jeans-and-several cardigans combo I wear to write), and when I’d eat something wholesome for breakfast instead of skipping it and eating Kit Kats at my desk all day. It’s also the day when I’d finally be able to clean the kitchen floor, meet up with friends, bake cakes with my children, talk to my husband and not obsess about fictional characters at all.
Except it never quite works out like that.
One of the things that seems to make otherwise ordinary people into writers (whether they’re published or not is immaterial) is the way their brains don’t really get the concept of ‘down time’. It’s like there’s a little Ideas Factory in there that never shuts. Today, the manager of my ideas factory clearly is clearly concerned about letting productivity slide and has flagged up about ten things already this morning that would make potential starting points for a new book, and fill several scenes in it.
There was the man on the radio as I drove back from the school run, talking about being a career poker player and earning a million dollars by the time he was 25. (hello, card-shark, bad boy hero who pulls himself out of his wrong-side-of-the-tracks background), and also the pregnant weather girl on our local news channel (clever girl heroine who made one stupid decision and risks everything she’s worked so hard for) There was the song ‘Warwick Avenue’ by Duffy playing in the supermarket when I went in to re-stock the empty fridge. Standing in front of an array of green vegetables trying to remember what to do with them, I decided there was definitely fifty thousand words-worth of love and loss and conflict in there, and began to wonder what that story might be…
Before I wrote my first book I worked in a marketing agency writing copy for brochures and radio ads and direct marketing shots. One day the Creative Director told me about an experiment in which three advertising gurus were sent to a client, where they were given a brief for the same advert. None of them were aware that certain things had been set up to occur along their route to the venue – an argumentative cyclist waving his fist at the taxi driver, a child letting go of a balloon and wailing, a man spilling his Starbucks coffee – things like that. They probably didn’t even consciously register them, but when they submitted their ideas for the ad, one or more of those events featured in all of them.
I often think about this when I’m writing a book. I think it probably shows that while the ideas factory is in constant production, we’re much more aware of its output at some times than others. I’ve must have seen that weather girl every day for months without noticing anything other than if she’s predicting sunshine or rain, but suddenly today I’m imagining all sorts of possible scenarios for the poor girl…
I think the kitchen floor might just have to wait.
India’s next Presents ‘The Secret She Can’t Hide’ is out in May. You can keep up do date with her news at: www.indiagrey.blogspot.com