Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Wanderer returns

She’s back.

It’s been a while since she showed her face.

She was certainly around last autumn, helping me defy all odds known to bookmakers to get The Manx Connection to the publishers bang on deadline, deadline being the day before I walked up the aisle. And she’s been back since, fleetingly, teasingly. At least I think it was her; a flash of inspiration here, a spurt of writing there.

Yet this time, when I really need her, she’s answered again. And she’s pulled up a chair and seems happy to hang around. If I could shackle her and inscribe my study door with magic wards, I’d be sorted. But you try putting cuffs on a muse. Damn tricky business.

It’s good to have her back. A relief, in fact. The deadline for The Manx Giant is mid-September and the last few months have been rife with fits and starts, research reading and note-making. As the weeks slipped by, I wondered how the hell I’d managed to complete one book, never mind be about to attempt a second.

And then there she was. Pitched up at the weekend, she did, without so much as an apology for doing a runner before Christmas. Still, I can’t complain. I’ve been trying to work out what makes her tick. What entices her to appear at a particular moment. A writer friend of mine suggested that it was this blog that did it – I put my first post out there on Thursday, and two days later I’m jumping tall buildings in a single bound. He could be right.

But, if I’m honest, while the idea of a muse sitting at my shoulder, silently guiding my fingers over the keyboard, forging a lightning strike connection between mind and ten stumpy digits, is all very quaint and appealing, it’s also utter codswallop.

There is a muse, and her name is deadline. Any journalist will tell you that. Hell, same goes for a 101 other professions. It’s all the inspiration you need when you can feel the flames of a deadline licking at your heels. I’m not sure why a particular time or date kicks in and makes you quit making excuses and get your head down. There seems to be an unspoken cut-off point which I instinctively know that I need to get working by, otherwise it will be too late.

As a journalist, if the news editor gave me two weeks to write an article, she’d get it in two weeks’ time. If she gave me a day, she’d get it within a day. It’s one of the unwritten rules of journalism.

So, with mid-September now exactly two months away, the heat is on. The Manx Giant is taking shape, slowly but surely, and is gathering pace. It will be a relatively short book, as biographies go. Not a huge amount is known about Arthur Caley, and much of what is recorded was hearsay or fabrication.

With muse firmly entrenched in my corner, I’m confident said deadline can be met. The trick, of course, is finding a way to keep her around after the book has gone to the publisher. Because there’s plenty more writing to be done on several projects, but there will be no official deadline to meet.

Self-imposed deadlines, yes. But muses don’t pay attention to them. As if.

On John’s bedside table this week:

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

1 comment:

Kate said...

Hello John. Nifty blog. Off to link to it from mine.