Hmm. Now Cold Light is out in the world, and for a little bit of time at least, doesn’t need me any more, I am realising how much time I spent thinking about it. The feeling, this gap, is a bit like being dumped (I have tremendous and varied experience of being dumped and as well as unreliable narrators, lithops, clever angry toddlers, crap shoes and origami, am a little bit of an expert in it). The thing you usually think about is still first in your mind – a sort of habit – but the thinking isn’t necessary any more. I keep having to correct myself away from my characters and back to my work.
And work is excellent at the moment. I am still planning and practising with Jo for Too Much Information and we have almost filled up all the dates on our little tour. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. I’m a bit scared, but mainly excited. I’ve been doing a lot of editing of other people’s manuscripts and some more university teaching, which I’m really liking too. I’m working on a blogging / story-telling project for Liverpool Biennial which is new because it involves close collaboration with an artist, and involves me driving into the Wirral through the Mersey Tunnel – that covers my ‘do something that scares you now and again’ resolution. (The car journey is terrifying. I am not a good driver.) I’ve been working on a new website with a designer, and that means moving this blog along to somewhere else at some point in the future so I’ve also been spending a tiny bit of time writing copy for that and worrying if you’ll all still come and see me when I move house. I am also setting up a new writers group for North West prose writers – with a little help and advice from Amanda Smyth who is the member of a writing group that went on to do amazing things. Who knows what we’ll get up to?
Today was my last session working in the prison on the Koestler Anthology project, funded by the very wonderful Writers in Prisons Network. After three months of writing, editing and sharing flash fiction and art work, we worked today on editing and formatting the finished product – a chapbook of all the men’s work with a cover designed by one of the writers who as well as a talented composer of flash fiction is also a secret painter. They were a difficult group to work with in many ways, as one of the men said to me today, ‘we’re not here because we do as we’re told,’ but the prison work has been one of my most rewarding projects so far. I will miss being in there. A lot of the things I find tiring and irritable about people in the real world – the game playing and jockeying for position and one-up-manship – do not happen in the prison, or at least, when they do it doesn’t apply to me. Some people really can’t stand the claustraphobia of the environment but I can honestly say I often feel more comfortable there than in the outside world.
All this means that I think for the first time in months I’ve got the balance between inside my house on my own work and outside my house with other people work about right for me – there’s a bit of a Cold Light shaped gap, but I don’t want to rush in and fill that with more writing at the moment. I feel much calmer than I have done in a while. For a few months there my life was heavily weighted towards going out to places on trains, standing at the front of rooms, talking about how good I am and then going for dinners and drinks afterwards with other writers all competing to talk the loudest about how good we all are. It was a bit tiring. This summer I am going to sink under my duvet and read books and retire from the outside world for a little while. I am spectacularly excited about it.