I finished what is essentially the first complete draft of The Difficult Novel in May. Since then I've been doing all those things a self-published author has to do but actually doesn't want to. I've proofed, reformatted, promoted and published all summer long. I've brought out new paperback editions, I've redone old editions and improved them. I've worked and worked and worked and worked for what has basically amounted to no reward at all.
The summer got hotter and hotter and drier and drier. My financial situation got worse and worse, seriously not helped by my council tax bill suddenly doubling and my rent increasing massively for the second time in a year. I've developed a weird twitch in my right cheek and a health concern that has involved ghastly scans and tests and a mention of the C-word. My stress levels have become so high that even the trace of caffeine in tea is too much. I've had to reduce the amount of chocolate I eat (and chocolate is my ONLY vice) and cut out coffee all together (tragic).
And then, just when I thought summer had finally ended and a breath of autumn was imminent, a freaky September heatwave hit and London died its last breath in temperatures hitting 35C. Everything was too difficult. My job. My life. Responsibilities. Failures. Getting up in the morning. Trying to sleep. Trying to find joy when there wasn't any to be found. No relief, no release. No money to even catch a train to get out of London for a day. All the hard work I had done for months on end seemed suddenly quite pointless. Why reproof, reformat, republish novels that no one would ever read. Why was I doing everything wrong and why didn't I know the right way after all this time.
I virtually had a nervous breakdown. Everything made me cry. I thought about suicide but honestly, I couldn't be bothered to go that far and there is that teeny tiny part of me that still, pathetically, goes on hoping. Despite everything to the contrary, I never stop hoping. And anyway, the suffering it would cause my daughter would just be appalling. She might not like me much half the time but she still needs me. And I need my life. I don't want to have to start again. I've got novels to write even if no one reads them.
And then one day, in the middle of that heatwave, I sat down at the kitchen table and I began to write. Without notes, without a plan, barely without a title. I wrote by hand which I haven't done, erm, ever. Not since I was about twelve. I always type my stories, progressing from an ancient typewriter to an electric one to various computers over the years. Handwritten? Never. Without a plan? Never. Without notes? Never. Seriously: HANDWRITTEN???
I can't begin to tell you how well it's going!