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  • Writer's pictureClyve Rose

The Haunting of an Author

Every author I know has a slightly different relationship with their stories, and there are many ways and words to describe this. Some call it their process, some claim to be blessed (or curses) by the muses – and others, like me, feel more like they’re wrestling demons while being pissed on by angels – simultaneously.

I’m often asked to ‘describe my process’, and while I understand the curiosity of readers and fellow writers, believe me when I tell you I’d rather describe almost anything else. The ripples of ocean on a cloudy day, the pre-storm electric air against my heroine’s skin, the pain and mellifluous fluids expelled during childbirth –(apologies to anyone currently digesting a meal, but you get the idea).

What’s writing really like? For this author, it’s a kind of bloodletting. The pain of the first to fourth drafts is mental, emotional, and physical (that’s probably the lack of sleep, over-caffeination, and wildly ridiculous anxiety over which words, where to place the emphasis within the sentence, and the underlying fear – genuinely sickening nausea-inducing horror – that everyone who reads this will hate it anyway).

No wonder Harper Lee released her second novel a mere 60 years after her first. Personally, I come to a place after every story where I swear, I’ll never write another…until I do.

Being haunted by books is a lovely way to go...

Is it a birth?

I write my novels and novellas for the love of it. I truly do – but it’s not a labour of love. Not by a long shot. One of my male author friends asked me: ‘Is it worse than giving birth?’

Well, I’ve written 12 novels and novellas from scratch in 10 years, and I’ve only given birth once – and I can categorically state that the books were harder, and the pain went on for far longer. That said, I’m told I was blessed with an easy childbirth. Certainly, it was rapid but it was by no mean painless.

When I’m in the grip of my story, it’s akin to being entranced. I’m consumed and barely human. When the Romantic poets like Blake spoke of being a ‘vessel’ and ‘seized by the gods’ to ‘pour out’ their works, I begin to understand them. Unlike many of those writers, I am not high when I compose my words. Sometimes I wonder at the price of opium then, as compared to now and how a penniless printer’s illustrator like Blake could have managed to fund his ‘channel to the muses’.

When I write, a beautiful tyranny takes me over until it’s all I can think about or ‘see’. Every single other activity in my life becomes distanced, blurred, until I can barely remember it. It takes a conscious effort of will to hold myself here, in this world, this life, with the rest of the people to whom I’m accountable.

I sit in work meetings almost entirely silent. I can’t answer when people ask me to chime in on a (supposedly) relevant topic – because I can barely hear them. I’m only halfway here – and almost all the way ‘there’, in my story and living that world, those characters, and they’re more real to me than this one.

A beautiful tyranny

When it’s over, I crash with a kind of ennui, and I’m devastated to come back. The week after the best vacation of your life – it’s that feeling. It’s a coming down and returning back to a place I cannot fit – from one I belong into effortlessly because it’s mine. I made it, and giving this up each and every time is a grief. A loss. A profound wrenching of heart that makes me swear I’ll never put my heart and spirit through this hell again.

 

Until I do.

 

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