We’ve been back from Texas for ten days and I still feel dislocated. Partly that’s because I came back with my usual airline cold. My immune system isn’t up to nine hours inhaling stale air loaded with other people’s germs, so I always have a few days of stuffy nose, sore throat and general acheyness after a long flight.
The real problem is that my preferred nostrum, a book to work on, isn’t available. There are projects and proposals to take forward, but no contract with deadlines to make me feel busy and important and loved. I’ve been drawing strength at two removes, from Peter S. Beagle’s quoting his artist uncle: “If the muse doesn’t show up for work, we start without her.” Same applies to contracts.
It’s not that I don’t have any work, you understand. One of my favourite editors just passed me a big fat review package, there’s a Barbican session at the end of this month and I’ve got DVDs to watch and things to read. I’m preparing workshops for Manga Cross Stitch, designing new charts and drafting the course I’ll be teaching for the Workers’ Educational Association next term. But having a book contract is a wonderful focus. The mere fact of those red deadlines on the calendar makes everything seem more urgent, go-faster stripes pushing the reviews and workshops and designing along faster and faster to make sure there’s room and time for the writing.
Besides, writing a book against a deadline is so much fun – the most fun you can have in a chair, at least one with fixed arms like mine. I expect most writers get withdrawal symptoms: after three books in two years, I’m going cold turkey. The shakes will probably kick in soon.