Marite, a student in Mexico, asked me if I go through an endless chain of emotions during writing.
I don’t know. Do I?
Surely I do! I am an artist, and should be consumed by the emotions! Endlessly. I should be a seething, nay, gibbering mass of creativity, and my soul should be white-hot agony like molten metal that I pour out into my works! Er…
There’s one emotion that’s very common. All together, writers? One two, three – Frustration. When you hunt for words and can’t find them. When the feelings you started with have become the limping, inadequate sentences that you have managed to put on the page. The mists of self confidence depart. You are in a desert. The horizon is barren. And (sob!) such a long way off.
If writers could get paid for self-pity we’d all be millionaires.
All right. Seriously then, yes of course I feel emotions, especially when I am first planning the novel. I experience the highs and lows I want to evoke in my reader. If I didn’t, I could hardly begin. But I don’t feel them all the time.
Mostly it’s just a job, line after line, hour after hour. You write tragedy when you’re feeling cynical, high drama when you’re nursing a hangover and romance when you know the cat’s just left a mess on the carpet. That’s what it’s like. Emotion will show you the horizon, but it can’t get you there. The only way you do it is one word at a time. Craftsmanship. Patience. Dull plod, plod, plod. Don’t look up too often. Don’t go chasing off after that high. In the way of these things, if you keep plodding long enough, then maybe the high will come to you.
Wham! Half-way through a morning, something catches fire. The words are flowing out of you, and you are living what’s happening on the page. It’s a good feeling. The passage you’re writing now will need little or no editing, and will always be for you one of the best in the book.
Yes, but the feeling doesn’t last. The scene ends, a new one begins. You don’t know quite how to handle it. There’s also the shopping to be done, supper to be cooked and cat-mess still to be cleaned off the carpet. Tomorrow you will have to start again. And maybe, yes, you’ll be lucky. Maybe the spark will come and visit you. Don’t plan on it. Just keep plodding, and see.