Firstly to clarify, it hasn't been an entirely voluntary choice. I decided that this stage of my life (28, settled in my job, married, husband working away a lot, no babies yet) was the ideal time to begin a 2 year part time masters alongside my full-time job. Notice how I didn't factor my novel into this equation. I've quickly realised that, just like my wardrobe, in order to make room for new things in my life, I have had to remove other, less pressing issues. And just like my faded Zara skinny jeans, my novel has had to take a back step.
And I miss it so much.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. You don't know what you have until it's gone. You never miss the water until the well grows dry. Stephen Fry was irritatingly accurate in saying that "it's a cliche that most cliches are true".
Cliches aside, I do miss writing about David; I miss finding out more about him as a character, I miss travelling with him on the journey that he takes and (thankfully he's not real so I can say this guilt free) I miss thinking and writing about the heartbreak, pain and loss that he experiences within those 90,000 words hidden in the Word documents on my hard drive. I miss getting to know Alice and Lottie, two characters that have only recently come on this journey but they've wasted no time in setting up their respective stalls in my mind.
But David has been with me since day one. Let's not forget, I was still in college when he strolled into my mind, so I've known him a lot longer than many people in my life.
I miss his voice in my head. Sure, we've had our ups and downs and the obligatory moments of doubt, frustration and irritation that characterises any long term relationship, but overall he's been a pretty consistent feature in my life over the last 8 years. Our relationship has been strengthened hugely in the last 4 years to the point that it's hard for me to go longer than a few hours without thinking about him.
The reality is that there is no off switch for my novel. It's always there, whether I like it or not and I usually do like it, but being unable to write due to time constraints or guilt that I really should be reading up about HR effectiveness and internal auditing within the HSE leads to huge frustration. And there's the fact that my main source of inspiration for ideas about everything novel related is inescapable.
Music is, and always has been, my main inspiration. Don't ask me why or how but my brain seems to respond particularly well to music, to the point that if I hear a song or a piece of music that strikes a chord (seriously no pun intended there) with me in some way, my mind will automatically begin to generate ideas for my novel using this piece of music as a backdrop.
Some songs or pieces of music evoke something in me; don't try and explain or rationalise it, I've been trying to for 28 years and I still can't figure it out. It seems to be that as the music builds, so does my imagination and by the time it surges into the first chorus I've already daydreamed a scenario into my head which could involve anything ranging from a death to a dramatic confrontation or a tender moment between two characters that I could never have possibly imagined while sitting at my desk watching the flicking cursor.
I can't count the number of times that I've been driving somewhere and a song will come on the radio (usually one that I know but haven't heard in years) and by the time the first verse is moving into the bridge I've become completely transfixed in the scene that's building and playing out in my head. As soon as the DJ annoyingly talks over the end of the song, I've already pulled in, whipped out my phone and begun downloading the song so I can repeatedly listen to it while the inspiration is still raw, thereby fine tuning the scene in my head and by the time I get home, my novel is already taking a new, more exciting shape (FYI there are 42 songs in my "Writing Playlist" in my iTunes that have been downloaded in this manner. Hmmm, maybe I actually can count the number of times that's happened so...).
I'm not sure what I'd classify this ability as; I call it my writing tool because it's not special enough to be called a "gift" and it feels too innate to be called a "skill", but the point is that it never leaves me. Ever. Every time I hear a particularly stirring or relevant piece of music, I will start to compulsively daydream and plot out scenes in my head, without much control or conscious input. I absolutely love that my mind lets me do this, no matter how low my mood or how stressed out I am. But what frustrates me is that at this point in my life, my mind is doing this more than ever but I simply don't have the time to get back to my desk and write. These ideas and scenes are merely filed away in the writing folder in my brain, tagged under the category "to be written down as soon as I finish the Masters and have some form of free time left". Right now that's looking like 2018...
I miss writing my novel so much. Even now, writing this blog is causing tremendous amounts of guilt because deep down I'm painfully aware that I should be writing that Economics assignment around externalities and property rights (lads, don't all volunteer to read it at once okay??). But even if I can't allocate time to writing my novel right now, the burn for it is still there. In fact it's stronger than ever. I think the fact that I miss David, Alice and Lottie so much is nothing but positive. And the fact that I still daydream to music spontaneously is something to cherish and hold, even if those scenes are parked for the moment. Combine this with the fact that my "treat" from a particularly rewarding study session (after I watch 4 episodes of Suits and eat half a packet of biscuits) is that I allow myself to listen to one of the 42 songs from the writing playlist and daydream about my book for a few minutes.
For me, this is the biggest sign that this book is still one of the biggest aspects of my life right now. We're just taking things slowly. But it won't be like that forever. At the end of the day, if you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it's yours forever.
Ugh, sorry, those damn cliches!