So I'm writing about a hundred different novels at the moment.
One is so bright with beauty and potential it could light up whole cities, and it is so perfect it will probably win awards that it's not even in the right category for. One is a muddy mess and it features every single writing mistake it is possible to make, and also several entirely new ones so dire that no one has ever actually made them before. One is unstable and unpredictable, grabbing my arm and dragging me down roads I never knew existed. One is a ghost of a project, and when I'm not sitting at my computer I could almost completely forget I'm writing it. One is a ravenous velociraptor and it wants me to ignore my family and quit eating and sleeping so that I can write every single moment of every day forever and ever and ever. One is a slow sloth of a book, hanging in trees, watching rainwater drip past, and I desperately want it to go away so I can write something else. One is a dizzy dragon, zooming upside down through the sky at crazed rocket speed, flicking out a thousand words in the blink of an eye. And there are more. Many, many more.
By the way, they are all the same novel, in case you hadn't guessed. The same novel from one day, one hour, one minute to the next.
Last week a nice person asked me how my novel was going, and I said it was slow but good, because that was the novel I was writing at the time: a lumbering, benign beast plodding forwards, painstaking but steady. (It has since changed, naturally.) She marveled at how I could enjoy sitting down and working on it every day.
“I don’t!” I said.
She looked slightly surprised.
I do enjoy writing some days, I explained. Some days writing is the actual best thing in the world and I could never imagine doing anything else with my life. But not every day. I have plenty of days when I would rather be doing something else. Like bathing a cat. And then my explanation got kind of incoherent, because it's hard to explain why I keep doing something that drives me crazy as much as it keeps me sane. And why I would ever want to keep writing a novel that's suddenly turned into a delirious bog monster.
But what I wanted to say was that I'm writing a hundred different novels, except that they're all the same one, even when they're radically, impossibly different from each other, just like the same garden can be an infinite number of places from one day to another, through droughts and floods and sunshine and snow. And I can't have the days when every word burns with otherworldly fire if I don’t also have the days when every word I write seems like it should just be burnt with fire, and my computer too, so that I never have to deal with any of this nonsense ever again. But if I want to write this novel I have to accept every face it shows me, the kind ones and the difficult ones, and I have to keep working regardless, through all kinds of weather, because there is no other way for novels to end up written.
I am writing a hundred different novels. And I love all of them.
Image: Confessinons of a Book-Addict by Georg Mayer (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)