It is the time I wait for and the time I dread. That magical time when I can write The End to a novel length manuscript. But am I alone in this feeling of emptiness when it all ends? I bet F Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway never had this problem when they finished a book.
For the past year I have started my day knowing exactly what I will be doing, when and where. I could be writing a new chapter or rewriting, or polishing up a piece to send to one of my early readers. I might even be having a morning in the library to check up on some facts before meeting a friend for lunch. Whatever I was doing it will have involved my novel.
Then one day I wake up and think what am I going to do today? What happened to a those dreams over the last few months, of the ending, of all the free time I will have to play with words, to read books, to explore the world outside of the four walls of my writer's cave. What's stopping me? Maybe other writers go straight onto the next project. I can't do that, the creative side of my brain has been sucked dry and is withering somewhere in a corner waiting for the inspiration juice to perk it up.
It is May and I am living in Paris. It should be simple to be inspired, I just need to walk round the corner to my local cafe and people watch. Why the restlessness, the inactivity?
Here are six things I am attempting to do this week to shake this feeling - at least into next week;
1. Stop feeling guilty. There have been many times when I have worked well into the late evening while my partner sat reading or playing his guitar. I gave up a nine to five to be a full time writer. He has accepted that now I need to do the same. Despite what writers' interviews would have you believe writers don't, won't, can't write full time. There needs to be a bit of, what my old boss called, blue sky thinking.
2. Read poetry, read widely and start making a list of all the new exciting words that crop up in that reading. At the beginning of this year I began a poetry challenge to read a poem a day and to sample a new poet each week. So far I have been successful in this challenge, but up until now I was only passively reading. By writing down each new word I become active in my own learning. Not only will this widen my vocabulary but it will also fuel my creative tanks.
3. Read the internet news and allow taking the luxury of following threads through the forest of news until embroiled in stories I would never normally reach. Be shocked, be enraged, be sympathetic, be bemused. whatever it is take it in, from all over the world and learn what is going on around you.
4. Ask someone to write down five words or phrases in your note book and then, over the week write something about each one. It is quite incredible when the first topic is written down other unrelated ideas jump forward to be added to the list My partner gave me five topics last night and already the list has doubled.
5. Be inspired by the masters - read the Paris Review Interviews. Some of these are pretty old, but reading them is like having a chit chat round the corner with some of the iconic writers of our time. When I was writing my novel I would often have a sneak read at some of these, now I have time to indulge myself.
6. Have fun with words. Someone told me before my first novel was published that it was the best time in her writing career. After her debut novel was published she lost some of her love of writing. I think this is because the pressure is on for a steady performance, but just like any job of work artists have good days and bad days. The best thing about being a writer is that you are a writer. It is a huge privilege to be able to entertain others using words, but it is an even greater privilege to be able to entertain ourselves I have now given myself permission to be free with words and to play. It doesn't matter whether anyone else reads them or not.