20 May 2003
Why is writing so much easier, so much more fun when there's no prospect of being paid for it?
Actually, I suppose the answers are obvious: there's no pressure, and it's an opportunity to revisit that happy land we used to inhabit, where writing was a thing we did for pleasure and 'work' was something else. But it's intensely frustrating. I've spent the last week writing this cod-M R James story, and it's been pure frolic all the way, seven thousand words of lubricated joy. I've put books down, I've turned the television off, I've come in from playing in the yard, I've even cut shopping-trips short in order to come home and write. When did that last happen?
Actually, I can answer that one too: when I first started writing Outremer. Volume one was bliss, once I'd got it started. I was spending the mornings in the Lit & Phil, researching; coming home at lunchtime and working all afternoon and all evening, often late into the night. I felt young and free and vigorous (he sighed, in a middle-aged kind of way), and it took me a while to work out why but what it was, it was like being seventeen again. I'd spent my later schooldays doing almost exactly this, working in the school library in the mornings and then writing fantasy till bedtime. When I was seventeen, I finally accumulated a little critical acumen and noticed that what I was writing was derivative crap; and I swore a great oath, to write no more fantasy until I had an original idea. Took me twenty years to find it, but now I had, and I was straight back into happy country, land that had lain entirely fallow since those teenage years. So of course I felt it, I was living inside my own fantasy, inhabiting my teenage self but with my dreams realised, being the professional fantasy writer I had ached to be.
Didn't last, of course. The realities of the adult world wormed their way in, as they do. But vol one was a happy book, and The Begging-Bowl (I have yielded to my own pressure and James', over that title; he was right, sometimes compact is best) is a happy story. I don't think it's a very good story, and it's got to be over-long - but hey, who cares? It ain't for publication. I'll read it to the group, share it around some friends, maybe stick it on the website but generally put it away for my heirs and graces to publish once I'm gone.
© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.