I have to make a confession. I don’t actually write my own stuff. I sit down and plan—in the loosest sense of the word—my stories. I type them up. At the end I print them off or upload them to Lulu, or email them off to Macmillan. But the bit where the ‘story idea’ turns into the string of connected prose we call ‘the novel’, I don’t do that.
Oops, I hope Will and the Macmillan legal people aren’t reading this.
What I actually do is this: I listen to a voice in my head. On a good day it hums along, and it’s lucky that I can type quickly. Does the voice know I’m there, writing it all down? If it does, it gives no indication. It just purrs along, a voice cool and composed, measured in its cadence, and I sit at my keyboard and take dictation. Nice work if you can get it…
Not every day is a good day. Some days the voice is halting, lame. Economy of expression becomes taciturnity. I don’t enjoy listening to it, and invariably I don’t bother. There are plenty of other things I can be doing; some of them I even get paid for.
Luckily, there are more good days than bad days. When I’ve done the dull stuff, the planning and fleshing out, the voice talks about what I want it to talk about it: if I’ve skimped on the planning stage, the voice goes its own way (and sometimes that’s even more interesting, so I let it).
What’s this got to do with writer’s anxiety? (Aside from the fact that grown man who admits to listening to voices has got every reason to be anxious?).
Just this: one day I’ll sit down, and there’ll be no voice, just me and the screen.