I am slowly going insane. I have been beaten around the head by the continent of Antarctica for so long now that I can see nothing but white. For at least three years I have been existing in a wilderness of my own creation and now I’m beginning to feel that if I don’t get out now I’ll be trapped here forever.
It is, in other words, time to start a new project.
Ideas are not a problem. Ideas are never a problem. Ideas drop in constantly, brushing one Mandelbrot wingtip across my brow before fluttering away as if ashamed of what they might become. It’s like a fever; one moment you’re enthralled with a new vision and a wholehearted determination: I will do that next, just as soon as I’ve dug myself out of the hole I’m currently in. But then a month passes and you’re still busy on whatever it is that’s occupying your time and the fever’s abated and you start to realise what else you actually need to do before you begin this new project.
I have about half a dozen ideas – viable ideas that have had at least a modicum of serious thought – going round my head at any one time. Which I select is partly chance, partly just because it’s been with me long enough that I don’t have to do quite as much hard thinking; it’s oven-ready, just has to be popped in the warmth for a while, cozened, held close.
Of course, as soon as you actually set metaphorical pen to paper you realise that it’s nothing like ready. Now you have to create your mythos, you have to strip out the most blatant thefts and actually do some original thinking. You have to clear out the assumptions and all the muddled, tangled threads and scribble stupid, inane notes to yourself before there’s any sort of coherent ‘story’.
But after three years trapped in the same world, it’s a delight, a relief to be actually writing again. It’s a real liberation; just a few days in and you’re already shifting neurones into place, reorganising your mental processing. To have new visions in your head, new people to dance with. And yes, this is only the very beginning; there’s a long, long road ahead of you with no clear destination in sight. There will be dead-ends and deadfalls and magic mirrors to thwart you. But that’s all part of the process. That’s the adventure.
Just as your characters are setting off on a quest – be it across an endless nameless wilderness or just through the transformations of one soul – the writer is also setting off on a journey. This is the most exciting time, before the feet start to blister and the scalp starts to bake in the legendary Desert of Slog. The time when you’re choosing your provisions, loading the pack and finally setting off on that road.
This is the best time to be a writer. The view’s fantastic. Shame about all the mountains you’ll have to cross, all the dread chasms, the Guardians of Dark and Secret Wisdom that need to be slain. But right at the beginning it’s all downhill, a magical thrill of following that stream all the way down to the sea.
Just be careful you don’t capsize. I hear they’re got piranhas the size of cows down there.