Normal Service

Sit down.  The show’s about to start.
   What’s that?  How am I? 
   We probably don’t have time for that.  I’m still rewriting the new novel.  Taking it apart.  Clearing out the problems and the pretentious ideas.  Rebuilding it into something that'll hopefully attract more readers and sell better. 
   I mean, you’ve got to get your kicks somewhere, right? 
   How’s that going?  Well, it’s going okay.  As okay as it can.  There’s been a lot of deleting.  Forty odd pages of deleting.  Which has lead to a lot of figuring things out.  A lot of living with the fact that it’s been a good couple of years since I had a new novel out in the world.  A lot of learning to hate the words ‘show’ and ‘tell’, rolling my eyes at dumb typos I didn’t spot and muttering about the hyphen.  The dreaded and lethal hyphen.  The punctuation that comes with its own agenda.  The aim is all this sharpening will make the novel into something that will sell.
   Sell, sell, sell.
   Look, I know I shouldn’t write anything whilst hoping it will be successful but, let’s be honest, it’s hard to shut that desire out of the process completely.  Especially as I get towards the thin end of my thirties.  The concept of The Art Life is one thing, but you’ll notice it’s only really the full time artists who aren’t clocking into the employment pit who can really talk up a storm about it.  They have the time and well exercised smugness to wax lyrical about commitment to the form and why money should never fuel the creative fire.  Yeah, good for them.  I have to sit at a desk five out of seven and watch the circus around me play out the same greatest hits in any old order.  Printer jams.  Recycling piles.  Managerial sniping.  Radios, chatterers, meetings about meetings.
   I swear to something powerful I have trouble believing in that if people talk about the windows being opened or closed much longer, I am going to force my head through the shredder and leave them to clear up the mess.
   And breathe, Long….
   You know what, screw it.  It’s been a while.  Let’s catch up properly.  I can keep this short.  We’ll chalk this up as reportage.  News from the front.  I’ll let you into where my head is at the moment. 
   Without sounding selfish, I need it.  It’s been a weird week.
   There’s been one undeniable positive over the past seven days: I made my first steps into the podcast world.  Which has been an absolute honour and an absolute strain on the nerves.  The Wicked Library used my story ‘The Rags on his Back’ to kick start their new series.  Not only that, but they turned into a full audio play.  Which was truly fantastic, until it was out there.  After that, I became incredibly aware of some of the brilliant writers who’ve already appeared on that show and the calibre of writing their audience expects.  After that, I slept a little less.  I’ve had some incredibly kind feedback, but that hasn’t stopped me from convincing myself that I can hear some people rolling their eyes and reaching for the stop button.
   Still, after falling down the podcast rabbit hole only a couple of years ago, the fact that I actually managed to appear on one of the good ones is still surprising.  Tuesday afternoon, sitting at my desk, I saw my own story come up on my podcast feed.  That was truly, truly surreal. 
   Don’t worry, though.  I didn’t spend too long with my head in the clouds or resting on my laurels.  Oh no.  Life really worked hard to remind me of my actual place since Tuesday.
   It’s all fine, though.  My heart’s still beating the right amount of times.  I’m still currently current.  My friends and loved ones are all okay.  It’s not like I’m living in poverty or suffering through addiction, neglect or abuse.  I’m fine.  I’m just feeling unspun.  Which, let’s be honest, only comes from privilege, right? 
   I’m living a life where I have so many hours a week to pursue a dream of mine.  Just because I do that, it doesn’t mean I can expect or demand success.  Anything else is a bonus.  I am technically a published writer.  Which I have a nasty habit of forgetting.  I’m lucky to have this site and to be writing this for it.  (Whether you’re lucky to be reading it is another matter.) 
   This may just be further proof that the internet really has fallen into the hands of the inmates.  Well, if it was, then we’re not giving it back.  No, we like it here.  We’re strengthening the barricades and occasionally feasting on our own to survive.  We can feel important, until we dare to look our analysis in the face. 
   “But I have to popular,” then you’ll hear us cry. “Grandma said I was special and my retweets get retweeted.”  
   I suppose this cabin fever is just a side effect of coming into a year with big plans.  You get a month and a half in and those plans change.  As is the nature of things.  The minute your schemes shift, you run the risk of losing direction.  So, what do we do?  Maintain speed and course for now, U suppose.  Cast the clocks and the calendars overboard and press on.
   You know where I went wrong.  When I was younger, I assumed I would be successful.  All the problems start there.  These days I’m left to dance between the stance that success is overrated (which seems unlikely) and the thought of what could have been (which is definitely not helpful).
   There are positives on the writing front.  The first step of the second novel rewrite only took two weeks.  That’s good.  The novel is still coming out this year and, while it’s going to be different to what I originally intended, it’s going to be hopefully stronger for it.  That’s also good.  As far as I know, it will still get a proper book launch.  Cool.  There’s also the possibility of some sort of live reading appearance or mini tour ahead.  Which is also very good.  I’ve got a chance of another story in the world of podcasts and another in a third instalment of a popular anthology.  So, it’s definitely not all bad.  
   In just over a week, I’ve got my second ever live reading.  On the 24th, I’m back at The Gunmakers Arms to support an indie horror movie by reading an excerpt from my favourite novella from the back catalogue.  That should be fun.  Although, it’s hard to tell.  I seem to be chasing after reassurance like an addict these days.
   On Tuesday night, I pretty much planned our night so Sam could listen to my moment of podcast glory on the shelves of The Wicked Library.  She insists she wanted to listen to it and I hope she’s right.  I just worry that the greedy little kidd in my head started pulling the strings to get a pat on the back. 
   The production on the story still blows me away.  The cast did an amazing job of putting some life into the slightly abstract, nightmarish atmosphere I was trying to create.  They gave a painful humanity to those characters.  It knocks me out every time I hear it.  As does the score.  Man, I like having a score written for a story.   It amplifies, it directs.  It supports and magnifies.  It creeps up on you and only twists the knife when it needs to be twisted.  There’s a point where it steps back to silence to let one line of dialogue sink in stronger.  Brilliant. 
   Anyway, after the story, there’s the interview with me.  I left Sam to listen to it.  She wasn’t sure if she wanted to, but I suggested she gave it a try.  If only so I could know for sure that I didn’t sound like an idiot all the way through it.  (Yep, the greedy little kid was definitely in charge for that one.)  As it started, I dashed into the other room and sat, reading Naked Lunch. 
   It was troubling to hear my voice coming from in the other room.  It was like I could hear the version of me who was the writer.
   Anyway, look, I should get back to killing my darlings and plot hacking.  It’s been good catch up with you.  Or at you.  I hope you’re all having good weeks and settling into 2018 as best you can.  I guess it’s ridiculous to assign any year or stretch of time a personality.  That’s just us, writing the stories of ourselves, isn’t it? 
   If we were clever, we’d leave that to the historians.  Or the librarians.