I was going to write about writing this week, but actually putting into words the process of trying to get a new story up and humming - the deletions, the pages of useless notes, the procrastination, the casting about for someone to blame, the realisation that if I blame my undergardener (he whose job forced this recent 7,000 mile flit) I'll basically be saying "I can't write in this quiet, comfortable house in this beautiful sunny valley" and I'll feel like a fool, the checking of email, the pouncing on and meticulous execution of any scrap of admin, the guilt of thinking about my characters sitting there cramped and abandoned in fewer than 20,000 words of story, the profound desire for a powercut or a heavy cold . . . laws, sausages and suspense novels, people, and I've decided to spare you.
To turn to reading, then, since I don't have anything like the same trouble there: I'm sure the talented and delightful John Lescoart wouldn't mind me saying that even though I read two of his wonderful Dismas Hardy/Abe Glitsky novels last month - one of life's true pleasures is the discovery of a series with a dozen and more titles waiting to be read - neither The Vig nor Hard Evidence is my book of the month.
That's only because, mind you, I also read The Grapes of Wrath. Right here, in California, surrounded by fields and farmworkers, newly blown west myself (although thankfully not by a dust-cloud), so that I felt like the Joads' long-lost sister. And get this: at the end of the month I'm going to read East of Eden in Monterey! On a wee holiday by the sea. EofE and the new Michael Connelly, I'm thinking.
I'm sure, since I'll be on holiday, both of them will be utter bliss and not, as is more usual, bliss and torture mixed. The torture is- Hey! (I just thought of this) I can blame John Steinbeck for the fact that getting my current work in progress into top gear is like pushing a bus up a ladder. Quite simply, reading TGofW infected me with a case of the why-bothers.
Stephen King does that to me every time; so does Joyce Carol Oates. Both of them are such big-hearted writers - tellers of stories as well as wordsmiths - and they invent such fantastical tales with such honesty. Most of all, they are quite clearly -even after their astonshing outputs so far - still as enthralled as they are enthralling.
I'll never be Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates but I do the same job they do and that's a blessing I'd be wise to remember. Right, must dash. There's a bus and a ladder waiting.