Why do I write?

Why do I write?

Because I can do no other.

I usually say that I only started writing 13 years ago – when I wrote my first book. But that’s not strictly true. Like many others, I wrote stories and poems as a child. I nearly had it driven out of me by studying literature at uni – with the common feeling that it’s all been said, that there’s nothing to say. When my children were small, I freelanced for a while and wrote reviews for the TLS, pieces for various magazines, and the occasional (unpublished) short story.

Then, when I worked first on a magazine buying fiction, then as a literary agent, working with others’ writing, I myself wrote nothing. Any creative juices were being expended elsewhere. When I left, the heavens opened, and all those years of mute living had to be expressed. My first book, Call of the Bell Bird, the story of a journey round the world and a spiritual journey, was written in six weeks. (It has now been reissued as a free e-book, eg on i-tunes or Google Books.) And, once started, it seems there’s no stopping. Another seven books have followed in just over ten years.

Fiction was my first love, and I always imagined that if I did write, it would be a novel. So it came as something of a surprise to find that it was to non-fiction that I turned. I wrote about subjects that moved me, from my own experience, and that of others. Journey Home, The Failure of Success and The World is our Cloister have at their heart the life experience of people who have inspired me.

That was until a couple of years ago, when a novel began to seduce me on to paper. It was a dark time. I’d just had a hip replacement, and was feeling imprisoned by the restrictions placed on me. They say that seeds germinate in the dark, that the creative process emerges from dry and fallow times. And so it seemed. As with the onset of faith, it came on me unawares. Grace came first. In faithfulness to that beginning, I had to surrender to what came. All I was given at the outset was an image, which turned out to be the ending. As I began writing, I didn’t even know if this was the story of a man or a woman. (It turned out to be a man.)

That isn’t to say that I didn’t work hard at the writing, the structure, the timeline, and so on, but I had to allow things to unfold, and to be sensitive to the difference between what came in that way, and what I was forcing on the narrative. Roundfire published The Emancipation of B at the beginning of the year.

And now a second novel is brewing; once again it has started with an image, but I have to beware of trying to copy the process of the first. Each work has its own identity, its own process. The medium is the message. I have no idea, any more than I did with The Emancipation of B, whether it will work.

But I have to keep writing. I now feel naked somehow, unfinished, if I’m not engaged in writing. It feels like an accompaniment to my life, or as a novelist friend said, a parallel life.