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Thursday, 27 March 2014

As I Bang Out My 1,000 Words a Day, I Dream of Nebraska


I feel rather as if I am wading through treacle. It’s the price of diligence, I guess. I’m writing a book I really don’t want to write, but am contracted to do. While one part of my brain manages – somehow – to dream up and commit to paper the statutory thousand words a day, occasionally more, another part is pining for the freedoms that remain tantalising out of reach.

That’s the part that’s populated by a whole shelf of books I plan to write, hope to write, have written but need to re-write, and books that are no more than a vagrant notion scuttling across the back of my mind. They’re clamouring for attention, more urgently every day, and every day I fight them off, manfully, as I concentrate on the job in hand.

When you’re out of work it’s easy to imagine that you’d sacrifice anything for a paying proposition. But I’ve been cranking out paying propositions for the past few years, pretty nearly non-stop. If I add them all up - six Mike Pannett books, two e-books for myself, a full-length autobiographical memoir, plus a handful of outlines-plus-sample-chapters; if I throw in the 43,000 words I’ve done on Mike’s childhood, and add a couple more full-length pieces I’ve edited and effectively re-written, we’re looking at around a dozen books in seven years, four in the past fifteen months, plus the routine manuscript assessment work, a blog, and a few other speculative bits and pieces.

Well, you can’t have it both ways, I tell myself; and, when the state pension arrives this summer, things will change. Make that next Christmas, because I’m committed to ghosting one more memoir in the latter half of this year. Hardly surprising then that, even as I crank out another chapter about our boy playing with his bows-and-arrow, breaking windows, or sneaking down to the railway line to put coins on the track, or fishing for pike, or building a huge bonfire for Guy Fawkes night, a sub-conscious part of me is hatching plans for next year. And the interesting thing about the sub-conscious, as opposed to the conscious part of your brain, is that you exercise far less control over it.

It’s rather like a kid left home alone with little or no adult supervision: for better or worse, it gets creative. In my case it’s started cooking up a plan for next year, when I hope to pay an extended visit to the U.S., and in particular to Nebraska. The thought that my neglected subconscious keeps waving across my field of vision is this. Why not set up a lecture tour through a few small towns? Why not talk to the public – in libraries, perhaps – about why I keep coming back to Nebraska, and show them some of the pictures from my six months on the banks of the Niobrara? Why not print some hard copies of The Red House On The Niobrara and sell a few?    

Why not, indeed?

Okay, that’s given the subconscious an airing. Tomorrow morning it’s back to work.