The end and the beginning

Posted on December 31, 2012

Categories: What Passes For Real Life, Writing

  Is the New Year rushing towards me, or am I hurtling towards it? Either way, I have the curious sense that I am traveling at some speed. Through my window I can see typical Welsh rain driving sideways across the hills and fields. The ground is waterlogged, so that there are white rapids racing down the slopes. I feel as if I am  being swept along on this rural flume ride, bumping over muddy divots and tussocks, snatching at the wiry grass as I go, incapable of slowing my speedy descent.


  I am, in fact, sitting snugly on my bed, shielded from the wild weather by the old but efficient double glazing between me and it, and not moving anywhere right now. So why do I feel so unstable and unsettled and ever-so-slightly panic-stricken? It is because there are only two days left of this year, and then the new one begins, like it or not. No amount of digging my heels in, or clinging soppily to good old 2012, will change the fact that tomorrow night is New Year's Eve, my least favourite date on the calendar.


  I know such trepidation is ridiculous. December will turn into January and this will signify the end of one year and the beginning of another only because the culture I was born into says so. The planets will continue to spin around each other as merrily as ever they have whether we glug champagne and sing Auld Langsyne or not. Winter will trudge on, the days slowly lengthening, until at last the grubby grey skies give way to blue and Spring steps lightly in to take over, regardless of how many of us renew our gym memberships or give up smoking. The shift from one year to another is a change only in counting, an alteration in the figure we use to number our passing time on this planet, nothing more.


  So why, then, do I feel so discombobulated? I never make New Year's resolutions (I resolved not to do so a decade ago) so I am not under self-inflicted pressure to give up or take up something, the doing of which is accompanied by the shadow of possible failure for as long as it lasts. Nothing like setting yourself up for likely disappointment to start a New Year off. Nor do I (yet!) fear the passing of the years. If I notice them at all it is in the growing of my children, and the increasing challenge their maths homework presents me. And I consider myself an optimist, so I cannot claim to be afraid of the future or wedded to the safely familiar past.


  No, if I'm honest, I know why it is I hate this arbitrary ending and beginning that we are compelled to mark and to notice. I can trace my growing loathing of the concept of New Year and its accompanying mix of nostalgia and enforced jollity back ten years or so to the point in my life when I came out of my own dusty closet and openly declared myself to be A Writer!


  For me a crucial aspect of writing novels is the rhythm of their creation. There are rhythms within rhythms. There is the fragile fluttering of a new idea, its little wings beating swiftly on the periphery of my imagination. There is the Salsa beat of the first sketchy outline of a story, hurriedly scribbled, in biro, on paper, with much crossing out and doodles aplenty in the margins. There is the dull, regular thud of the plotting and organising stage, dogged and steady. Then there is the flowing canter of the actual writing, page after page, chapter after chapter, speeding to a thrilling gallop in the home straight. There is the stuttering ragged pulse of the editing process - a little trip forwards, a moment's circling, them a bound or two in the right direction once more. There is the blissful, calm repose, a slumbering giant's heartbeat, when the book is complete, but still safely hidden, not yet published, lovingly coddled and cosseted, snug and adored in the galleys. There follows the nervous jitter of the day of publication, like a divorcee on a blind date, effecting nonchalance, but fooling no-one. After that, well, after that cannot be known until we get there.


  Into these natural, immutable rhythms come irritating but necessary interruptions in the form of deadlines. A horrid word. I prefer to see them as shining points on the path of my book, like golden stars collected on one of the prettier video games. There are deadlines (golden stars! golden stars!) for delivery of the manuscript; deadlines for the re-writes; deadlines for the copy edits and proofs; deadlines for cover copy; deadlines for extra material and photographs and acknowledgements and dedications and reading guides and outlines for the next book... none of which shine as brightly as my own self-imposed deadlines, which are always ahead of their corresponding 'real' ones by a small but comforting margin. I am accustomed to accommodating these pauses and halts in my work, taking care not to let them badly affect or (heaven forfend) stall permanently those vital creative rhythms.


  But the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new one, marked by fireworks and fanfare, and maudlin reflection, and unhelpful introspection, this is one interruption that brings the whole, complex, delicate process to a juddering, shuddering, bone-jarring full bloody stop. Completely. Not a thing I can do about it, except grit my teeth, bide my time, and wait. The clock will tick on. The sun and the moon will follow their given trajectories through the cloud-smudged sky. And, thank heavens, Januray 2nd will arrive and people will stagger to their feet, regain their battered senses, and get on with their lives.

  And I will pick up those disparate rhythms once again, and bless the fact that  for three hundred and sixty-something days I won't have to think about New Year's Day again.




5 January 2013, 11:19 AM

Krista Shea said,
I am always looking for new authors to read and devoured the Witches Daughter. What a treat this book was! I will be impatiently awaiting the arrival of the Winter Witch.

16 January 2013, 14:37 PM

Paula said,
Hey Krista, Glad you enjoyed The Witch's Daughter, and hope you are equally enthralled by The Winter Witch.

19 February 2013, 08:02 AM

susanne said,
I read both books within two weeks ! A wonderful experience , thank you ; I am truly bewitched :-)

19 February 2013, 08:10 AM

Paula said,
Glad the spells are working, Susanne!

22 February 2013, 15:01 PM

wendy said,
some people have attraction to . I think bess done the right thing by rejecting GIDEON he is dark. God would say keep running. I want use to magic to be immortal. AFTER THAT FLEE. She is beautiful character

3 March 2013, 11:00 AM

Lou Ann Voit said,
I have just read The Winter Witch Yr book had touched my heart, in every little detail~you make come alive. Thankyou for sharing yr words. Please keep writing. & I will find a way a purchase & keep yr books forever on my favorite book collection. Lou Voit

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