It is March and I am sunburnt. This is not from a skiing holiday or a Caribbean jaunt, but because I sat outside having a sandwich lunch in Soho Square yesterday with a writing friend. We talked intensely and enjoyably for over three hours, mostly about writing. He writes film scripts not books, thus facing the same dilemmas but having to solve them in different ways. We were in the shade of a tree but this Spring heat-wave is proving powerful. My nose is a colour not too dissimilar from the camellia bud outside my front door.
I don't have many writing friends. Over the years I have come to realise that this is a deliberate, albeit subconscious (and oxymoronic) personal 'policy' of mine, rather than because of any lack of popularity among fellow my artists. By nature I am a very sociable animal. Lunches, drinks, parties – conversation of all kinds remains life-blood to me, both as a writer and as a human. And when it comes to meeting specifically literary social demands, I always enjoy myself - attending events and mixing with other authors (I even tweet! @ABrookfield1 for those interested). But in the general stream of my everyday working life, there is absolutely no doubt that I feel a strong need to inhabit the most private space I can. Not for me the showing and sharing of work-in-progress. Nor do I want to hear other novelists talk (as I do!) about their storylines, characters, deadlines, deals. It is not lack of curiosity. It is not envy. Instead, it is more like a deep wariness of the potentially debilitating recognition that my small 'voice' is just one among millions, part of a clamour, shouting (not loud enough) to be heard. In order to feel 'loud enough' - unique enough - what I, personally, need to maintain, is the heady and perhaps delusional conviction, that if I do not write what I write, no one else will. That only I can my tell my stories in the way that I do; that without me they would not get written.
If this smacks of insecurity then that would be correct. I think most artists are insecure. All art is derivative – of life, of other art. To forge new shapes within that vast constraint takes courage and self-belief. Creating the right space for that courage and self-belief to flourish is half the battle.