STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Writing a novel is a marathon of a task. As John le Carre says “every novel is an impossible mountain.”

What seemed like a fabulous idea at the time it arrived and the feverish outline was plotted, pales significantly around the middle. It’s then you have to grit your teeth and just keep on writing, a little every day, ploughing your way towards the finish line for as long as it takes.

My favourite African writer Chinua Achebe (check out his wonderful book Things Fall Apart) puts it like this. “For me there are three reasons for becoming a writer. The first is that you have an overwhelming urge to tell a story. The second, that you have intimations of a unique story waiting to come out. And the third, which you learn in the process of becoming, is that you consider the whole project worth the considerable trouble – I have sometimes called it terms of imprisonment – you will have to endure to bring it to fruition.”

That’s where faith in the project and faith in yourself as a writer come in very handy. It helps to have a cheering squad of supporters too, driving along behind you with water and supplies in the form of praise and encouragement. But most of all you’ve got to keep cheering yourself on, something I’m sure every long distance runner knows. We writers too must “break through the pain barrier” and keep on striding forward even when the finishing line is out of sight and the excitement of the start has long been forgotten.

In the words of Ernest Hemingway, or good old Uncle Ernie as I like to call him,

“There is only one thing to do with a novel and that is to go straight on through to the end of the damn thing.”

And so I’ll keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Thanks Ernie.