There's the stuff I have to write because I am compelled to write it. Because I can't and won't rest until I have written it. And yet, and yet, this -- the most psychically and spiritually essential work imaginable -- is the work I postpone, the work I resist. I know it will cost me a great deal of labour, pain even; it will be hard to get right; I may not be capable of getting it right; it may take me to the limits of my capabilities as a writer and find me wanting. So it grows inside me, like a... well, you know what like. One day, maybe, if I don't lose my wits or die in the meantime, I may be able to get it out. But I can't yet.
Then there's the stuff I have to write because I'm obliged to write it. As in contractually obliged. Don't get me wrong. I want to write it too. And maybe this work will somehow, indirectly, slyly, enable me to get out the stuff I mentioned above. I don't know. Maybe the books I am writing about nineteenth century St Petersburg are autobiographical after all. Maybe we can only ever write about ourselves. In that case, am I Porfiry? Or am I Virginsky? Or am I the murderer? I'm a great believer in genre fiction. I believe it can do anything it is asked to do. I'm a great believer, too, in the entertainment principle in writing. That there's nothing wrong with writing you want to read. As opposed to writing you feel you ought to read.
Then there's the stuff I have to write because I want to write it because I think it's a great opportunity because you just don't get opportunities like this coming along very often, if at all. In that category is a project (or two) that I'm working on in collaboration with the composer Ed Hughes. Ed and I have worked together before on a short piece of musical theatre called The Devil's Drum. Now Ed, perhaps rashly, has asked me to provide the libretto for a full scale opera, which is scheduled for performance in spring 2009. Things have been and remain uncertain in terms of the commissioning of this piece - but we are proceeding on the basis that it will go ahead. I'm also working with Ed on another project, involving music and narrative, which at the moment is in a more speculative phase.
Then there's the stuff I don't have to write at all and which only serves to get in the way of all the above categories of stuff. Stuff like, uh, this blog post. Oops. I really do have something else I should be doing!
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Just wanted to share a review that appeared in the Sunday Times at the weekend. From Joan Smith. "Extraordinarily vivid" is perhaps the pull-out quote, though I was very pleased by the whole thing, especially the way she held my Porfiry up to the original and did not seem to find it lacking.
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