I write because I’m not sure I could ever do anything else.
Even if I was never to have another book published, I don’t think I’d be able to hold back the ideas, the odd fascinations, the bones of new characters that are always lurking and coalescing in my mind. If I couldn’t get them down on a page or a keyboard, or a phone screen, I’d start piecing them together in my imagination. Then I’d spend even longer than I already do staring down strangers in the street without realising it, because I’m locked into some made-up conversation.
So in one sense, I write because I’m unable not to write. The impulse usually starts with something small, an image, a phrase, a sentence that will revolve and revolve and will not leave me alone until I write it down.
It’s an addictive feeling, and it’s simultaneously a joy and a frustration when writing a novel to a deadline. Some days, that compelling, whispering kernel will appear, and I’ll grab it and disappear into the zone for a few hours; that place of intense concentration where you forget to drink, or eat or take toilet breaks. Other days, it won’t and there’s no use faffing about on the Internet waiting for inspiration. I just try to get on with it and hack out the words, letter by letter, in the hope that I can make some progress.
Saying that, it’s often the laborious, hacked-out, oh-god-these-are-shit pages that turn out the best. Probably because they’re more exacting. Self-belief is important, but if you love your own work too much, there’s no drive to improve. I think it’s okay to be proud of something as an accomplishment and simultaneously aware of its flaws.
Which leads me on to the second facet of why I write. I write because I want to get better at writing. And the only way to do that is to write. I try to keep my eyes and ears open too, to read and watch and listen not just widely but well. Overall, I hope that if I keep writing as much as I can, I might start to learn what it means to be a good writer.
My debut novel, Nunslinger, began life as one of the kernels. A silly joke, a pun that got me thinking. I was actually working on a completely different novel then, but I started writing what is now Book One of Nunslinger because… well, I wanted to. I didn’t even consider that it might be publishable at the time, let alone that it would turn into a twelve-book behemoth. It was a story I wanted to tell, and so I simply set out to tell it, to the best of my ability.