I remember, once upon a time, not having sciatica. What I am finding increasingly hard to remember is what that felt like.
It is 05:22. I have been awake since 03:50. The reason for this is that something right at the bottom of my spine is pressing on the sciatic nerve, and this is painful. In my case, there are a number of ways in which this hurts. Sometimes it feels like that knotting sensation you get just before you get a cramp, afflicting my knee, calf and ankle all at the same time. Sometimes it feels like the hot racing sensation you get after your hands have been chilled making snowballs and you suddenly start thawing out. Sometimes it feels like my thigh is badly bruised. And sometimes it just feels like I daren’t put any weight on my leg because it doesn’t feel like it will hold me.
I used to suffer from chronic insomnia, so I know a little about these abandoned watches of the night. This is traditionally the time I watched movies. (I am, right now, halfway through Elysium. I’m writing this because, if I’m honest, it’s not gripping me.) Sometimes I wrote; sometimes I read. Sometimes I lectured – I would pick a topic and construct a talk on it, and then – silently – deliver it (to universal acclaim, naturally).
The stuff I wrote was usually the ongoing business of the novels. Back in October 2012 I submitted the first of them to Harper Voyager, who had an open call for submissions. For fifteen months I heard nothing, which was initially not surprising because they received 4500 entries, and then increasingly encouraging because that number kept getting smaller. Finally, on the day of my 30th birthday, I got a rejection. I was one of the last 250, which is encouraging, but as they say: close, but no cylindrical smoking thing. For those of you interested in what a rejection email from a publisher looks like, this is what mine said:
Thank you very much for providing us with the chance to read your novel, and for your continued patience during the submission process. We are sorry to say that at this time we don’t feel it is right for the Harper Voyager list. Due to the volume of submissions we were fortunate enough to receive, we are unable to provide personal feedback, however, please be assured that your work received thorough and fair consideration. We wish you the best of luck with your writing career, and thank you again for thinking of us.
So there you go. I have it printed out and sitting at my desk. I’m not massively masochistic, but the desire to prove the author wrong provides useful impetus in getting on with finishing the story. (When I wrote for the Gaudie, the student newspaper here in Aberdeen, I had use of a computer in a little cubbyhole in the offices in Luthuli House. To provide similar inspiration, there was a notice taped across the top of the monitor, written by someone who understood very clearly the relationship between the paper and its contributors. It read simply “Be funny, bitch”.)
I am very fortunate in that I have friends and supporters who will, from time to time and without prompting, send me encouragements. One such person – whose name, suitably amended, now appears in the story – texted me as recently as yesterday to say
Have begun Teeth of the Tiger and abandoned it in disgust. I know Clancy inspired you, but you should know you are so much the better writer, whatever Harper may think.
Which is very kind, even if wildly optimistic. (Just for the record, I hated The Teeth of the Tiger too. It’s so woefully written I wonder if it was either a) ghost-written or b) produced as some kind of contractual obligation. Clancy’s good stuff is great fun; this kind of turgid dross is a misery for everyone involved. And as for what happens to the character of Robby Jackson…)
The current word count, for those of you interested in how TWOTD is progressing, is 135190; I have the next couple of chapters fairly thoroughly mapped out, so they should come quite quickly. Thereafter things get more complex, but I know how to resolve the knottiest problems, so nil desperandum.
Speaking of knotty problems, my back has eased up as I’ve been writing this. Of course, that just creates a further dilemma: do I go back to bed for the remaining half hour before I need to get up for work, or does my day start now?
I guess the day starts here. On the plus side: nice long shower and no fighting for the bathroom… And early to work means early home. Could be worse.
In any case, here is your moment of Zen for today: