I sit in this limbo between books, one recently put to bed – still at the printers, in the shops in April – one burning in the back of my mind, waiting for the murk that seems to accompany the end of books to lift. I say seems because I only have two books worth of experience.The end of each has been followed by weeks of depression. With Gem Squash Tokoloshe I felt like I was grieving for someone I’d lost, an old friend who’d died too young and left a void in my life. It was more sadness. There were tears, surprising and wet and real. With Sister-Sister it is something else altogether. A sense of impending doom has settled over me and I can’t help thinking that the five years I spent crafting this beautiful piece of work has only brought me five years closer to financial ruin. I find myself looking back over the decade since I left my job in an advertising agency and set off to London convinced of the idea that writing a book would change my life. And I keep asking why? Why did such a painfully shy human being give up everything to do something she had never done, nor studied to do? Why make such a foolish choice? The answers do not make me feel any better.
Because I am a dreamer. Because I do nothing in halves.Because I never thought about financial security. Because I believed I would be young forever, that children and aging and the desire to own art were things that would not happen to me. Because I did not contemplate rejection. Because I give everything.
Always. I give everything.
In order to not end up spooning Huskey into my mouth in my dotage, I must let go of the dream I have held so close for ten years. Find other ways to define myself. I must be more than a writer to survive what it means to be one. So I’m off to write my CV, to find work that will occupy me, redirect my obsessiveness into the construction of things besides books. Things that pay rent and put food in mouths and clothes on backs.
But I can’t help wondering if it will be different with the next. Perhaps book three is a charm and will be followed by elation. Happiness. Success. Andrew Miller once said that it takes sheer bloody-mindedness to be a writer. That we keep going, ploughing through dead books to create new fictions, is testament that.
An excerpt of Sister-Sister (Kwela Books) is available to read on Book Oxygen. Sister-Sister is out mid-April.