The Art of Writing No. 47

It came straight through my brain without touching the sides my common response to questions about how I wrote Azimuth. Ten years may see forever even for a big novel but then life seems forever until suddenly your candle starts to flicker and then gutter. The psychology of spending a decade on a book, albeit in three volumes, seems to me akin to writing a diary; not the trivial, passing thoughts concerning events which you might find in ninety percent of Twitter or Facebook posts: I am standing in the crowd waiting for the Olympic torch to race by, drinking a Café Nero cappuccino, more the serious log of someone at the heart of a struggle for independence,  a riot, famine or natural disaster. In my case it was like looking through a wormhole at two points in the distant past, one post-Mohammed and one pre-Buddha. I peeped, I saw, I recorded what passed before my eyes. I have said before in these blogs how characters seem to control your pen and this is precisely how it felt.
“The moving finger writes: and having writ, moves on,” declared Omar Khayyam. Just so. I couldn’t go back and head the characters off at the gulch, nor could I steer them one iota from the course to which they seemed committed. I was more like a commentator than an inventor, being complimented on my writing style rather like a TV guide to some social happening. This experience of being a conduit has happened to many other writers. You feel almost embarrassed when people say nice things. “Aw shucks! don’t flatter me, sing praises instead to the vital, mysterious source of my prose which gave vent to the divine effluvia that produced it.
Anyway, as I said, it is like being a medium, even if, in my case, a flawed one. What came out was not a perfect, glittering gem like Kublai Khan but required a deal of post-editing to sharpen it up. The experience felt Jungian, as though I was tapping into the universal unconscious and it feels like this should be taking the plaudits, not me!
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