It lives in the sink…
As I enter the last couple of weeks before my deadline (and even typing that gives me a sinking, weak feeling that reminds me of when I had meningitis and couldn’t walk from one side of my hospital room to the other) I’m basically nocturnal. I catch about 3-5 hours sleep during the day, between driving Katie to work and picking her up, and spend the rest of the time working.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened. In fact, it’s happened three times now. Each time it does, I look at the stuff I’m writing in a mad dash for the finish line as essentially cursed. I tend not to be all that happy with my writing even when I have ages to do it, but I reserve a special loathing for the shit I get done when my back is to the wall. It’s not always the end of a novel, either. It might be a few chapters I skipped in a bad mood “to come back to later or whatever”, and so on. Usually, it’ll be the parts I write very early on and literally can’t stand the sight of come the end. They have to be rewritten. They just have to be.
When it comes to editorial feedback, reading circle opinion, and the reviews that follow, I’m always wrong. The bits people like best are always the parts I struggled with the most, and the ones I’m least happy with. I’ve given up trying to understand why.
Anyway, being nocturnal has its disadvantages. One of those – in a sensory aspect, surely the biggest one – is that night is dark, and when it’s dark, humans can’t see a fucking thing. Add that general rule to the fact I live in the middle of the countryside, miles from civilisation, and you’ll come to realise not only am I excellently situated to survive the zombie apocalypse, I’m also seventeen miles from the closest streetlight.
In short, if the moon and stars are behind the clouds, it’s as dark as the Abyss.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Hey, Aaron, it’s 2012. Houses have electricity, and electricity can be converted to light via glass bulbs and filaments and stuff like that.” Well, dubious phrasing aside, you’re right.
In some cases, that only makes the situation worse. Such as at 2:30am yesterday, when I came downstairs for my 36th coffee only to hit the light and recoil – physically cringe and recoil – from what I saw in the sink.
Allow me to explain.
Me and Katie, see, we’re not exactly loaded. We’re not dirt-eating poor folk any more, but for a couple of years, while I was waiting for royalties, we were pretty fucked. As someone who is so middle-class that I’ve genuinely told beggars asking for change “Sorry, I’ve only got notes”, being poor was an unpleasant surprise, but sadly comes with the whole territory of being a writer. But, as I said, things are looking up a lot. They’ve levelled out the last year or so. Things are good. I thank The First Heretic for that, and by proxy, all of you lot for buying it.
But my point is this. As a kid, I was spoiled by a Mum who gave me pretty much every toy I asked for. Not all of them, but if I rrrrrrrreally wanted something, she’d usually find a way to get it. I was never short on rad toys. Maybe I didn’t have every Star Wars action figure, or every single Autobot ever, but I had a chunk of every money-sucking license I was in love with at the time.
The flip-side of that comes around now, when I have a lot less money coming in than my Mum and Dad back then, so I’m already looking at my bank balance and feeling the first stirrings of sadness at Fuchsia having to miss out on cool toys she really, really wants. I’m aware – obviously I’m aware – that there are more important things in the world than cool toys. I became aware of that on the shallowest level when my Mum would occasionally cry that she couldn’t afford to get me X, Y or Z, and I’d always think “Mum… I have a lot of stuff already, I think I’ll live.” I’m sure Fuchsia will think the same, as I’m sure all sane kids do when they reach that level of awareness.
But anyway, as Currently Poor People, we’re recycling Katie’s old toys. As in, her family have dug them out of basements and attics and barns (HA HA COUNTRYSIDE), and now we’re washing them for Fuchsia to play with when she shows up. I find it even more heartbreaking because Katie’s toys were already Poor Person Toys, whereas I had rad shit like a Millennium Falcon and Powermaster Optimus Prime. I was also the first kid in my school to have Ultra Magnus. True (and awesome) story.
So there we are, washing these old, old dolls and cars and stuff. We wash them in the kitchen sink. Even looking at them brings me out in strangely intense middle-class future-father angst of being a shitty provider for my family, but that’s just background to the real story.
Imagine you’re walking downstairs at 2:30am. You’re tired. You hate what you’re writing. You need coffee.
Your beloved bride, to whom you’ve been married for just over a half a year now, sleeps the sleep of the innocent upstairs. You’re trying to be quiet, since she’s 8 months pregnant and doesn’t sleep all that well now. The fact she’s pregnant mere seconds after coming off the pill is something you’re secretly proud of, and occasionally you cup your balls in private, saying “Damn, I’m a good shot” to yourself. For the sake of this visualisation, that’s the kind of guy you are. Basically, an idiot.
Imagine all of this. Those of you reading this who lack balls; an easy simulation can be achieved through getting two eggs in some cling film, and hanging them between your legs. Please note, that’s gross. I mention only for accuracy of simulation for those who prefer a practical approach to the imagination.
Anyway, imagine all of that. Now imagine you walk past the sink – your head filled with thoughts of your pregnant wife, your future daughter, and the Grey Knights you’re writing about upstairs.
You hit the light.
You see this:
I’ve never, in all 31 years of my life, thought so many things at once. And they were all bad. All of them.
A snapshot image of my mind would’ve looked like this:
“OH HOLY FUCK KATIE HAD THE BABY AND THE BABY IS DEAD AND THE BABY’S IN THE SINK AND FUCK IT’S IN PIECES AND CHRIST AND FUCK.”
And that’s why you shouldn’t spend an entire month on minimal sleep and 30 cups of coffee a day.