Writing the first novel

I’m putting the finishing touches to a novel at the moment. This is my first foray into literary fiction, and I’m finding the experience liberating after the discipline of writing both memoirs. Ernest Hemingway raised the bar very high: “A writer’s job is to tell the truth. His standard of fidelity to the truth shall be so high that his inventions, out of his experience, should produce a truer account than anything factual can be.” So I’m drawing on all my experience as a psychoanalyst, broadcast-communicator and writer to tell the truth as Hemingway described, and to create characters from my imagination that have a discursive reality, who are alive in language. It’s hard work that can involve an exhausting struggle with the etymological meaning of words, but very absorbing and satisfying. I hope to be able to devote a considerable span of time to writing during the summer, when Terry and I will be down in Spain. And of course there’s no guarantee that an editor will agree to publish the book in the end, but that doesn’t mean you can stop working: there’s always something to be achieved on the pitch until the final whistle blows! Hawthorne analysed this odyssey with wisdom: “The reward for all high achievement must be sought within itself, or sought in vain”.

And I’ve been writing poetry as well, an activity which at times forms a salutary contrast to the prose. I hope to have my next, third collection finished by summer’s end. At this stage the poems divide into three categories: political poems, those written for friends on important occasions, and some personal poems as well which I trust have a universal resonance. To be able to tell a story in a short poem while at the same time move the heart, is a joyful, life-affirming achievement. It would be a grace and consolation if that book too were to see the light of day.

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