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The writer as a lonely parasite

Keep on keeping on – didn’t someone give that advice once?  And they’re right, of course.  When you commit to something you believe in, you need to stick at it. But it’s hard.  Following the heady exhilaration of securing a publisher, comes a return to my desk, to the day in, day out business of scribbling as I work on book two.  And with this, at times, comes a sense of loneliness.

Although painful, it is a state sometimes necessary to creativity and the life of the imagination.  People-filled busyness leaves you little time to observe, imagine and create: if we are deeply immersed in the world, it is difficult to stand back and see and understand. Furthermore, as a degree of loneliness and isolation haunts us all, even when we are at our most sociable, experiencing this state builds the kind of compassion that, as writers, we need to feel for our characters and their various situations.  It is perhaps particularly relevant to the novel I am writing at the moment, The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells, in which Justine Wingfield’s sense of isolation  at the heart of her family causes her to walk out on them for six years.

And it is a state that is perhaps necessary to fulfil at least part of the role of a writer, as described by David Baddiel on  Radio 4’s Bookclub when discussing Elizabeth Taylor: that of the parasite.  The organism that feeds off its hosts, that needs others to survive but that is never quite part of the world on which it fattens itself.  An outsider.  An observer.  A stalker.  A lonely visitor.  I love the Greek etymology of the word: the παράσιτος (parasitos), “one who eats at the table of another”.

It is not a flattering image, but it is perhaps helpful when coming to terms with the writer’s need  both to be in the world but not of it, to be a little lonely.