50. Flames

In order to light a fire, you need certain fuels and a source of heat. You can generate the heat in many different ways. You can focus the heat of the sun using a lens. You can spin the wheel on a lighter to make a spark and ignite the tiny stream of gas. You can rub two sticks together and cause them to begin to smoulder as the energy generated in your muscles is converted via friction to heat.

I have heard of writers who suffer severe anxiety and distress but who will not seek treatment or therapy in case the cure robs them of their creative spark. I know of authors who consider a day without writing to be a day wasted. Others consider themselves washed up failures if they don’t produce something – anything- in each allotment of 24 hours.

If you are lucky enough to have someone interested in publishing your work, you will have a deadline – a date in the future when all you achieve yesterday, today and tomorrow will be judged. That date leans in on you while you are working and – perhaps even more so – when you are not.

Once you have chosen your source of heat, you must carefully apply it to your fuel. The gas in your lighter will run out. The matches will be used up. You must find some long-term way of keeping your fire burning, even when, for a short period, you are not attending it.

And you must develop the mental resources to turn your back on the flames and trust that they will still be there when you return.