I’m always fascinated by other writers and their processes, so, I always take the time to read their interviews in the Sundays, even when they’re flogging something.
|Jeanette Winterson, novelist and sleeper|
Yesterday, Jeanette Winterson was interviewed for A Life in the Day in The Sunday Times. The pieces was titled I Just Want to be Left Alone.
This seems to be a common sentiment among writers, and it’s certainly one that I share. I need quite a lot of down time. I like to centre myself after being in almost all and any situation, whether it’s social or work-related, but always if it includes a lot of people, talking and interaction, and particularly busy environments. I even take myself away from the husband, and many of you will know how inseparable the two of us can be.
On the other hand, Ms Winterson made all sorts of throw-away remarks that I found... well... remarkable. Take this quote,
“I never think, ‘I’m not at work now, so I’ll relax.’ For me there’s no distinction. Work is the most absorbing thing in my life. Why would I want to switch off? So I work until I sleep, and then I sleep well.”
I can agree with her that work can be extremely absorbing, and, while I’m doing it, I suppose it is the most absorbing thing in my life, at least in so far as it is utterly compelling. I work long hours, too. It is not, however, a question of wanting to switch off, it is a question of being utterly drained by the experience of writing.
Writing is exhausting. I’ve talked before about opening a vein, and, having read Ms Winterson’s work I’d be surprised if she couldn’t relate to that experience in some way. She must, of course, be considered a writer of much greater literary importance, and of much more profound thinking than many of us, including me, after all, my independent fiction hasn't even been published yet, but I wonder that she doesn’t speak of the consuming fatigue.
Perhaps, though, that’s why she’s able to sleep so easily, and, apparently, so soundly, so soon after finishing work.
Gosh, how I envy her.
Clearly Ms Winterson has a facility to let go of the work when she extracts herself from the mechanism of writing that I don’t have. I need that downtime, you see, between writing and sleeping. I could not... cannot back work into sleep. To begin with, it is impossible to sleep with my mind so charged with the work I have been doing, but, also, if I could sleep, what dreams I would have!
I wonder how it is possible to throw that switch? I wish Ms Winterson had elaborated. Her approach to her life and work is not so very different from mine, and yet, in this one regard, she seems capable of a minor miracle.
I have admired Jeanette Winterson since Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, while at the same time wondering whether it would be possible to enjoy eating a meal at a table with her. Now, I would do it simply in order to ask her how she manages to do what she does and sleep so easily and so well.
I wonder if she’d consider me impertinent for asking.
On the other hand, if she knew how badly I slept, perhaps she’d forgive me.