Well, the birth wasn’t unexpected; it was planned and its gestation period was longer than an elephant’s – far longer. So was it worth it? On the one hand definitely NO, and I’ll tell you why. Too many hours spent in morbid solitude contemplating that very average bit of me called my navel. Hours piled upon hours like cold shovelfuls of dirty snow day after day. Opportunity cost run rampant in that I missed the chance to do so many other things, the true cost of which was the hours bleeding away elsewhere, mainly into my lonely garden shed where nothing grows fat but the spiders. On the subject of which, here’s another thing! I can’t get out of my head the words of one of my (very) few literary heroes, George Gissing, who in New Grub Street gives us that superb analogy of the spider’s web to describe the circular serried-ranked interior of the old reading room at the British Library. He’s talking about the literary world of the 1890s, and yet it could be now, give or take the fog and a gas lamp or two. His point is this: why, when there are so many books already published, enough to last a million men a million lifetimes, bother to add your paltry volume to the inexhaustible whole?
I do have an answer to the lance-in-the-side probe of that last question: because you must. Because the writing in some way, small or large, has done you good, so in this sense YES, it was worth it. It is the art in your life, alongside the music or the drama or love of painting, or all three. It doesn’t really matter in the end who reads your book or how long it persists and finds a niche in the questionable literary canon. I’m tempted to say that no writer alive today will be remembered other than as a footnote (how I hate footnotes!) in a hundred years’ time. But the urge to write will survive, a sense of worth in achieving something because it’s important to you. I believe – probably unlike Gissing – that there is always room for one more voice, one more story and that voices and stories will endure till the end of time. Which if Mr E.Bola and Messrs Islamic State get their way, might be sooner than you think. Only joking! I think.