Only an Imitation of the Ideal

Rick Gekoski, Writing is Bad for You (in the Rick Gekoski: Fingers on the Page column), The Guardian 7 July 2011:

“…Alan Hollinghurst has recently observed a similar phenomenon in himself, and used it to explain why he lives alone. “I’m not at all easy to live with,” he says. “I wish I could integrate writing into ordinary social life, but I don’t seem to be able to. I could when I started. I suppose I had more energy then. Now I have to isolate myself for long periods.”

You don’t, of course, need to live by yourself to become isolated. When I am writing I wander in a fug all day, wake in the middle of the night — waking my wife Belinda as well — and stagger downstairs to record a thought or two. Leave the bed with my mind whirling with gorgeously formed sentences which are as evanescent as the smell of lily of the valley, and about as easy to recall. By the time I get to the keyboard their perfection (as it seems to me in my drowsy creative mode) has dissipated, and though I can catch something of what seemed a sensational formulation it is already, in that Platonic way, only an imitation of the ideal. I fiddle about, rewrite and reconsider, and go back to bed an hour later thoroughly stimulated, dissatisfied, and unable to sleep. I read for another hour. The next day I complain that I am tired, and show all the signs of it: irritability, abstraction, and a tendency to fall asleep on a sofa at any time, including when I am being spoken to. …”