It’s getting to me now. We have had ten staying over for Christmas. Every room in the house filled with people – my younger son even burst in while I was on the loo yesterday. Nowhere to hide. Don’t get me wrong: it’s been great seeing everyone, exchanging gifts, drinking, playing games; then after a few days my brain starts to suck at itself, seeking something to ingest. There’s a grating at my temples. These are the early signs of a craving to engage once more with ideas, with material, with writing, or at least thinking around the writing.
It is a need rather than a wish. The sloth in me simply wants the easy, flop-around-the-house style of living, but I have to write, like a heroin addict has to shoot up. I guess the addict has no relish for the needle, and I do not relish my return to the keyboard - we are both drawn by the craving. It hurts if we try to resist it. And just as the addict slinks away to some hidden corner to get on with the business, so does the writer, equally furtive. I’d be embarrassed if someone walked in on me now, while we’re still officially festive.
Even the most gregarious of writers are anti-social for long periods. Some have to be forced into solitary – Dylan Thomas was famously locked in a BBC studio by a producer to finish a radio play, and again by his assistant Liz Reitell to complete a rewrite of Under Milkwood – while others have to tear themselves away: “Close the door, give out that you are not at home, and work” is what the French writer Joseph de Maistre advised.
Mostly though, it’s the craving that gets you here. I’m feeling easier already, writing this. As good as a glass of Christmas malt.