I fester, therefore I am

So I’ve been wondering: what is the technical term for authors who are “between contracts?”. If you are an actor between jobs you are resting. Such a lovely term. The mental state of a writer who is not working, I think my husband would confirm, is not- ahem – restful.
Since delivering my manuscript (the second of a two-book deal) I have repainted the spare room, hired a skip, done Ikea (and God knows you have to be desperate to contemplate that), and reconfigured the derelict asbestos-cement buildings on our farm into an imaginary writers’ retreat. I have cut and coloured my hair, sorted out my office and the cupboard under the stairs, taken several bales of clothing to Oxfam and got quotes for every bit of home improvement that we can’t afford. The cat and dog are de-flea’d and wormed, the children groaning with home-cooked food.
What is this? Well, in part it’s simply a manic way of compensating for my customary vacancy by fitting in all the chores that I can’t manage while I’m working. But also it’s a way of avoiding thinking about the fact that I am, effectively, unemployed. Superstitious, I can’t start my next book until I know it has a home. Writers are a little like pit ponies (yes, check out my fringe) – we need to work. We need to have the emotional energy harnessed or it all spirals outwards, sending out chaotic sparks. Or as my husband says nervously, gazing at the architectural redesign I am scribbling, pen in mouth, on bits of graph paper, “so – ah – when are you meeting your editor?”
Two weeks. Until then I am working on my new lexicography.
I suppose I should say publicly that I’m “researching”. But somehow neuroticising feels better. Or festering.

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