Literary hubris, squared

It is hubristic to start thinking about your next book when you haven’t heard back from your editor about the first one.

It is hubristic to make a pudding to take to your friend’s house when you have a secret agenda of road-testing said pudding for the book that you shouldn’t even be thinking about. Blackberry and redcurrant crumble cake, in case you were wondering, and yes, I do know that I’ll never make it to Masterchef with my crappy level of culinary presentation. My food tastes good, but it doesn’t always look as good as it could – so bite me!

Above all, it is hubristic to think anybody cares about your hubris, let alone cares enough to make it worth blogging about.

But under all that there’s a serious element of being a creative person. We are, by and large, funnelling and channelling the blood of our hearts and the light of our spirits into our endeavours. Those endeavours may be creating a cow for the Magic Roundabout, writing a sestina about drug addiction, carving old elm trees into dormouse-shaped door wedges or crafting a short story about miscarriage – it doesn’t matter what we do, it is the fact that we are willing to continue to do our best at it, regardless of what others may think, that makes us creatives. Process and not outcome and all that guff.

So in moving from allotment book #1 to thinking about allotment book #2, I am freeing my free-floating creativity from the activity of being neurotic about the outcome of #1 and encouraging it to harness itself to the more productive pursuit of #2, even if #2 never happens. I am also doing the thing that many would-be creatives never do, which is giving the free-floating part of creativity a place to alight: by focusing on the recipe and its reception, I am pointing the way to ‘here’ when ’here’ is the eventual banging of one word into another until the words produce a coherent, if inadequate, account of what it means to grow and cook your own food on an allotment. This is the only way I have found to keep myself anchored and working. Think, plan, write – every day.

I cooked the pudding twice, once on Monday for OH (he approved) and again on Tuesday evening to take to dinner tonight. I hope it will be good to eat. My editor has been in touch today to say the book is okay (actually she said it was gorgeous) and my hubris is laid out for all to see, because this is what it is like to be a writer. Actually there’s even more hubris, because I was going to write a post about Hilary Mantel’s astonishing essay on illness and writing in the LRB but actually, when it came down to it, while Hilary has said it better than I ever could, I thought my own neurosis was interesting enough to write about too, so hubris cubed, perhaps?


  1. Mark Hubbard
    18th November 2010

    A nice sweet desert wine would go well with that pudding, and custard and cream, of course.

    Don’t worry about hubris, it looks after itself: just write those books 🙂

  2. Monica
    12th December 2010

    vanilla cream… i was thinking. no recipe?
    enjoying your words….


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