On Being a Bicephalous Writer

West Kirby, 2017. Light falls in a cone from the standard lamp by an old desk in the dining room-cum-study of a middle aged man. His name, chosen by his elder sister, is that of an ancient hero-king. He. Is. Macedon.

Bathos. His laptop is flanked by a Moomins mug, moonlighting as a desk tidy, and a statuette of an owl of Athena. The classical theme continues, a strand in the weave alongside Nordic fictional creatures. The man wonders what a therapist would make of it. He decides he doesn’t much care.

The man, though typing, is distracted; he glances at the framed photo on the wall above his desk, a nocturnal  image of swirling torchlight amidst a copse of silver trees. For him, it is a slice of creation-in-the-happening, electrons circling the nucleus of an atom, or nascent planets orbiting a maternal star. It is also a souvenir of a failed marriage, and so bittersweet. He pushes the thought to one side, knowing it will return. It is well, perhaps, to have a marker now all the more obvious ones are gone with the ring. He will discover the truth or otherwise of this in time.

A former academic, he tries to rethink his life to balance his mental health, his family duties, and his creativity. He knows he benefits from having one task at a time. He knows he hates juggling too many things at once. And he knows that making a living from writing, the form of work he likes best, is really tough.

So he hedges his bets. He tries to develop a distinctive ‘voice’ in his fiction, drawing on who he is, and what he’s experienced and learned, and developing his own style. But he also realises he may never get very far in terms of generating filthy lucre. And, channelling a song from his teens, he well knows that, honey, ain’t nothin’ going on but the rent.

And he has things he wants to say regarding his country’s biggest non-ecological challenge, a solipsistic delusion that will bring untold problems and heartache to millions. He plans his approach. He will balance fiction with popular politics writing. It will be sensible. Because unlike in the world of fiction-writing, he has a track record there. Maybe a contact or two. Bets, hedged. Health, best? Health, bust? He will discover the truth of this, as with that of many things, in time.

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