One of my favourite programmes, when I was a kid, was It’s a Knockout. Stupid games. A man dressed as a rabbit, carrying a large inflatable carrot, flops along a course. At the end is a ramp with water flowing down it. His task is to get to the top, then launch the carrot across a divide into a basket. One chance, then back to get another carrot. Meanwhile, his opponents are throwing actual lettuces to knock him over. The crowd cheers, the commentator screams, the clock is ticking away.
But what if there was no clock? Or commentator, or crowd. Or ramp, or opponents, or lettuces or great divide. Just a man in a rabbit suit with an inflatable carrot, who had to walk from A to B and place the carrot in a basket. Then go back and get another. Over and over. With a general sense that, if there was a game, it was probably being played in a different field.
I have noticed, recently, that a number of the people who started writing when I did, or who I have encountered along the way, have decided to stop or slow down. I know the feeling. When one is trying to get to the end of the first novel; or entering competitions and almost winning; or sending to agents who begin to make encouraging noises; it is easy to see them as entertaining obstacles to overcome. With a clear aim in mind and an idea of when it will be achieved.
But sometimes, it all goes quiet. My competition entries do not place, agents do not even reply, the next novel I am halfway through, does not seem as interesting as the next novel, but that would take three more years and a great deal more effort even to get into a workable state. With no guarantee that it would be any more successful.
The game appears to be being played elsewhere. And I trudge from A to B, A to B, A to B.
Disappointment is an obstacle in itself. But not one that you can drop into conversation at dinner parties and get interested and admiring looks. Just one you have to deal with yourself. And make a decision. Do I carry on? Or do I pack up my carrot and go home.