There is an old saying, along the lines of ‘never put off until tomorrow what you can put off indefinitely’.

One of the things I’ve always admired about Arthur Rimbaud – well, the only thing really (the gun running stuff reads like a Carry On/B Movie crossover, and what I liked most about the Illuminations – at least, the ones I’ve read, was the fact that they were called by that name) – is the fact that he managed to walk away from writing. Others have tried; some repeatedly. Philip Roth for example, who died shortly after succeeding at his last attempt (which might be the trick).

Quitting while you’re ahead must help, but quitting – bearing in mind the adage that ‘you ain’t beaten till you quit’ (which doesn’t necessarily imply being beaten into quitting) – isn’t just a matter of having been a success or failure. It’s also an acceptance that your ‘body of work’ is suddenly a dead body. It isn’t going to grow any more. It is, in fact, a ‘corpse’ of work (and calling it a corpus only sugars the pill), and perhaps one that won’t be preserved too well: it will begin to disintegrate, to rot. Bits will detach, moulder away, be mis-laid, lost, buried, perhaps in an unmarked grave.

Walking away from writing (the phrase itself rather a circumlocution – I mean giving up; stopping doing it; finishing it; putting down the pen; switching off the keyboard.) is like stepping out from cover. Suddenly you’re exposed; stripped; dispossessed; not even failure, perhaps, to hide behind; success already receding into the background.

Suddenly you’re a has been, or (no worse but just as bad), a might have been, a certainly wasn’t, a who? A what’s your name? A what do you do? Nothing.

Quite an undertaking then. Worth putting off, I’d say, with one more attempt at least to write something worth having written.

BHD being toast?

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