The spouse, bless him, is inordinately pleased with himself for having successfully hung a pair of curtains at the weekend. While undoubtedly a man of many talents – he is very much keeping the roof over our heads as I write – DIY isn’t exactly his thing. Not that I’m in a position to cricitise; it isn’t my thing either. There are at least a dozen niggling little jobs that need to be done about the house, which neither of us has quite got round to yet. Part of me feels a bit resentful; I have an old-fashioned idea that the man of the house should be the one to concern himself with things like blocked gutters and unpolyfilled cracks. However I concede that the quid pro quo of the sexual revolution is that there’s no earthly reason why I shouldn’t be the one to take on these chores.
Generally speaking, I’m feeling kind of empty and aimless at the moment. This is not surprising; it’s been a really intensive eighteen months and I’ve just finished re-writing my most recent feature length script. Every time I take it up, I get sucked back into the world of that particular story – it’s set in Belfast – and I fall in love with my characters all over again. After I’m done, it takes a bit of time to be able to disengage myself emotionally and move onto something new. Do all writers fall in love with their characters? I suspect it’s a necessary part of the creative process. I need to feel deeply about the people I invent and identify with them completely for them to be successful. The more I get involved in their lives, the more they start to spill out beyond the confines of the story and begin to assume an existence of their own. Which is necessary. At its most intense, it becomes an obsession to the point where I can barely think of anything else. I’m not sure this is entirely healthy but it’s something I’ve always done.
Periods of idle reflection are a crucial part of the process. A state of mindlessness, when you’re not really thinking about anything at all can often turn out to be particularly fruitful. I often find my characters start speaking to me when I’m embroiled in household chores. Walking helps too. We’re lucky enough to live on the edge of the city, with access to lots of green spaces. I’m trying to get into the habit of walking every day even if it’s only for half an hour. I know something new will come to me – there are several ideas that are beginning to emerge; it’s a question of waiting for the one that really grabs me. It will then start to burgeon until it catches flame and grows into and beyond my imagination.
On the TV, I’m enjoying Masters of Sex, particularly Michael Sheen in the title role. It’s not easy to carry off such an awkward, buttoned up character, one that’s deeply uncomfortable with any sort of emotion, and still make him relatable and moving. The other characters are very engaging too especially the female ones; Lizzie Caplan as Virginia Johnstone, Caitlin FitzGerald as Libby Masters and above all, Allison Janney who plays the provost’s wife, Margaret Scully. Yes, there’s a fair amount of nudity, but what really resonates is the way the programme explores the emotional rewards and costs of sexuality.