I don’t believe in New Year resolutions but I do believe in becoming so fed up with doing – or not doing – something that you realise something has to give whatever the date.
It just so happened that this came to me on 2 January when I realised I’d been researching a long-planned book for (the dates on the files do not lie as much as I wish they did) 14 years.
As a teenager I dreamed of growing up to be like Dorothea from Middlemarch – all spark and goodness – but it turns out I am actually Casaubon her creaky husband – who rots away as he spends decades researching his magnum opus The Key To All Mythologies.
I have spent a frankly bizarre portion of my life researching early 20th-century Poland and France (hey we all get our kicks somewhere).
But when I went through my crate of notes last week I discovered something rather unsettling.
I hadn’t just been researching for 14 years – I’d been researching the same things for 14 years.
Like an archaeologist digging through strata I went through my files going back over a decade and the same information kept recurring: this fact – that figure – these statistics.
I wasn’t Casaubon after all; I was Jack in The Shining – allegedly writing a book but actually just recording the same things again and again.
The truth is I realised – I hadn’t been researching – I’d been waiting: waiting for someone to give me permission to start writing.