I remember the ill-slept, thrilling and simultaneously stomach-turning first morning of Assistant Language Teacher orientation in Japan. It was then a lovely English girl asked the breakfast table, “Are we all a bit mad?”
No one had slept well.
But it wasn’t just jet lag. I can’t tell you how ridiculously torturous that first night in Tokyo was: everything was question marks. I had no concept of the place I would be living. Of what my job would be like. How to live day to day there, from grocery trips and operating a Japanese ATM to cultural etiquette, food staples, transportation. I was a stranger in a strange land, and in three days I would part with everyone else who spoke English.
So I loved the question when someone else asked it: Are we all a bit mad?
Writers– especially novelists, I think– live this way. Every book is a journey: a new land. New people, new language, new trials, new pleasures. It blights the mind trying to envision what a project will be like when in reality you can only handle it one page, one task, one day at a time. And we sign up for this! This long-term, sink-or-swim, learn-on-your-feet, by-the-seat-of-your-pants whirlwind! This madness! Again and again with every book!
Well. I may not know what comes next. But if it is anything like my time in Japan was, it will surprise and delight me in a thousand ways.
Kampai, as they say.