How did I write Respite?

I am gloriously high right now, reclining on a chaise-lounge in my back yard, facing the forested ridge behind. I am well shielded from the neighbours here and no one can see me unless they really make an effort. My housecoat is open, exposing my naked body to the sky. It’s fall now, crisp and cool and the stars are bright. I can actually see vapour coming off my body, still hot and wet from the sauna.

I take out my little solid state voice recorder. I try not to use it in the sauna –  not a friendly environment for electronics: I have already fried two predecessors that way. I press record and just start talking. The words seem to flow quickly and effortlessly from some deep corner of my mind. I am just the narrator: the story seems to come from a place that I can’t get to any other way.

And that, in essence, is how Respite got written. It is true that the entire book was composed while I was high on cannabis. My usual modus operandi would be to vape some cannabis while the sauna was warming up, inhaling about five draws from the tiny amount of weed in the glass crucible. Not too much: just enough. Then I’d enter the sauna, letting the waves of heat and loyly (steam from tossing water on the stove rocks) wash over me, relaxing every fibre of my being. Letting the cannabis high take hold. The combination of cannabis and the sauna is one of the best things in life.

After I was sufficiently broiled I would troop outside, recorder in hand. Or sometimes I would wait until I had finished the sauna and record afterwards. Either way, I found that ideas came to me easily this way. They just flowed. But, as anyone who has used cannabis will know, it does have an effect on memory. It is very easy to forget those mind-blowing ideas you had a few minutes ago. That is why an easy way of recording was so important to getting this done.

A typical recording would be ten or twelve minutes long, and contain enough material for a few pages. I made a rule: I would not make a new recording until I had committed the old one to paper. That way they stayed fresh in my mind, and I didn’t build up a backlog of recordings.

Some of the recordings were very complete, and were transcribed almost verbatim. But usually, they  supplied the basic ideas, which I filled out during my evening writing sessions. A couple of times I did try to actually write while high. It didn’t work. The ideas still came, but I found I couldn’t type them in fast enough to keep up with myself. And I made a lot of mistakes: I am not a good typist while stoned. All in all it was far better to make recordings and transcribe them later, while in a more sober state of mind.

By the time Respite was finished, I had made 223 recordings. I still have all of them…

This worked for me, and I am pretty sure that Respite would never have been written if I hadn’t found this way of doing it. Writing isn’t fun for me: I know some authors say it is, but for me it is, in the main, quite tedious and I find it difficult to stay focussed. But doing it this way kept me going. Every time I got discouraged, I would get some more ideas while stoned in the sauna, and the cycle would continue. Eventually, the book got finished.

I have no plans to write another book. For now, I am happy to be able to just let my mind wander in the sauna. Let the ideas and thoughts remain ephemeral. But who knows? I never really expected to write a novel, so I can’t rule it out. And there is a lot more I could tell about Mark and Monica.

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