‘You know what your main problem is,’ the book says. ‘Needing to be liked.’
‘That’s a good thing, isn’t it?’ I say. ‘In terms of evolution I mean. If our ancestors had not been liked by their group they would have been chucked out of the cave and left to the wolves. Being liked equals survival, surely?’
‘What’s better, being liked or being right?’ the book says.
‘Both,’ I say.
‘Wrong!’ the book says. ‘You really disappoint me sometimes.’
‘Sorry,’ I say. ‘Is it fixable?’
‘That depends on you,’ the book says. ‘Think about how you spend your time, I don’t mean when you are actually doing stuff, I mean in the gaps, when you have finished one thing and are about to begin another. What is your impulse, to check on Twitter how many likes you got, or to plough on with the next thing?’
‘Erm, the first,’ I say.
‘Exactly. Needing to be liked in a nutshell. What if you didn’t do that, would the world stop turning? And would you survive? No, and yes. Dare you risk not looking over your shoulder for a whole afternoon and commit to trusting that you are in fact on the right path, even if there are obstacles, even if stuff goes wrong, even if no one likes or leaves a comment, even if the poem is a failure? Dare you trust in the process? Dare you not measure yourself by external criteria? Dare you allow yourself to become again the writer you were at the beginning, in the darkness, when no one was listening?’
‘I don’t know what to say,’ I say.
‘The perfect place to start,’ the book says, leaving.