‘Are you afraid?’ says the book.

‘What are you talking about?’

‘Are you?’

‘Have I upset you in some way?’

‘Just answer the question.’

‘It’s not like you’ve shown any interest before.’

‘Well are you?’

‘To think of the times I’ve been on the verge of giving up, absolutely on the edge, terrified, losing the plot, even the odd occasion when did give up, actually, and where were you? In the pub, or having a coffee with your feet up, listening to the cricket.’

‘Watching.’

‘What?’

‘Watching. I was watching the cricket.’

‘You have no idea, do you?’

‘I’m going to take this as a yes.’

‘What?’

‘That you’re afraid.’

‘You really want to know? Of course I’m afraid. Not all of the time. But some of it, yes, absolutely. When I begin writing something, as my finger hovers over the publish or send button, or in the moments after sending, yes, of course. But in the middle, there’s a weird calm, when everything goes very quiet, kind of slow motion almost, when nothing and no one comes into play except the thing itself. People’s reactions, or lack of it, even my own reaction, even my own desires. It all fades. Vanishes, even. I judge the good days by how far I have had that vanishing sensation, however briefly. It never goes away, the fear, not completely. But I do live with it. The best days are when I find myself dancing with it. That’s not very often. I live in hope. Hope of vanishing. That’s what matters. There’s nothing like it.’