Which, in my case, stands for Pre Manuscript Tension. I suffer from it. I'm fine when I have events and promotion and media to do, but when I am between books, as I have been recently, I confess freely that I am not the happiest camper.
Last year I bumped into Brian Kennedy, the very talented Northern Irish singer and writer, while doing a radio interview in Dublin. We got chatting, as you do, and he used the word hormonal in connection with his own work and in particular his prose. In our sexist society it's a word most often associated with women, but it applies equally to writers of both genders. It definitely applies to me.
Part of it comes down to guilt associated with the infamous Protestant work ethic, which was drilled into me growing up. My Dad (who'll be 80 in a few days) was a prolific historian and scholar, and even now, with his health very bad, he is working on a new book - a biography of James Connolly, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.
My earliest and fondest memories are of waking up as a boy to the clack-clack, or, more accurately, the hammer-hammer (Dad was a labourer in a sawmill from the age of 14 long before he was an academic) of a manual typewriter being wrestled into submission.
Although writing to me is work, work is a positive thing. I was brought up to believe that one of the most important duties you had was to make a contribution to society. If you had even a small modicum of talent then you used it. So that plays a part in my unease when I am not working.
On the plus side, I am rarely happier than when I've had a good day writing. So it's with some relief that after weeks and weeks, I have finally cracked the opening of my new book. Once I get that part done it tends to flow for the next forty thousand words until I hit the mid-book blahs. But, right now, it's a voyage of discovery. I am productive, and free of guilt.
In other news, if you are in London in May then look out for this poster on the London Underground.