It sounds like a bit of a wanky title for a post, “A word about writing”, especially as writing is fundamentally all words and little else. The occasional picture to break it up in the middle for those who find lots of words challenging and to add colour, but ultimately, writing needs words. Lots of words. And words [sidebar here – I had an English Language teacher at school who would shriek at us to never start a sentence with the word “and”. I’m not sorry and I’m not at school anymore, so I’ll start a sentence however I choose, thank you Ms Poulton ] are sometimes the hardest thing in the world to find even though opening one’s mouth and talking produces such things. The written word is often far more flighty, with Inspiration deserting the Writer without so much as a “by your leave”. There are those who say “just write!” and those who think it is the easiest thing in the world to do – take out some paper and pen if you’re feeling nostalgic for the pre-PC era and let the words flow from brain to pen to paper. Except some of us *ahem* don’t find it that easy.
By now, most of you are probably jumping up and down in the manner of Hermione Granger circa Y1 of Hogwarts, itching to point out the obvious, that at this very moment, I am indeed, writing. Well spotted – 10 points to Gryffindor. Yes, I am writing about writing and how hard I sometimes find it, because if I was to be honest, and this blog is the diary that I’ve deliberately left open for all to snoop around in, I would love nothing more than to be A Writer. I suffer with a *small* disability on this front – I have no Inspiration for fiction and even less for poetry. With the lack of the Inspiration, there is also a chronic lack of the following: imagination, plot, characters, talent and a few other things besides. My attempts at creative writing at school was mind-numbingly, arse-clenchingly bad – critiques of hated novels, poems and prose regarding current affairs were far more my “thing”. The issue with this is I am neither famous, funny or talented to write a book about any of these things and going on the aforementioned lack of fiction talent, a “proper story book” is also out of the two-horse race of my imaginary writing career.
Scrolling back to the weekend just gone, I went to see with Husband and Brother in Law N°2, A Writer giving a talk and then signing of, his latest novel. The writer in question was Peter V Brett, an American fantasy novelist on his UK book tour. Given that I am not a massive fantasy novel fan, nor had read any of his books (sorry Peter, your fans really do love you – the girl who stood up a couple of time was most definitely a FAN if you get my drift) I was unsure what I was letting myself in for. I confess, I tend to have flashes of white-hot jealousy when I go to these talks. Jealous that the person doing the talking in that they are doing my dream “job” and making a decent living – a decent enough living to not have to work a regular 9-5 job and then write in the small hours. A job they love and are good at and that people will pay to read their books, watch the films made from the books and queue for hours to have books by them signed with messages; “Dear Sammy, look to the future! yours, Albert Schneider” *insert random sign/smiley face/etc.
Back to Peter and his crowd of rather adoring fans – I was possibly one of the few there who didn’t know who he was. The assembled crowd was a giant cross-section of society; all the fantasy hard core fans and then the rest of the people who looked fairly average but you could still see the arse crack when they sat down: polite request – wear a belt – and some fricking underwear! The session went a bit like this: Peter arrived in the nick of time with his publicist and set the alarm on his phone for 45 minutes and people started with the questions. I’ll admit now that I had no idea what I thought this guy would look like and I was ashamed to think that he would be the long-haired Comic Store Guy character from the beloved Simpsons. Not a bit was he like this. Tan with a good bit of beard scruff in a pale blue, long sleeved T-shirt, he was appealing and charismatic. Not afraid of the swears either which made me like him, he relished in the questions from his audience. The questions were varied, too varied for me to record or keep track of but all the while when Peter was discussing a possibility of one of his books being turned into a movie, I was struck with how real he was. Sure, he was throwing around words like Hollywood and agent, casually name dropping the wife of one of the directors/producers (Milla Jovovich) but at no point was he anything other than a real person from America who happens to write books for a living. A real life writer, if you will.
When the real life writer then started explaining how he writes, how he lists in notebooks all the tiny little traits of his character and major points of their lives in the story and how he invests the energy in his characters and their emotions and responses, I knew then that I would never be A Writer. Frankly, I don’t care enough about the characters when I know they are not real and Peter, well he cares. He cares so deeply about his characters and their stories, their hopes and dreams and the world they live in that it seems natural for him to commit this love and thought to paper for all eternity.There has only been one series that I’ll admit to loving so much that I head begged (begged in my head – surely I’m not the only one to do this?) for it to be real – and that was the world of Hogsmeade and wizards and witches of Harry Potter and C°. Ms Rowling has a lot to answer for in my unfulfilled desire to be A Writer – but at the same time it shows the power of words. Words that made an entire world come to life off the page and made me yearn for something outside of the humdrum Muggle life we are plodding through. A bit of escapism isn’t a bad thing – although I think at 32 I should probably admit it’ll never be real.
As someone who doesn’t deal very well with rejection, the fear of submitting a book to a publisher in the vain hope they want to make me an offer to publish my scribblings is, frankly, terrifying. I am, by nature or possibly nurture, a pleaser. I like people to be happy with what I’ve done and to like me. I may say that I don’t go to work to make friends, but we all know that is a big fat lie. To borrow a phrase from Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat Pray Love”, ” I am the world’s most affectionate life form…a cross between a barnacle and a Golden Retriever”. I like to make things better for people and for them to like me for doing so. I’m a fixer as fixing things makes people happy – who likes a broken chair/table/toilet flush/sink when I could get them a new chair/table/toilet flush/sink. Being rejected by someone I’ve not met for something I have created might be a step too far for my already fragile self-esteem. A blog, while public, is fairly safe as a mid point. I write, badly, but it gives me an outlet for the words jangling around my brain, itching to be released through the keys of my lap top and then pushed out into the vast wilderness of the Internet. The rejection is invisible – I don’t get people telling me that my post isn’t publishable. No one sends me a fat manuscript with a letter telling me it doesn’t have audience potential. Peter had rejections; many, many rejections before he got a publisher who believed in his book enough to publish it.
I love books and I love hearing someone read out loud from a book they love. I have learnt to love The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings through hearing it read aloud. When I was little, we had the Winnie the Pooh books on tape, ready by Alan Bennett, his rich and unmistakable voice washing over me every night as I went to sleep. Now as an adult, I love Caitlin Moran and I think if I ever met her I might end up saying “Fuck” very loudly before doing a sweat all down my sides in sheer awe and that is because I love her books. I love how words when strung together in the right order can make a person laugh or cry, shout or whisper and can become imprinted on memories of nights long ago under a duvet with Paddington Bear printed on. Words are like air to me as a frustrated and frustrating writer. My blog, started 4 years ago as an outlet for a bleak period in my life, has become the place I go to when I get the flash of Inspiration. I love getting a new reader or a little yellow star pop up when someone has read my post and decided they liked it enough to let me know in digital form.
Writing is therapy to a degree. Some times it gets a breakthrough and some of the issues melt away and other times you leave the space feeling weak and helpless, word dying on the metaphorical tongue, never to be spoken. This blog, for however long I decide to keep writing in it, will almost certainly never make it to book form. And while I would dearly love it to be able to write and be kept in clover by my writing, I’ll keep being that crustacean/dog hybrid until that moment comes. I bet Caitlin would approve. Fuck yeah.
P.S. When trawling the Internet for links for the post, I discovered to my sheer delight, that I share a birthday with Caitlin Moran. I’m inordinately happy about this. Fucking weirdo.