Tuesday, March 27, 2007

This is what I do and I'm doing it

I thought this morning’s lesson went rather well. I submitted my homework (which I’ll post here as soon as I’m done with this) and we read some more poems, some of which even rhymed. I was really delighted by the whole episode.

During a chance conversation during our break, Mrs. Rust mentioned that any of us with a ‘yen to write for a living’ must buy either The Writer’s Handbook or The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. And like the conscientious student I’m so desperately trying to be, I immediately nipped out to my local Waterstones and bought myself a copy of each. I’ve been locked up in my den since then, giving them a full and proper examination.

And my conclusion?

What a crock it all is!

Let’s be clear on this. There’s nothing I enjoy doing more in this world than writing. There’s nothing I’ve love more than to earn a living by making people laugh with my vaguely incompetent mutterings. But let’s also be clear: I’m not a man to be treated like a petulant child. I don’t want to be mocked, mimicked, patronised, or consoled. I don’t want somebody to take my dreams and package them between two bright yellow covers and tell me that all my ambitions can be realised if I unlock this prize with a £15 donation to the cause.

In other words: I’m pretty sure if there’s a certain way to become a writer, this isn’t it.

And, besides, what does it mean to be a writer? I've been thinking about this quite a bit recently. Reading other blogs have helped me come to the conclusion that I am already a writer. I write every day, sometimes for hours on end. I would like money for my pains, but the whole reason I do this is because I love putting words on the page. I like the way they sound, the ways they sometimes jar. I love the patterns I can make. I like how they sound on the ear, sometimes sad and sometimes funny. I don't know what it is to be a writer beyond doing this. This is what I do and I’m doing it.

So, perhaps what people mean when they say they dream of being a writer is that they dream of the writer’s life. Which, I might add, is probably all that it is: a dream. The considerable number of people I know who claim they want to write, find an amazing number of reasons why they don’t. They realise, I suppose, that the reality of writing involves hard work at some point in their day. And who wants to be stuck alone for hours on end, many of which are spent reflecting on your own inabilities to do your job well?

The solution to hard work is to buy a book that solves your problems. These books placate us all by making the path to publication sound so reasonable. The delusions begin with their descriptions of agents. Yet reading between the lines, it’s a matter of ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’. Agents attract bad writers like gadflies are attracted to... Well, perhaps the simile doesn’t quite work. My point is this: is there any way to get an agent to notice you other than stripping off and parading up and down outside their offices? No, I mean it. Is there any other way? When I tried the stripping off route (on seven different occasions with five different agents) I was arrested three times, groped twice, and in every other instance told that ‘we only deal with established writers’. This is the only reason I can see that 'Chip Dale's Guide To Thongdom' has still not made it to the shelves of hardbacks.

Yet I hardly blame them. I don't blame agents and I don't blame publishers. I blame The Writer’s Handbook. I blame The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. I blame every creative writing workshop. I blame the industry that has formed around the many millions of people who found that their PCs came with a keyboard. I blame the people who confuse typing with writing.

And I suppose in the end I also blame myself for thinking that I’m any different.

As Mrs Rust said to me at the end of this morning’s coffee break: ‘You know, Chip. It would probably be better for you if you stayed as a stripper.’

I nearly told her that this is what I love to do and I really don't want to stop doing it

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