I have recently been reading about writing.
In the hope of gleaning some inspiration, I read The Emerging Writer. It is a collection of essays by established writers which aims to explain to young, hopeful writers how to make the most of their writing career.
And you know what? I've been doing it all wrong.
Apparently, I am supposed to:
- go to readings and launches;
- attend book fairs;
- go to workshops;
- carry pen and paper around with me to make copious notes;
- enter competitions;
- be fascinated with the true stories of those around me;
- have been a major contributor to school and university publications while attending said educational institutions;
- be passionate about something I wish to communicate to the world;
- network with agents and publishers; and
- read like the wind, Bullseye.
Let's start from the top.
I've been to some launches. Three. I've been to three launches. At all of them I stood around like a numpty, trying to look like I was completely engrossed in my plastic cup of cheap wine to explain why I wasn't talking to anyone.
At one of the launches the author read a bit from her novel. Apart from that, I've never been to a reading. They're in town. I am not.
I don't catch a bus to go to local writing events. You think I catch flights to go to book fairs? Pft!
Once I dredged up enough energy to go to a workshop. It was fine. It was also expensive. Due to my lifelong fondness for eating, I have not been to another.
I do carry a pen around with me. Often a scrappy bit of paper too. I find them useful for writing grocery lists.
Competitions, huh? You know what most competitions ask for? Short stories and poetry. I've only found one person who can write a short story I can stand (and it wasn't me), and the poems I write are not the kind to win poetry competitions. True, I am being published now because I won a competition, but it was asking for what I'd already written. I don't seem to be the kind to read the requirements for a particular competition and churn out something appropriate and award-winning.
On the subject of true stories - can't stand them. I honestly can't. If someone starts to tell me a story from their childhood, it doesn't matter how amazing it is, my eyes will start to glaze over. And that "Based on a True Story" at the start of movies? Ugh. It takes me at least an hour to even begin to think about enjoying it. Give me 100% fiction any day.
This hatred for all things true and relevant feeds into my aversion towards journalism, even in its early manifestations of school and uni publications. I'm afraid I just wasn't interested enough in the escapades of the rowing crew or the debate team to write a whole article about them. Then, at uni, I simply wasn't cool enough to write about the edgy things that uni students supposedly write about. If they were interested in the third desk in the fourth row of the second floor of the library, I may have been able to help them out. Somehow I don't think they were.
And the passion thing? That's just not my style, mainly because I'm not that passionate about anything and, if I were, I wouldn't assume other people were too and inflict a novel-length lecture about said passion on them. I love daffodils, but I think Wordsworth has covered that one. I also love German Shepherds. You too? Then go look them up on Google Images and knock yourself out. I'm not going to wax lyrical on the topic. A novel should be about the story, not about the author. Many a thing that was written passionately was also written badly.
Networking. I should probably do more networking. I probably won't, though, because I'm shy. I hate approaching people I don't know. I hate calling people on the phone. Hell, I've never even called my own editor, and we've exchanged a good hundred emails so far. I would much rather sit at home alone with the blinds closed and quietly write my novels.
Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about the last point. I love reading. I just don't read the Right Things. You know that canon of literature that all good people should have diligently worked their way through by their thirties? I haven't. I've never read War and Peace, nor do I intend to. Ditto for Catch 22 and Middlemarch. A beautiful illustrated version of Life of Pi has been sitting on my shelf waiting for me for over five years now. It waits on. I got ten pages into Moby Dick before I died of boredom. I won't even touch a Miles Franklin winner. I've read a few classics now and then for English classes and hated most of them. (Jude the Obscure, for heaven's sake! What kind of sorry-arsed bastard thought that one up?) I just don't have the patience for what I'm supposed to have read. You'll often find me reading. It's just that you'll often find me reading Garth Nix.
And when I've got edit-brain, I've found it best not to read at all. So there, literature snobs.
Basically, I am, according to this book, a sorry excuse for a writer. I do not charge around the world noting down everything I come across, attending every literary event and flinging myself at the people there, with poems, references, opinions and reviews flying out of every orifice.
Nor would I want to. Having thought about it, I'm ready to call bullshit on the whole thing. All those events and habits and people and attitudes - they're just the dollop of fake cream you have to scrape off before you can get to the double fudge brownie underneath.
You want to be a writer? There's only one thing you have to do.