Saturday, 5 May 2007


I guess you all know how much I love this. Isn't it wonderful, this disparate community of people who write.
Okay, I'm gonna pull the plug on Professor Internet and do some writing in a mo. But as part of that often pointless psyching up pre-getting down to it hour, I chanced upon this blog feed thing:
Writers Guild Members
All those hopeful writers, spread across the globe, congealing into small clans, drifting away like a bit of brittle coastline, anchoring elsewhere or just floating out at sea for a bit.
Sometimes you forget what it was like at the beginning. You remember when you read a fresher's work (or even your first ms!). So many adverbs and tells; little regard for the emotional topography; problematic povs and two-dimensional characters; random scatterings of emotional stimulae. There are loads of ways of recognizing the fresher! But the fresher doesn't know this. It remains a secret for a time ...

My son is writing a Doctor Who story at the moment. He has three double-sided pages written. His new best friend Mark is illustrating it, and Tom is colouring in the illustrations. Reminds me of those old Marvel comics. He was so eager for me to read his story that he pulled it out on the bus as we headed home. It's fascinating stuff - an almost verbatim reconstruction of Army of Ghosts. He had misinterpreted Grandpa Prentiss as Uncle Peter which made me laugh (anybody remember Uncle Peter from Reeves and Mortimer?). And Dirty Den became someone else too. So he didn't pick up on the names. But he got the bezulium [sp?] in there and even attempted some Japanese from the tv report. I do enjoy these glimpses inside his mind.
The new writer does this: He wants everyone to read his work. I did it. I roped a friend in. Every week, we met for a drink and she would read my new chapter. The best bit about this was that it made me write a chapter every week! She always liked what she read, and I was happy, not least because she has a degree in English Literature!
Of course, that's how it is in the beginning - in the first phase of the writer's life-cycle.
I doubt there are any exceptions to this ever. Some first attempts are better than others, sure. But there is that confidence and optimism, as blind and as misguided as they might be, that are necessary to take the writer through to the next stage.
I remember, too, the unpredictable reactions of people when you exclaim 'I'm writing a novel!' Even now, I know that there are some people who are interested, some who really aren't, and some who find a mild amusement value in the notion. I find this very peculiar, but a lovely snapshot of human nature.

At some invisible point along this continuum, I think the writer no longer needs this external validation: That is to say that the writer becomes comfortable with their task. There is a kind of acceptance that, perhaps, dips its toes into resignation occasionally. It's not as easy as you thought when you started. There are no shortcuts. You gotta write and you gotta read and you gotta study. All those little successes along the way - the excitement displayed by your readers and whatever little moments of acclaim come your way - they help with motivation and self-belief, but nothing more. And they are transient too - they apply to a moment in time, and that moment soon passes and the writer is different.
When something is new, it slaps you. You quickly acclimatize. You see that there are times when writing comes easy and times when nothing comes out right and times when you can't face the keyboard. You see that there are times when you feel great about your work and times when you hate it. Sometimes you want to throw in the towel and sometimes nothing is further from your mind and you couldn't imagine life without writing. You can imagine your book on the shelves of Waterstones; you can imagine that you're one of those writers who are never going to make it.
You see that it is the same for every writer. You're one of them. They're one of you. Okay, that last line makes no sense. But you see don't you!
All those people like you. Some better, some worse (in fact, only if you are the best or the worst will that statement not hold water). Sometimes you feel small.

Maybe you saw the Horizon programme on the hadron collider? Or maybe you read Grandpa's thoughts on the end of the world?
To think how important that errant particle is - the Higgs boson as it is named. The Higgs boson is considered the final piece in the fundamental particles puzzle. It is thought to explain how particles acquire mass. It is so important that it has been nicknamed the God Particle.
So small and yet so important to so many people.

To those with whom the writing journey is shared: If you write, you are a writer.
So I'm gonna go and write. It's brilliant isn't it!


esruel said...

Hey, solvey
I shall make a prediction: one day your son shall write a best-seller! As he will have no better mentor than your good self, he can't fail!

solv said...

Actually Esy, I'm trying to learn as much as I can from him! I think my perfect book would combine a child's free-form imagination with a non-impositional control of a stylistic genius. Something like Miyazaki's 'Spirited Away'.