I haven’t blogged for a while because I believe in only writing stuff when there’s something important (to you or me) or vaguely interesting (to you or me) to write about. You really don’t want to read about how icy it is outside my house, or how the wheel of a bloke’s car fell off and rolled down the hill and he nearly slipped and broke his arse-bones trying to run after it, do you? (Do you? Really?) That’s what Twitter is for – irreverent and frequently unconnected ramblings and observations. No, what you want from this blog is probably nuts and bolts kind of stuff. Maybe my own personal view about writing, my thoughts on what I and other authors think, stuff I’ve learned, the route I took to publishing and all that lark. Interesting though it is (and a damn sight more so than the wheel coming off story) that’s not why I came here today.
I had a few (too many perhaps) drinks with a couple of stalwart friends of mine over the weekend, and minus me passing out before 11pm and waking up at 5am just as my mates were going to bed, I had a good time. But a consequence of one of the conversations has stuck with me since and I began to think.
One of my stalwart friends has a very literary and lyrical mind. He thinks things through, he analyses things, and he comes to conclusions about things by way of the facts how he perceives them. He knows loads of stuff about the world, history and politics, geography, the growth and decline of civilised society etc (and is fast catching me up as an oracle on all things Doctor Who). The other of my stalwart friends is obsessed with conspiracies of all kinds. Aliens, CO2 emissions, deadly gas clouds floating in the air. You know the type. Both interesting characters to be sure, and great mates to share some beers with, but I admit that when the conversation drifts towards serious topics such as politics and global warming and all that high-brow stuff, I feel slightly inadequate – not because I’m dense or anything, but because it’s not something that I spend any amount of time really thinking about in too much depth (to my shame? Not too sure) – and certainly I’ve never actively involved myself in heated discussions about that kind of stuff. It’s on my to-do list. I don’t think about it long enough to form an opinion, mainly because there is nothing that I can do to influence it, and I am a great believer in only worrying about things that you can do something about. There are so many other things to think about – My last book, my next book, getting another contract, getting an agent, my direction as a writer etc. etc. So when the conversation drifted at one stage to writing, I was pleased to orate a little about my latest project – and to his credit, my stalwart friend listened, (as he always has) with the occasional humourous aside or thinly veiled criticism, but I’m used to that 😉
My stalwart friend is currently excitedly in the midst of an exceptionally interesting concept ( I can’t do it justice, but it’s good, trust me) and it’s something that I have longed to see him return to. It’s a creative streak that runs through his veins, much like myself – but then a juncture in the road is reached where my stalwart friend and I part ways, and it is this that has got me thinking and blogging.
When my stalwart friend first told me about what he was working on, I was intrigued, although a little confused about what he was trying to do. As ideas go, it is sitting on a knife’s edge between conceptually amazing and mystifyingly oblique. But now I realise that I was judging it on my own scale of success, and this was clarified during Saturday’s conversation. We are both creative types, him and I, but I am an author looking for success in my books. I want them to sell really well, of course, but mostly I want people to enjoy reading them. I am always thinking about my next book, where it is, where it’s going, and if this is ‘the one’ that will kind of push me into the big time – whatever that is for authors. Until I had spoken to my stalwart friend, I had assumed that he was after the same goal. But in actuality, for him, it is not like that. This concept of his is something that is in his soul that he needs to exorcise. Like me, he is bewitched by his projects, he wakes in the night and it’s all he can think about (me too), he finds himself thinking about it whenever his mind is unshackled by real life (me too) but he just wants to do this project and to hell with it if it’s not successful. Success doesn’t even appear on his radar.
The subject of selling the idea came up, and I explained what he would need to do to snare a publisher/agent, and then he looked at me strangely.
He said “It’s not like that. What does it have do with being published?”
So I said “Well, if it’s not going to be published, what’s the point in writing it in the first place? If no one is going to read what you write, why do it?”
Which begs the question…………. What sort of writer am I?
And in fact, it answers it too.
I have wanted to be an author for a very long time, and wanted to be a successful one just as long. I want to write full time, to give up my day job and say proudly that an author is my occupation, and to do that I need to sell more books. It will happen, and I’m not naive enough to expect it to happen overnight. It’s a trade, a craft, and I need to become a better writer.
Does it make me any less or more of a writer to want success, or to judge myself by my successes? Does it make my stalwart friend any less or more of one considering his lack of need/want to be published? It’s an interesting debate, and one that now I know the boundaries, I can comfortably discuss with him. It’s not global warming, deadly gas clouds, international politics or the state of the British pound – things that I know nothig about – but to me, writing (and my family of course, lest I forget) is at the top of my list of priorities. That is my driving focus, my intoxication, my dream, and that is a subject that I know much about.
With my books I am on course for my dream, I am walking the right steps, taking the right routes so I will get there in the end. If my stalwart friend, inside the bubble of his own internal creativity, only wants to get the words and emotions out from his head and onto the page, he is not encumbered by any obstacles, or rejection (be they from agents or publishers or writing peers) so maybe he has already achieved his dream.
Merry Christmas to one and all, but mainly to you, my stalwart friend, for having your own mind and the dedication to do right by it.