Readers- forgive me, for I have sinned. I have listened to Radio 4. Why is this a bad thing, you ask? Well, with the exception of the book shows and a handful of the comedy, the station is like class-warfare Kryptonite, where the only cure is slamming James Naughtie’s head in a door repeatedly.
Anyway. There’s a series of readings from new and existing writers, and I’m working through them to get an idea of the style of writing they have. So it was that I stumbled on Scottish author A. L. Kennedy, writing about the life of being an author. And it is perfect. Almost as perfect as her author FAQ. You have three days to catch it on iPlayer here, and I insist that you have a listen (and to the other two parts).
Why is it perfect? Well, let’s take a look at the past week of my scribbly existence.
I crawled to life at 10am this morning. Checking the
Freelance Batphone Forever Alone Windows Phone for work, I do some passable impression of an awake walk to the kitchen and consume breakfast from a tub describing the contents as ‘dairy-based ingredient’.
I turn the hand-crank on my PC, a computer so aged it gets dirty looks from the BBC Micro next door. Last night’s Camp NaNoWriMo sprint is best described as what happens when a tanker filled with adverbs ploughs into the side of an alliteration factory. This is about when the self-doubt internal voice kicks in-
“A second book? Really? Really?”
“Really. There were these left over plot strands and-”
“This is rotten. It’s so rotten, it makes EL James look like Tolstoy.”
“Thanks for your input.”
“It’s so bad- wait, are two attractive men fighting in an art gallery?”
“It just sort of…happened?”
“I think for maximal literary impact they should be topless.”
“SILENCE PRATING MANCHILD YOU HAVE BEEN WATCHING TOO MUCH TOMORROW PEOPLE”
It’ll work in the edit. Meanwhile, my diet of cheese on toast, oven chips and gin is going really well. I abandoned the mortal concept of “sleep” several months ago as editing the first novel came to an end and I had another bright idea like the fool I am. Yes, Ms Kennedy, I have American friends online. So midnight-6am isn’t as quiet for writing as it ought to be. On the plus side, my Tumblr GIF collection has flourished.
Ms Kennedy’s talk about her partner is also completely true. Take the other day, when Dear Husband was encouraging me and my words…
DH: “I’m totally behind this, because you’re really enthusiastic and I think you have real talent.”
DH: “…Are you typing while we’re hugging?”
Me: “OMG I’M JUST UPDATING MY WORD COUNT”
Oh, conversations with Real People. A week ago, my old teacher came to dinner with her playwright husband. You’d think we’d just be casually discussing our work, doing a spot of networking, that sort of thing. What actually happens when you get two creatives in a room is a boatload of shyness and diffidence…
Him: “Oh, my last play? Yeah, there was a guy from The Hobbit in it, but you probably don’t want to hear that. So what’s the book about?”
Me: “Oh, it’s, y’know, about this juvenile delinquent, and he runs into this selkie, and then they end up in another world…” *trails off*
It’s a bit like that Eddie Izzard sketch on teenage dating. “Allo, writer! I’ve got pens. Do you like books? I’ve got urban fantasy. Bye! Validate my existence!”
And talking to non-writers really is a desperate attempt to not sound like someone who ought to have been sectioned eight months ago when she decided to write about the invisible people in her head. Invisible people who generally contribute little to the creative process other than arguing among themselves and fiddling with your playlist. Mind you, I’ve considered telling the cute alternative-looking librarian lady about the book. We spent ages nattering about Diane Wynne Jones, why I’d only just got round to reading Jules Verne and our voracious reading appetites. Maybe she’ll like my plot. MAYBE SHE’LL VALIDATE MY EXISTENCE.
So, there you have it. No glamour here, kids. The only luxury round here is an hour in the conservatory crying into the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. And I don’t have a fragrant assistant called Juan. Just a husband with a lot of patience and a budget for South American savoury pastries.