Last week WordPress told me we’ve been in a relationship for two years now. That’s longer than some of my marriages have lasted. But then WordPress doesn’t insist on me declaring my undying love to it on a daily basis; WordPress doesn’t get jealous when I spend hours with other Internet sites; WordPress doesn’t complain if I don’t talk to it for a few days; WordPress doesn’t get mad if I spell its name wrongly; WordPress is always ready to do what I want; WordPress doesn’t wake me up in the night to ask if it shut down would I take up with another blogging site and WordPress didn’t call me a pervert when I gave it some sexy add ons.
What a curse it is to be a writer. Being a writer ruins everything. Really. There’s this romantic idea, I think, that being a writer must be so…what’s the word? I don’t know so I’m going to say cool. That’s bollocks. Being a writer is a burden. A cross to bear. Sometimes I feel like I’m being punished by a higher authority. Writing is an obsession and like all obsessive habits it’s nigh on impossible to stop. Five years in and I’m only just beginning to realise that.
Being a writer is something of a cruel mistress because it doesn’t matter whatever else you’re doing, whatever wonderful treat life has in store for you, if you’ve got a writing project on the go you would rather be sitting at the computer getting on with it. Sometimes even eating a meal irritates me so that I want to punch something because I feel like I’m wasting my valuable time. (I went through a phase of eating my dinner sitting in front of the laptop until I spilt gruel in the keypad, and then the b,n & m keys didn’t work properly.)
As a writer it’s so hard to be entirely satisfied with what you produce. If you can be easily satisfied with your writing you’re not a ‘real’ writer, you’re just playing at it (or maybe you’re just crap or deluded). Real writers are obsessed with finding the next level of their ability, even if they have to change themselves to do so. The need to improve, to write better stuff is all consuming. And so bloody irritating when you can’t find a way to punch through the paper ceiling. And there’s nothing that brings that home to me more clearly than reading great writing.
To be a writer you must be a reader, but being a writer can ruin you as a reader. Gone are the days of reading only for pleasure because everything you read you’re comparing the quality of your own writing to it. It’s not easy to relax. You read for inspiration as much as entertainment and when you read something great it is like a double-edged sword. You love the writing for its sublime invention, for its originality of phrase, for its clever plotting, the best words in the best order. But you hate the writing (and the writer) because the quality of it seems beyond you as a writer, and what’s worse you feel that it always will be. It’s so frustrating. Being a writer undermines my enjoyment of reading for these reasons.
In the last week I’ve read ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.’ by John Le Carre, which I absolutely loved. But which also made me want to start punching things and Le Carre. It’s really, really good. I hated it.
I’m also listening to an audio book on the commute: ‘Heart of Darkness’, which everyone must surely know. It’s read by Kenneth Brannagh. How I hate that book and his reading of it. Because they are both so bloody fantastic.
Just to cheer myself up after that, when I look back on this diary entry in years to come I might wish to remember a couple of school incidents from this week. In one lesson I was asking the kids what they had for breakfast and one girl answered ‘crap’, which I thought was remarkably honest and knowledgeable for a five year old. (It never occurred to me where she picked up that kind of language.) She didn’t seem too bothered by it though. I abandoned the lesson on possessive pronouns so that we might have a class discussion regarding how important it is to eat the right foods for health, especially with the most important meal of the day. It was only at the end of the lesson that I discovered the girl meant ‘crepe’, which is a type of pancake. It’s something in the vowel pronunciation.
In grade two we had something of an incident that despite my pleading had to go into the the school accident book. There had to be a first, I suppose. We were making headgear for decorating and wearing. We used coloured card, coloured pens, cotton wool and glue and stuff. When it came to securing the finished article around the children’s heads the instructions said use glue sticks. Well that was a waste of time. They kept falling open and then off under the attentions of their fiddling before the glue was dry. So, out of frustration and desperation I decided to staple the ends of the card together to hold them in place. The best way to do this was with the card wrapped around the individual’s head. At least I thought it was until I managed to put a staple right through one little sod’s ear. Looking back on it now, it serves him right for not keeping still. I didn’t realise the skin at the top of the ear held so much blood.
Update on my writing. Acer #3 is still in post-production. B&C #2 has now had a couple of read throughs and some alterations that make me fairly happy with it. I’m ready for my daughter (my greatest critic) to read it.
The new project is where all my energy is going now. I have a title and twenty thousand words. I think this could be my magnum opus. I really think this could be the one that takes me to the next level. I also think I’m going to have to change my habit of making stuff up as I go along and set about some planning. It’s a bit complex for my limited brain capacity.