Tuesday, 28 February 2012

On Writing

I am not a quitter.

Those words, metaphorically, are tattooed on my forehead. I think, they have appeared there some time in the last six years or so. Before then, well yeah, I have been a quitter, a glorious, gadfly. Try this, try that - flit from one thing to the next.

I did, for a long time want to a be a rockstar. I wasn't going to be held back by the fact I couldn't really play anything and had no aptitude for music. Not at all, I mean, I had great hair after all.

But I could never shake the feeling when I held the bass in my hands that it was an alien thing. A thing apart from me. Practice was a chore, a task I had to do to stand any chance of keeping up. When I finally gave up it was with a sense of relief. I never enjoyed sitting in a van for hours on end, I am a creature that enjoys comfort, or waiting around for hours to go onstage and be 'not quite good enough'. Those odd times when it clicked and everything came together were becoming less and less frequent as the band I was in got better and better. It stopped being an escape from work and instead became more work.

So I had a think about what I really wanted to do, about what I really loved.

The answer was the book in my pocket.

Can't remember what book it was, could have been crime, SF, fantasy, 'serious literature' or poetry; I dunno. It was just a book. Except a book is never just a book, every one is a little window onto a world. A place I have never been and never will go – the mental landscape of another.

And I knew that was what I wanted to do. Was what I had always wanted to do.

So I do it. I think, on occasion, it's good. It's often very very frustrating; mentally and physically. But even when I was really ill it was the thing I kept doing. Intermittently, yes - but it never stopped.

So on days like today, when words are slow and I doubt anyone will ever buy the novels I am (or have) slowly constructed I remember that I am not a quitter. I may feel like giving up, my fingers might be stiff with pain and my head fuzzy with painkillers and tiredness but I will carry on. It's not even really as serious as that makes it sound. It's gone from a conscious effort to a compulsion and unlike the bass guitar the words are never alien. They may be wrong, or uncomfortable, or infuriating or leave me exhausted but they are also a source of joy. It's the only thing I do where time vanishes, one minute I'm trying to think of what to write the next it's a couple of hours later and one thousand or so words. And if I'm not quite good enough? Then that's fine as it's primarily for me and one day it will be good enough. It will.

So. I might be really ill. It may be infuriating that the words on the page are never as clear as the world on my head. It may feel like no one will ever buy the last book and that like finishing this one is an interminable task that will have no reward. But that is not the point, it is partly the joy of writing and partly the escape it provides.

Also, I am not a quitter.

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