I’ve said this before and I have no doubt whatsoever that I will continue to say it again and again: I find writing hard. There are loads of reasons for this, but the one on my mind right now is that I never seem to be able to shake off the feeling that the ideas behind my words are embarrassingly banal. It’s a paralytic state in which to be: what’s the point in committing your thoughts to paper if you don’t really think anyone’s going to gain very much from reading them?
I guess, in a way, what I’m driving at here is that I worry about originality. I know all the lines about nothing under the sun being new, but it’s difficult to find them comforting, even though I acknowledge they’re mostly true. In his latest diary entry, even Patrick Neate – whose work nearly always strikes me as fresh and singular – writes that, “Just because a thought is less than original, doesn’t make it less than true.” I totally agree with him… but I also wonder if he’s trying to convince himself.
Somewhere in all this lies a battle with my ego. If I could truly let go of my ‘intellectual inhibitions’ and just write whatever my heart/head tell me to write – without worrying about whether there’s going to be a reader at the other end of the process – then I suppose the paralysis would thaw. But I am a worrier. And I do wonder what people are going to make of my output. And I would like to be published. So I end up gagging myself.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried several times to update this site. I’ve told myself to sit down at my laptop and not get up until I’d composed a devilishly witty three-para piece on some aspect or other of modern life. It hasn’t worked. (And I sometimes wonder if I deliberately set myself too ambitious a challenge because I know I’ve no hope of accomplishing it, which then allows me to retreat into a state of protective inertia… but that’s another story…) Every single subject I’ve thought of to write about fizzles away within moments of entering my brain, because I’m unable to come up with a slant on it that I consider sufficiently different from everyone else’s. The current economic climate? No way, people far more qualified than I have already written thousands of words on that. A film review? Nope, I’ve banned myself from doing those. (Can’t quite remember why, but they’re definitely forbidden.) An update on my novel? Uhh… okay: the second draft is coming along at a rate of about a syllable a day. There’s your update.
So what does that leave me with? Random pseudo-observations, I guess. Feel free to string them together in any order you see fit and derive any meaning from them.
– Some people find it strange that if you borrow loads of money, you’re going to have to pay it back eventually.
– At very end of the film I’ve Loved You So Long, the main character – who’s had to cope with the death of a child – says the words, “I’m here.” At the very end of my novel, the main character – who’s had to cope with the death of a child – says the words, “I’m here.”
– I used to find it harder to get assertive with Help Desk staff working in India than with those working here in the UK. Having spent several hours of the last few days speaking to Help Desk staff working in India, I no longer have this problem. I am pleased to report that Help Desk frustrations know no national boundaries.
– Ishiguro uses many more adverbs than I suspected before I started counting them.
– Germaine Greer reckons that the whole industry which has developed around trying to dissuade women from breastfeeding stems from “the father’s need to reserve his wife’s breasts for his own delectation”.
– Another one of my short stories was rejected the other day. This brings the total number of rejected stories to one more than the previous total.
– Some new research has shown that if you want to become an expert at doing something, you need to have done it for 10,000 hours, which equates to about 3 hours a day for 10 years.
– This year’s Booker Prize committee stated they wanted their shortlist to contain real “page-turners”.
– The current crop of Teacher Training students have been told that if ever they’re in doubt as to what would be suitable attire at the school where they’re working, they should take their cue from the kids’ clothes.
– In 2003 Philip Roth wrote, “Over the years what you develop is a tolerance for your own crudeness. And patience with your own crap, really. Belief in your crap, which is just ‘stay with your crap and it will get better, and come back every day and keep going’.”
– Not so long ago, A S Byatt said on Radio 4 that authors should worry less about prizes and more about writing.