“They want to write, they have application and vigour, they’ve all come on since I read them last and yet ... it would be unfair not to remind them of how horrible their futures may become. If they’re unsuccessful, they’ll be clattering through a global Depression with a skill no one requires, a writing demon gnawing at their spine to be expressed and a delicately-nurtured sensitivity that will only make their predicaments seem worse – and yet somehow of no interest to anyone else. If they’re successful, they still may not make a living, will travel more than a drug mule, may be so emotionally preoccupied that they fail to notice entire relationships, will have to deal with media demands no sane person would want to understand and may well wear far too much black …With two books published, a sequel to the second novel declined, and a fourth novel currently under consideration – which is a lot like sending your child along to an audition for Perverts on Ice – I’m about half-a-rung up from the average creative writing student. Which is pretty close to the floor, on a ladder half-inched from the Seven Dwarves.
“Naturally, I don’t believe anyone will be deterred by my mad-eyed rantings. Once somebody wants to write it’s almost impossible to stop them without also killing them to some significant degree … And if you think you might actually be doing some good, amusing someone other than yourself – making them less lonely, more alive, more informed – well, you’re just not going to chuck that over in favour of crafting, long walks and a quiet life. Hence the number of regimes and leaders who have discovered that killing writers until they are entirely dead is a highly effective method of slowing literary output. And may angels and ministers of grace preserve the students and indeed myself from any shades of that. We may feel hard done by, but we’re not doing that badly – for individuals trapped in a society intent upon eating its own tongue.”
Will I stop writing? Well, right now I’m getting up at 5.30 am to get 90 minutes worth of genius prose written, this so my head doesn’t explode during the rest of the day while I rush about trying to fend off the Hydra-headed monster of Recession. At this point I so badly need the escapism that I’m about 30,000 words into a story set on the south coast of Crete, tentatively working-titled THE GODMAN OF LOUTRO, during the course of which the hero – who is, in fact, your humble correspondent – goes to Crete to research a novel and becomes said godman. About five thousand words ago, accepting the reality that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of the story ever being published, I decided to give the hero – YHC – amnesia, just so he can forget a few salient details, the most relevant one being how dire are the straits in which the publishing industry finds itself, so that YHC can continue scuffling about the Cretan mountains in search of a story, despite the fact that there’s a good chance it will never be published.
In effect, I’m reduced to writing a novel about the fact that the novel I’m writing will never see the light of day.
Will I stop writing it? Can I stop writing it? And what would it matter in the grand scheme of things if the answer to both questions was yes?
At 5.30 am, “crafting, long walks and a quiet life” – perhaps even an extra 45 minutes of comatose oblivion – is a very tempting alternative to what amounts to shouting down a well. I’ll keep you posted.