Friday, 8 July 2011

On writing and working

I met some-one today who described his neighbour like this: 'Oh, I don't think she works - I doubt she's ever worked - she told me she writes, you know...'

Yes, I thought to myself, I do know.

Just at this moment there are builders in the house who find it incredibly difficult to understand that their shouting to each other in the stairwell (one on third floor outside our door, other on ground floor) might disturb me. That I might be working. Because a few months ago I made the mistake of telling these same perfectly pleasant (but noisy) men that I write. I am most probably being paranoid, but the words of that man today just made me shudder. It's exactly how I expect the builders to describe me to other people. I feel like shouting above their voices to them that I do actually work all the time; some days (and evenings) in a book shop and the rest of the time I blog and write. The latter of which is the hardest thing I do.

Then, I read an article by Keith Clarke in the wonderful London (mostly) Foodies Daily Bugle (where my blog is featured - hurrah!) on how he thinks music journalism isn't really considered work either, and I thought there's a theme here.

Is writing, whether it is for publication (and money) or not, really working?

Of course I am, like so many unpublished authors and bloggers, yet to reap the financial benefits of my writing, but even so, I still consider I'm working when I'm writing. How else would an author who's serious about their craft start his or her career if not by putting in some unpaid hours (days, months, years, decades...)?

And for me writing isn't something I choose to do - God knows I tried other careers (Accountancy!) - I just cannot help myself. Any spare moment I have I turn to this blog or a manuscript. I remember discussing this compulsion to always start yet another manuscript, even if the last one keeps bouncing back from agents and publishers, with a fellow (equally suffering) unpublished writer from my MA course.

'I don't know what I'll do if this agent doesn't take me on,' I said.

'You'll start another novel,' she said, in such a matter-of-fact way that I laughed. I knew that's exactly what would happen; how ever much I'd tell myself that I'll give the writing just one more year. I'd promise myself (and the Englishman) that if after that I'm still unpublished I'll start making frocks, or cakes or pretty greeting cards, in fact do anything that would make money. Once I even decided to get another Accountancy qualification. Yes, you can see I have been desperate to stop writing. But time after time, I give in and start yet another blessed novel. I may be crazy but I don't think I'm lazy...

My mother's cat, who looks like a lay-about, but I know puts in a regular night-shift.

And my photographing disturbed his well-deserved nap...


Olli Miekka said...

work: n exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something.

Sound to me like something you are doing! Reminds me of the expression "ordinary working man and woman". What is that supposed to mean?

KarenG said...

I like how the writers a few generations back, in the called it "working." We say, "I need to get back to writing," they said, "I need to get back to working." Great post!

Mwa said...

Stupid people are everywhere. Like the ones who insist calling me being at home with the kids "a holiday." Not that I don't appreciate being able to, but still...

You know better. Let the idiots think that the only "real work" is mind numbing and pays by the hour.

Crosby Kenyon said...

I've had too many giving-up-writing points to mention. I gave up trying to quit.

Rose said...

I have been a little out of the blog loop of late but I want you to continue with how I came to be in England! Have you tried approaching publishers in Nordic countries?

On the other note well of course whether you are paid or not writing is work! People would never say an artist wasn't working if they were painting something uncommissioned.

I must say though I do sometimes wonder if I will ever live the dream or if the dream would be half so good. Those that do are so lucky- and of course some of them don't need to work, which must rather help!