As any decent actor would ask. And perhaps every writer should, too. And so for my first post, I thought I’d channel Lee Strasberg for a bit and try to explain what made me decide to quit a perfectly good job and add my own meagre literary efforts to the millions that are already out there. Or, as my somewhat more practical boyfriend, henceforth to be known as The Arch-Pragmatist, would say (in that delightful turn of phrase he has): ‘I shall briefly be entering my own posterior’. Only briefly, mind – please don’t panic, it’ll all be fine.
Lord knows I’m still trying to fathom it out myself. I would put it down to one of those Quarterlife Crisis things, but I think I’m probably a bit old for that, and I suspect I’ve already had one anyway (in about 2007, if memory serves). So, first of all, why the blog? Well, that’s the easy bit. The ‘correct’ answer, of course, it that this is meant to be a way of getting into the writing groove, a kind of dry run for ideas that might crop up in other writing later on.
The ‘true’ answer – in my case at least – is probably more prosaic. I’m a world-class procrastinator. Not only where writing is concerned, but in other things too, like choosing a career (if I hold off long enough on that scary final decision I might just make it to retirement). And I’m positively commitment-phobic about the whole marriage and kids thing – about everything, really. Blogging, then, is an excellent displacement activity – more purposeful than, say, emptying the dishwasher or tidying your knicker drawer (mine, incidentally, would win the approval of Aggie and Kim at their most obsessive-compulsive) – but less daunting than actually sitting down and agonising over the ‘novel’ proper.
And that’s another thing; I can’t even bring myself to describe what I’m writing as a novel. That smacks of pretension, as if you’re already assuming you’re on track for the Carnegie and the top of the bestseller lists when you don’t even have a publisher. I’ve been getting round it by using those ironic inverted commas, or by calling it, rather quaintly, ‘my story’ – like I’m still at primary school and writing about the day those pesky dinosaurs and aliens teamed up to steal my underpants.
And the ‘novel’-slash-story? Well, besides being an excuse to avoid the fact that I appear to be temperamentally unsuited to most Proper Jobs, it’s been brewing for a long time. Interviews with authors often annoy me, because they invariably claim to have known they wanted to write from the age of about six. I hadn’t the slightest clue what I wanted to do when I was six, other than knowing that I really, really wanted a lop-eared rabbit. In a supreme display of pester power genius, my brother and I even mounted a poster campaign, displaying hundreds of variants of our ‘We Want Loppy!’ (™highly original name) slogan around the house until my parents finally relented. When Loppy did arrive, he turned out to be a psychotic sociopath and was swiftly returned to the pet shop, but that’s another story…
With me, writing is more a case of trial and error. I went through the standard doctor/lawyer/astronaut phase, and was then somewhat thrown by the school careers guidance questionnaire that told me I was an ideal candidate for fish farming. (Mind you, everyone seemed to end up with fish farmer, so maybe the computer had a bug.) I’ve always written, but not in a constructive way – no student journalism (too much like hard work); no precocious prize-winning poetry – lots of embarrassing, sentimental drivel, yes, but certainly nothing prize-winning. But I did write other stuff: poems about my ogre of a maths teacher that were passed around the class; a joke Valentine’s poem to a boy I didn’t actually fancy; journals during my year abroad in Spain, in which I tried and failed dismally to write about bullfighting in the style of Ernest Hemingway; long letters home from said year abroad detailing the thrills and spills of life in an insurance firm in Hannover. And I guess it all adds up. Besides, I enjoy writing; I like the way the words look on the page, the way you get to control exactly what goes into the story (though not, sadly, what the reader will make of it).
I suppose the upshot of all this is that now’s probably my best chance of making a stab at this whole writing lark, while I’m unencumbered by things like kids (sorry, Mum), pets or, perhaps more worryingly, a Proper Job. If I’m going to do it, now’s as good a time as any. So, no more procrastinating; no more titivating (love that word!) of the knicker drawer. Carpe diem and all that. Wait, hold on a sec – I think the dishwasher might have just finished…