Part of this project, #ayearofwriting, involves an element of self-reflection, practice and craft discussion but what is coming to the fore more and more are people’s ideas on what it is to be a writer. Some of these ideas are from other writers who have contacted me to say why on earth am I writing everyday? I’m not going to name names here, or point to one offensive email I received from a poet who said that this project was letting them all down by making writing into a factory line and that they would no longer follow me because it was upsetting them to see me write. Let me get something straight here, once and for all, for those of you waiting on the muse that will deliver you something wonderful, something literary, you will be waiting a long time unless you actually commit to doing some writing everyday. Now, if you’re English you may like queuing and waiting for the muse to come along with number 350 bus, but I bet all that waiting will be frustrating as hell, full of procrastination and dancing around a maypole.
Not a literal one but a literary one where you post on social media how to be a writer you have to be a sponge. For the record, sponges sit on the sea floor and are largely ignored until someone decides to dry them and stick them in their nether regions to get dead skin out. The Romans did something far worse with sponges which kind of sums up how writers are seen in the modern world. I do not write thinking the work is literary. Again, calling all you literary writers, literary book sales are down another 16% this year whereas crime fiction is up 89%, so unless you wish to create a crime busting Bronte, you are shit out of luck unless you come up with something that will floor an agent and the general public; who are at this moment securing a stick to you and dragging you into the toilet (see earlier Roman comment). I write because I want to exercise that little muscle in my mind that I will conveniently label, ‘creativity’ (that’s really what you’re getting at when you say, ‘muse’). I have freed myself of all the hang ups that go with taking time out to write. You know them, those fears that you have things to do for work, that you have things to do with your family, that you have things to do with the hoover or kitchen sink because in the end you are using all these things as a distraction to your own real creative fear. That if you sit down everyday and write, it will all run out, or that you will have writer’s block or that your arse will fall off mid-sentence. What I am trying to say is that you are using those you love as an excuse to avoid something that you should love. To coin the late, great Ray Bradbury, ‘If you don’t love it, get the hell out!’ I love writing, I love the heartache, the pain, the frustration, the excitement, the wading through ideas, the discarding of ideas, the metaphorical throwing of the typewriter (which when I had one I didn’t do metaphorically) and the brief moments and the long bursts of just writing. I have freed myself from believing I have to produce a certain amount of words a day. I simply write until my back says, ‘Stop’. I write until that little part of my brain says, ‘Stop’. I write until I find myself on the cusp of a yawn. I get up, I walk away, I go outside, I spend time with my family and do not think of writing. I go to work and do not think of writing. I go swimming and do not think of writing. I do not beat myself up about something I haven’t done or will have to do. I do not dance around myself, knotting myself together as if I was a maypole. I write when I write. I choose to write everyday and to hell with you if you are sat there waiting for the muse. If it stops, it stops but at least I can say I did not waste it waiting for a 350 bus that never came.