Wednesday, 7 July 2010
The Making of a Writer
(Molls demonstrating that the road to becoming a writer is a long one. This was taken at Bedruthan Steps last week.)
I've been asked to give a talk at the forthcoming Penzance Literary Festival. At first, the idea filled me with a mixture of excitement followed swiftly by extreme terror. Luckily I've managed to persuade another freelance journalists to do it with me, which is much less scary, so the title of our talk is to be Becoming a Freelance Writer.
So far so good. I sat down yesterday and looked at the muddle of notes and tried to make sense of them. I started thinking about what made me a writer, going back to when I was a child. I thought of all those years and years of diaries I wrote as a teenager, and up until my forties. (Page after page of mostly incredibly boring monologues.)
I remembered the boss that had tried to get me into the newsroom as a journalist over 20 years ago (they employed too many cheap Antipodeans so why train me?).
I realised it wasn't until I left London – and thereby stopped trying to have a Proper Job – that I started writing properly. It was as if all those words bubbled up to the surface and had time to breathe. From then on there was no stopping them.
Except for when I met Himself. I think that was such an overwhelming experience that there wasn't room for anything else. My whole life turned upside down, inside out and back to front. I didn't write – couldn't – for about two years. Then when I decided to pack in a very stressful job, up bubbled those words again.
Ten years on I am proud to call myself a freelance journalist. The book(s) aren't published – yet – but I'm still working on them. They are another goal, but no less important.
Watching Wimbledon last week, it struck me that writing is like playing professional tennis (though not nearly as well paid). It's very competitive, you have to love doing it, develop a thick skin yet be sensitive enough to do it well. You have to understand people, build up good relationships with them and remember that it never hurts to help others. You have to have your ears and eyes open, keep your wits about you and go for it. Continue to try and improve, and never, ever give up.
The other night we watched the DVD of the Sound of Music. This is a digitised version of the film with Julie Andrews giving a little talk before hand. She considered several reasons why the film is still so phenomenally successful. The two that I remember were faith and perseverance. And you need both of those to succeed as a writer.