It has been some years since you decided to take your puny talent stalking through the halls of literary folk. And you have been punished for it. (see previous posts) Over this time, solicitous friends,
members of your family, people at work and the man at the corner shop,
have all taken you aside and asked you to stop.
But you can’t, because a cardinal of Canadian writing, once convinced you that you had some kind of talent. (see first post)
You took a temporary office job, to tide you over the few months before your inevitable publishing contract came through. That was years and years ago. You are now one of the senior members of the office. Long since, you stopped accepting invitations for social events. Back when you thought that publication was a mere formality, you foolishly announced to everyone that you were writing a novel. Consequently, all conversations begin with one of three questions.
- How’s your writing going?
- What’s your book about?
- Am I in your novel?
If you answered these questions truthfully, it could spoil a social occasion. The answers are:
- It’s not, I can barely scrawl a sentence. I cry soundlessly for hours.
- If I outline the main theme of my book and the explanation takes longer than a very short sentence, several things will happen. Firstly, you will lose concentration and start eyeing those goat cheese stuffed piquante peppers. Secondly, I will hate you for this. Thirdly, I shall loathe myself for even beginning to take your inquiry seriously.
- If I lived a thousand years and wrote a novel a year, YOU wouldn’t be in ANY of them.
In the meantime, you have written two novels, half a dozen short stories and four radio plays. All of which have elicited about as much interest as a canape ground into the carpet, at the end of a book launch.
These days, instead of avidly consuming the book review sections of the newspaper, you screw them up and throw them onto the fire unread. You cannot walk through any bookshop without everything inside you buckling up into a tight pretzel of jealousy. Yes, you HATE anyone who has, even temporarily, had their name printed on a leaflet, let alone a work of fiction. You have had a disturbing fantasy involving the Frankfurt Book Fair, a small team of Special Forces and stun grenades.
Then one day while you are routinely working over Nick Hornby with the stapler (see previous posts) you have a revelation. There are hundreds and hundreds of people out there who write as well as you do. Yes, HUNDREDS.
Writing well is NOT ENOUGH, you have GOT to write something of such outstanding originality that no one will be able to reject it. You have been tied to a rock, with literary folk pecking your constantly re-generating liver for long enough. You shall be Prometheus unbound. That weekend you start your third novel.