April 2018


This is not Sheffield.

It does lift the spirits after what seems to have been an almost endless winter. A week in bright sunlight and warmth rid me of the grumps and had a very positive effect on my productivity (I scribbled notes and ideas and came to some conclusions that posed more questions than answers). It occurred to me though that not everyone can afford to fly off to somewhere nice just because they’re in a shitty mood. So, without the use of air travel, fizzy wine, temperatures in the high twenties and beer while looking out at the ocean, how would I deal with my motivation issues? Because I definitely had some.

I guess it’s all about perspective.

Perspective has been on my mind for a while now, not least because I am seriously considering a novel written in both first and third person. This is not about being quirky for quirky’s sake (whoever Quirky is) but because I have two pieces of work that started in different places and were moving in different directions but which have now veered sharply towards the each other.DSC03778 One solution would be to abandon one and work exclusively on the other. The problem with that is that I like them both. The first person section has an immediacy that puts the reader firmly in the mind of the main character but at a time when there is very little certainty in that mind. This enables the reader to feel the fear and confusion as it unfolds without being told a bunch of facts that will have little impact on that level. The third person narrative is aimed at us all and the way that we perceive people in different and challenging situations. It takes us out of our comfort zone but is implicit in the way that it depicts that same character. I don’t want any confusion there.

I sometimes wonder why I do this…

I couldn’t think of a novel that was written like this but I knew that rules are often broken (which is what they are for) and Jonathan Coe has most areas covered here. But I was quite surprised to learn that Stephen King’s Christine was written in both as is Bleak House. Cormac McCarthy, too (though that’s hardly surprising). I’m in good company whatever. Well, I think I am. Nevertheless, it occurs to me that if I do attempt it then I’d better make a damn good job of it.

I need to have a good old DSC03940think about the whole thing. Rushing in where angels fear to tread and all that. But then again, I’m no angel and I wouldn’t have a great amount of trouble finding someone that would be happy to confirm me as being a fool. Nevertheless, it’s a funny thing, this writing lark. Talk to anyone who has managed to produce work of novel length, even successful novelists, and they will almost always confirm that what appears to be a coherent piece of impressive writing was nothing more than a depressing mess for most of it’s existence. In some cases, right up until the last edit. Sometimes beyond even that. I have one that has attracted wide approval from people who know about these things and yet I know, I know that it is not right. You see, the actual writing is the easy bit; it’s turning it into something that will (at least) entertain that is the challenge.

This little guy on the right came out to see me a coupleDSC03819 of weeks ago as I was sunning myself in the Canaries while Britain was covered in April Snow. The picture doesn’t really do the flash of blue on his throat justice. It was very impressive, very smart. There were a series of blue dots down his side, too. A handsome devil indeed. I was impressed with his presence and air of authority. It was only a gravelly verge with a volcanic rock wall but he was master of his own tiny universe. I envied his confidence and the way that he owned that small space. But then his mate came out. In fact, I need to rephrase that as it clearly wasn’t his mate. Nemesis is probably closer. They are incredibly territorial and the assumed authority and arrogance evaporated faster than Spanish lager drips on a stainless steel table. It just shows that if you wear the hat and wear it in a convincing and confident manner then everyone assumes that you have the right to wear that hat. The world is a pretence and we are all afraid of being found out. It only takes the wrong person to turn up at the wrong time and everyone sees that the emperor is, in fact, naked.

We all pretend we’re something that we’re not. Or, at least, we all pretend that we are something. So says Jaques in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’. In his seven remarkably short DSC03715observations we go from infant all the way back to an aged version of the same infant having achieved bugger all in between. Inspiring stuff. It’s reassuring that it’s all a complete waste of time. But if we really are all players on theĀ  stage of life then that gives us permission to be whatever we want to be. We don’t need the consent of others and we don’t even need convincing credentials. We can become whatever we choose, as proved by this canary in the picture. All we need is the will and the courage to pick up the mantle and stick it firmly on our head and then march around the stage declaring our right to exist.

Having invoked the wisdom of Hans Christian Anderson, I’ve now decided that the affectation that people are often criticised for is, in fact, perfectly acceptable. In any walk of life you will always find the popular and successful individuals who, upon close scrutiny, possess nothing more than yourself but with a bit of extra (usually undeserved) confidence. They are not special, they are normal people who eat, drink, shit, and piss but have dared to declare themselves successful loud enough and for long enough for everyone to eventually agree. So be damned Dickens and King and McCarthy. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled, have a funny hair-do and eat soft fruit and I will write my novel in first and third person… I think.