I am basically an angry person.
To be clear when I say ‘angry’ I mean the buttoned-up version that’s woven into the tweed fabric of an Englishman of my age. I’d never actually show my anger, I couldn’t punch a face, complain in a restaurant or even wag an accusatory finger…no, I’m angry in the way that means I smile as my blood pressure rises and my chance of a heart attack increases year on year.
Anything can set me off. The national shame that is Brexit, the international injustice of Yemen, cats looking at me in a funny way….pretty much anything can be a trigger.
This week it was a twitter conversation (is that what you call a string of tweets) with the author Mary Carter last week (@mjcarterauthor).
She was saying that she resented having her writing branded as a frivolous hobby…. that she had been told to get a ‘proper job’ and stop messing about with her writing.
…it made me angry….
Writing is never frivolous
Never…never ever….writing is never frivolous.
I feel Mary’s pain. ‘People’ look at me in a different way since I gave up the gravy-train in order to concentrate on my writing.
The faces say “shouldn’t you be doing something a bit more worthwhile with your time…something a little more valuable than messing about making up stories”.
But that’s not the whole picture. Their eyes say something different.
Their eyes say “I wish I had the nerve to do something I feel passionate about.”
So I guess the first penny to drop is that doing something you want to do is never frivolous. Be that write, paint, sing, have kids, whatever. If you can figure out what’s going to do it for you, and you can find a way to do it, it’s got to be worth a try right.
…but that’s not really my point…
I’ve been writing ‘seriously’ now for four years, and the writers I’ve met and got to know a little are without exception ….. exceptional. I have yet to come across the embittered cynic who resents the success of other writers when their own work is overlooked. My writers are thoughtful, emotionally intelligent people. They have opinions that they have thought about and are comfortable if those opinions are challenged. They are listeners and observers. They are compassionate. They respect the work of others and support one another. They do not exclude, they welcome. They cherish discussion and loath ignorance.
In my experience people are complicated; good and bad, all rolled-up together in the wrappers life has given them. I don’t think that all these wonderful people I’ve met through writing are any different. I don’t think they popped out like they are now, I think something had a hand in rounding them off so well. I think that thing was their writing.
Putting ink on paper makes you think. You can write literature or romance, YA fiction or sci-fi, whatever it is you use as your backdrop, writing forces you to think. It forces you to think about what makes people tick. The act of writing makes you a better person because, before you attempt to create a character you have to understand her. You have to understand people in order to write them convincingly.
Could anyone argue that what we need in our world is a little less understanding? Thought not.
To write about people is to understand them.
What could be less frivolous than that?
Until we meet again….all good things to you.
(you have the right to write)